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DIY Home Improvement: How Handy Are You Really?

Deciding whether or not to hire a contractor for a home improvement job can be a tough decision. Before making any decisions, assess the situation and consider your options. Should I call a contractor?

When the toilet is leaking again, the kitchen faucet keeps dripping and the backyard deck has a dozen rotten floorboards, knowing what to do can be difficult. Should you hire a professional contractor to fix these problems, or should you tackle the jobs yourself?

Not surprisingly, the answer many people give to that question is a big “it depends.” Mostly it depends on how handy you are and what you think you can do. But consider the scope of the project and the ramifications if you do the job poorly. It can be expensive to hire a contractor, but it can be even more expensive not to.

Questions To Ask Yourself

Here are some of the key questions that homeowners should ask themselves before taking on a major home-improvement project on their own:

  • Do I have the experience to take on this job?
  • Do I have friends or family members who are willing to help me?
  • Do I have the tools needed to complete the job?
  • Can the tools I need be rented or purchased nearby and inexpensively?
  • Do I have to worry about pulling building permits and adhering to sometimes arcane building codes?
  • How much time do I have to complete the job?
  • What will happen if I make mistakes?

Answering these questions truthfully will help you make the right choice. For instance, if you don’t have the experience or know anyone who does, you probably shouldn’t take on the job. If you have this experience, and don’t have to worry about permits or building codes, then doing the job yourself could save you a significant amount of money.

When you do take on home improvements, whether on your own or by hiring a professional contractor, home stores, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other home-improvement pros all benefit. Like the housing industry itself, the home-repair business is mired in its own slump. Studies show that homeowners today are spending less on high-end discretionary home projects – such as putting in new master bathrooms – and more on improvements that maintain the structural integrity of their homes and boost the energy efficiency of these residences.

How Much Is The Home Improvement Industry Worth?

In 2007, homeowners spent more than $37 million in home repairs. Leading the way were room additions and alterations; homeowners spent $8.4 million on these repairs in 2007. Other major expenses include exterior additions and replacements, on which homeowners spent nearly $4.6 million in 2007 and kitchen remodels, which cost homeowners more than $4.5 million.


What Improvement Cost The Most?

Systems and equipment repairs cost homeowners more than $3.4 million in 2007, while bath remodels cost them more than $3 million. Homeowners tackling repair projects in 2007 spent an average of $24,809 for their room additions and alterations, a figure that easily led the list. They spent an average of $13,731 for kitchen remodels, the second-place finisher.

More serious repairs came in at third and fourth place. Homeowners spent an average of $9,433 to install outside attachments to their homes in 2007 and an average of $8,083 on disaster repairs.

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