The 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You DIY vs Hiring a Pro

The 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You DIY vs Hiring a Pro

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I’m sure you know the Do It Yourself, or DIY term, and what it entails.  And you probably do a lot of projects yourself if you’re reading this post.  Have you ever heard the WTC term? I didn’t until recently when I heard it mentioned on a podcast.  I thought it was an interesting way to describe people who would prefer to just "Write the Check" (WTC) and have a professional contractor do the work for them.  It really got me to thinking – what kinds of projects should you even consider doing yourself versus hiring a contractor? Even if you’re the handiest, most willing person on the planet, what constitutes a project beyond your skills?

With that said, most of us aren’t the handiest person in the world.  This article is for you.  

Self-Assessment – Be Honest

  1. Do you have the time to complete the project?

This is the first question.  If you’re like me, you regularly underestimate the amount of time anything takes to complete.  I’m chronically late because I always think I can get ready to go more quickly than I actually can.  With that said, it’s important to know whether you can truly make the time to complete the project without having it drag on forever.  For a DIY home improvement project, can you handle the mess if it’s inside your house and it takes weeks (or longer) to complete the project?  Typically, professionals can complete projects more quickly as they are focusing on completing your job. You, on the other hand, may have work or family commitments that eat into your available time.

  1. Do you have (or want to learn) the skills for the job?

Do you love to watch a how-to video on YouTube and pin every how-to post on Pinterest?  If so, then you have the DIY aptitude. Please don’t be the person that reads the instructions after the piece of furniture has been incorrectly assembled.  Or worse, don’t be the person that uses the chemical, then reads the directions after it didn’t work correctly! If you don’t like to be coached ahead of time, then please write the check!  

YouTube and many manufacturer’s websites have excellent how to videos for so many remodeling projects and other home improvement work.  If you can take the time to learn how to complete your project, you can potentially save a lot of money on the project. Be thoughtful about what you can truly learn and accomplish.  Some projects are best suited for a general contractor, licensed electrician, or plumber. For example, you may be able to change a simple light fixture, but rewiring a cathedral ceiling chandelier may be too difficult (or dangerous).

  1. Do you have (or want to rent or buy) the tools for the job?

You know that the upfront savings of doing a project yourself can quickly be zapped by the tools that you had to buy to complete the project.  How many times have you justified the need for that fancy tool thinking you’ll use it again in the future, while it just takes up precious space in your garage or shed?  So, really think about the tool – the cost and whether you can use it again. If it’s really expensive, then the chances are high that renting it is an option. However, if you want to buy the tool, then really think about the quality of the tool and how much use it will get.  Most of the time, you get what you pay for, so don’t buy the cheapest tool unless it’s intended to be used for a job or two.

For large and small equipment rentals, companies like The Home Depot, can offer the use of a pressure washer, stump grinder, saws, paint sprayers, air compressors and so much more.

  1. Can you physically handle the job?

Some projects require lots of heavy lifting, which can lead to back injuries.  Wear a back brace if you want to take on that patio paver installation and plan to visit your chiropractor potentially.  Some projects can be dangerous. Don’t be a statistic. Prepare yourself with the proper equipment or hire someone that specializes in that type of work. 

Do you have enough family or friends to help you with projects that are more than one-person jobs?  If you’re climbing a high ladder, you need to have a spotter. If you’re installing a wood beam, you need at least one other person to help hold the heavy wood.  If not, consider hiring a handyman to help you. Sometimes two brains are better than one on projects, along with that extra set of hands.

If you have always been a DIYer, but your body can’t take the pressure any longer, you may have to accept that you need to be a WTC person now on some projects.

  1. Do you like doing DIY projects?

Do you like the personal satisfaction of completing the job yourself?  If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of people in a home improvement Facebook group that loves to share your “fixer-upper” projects, then I know you love DIY projects!  The joy of completing the projects is worth the sweat equity (and back pain).  

YouTube, HGTV, the DIY Network, and so many amazing websites have given us all so much more knowledge than in generations past. You can feel more confident changing your flooring after watching a how-to video.  The key is whether you enjoy completing these types of home improvement projects! If you remember Tim, the Tool Man, Taylor from the Home Improvement sitcom in the ‘90s, enjoying the projects are half the battle!  

If you want a little fun in your day, enjoy this compilation video of some hilarious Tim Taylor silliness.


Types of Home Improvement Projects You Can DIY

  • Flooring – you can definitely rip out carpet and replace it with hardwood or tile. If you have patience, you can do it.  We installed hardwood floors in our dining room. If I had that project to do again, I’d find a babysitter for my kids as little kids and hardwood glue are not a good mix.  Think bare feet with glue on them walking on hardwood floors…. That equals using lots of  Goof Off and elbow grease, then lots of  hardwood floor polish to bring the shine back!

  • Plumbing – you can replace faucets, garbage disposal and even a toilet. If you’re remodeling a bathroom, you need a professional plumber to move water lines.  Keep in mind that some houses have unique circumstances that will be beyond a YouTube instruction. If you think it might be beyond your skills, don’t risk a plumbing leak!
  • Landscaping – you can do many landscaping projects yourself if your back and knees can take it. Taking out some ugly bushes and replacing them with beautiful new flowers can improve your curb appeal tremendously.  Planting that ten-foot-tall tree might be best left to the professional landscaper though. 
  • Pressure Washing – you can definitely handle doing your own pressure washing if you get the right equipment. The electric powered pressure washers are ok for very light pressure washing on furniture, pool cages, some fences, and on some exterior home cleaning.  But you’ll need a stronger pressure washer (at least 3000 PSI) to really clean concrete and pavers. I also recommend using a scrubber to thoroughly clean these types of surfaces without leaving the obvious DIY lines. Then seal those surfaces so that they are easier to clean the next time!
  • Painting – this is one you can do, but it just depends on your level of patience! High ceilings and two-story houses are probably best left to the professionals.  Buy high-quality paint and prime when needed, use good quality roller pads, and prepare the area with painter’s tape to make it easier to clean up.


Types of Home Improvement Projects You Should Contract

  • Large tree removal – this type of work could easily damage your home or your neighbors, put you in the hospital and out of your own job while recovering, and potentially take down power lines annoying your neighborhood and the power company.
  • Driveway installations – unless you’re installing a simple dirt or gravel driveway, pouring a sizeable concrete driveway or installing a paver driveway is best left to the professionals. Besides any building code permits and knowledge required, there are many ways these installations are prone to error.  Concrete has to be mixed to a certain required strength, poured within a specified period of time and cured in a specific manner.  All things that are more challenging for a DIYer to accomplish. A small concrete patio is a different story and the savvy DIYer can certainly figure it out. Paver driveways, similar to concrete driveways, have to sustain vehicular weight so the base has to be properly graded with specific aggregate and sand used.  Besides that, driveways usually have a wide expanse, so it’s important to properly mix the pavers from the pallets to ensure a uniform look. Again, a small paver installation – go for it, you DIYer!
  • Electrical work – for changing electrical wiring and in most renovations, always hire a licensed electrician. It’s not worth saving a little money to end up electrocuting yourself or burning your house down.  Electricians are expensive, but the peace of mind will be worth it. 
  • Roof cleaning – I recommend leaving roof cleaning to the professionals. It’s dangerous to walk on a roof as the surface becomes very slippery when the dirt and mildew on it become wet.  It’s extremely difficult to hold a pressure washer wand while standing on a ladder, and you can imagine how that can play out! If you insist on doing your own roof cleaning on a two-story house, rent a cherry picker to lift yourself safely up above the roof.  You can hold onto the bars of the lift and then move the lift into place.    


The key is being honest with yourself – your interest, skills, and abilities – when thinking about whether you should tackle a DIY project, or if that home improvement project is best left to a professional contractor.  Pin all the project ideas you love, then take a hard look at whether you really want to do it yourself or write the check!

Stay Inspired!



1 comment

I like how you mentioned hiring electricians to change electrical wiring during renovations. My wife and I want to renovate our basement this summer and we need to hire an electrician to do the whole basement. We’ll be sure to find one with good rates and has experience with renovations.

Taylor Hansen

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