When you get the itch to change something about your home, the first question to ask yourself is whether it’s more cost-effective to do it yourself or hire a professional. The answer rests largely on two factors:

  • The type and complexity of the project
  • Your level of skill and the time you have available to work on the project

Special Considerations

Home experts advise hiring a professional for any project requiring a special permit and/or building code compliance. Some repair projects, such as certain types of HVAC repair, may also require special licenses, depending on the region in which you live. Ask your local municipality about any special requirements before starting a project.

When to Leave It to the Pros

The average homeowner may have some carpentry, plumbing and electrical skills. But some home projects are best handled by a professional. Here are a few:

  • Replacing a bathtub: Though it may be tempting to try and replace a tub on your own, many homeowners find that this job is more complicated than it appears. Expenses can add up rapidly, with potential mistakes ratcheting up the final costs. For $2,500 to $3,500, a professional contractor will remove your old tub, install your new tub and handle any plumbing and tub surround issues that may arise. Considering this job’s potential for disaster as a DIY project, most homeowners find using a pro to be a bargain.
  • Installing hardwood floors: A variety of instructional videos have been made to teach homeowners how to install hardwood flooring. But, as hardwood costs $3 to $8 per square foot for materials alone, installation mistakes can prove costly to repair. Getting planks to line up with baseboards, corners and doorways can be tedious work, requiring more than a little skill. For $5 to $12 per square foot, a professional installer can do the job correctly, and it’s well worth the investment.
  • Installing ceramic tile: Generally, the larger the room and the more intricate the design, the more likely it becomes that you will need a professional to install ceramic tile. Very small rooms can be tiled DIY, but larger rooms bring a larger potential for complications. The average cost for tiling a 10x12 room is $1,174, with intricate designs costing considerably more. A professional installer can accommodate problems such as uneven subfloors, inconvenient corners, tricky room transitions and design issues.
  • Installing replacement windows: Homeowners looking to replace their windows often find that their original windows are not standard in size. This makes it impossible to simply replace them without additional framing and insulation work. For $2,645 to $7,094, with an average of $4,754 nationally, a professional can replace your old windows and ensure proper framing and insulation. Since new the efficiency of new windows lowers your utility bills and saves you money in the long, hiring a professional is a good investment.

When to DIY

Some home improvement projects fall well within the skill level of the typical homeowner. For these projects, hiring a pro may cost more than it is worth. Here are some examples:

  • Painting your home’s interior: If you have a stepladder, a steady hand and a little patience, you can save a lot of money by doing painting projects yourself. As a DIY project, painting a 1,500 square foot home comes costs about $200 to $600. This includes the cost for materials including: paint, primer, brushes, rollers, drop cloths and tape. A professional doing the same job charges $970 to $2,400.
  • Installing vinyl or linoleum flooring: For a 10x10 room, the cost of installing your own vinyl or linoleum flooring is $200-$500, with all necessary materials included. Having a pro install it for you tacks an additional $300 to $400 onto the cost.
  • Installing a kitchen backsplash: For $100 to $500 for tile, grout and adhesive, you can install a kitchen backsplash with a little time and sweat equity. Because it’s a two-day job, it will cost an additional $300 to $800 to hire a professional. So, the extra time you spend doing it yourself is a bargain.
  • Adding a wood deck: For a 10x12 wood deck, materials cost $500 to $1,000. With good planning and a bit of carpentry skill, this can be completed in two weekends. Hiring a pro can raise the cost by $1,500 to $1,900.

The Bottom Line

When embarking on a new home project, it makes sense to consider all your options. Factor in the cost of materials, the length of time it will take to complete and the skill level needed to do the job right. Avoid overconfidence when contemplating a DIY project. If you’re unsure about your ability to complete the task, choose caution over cost. If you decide that a contractor can do the job more effectively, be sure to get more than one estimate before making your final choice. Armed with the facts, you’ll be able to make a wise investment in your home and be assured of your satisfaction with the finished product.

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