If you’re Bob Vila, a general contractor yourself, or a professional handyman, obviously you can, and probably should, remodel your home yourself. Of course, in that case you’re probably not here reading this right now.
On the other side of the coin, if your idea of an impressive home improvement project worthy of puffing out your chest in pride involves swapping out a shower curtain and installing a new shower head … maybe just mosey on over to our find-a-contractor page and hire a contractor, because DIY remodeling will quickly find you in over your head.
But what if you’re in between? Here is some advice for those of us who aren’t afraid of a little sawdust and caulk, but aren’t quite sure if we can tackle a kitchen or bathroom remodel by ourselves.
Plan First, Do Second
The single best piece of advice we have for DIY remodeling is that you must, must, must plan first! By plan, we don’t mean stare at your kitchen and daydream for a while, we mean plan! As in measure, sketch, estimate costs, research, get proper permits if needed, source materials … the works. Before you pick up a single tool, aside from a measuring tape, you should know exactly what you’re going to do, have all the materials on site, and feel comfortable doing each step of the project.
Not only does a successful remodeling project, whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor, depend more than anything else on comprehensive and realistic planning, it’s a great barometer for which option you should choose: if at any stage in your planning, you start to feel overwhelmed, or unsure whether or not you can do it … don’t. Hire a contractor, at least for that part of the work.
General Contractors vs Subcontractors
Most full-service remodeling contractors aren’t going to want you to touch the job yourself. A few might be willing to step in after you’ve done demolition, but most are going to want to be involved from day one, help you plan, estimate costs themselves, advise you, and then complete the job professionally and unimpeded.
But what if you’re perfectly comfortable replacing your existing kitchen cabinets or bathroom vanity, laying new linoleum, and painting, but you’re not comfortable rewiring to move appliances or change out lighting, replacing drywall, or upgrading plumbing? Chances are you can find specific subcontractors, such as plumbers and electricians, who are willing to do those parts of the job for a lot less than hiring a general contractor for the whole remodel. After all, a lot of smaller remodeling contractors do hire subcontractors for those more specialized jobs.
How Old Is Your Home?
A good rule of thumb is that if your home is more than 20 years old, you should probably hire a contractor, and set aside a good chunk of your budget to cover unexpected costs discovered during the job. The older a house gets, the more likely it is that as you get into a job, DIY or otherwise, you’ll discover rotting wood, mold, mildew, outdated wiring or plumbing that is no longer up to code. A competent contractor will be prepared to deal with all of this and more, and will be able to advise you on the likelihood of encountering it in your area, and for the type and age of your home.
If you do decide to go ahead with a DIY project, check out our free kitchen design consultation here. We even include 3D renderings to help you visualize what your new dream kitchen will actually look like!