Have you ever tackled any Do-It-Yourself projects? I bought a foreclosed house in 2011 and had never before done any sort of construction work on my own. But, thanks to YouTube and my new-found friends at Lowes, I was actually able to figure out quite a lot.
As an example, I was able to transform my half-bath completely, all on my own. I ripped out the toilet, the sink, the sconces, the wainscoting, and even the floor! On my own, I was able to lay cement board, install the tile floor, put in a pedestal sink, secure a new toilet, put up the light, and also painted the entire room top to bottom! Guess how much this cost me? When you think about an entire bathroom getting redone, you might assume the final bill would be at least $2,000 or more. But nope, this entire project cost me only $550 – all because I mastered the art of DIY.
Yes, DIY Can Save You Money, But is it Always the Best Option?
So sure, you can save money by doing everything yourself, but what are the drawbacks of this? First of all, your finished product might not look as nice as a contracted worker who actually knows what he's doing. Plus, you may have even done such a poor job that some of your work might need to be torn out and redone by a professional. This would be an obvious waste of time on your part, and a waste of money. You have to know your limits.
In my house, I decided to hire the professionals to refinish my floors and to patch the roof. After I watched the floor guy work at my house for a solid month with multiple sanders and finish applications, I was SO glad that I did not tackle this project myself. It probably would have taken me three months and the finished product would have looked lousy! As for the roof, this was just too important for me to mess with by myself. If rain water gets into your house, you can be left with immediate damage like floor warping or pieces of your ceiling falling down. And, in the long-term it can leave you with mold inside your walls! In my opinion, the roofing was better left to the professionals.
Money Saving vs. Time Saving
There is still one more thing to consider if you are thinking about a DIY project, “How much is your time worth?” If you earn a side income outside of your job (such as detailing cars, engine repair, or blogging), then you certainly have a cost to your time. I can write a pretty quality personal finance article for someone in 30 minutes. If they are willing to pay $20 for one of my articles (which many of them are), then my time is worth $40 per hour. So, how much money would I lose in my article writing if it took me 50 hours to remodel the bathroom? In theory, that could have been $2,000 (if I had that many articles in the backlog anyway). If I could find a guy to redo the bathroom for $1,500, then I would probably get a nicer looking bathroom in the end, and I would have a net gain from my article writing.
For those of you that do not have a side gig that earns you an income, there are still some other valuable factors that can sway your decision to DIY or not. For instance, how much is it worth to you to spend time with your family and friends? Do you have a daughter that would love to have a tea party with you, but you're often too busy because of housework that you have decided to do yourself? Maybe hiring a contractor at $80 per hour would be worth that bonding time with your daughter.
It is obviously difficult to put a price tag on relationship time, and quite honestly it's difficult to put a total value on your time even if you have a side gig (unless you have an overabundance of work that is), but at the very least you need to stop and think about the trade-offs of using your time in a DIY project vs. keeping it available for something else.
What would you rather do? DIY or hire a contractor?