What projects to DIY and what things are best left to the professionals?
If you find yourself asking how much of a kitchen remodeling project you can do by yourself, know that you aren’t alone. If you are willing to get your hands dirty and put in the time, effort, and research, you can accomplish much more than you think. For smaller projects it may seem like a no-brainer to DIY and save money, but as a project creeps up in scope and difficulty, where do you draw the line?
The first step in deciding between whether you should DIY aspects of your kitchen remodel or hire a contractor, is to determine what work needs to be done (the entire scope of work), cost of the project, and anticipated timeframe to complete it. Sometimes DIY work can save you a lot of money and allow you to show your own unique flair, and other times a project may actually be more efficient and turn out better with the help of a designer, contractor, or kitchen remodeling company. We’ve put together a guide to help you determine which projects are worth tackling by yourself, and which aspects are best left to the professionals.
For some projects, there is no substitute for professional experience and ability. Professional kitchen remodelers have the knowledge and experience to ensure your updates go smoothly and can fix any problems they encounter. You don’t want to be stuck dealing with asbestos, mold or mildew, leaks, infestations (insect or animal), or structural damage because you decided to DIY a key aspect of your remodeling project.
A good rule of thumb for whether you should hire a professional to complete work in your home is:
- Whether the project is dangerous
- Whether it could destroy your home
- Whether it requires a permit
If any of those conditions are met, then you are better off hiring someone to complete the work for you who can handle the additional risk and has training and experience to mitigate and risks or damage that could occur.
Take for example, knocking down a wall to create an open concept floor plan for your kitchen and living room. The project seems like a simple one–you get to have some fun with demolition and increase usable space. However, there are many risks in structural changes to your home, such as damaging electrical wires in the walls, removing a load bearing wall or beam, or even damaging plumbing or gas lines. This type of project is better left to a professional.
Anything structural or involving complex systems in your kitchen such as wall demolition should be completed by a certified professional-whether an architect or engineer or a carpenter. There are too many things that can go wrong with improperly placed supports and beams, which cause structural damage and require costly repairs. If you plan on creating an open concept kitchen, many of which require wall demolition, changes, or additional support in your home, hire a professional to determine the changes needed and to complete the work. The wrong swing of a hammer can result in electrical wiring damage, pipe displacement, or even structural issues.
Mechanical, electrical, plumbing, HVAC and gas are aspects of remodeling and home design that should be handled by an expert that knows how to handle any issues that may arise. These specialty engineering and trade items may seem like the ideal space to save money, but if handled incorrectly, they could result in an even bigger cost to fix DIY mistakes or gaps. Invest in quality inspections to ensure there are no issues with these systems in your home and let a professional handle any changes that need to be made for a renovation project.
Similarly, you should consult a professional renovator or remodeler for any aesthetics in your kitchen that matter–such as drywall, custom cabinet installation or fitting and extensive tile work or flooring. These renovation items can be completed much more efficiently and to better standards if handled by a professional. Instead of spending hours putting up drywall, patching, sanding, and patching and sanding again, hire a team to complete the work in a fraction of the time with equal or better results.
The best items to DIY include small changes or easily learnable tasks that could save you money but can also be undone or fixed by a professional, should they go wrong.
Since you are learning as you go, its best to complete projects in a way that you could always undo them if you need to. Keep in mind that you can always stop your DIY project and call someone to fix your mistake. With more difficult projects, such as those that involve structural issues or MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing), doing the work yourself and not adhering to industry standards could end up costing you much more in the long run.
Although not everyone has rolled up their sleeves and painted a wall or room in their house, it is a common DIY project for homeowners. If you are handy with a paintbrush and have an eye for design, you may want to complete paint updates yourself to save money and hand select the color going on your walls. The worst-case scenario is that you don’t like the color and give it another try or hire someone else to do complete the work.
You can attempt any easy aesthetic changes that will make the renovation process easier on your own, such as changing out light fixtures, swapping cabinet hardware, and removing old tile. With a few basic tools, you can make simple changes that will improve the look and function of your kitchen. Even a simple cleaning or fresh painting of regular fixtures can make an old space feel like new.
Buy materials you like. Although many remodeling companies and designers can get you better prices on certain materials, it may be worth it for you to find the perfect item for your kitchen and incorporate it into the design. Whether you have a family antique or heirloom, or want to go wholesaling or thrift shopping, there are many unique items with a rich history that could add charm to your space. Likewise, if you have a very specific vision in mind for your remodeling project, you may want to select a certain material or finish and take it to your designer to incorporate into the project.
While remodeling and design companies can offer discounts on appliances, sometimes you find a great item at an unheard-of price. Dedicating your time to finding the perfect kitchen appliance to fit your needs will also leave you certain that it will work for you and is exactly what you want. Whether you choose to buy used, on sale or clearance, new, or top-of the line, consider searching for appliances yourself– you could get a great deal!
Removing peeling paint usually only requires some online research and a trip to the hardware store to prepare you for work. Likewise, wood staining and aesthetic alterations are an easy DIY afternoon project that can save some money and give you a sense of accomplishment. If your kitchen has old or outdated wallpaper, consider removing it yourself. It may take a bit longer to complete the work yourself, but also allows you to do things your way. Special kitchen remodeling projects are sometimes better when you decide to DIY, because you can ensure the result is exactly what you had in mind.