Home Improvement Project?  5 Questions to Ask Before You DIY

It’s easy to find online tutorials to help you turn certain home improvements into DIY projects, and you can potentially save money by doing so.

But it’s also important to consider factors other than costs and convenience when deciding whether to complete a DIY home upgrade.

Before picking up a sledgehammer, ask yourself the following questions.

1. Is it really a simple project?

If the project is relatively small and simple — think installing a faucet or repainting your guest bedroom — attempting to DIY is probably fine. In fact, it might be a great confidence builder, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer.

But not all projects are as straightforward as they seem.

Anything that involves plumbing, electrical wiring or significant demolition comes with safety risks — for you and your home. That’s not to say you can’t handle big projects, but ask yourself if it’s something you’re truly comfortable taking on, particularly if things don’t go as planned.

By hiring a pro, it’s more likely the project will be done correctly the first time. More importantly, you’re putting yourself at less risk. Professionals have years of experience, as well as tools and safety training. They’ll ensure that your project is completed to code, and they can handle unforeseen issues as they arise.

2. Do I have the time and energy?

When going the DIY route, you’ll only be able to tackle your home renovation project during your free time. Unless you plan on taking time off work, that means you’ll likely be focused on this project during the time normally reserved for friends, family and hobbies, like evenings and weekends. Having a big renovation project eat into your free time as it can become frustrating quickly.

You’ll also need to consider your household situation. If you have young kids or your partner works from home, a DIY renovation project could create an unsafe environment — not to mention a lot of noise.

And a project that may appear to only take a few days could stretch out for months if you have trouble dedicating the time to complete it.

3. Will it really save me money?

It’s easy to forget that professionals already have all the supplies and tools they’ll need to complete the job — and you may not.

Take the time to run the numbers before deciding whether to take on a DIY project or hire a professional. You can start by calculating how much you’ll need to spend on supplies and tools. You’ll also want to factor in how many hours it’ll take you to get those supplies and to complete the project, since your time is valuable.

Next, get quotes from several contractors so you can compare prices. Once you know the difference, you can decide whether doing the work yourself will save enough money to be worthwhile.

4. Do I have the expertise (or an expert who will help)?

The pros on remodeling shows and social media channels make things look simple, but that’s because they’ve developed advanced skills over time (and they don’t show you the bloopers).

Before you go for it, consider whether you have the experience to deal with problems that might pop up. And if you’re a novice but up for a challenge, do you have a friend with experience who can help you?

To be clear, some small projects can definitely be done on your own, such as patching holes or painting. However, some jobs require more expertise and training, such as plumbing and electrical work. Making a DIY mistake could put you at risk of violating municipal building codes or your home insurance coverage and may require inspections.

5. Am I OK with a subpar result?

Finished DIY projects don’t always match the picture in your head.

It’s entirely possible that your new hardwood floors won’t line up exactly, or the new outdoor lights won’t turn on when you flip the switch. This is especially true if it’s your first time doing this kind of work.

If you can live with an end result that isn’t quite perfect, go for it. But if you know you won’t be satisfied if things are rough around the edges, you may want to just hire a pro from the start, rather than hiring one to fix your failed attempt later on.

Bonus: How will I pay for it?

Whether you’re doing the home renovation on your own or hiring a professional, you’ll ideally have the cash up front to cover the costs. By saving for your project beforehand, you’ll avoid paying extra for your renovation in the form of interest.

That said, home renovations can be costly, and you may not want to wait until you’ve saved up the full amount.

If you don’t have the funds available immediately, consider these options to pay for a home renovation:

Low-interest or rewards credit cards

A low-interest credit card can be a reasonable solution if the project is small in scope and you’re confident you can pay off the balance fairly quickly.

Alternatively, using a rewards credit card might be a smart option, since you’ll earn cash back or points on every purchase you make. Some cards also offer a generous welcome bonus when you meet the minimum spending requirement, which you might achieve quickly with the larger expenses of a home renovation.

Personal loan or line of credit

A personal loan or a line of credit from your bank can be a good idea, as these forms of credit usually come with interest rates that are lower than credit cards. That said, the rate you’ll be offered and how much you’ll be extended will depend on your income and credit history. Those with little or no debt, a good income and a high credit score have the best chances of approval and a competitive rate.

Home equity line of credit

If you own a home and have built up equity, you can apply for a home equity line of credit (HELOC). A HELOC is a form of revolving credit that uses your home as collateral. HELOCs can be good ways to pay for renovations since they typically come with lower interest rates than credit cards, and you’ll only pay interest based on the amount you withdraw. However, be sure you’re aware of any fees and that you read about your repayment options so you can minimize the interest you’ll pay.

About the Author

Barry Choi

Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert. His website moneywehave.com is one of Canada’s most trusted sites when it comes to all things related to money and travel.

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