Home Renovation Projects: DIY or bring in an expert?


Lots of people get the home improvement urge at some point. You may have just moved into a new place and already have grand visions for how to make it your own. Or maybe you’ve lived in your home for a long time. The kids moved out, and you want to adjust the house to fit your new lifestyle.

Home renovation projects can range from simple aesthetic adjustments to complex transformations. They’re not all created equal in terms of cost, required skills, and time investment. Some projects could feasibly be DIYed in a weekend. Other projects are complicated and might be best left to a professional contractor. We’ll go over different considerations of home renovation projects so you can decide the right approach for your next renovation venture.

How might a renovation project look?

Picture this. Your guest bathroom features pink everything. The countertop, floor tiles, tub—pink. Even the toilet is pink. You have always disliked it, but the kids never minded. So, it’s stayed that way for 10 years. It’s been the elephant in the room—or, the pink elephant room, in your house. Now that you want to do something about it once and for all, how should you tackle the project?

Your partner proclaims, “We’ve got this!” and pulls out the sledgehammer. But, you’re not so sure. Should you attempt the whole bathroom renovation yourself? Let’s look at what needs to be considered when scoping a project.

What’s your budget?

When planning a project, crunch the numbers. How much would it cost to do the entire project yourself? How much if you hired an expert? If you bite off more than you can chew and make a mistake, what will it cost to fix it? Break down the different components of the full project. It’s worthwhile to get quotes from multiple contractors to get a sense of what that route would cost.

Determine a budget you’re comfortable with. Consider that unexpected costs could pop up too, so factor that into the budget.

Is time a factor?

Consider the time aspect, as well. Does it matter when the project can be completed? What about the labor investment? How much time would you be willing to put into completing a project yourself, versus paying a professional to do it?

You may be able to complete a simple project quickly, and you’d love to have this project done ASAP.

Although…if we’re being reasonable with ourselves, a professional likely could still get it done quicker even if they’re booked out a while. You may plan to get your project done this weekend, but something comes up. Or you end up having to order supplies, troubleshoot issues, and so on. There’s something to be said for a professional’s ability to complete the job quickly and expertly.

Do you have the right experience?

With so many resources at people’s fingertips, it’s possible to educate oneself to do pretty much anything, sure. But depending on the complexity of the project and the consequences if it goes wrong…it might not always be worth it to have this be your breakout role.

Sometimes you need to put down the level and level with yourself. Have you done a project like this before? If you goof on it, will it cost significantly more money and time to correct?

Some easy-to-learn projects to consider for DIY:

  • Repairing and refinishing dents and dings in walls, door frames, etc.
  • Updating cabinet and drawer hardware
  • Simple tiling projects, like a kitchen backsplash

Home projects often best left to professionals:

  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing projects
  • Surface refinishing, such as reglazing a tub

Many medium-level projects are relatively easy to learn too, but take commitment and time to do right. Assess each project on its own to determine if you can and would want to tackle it yourself.

What about your wants and needs?

We discussed the budget, time, and experience considerations of home renovations when deciding to go the DIY or contractor route. People often place the most emphasis on those. However, it’s equally important to weigh in your wants and needs for the project.

Let’s go back to the pink bathroom example. There are a lot of parts to the project. Are you prepared to tackle all of them on your own? Maybe the answer is to retile the floor and replace the counter yourself. Perhaps you’ve done that before. You know how to do it, and it was actually kind of fun. But you decide to contract out the toilet and tub replacement because you don’t feel confident with plumbing work and want it done correctly the first time.

Consider if you want full control of the project or if you want more direction. If you like doing things yourself, DIY can be great. If you would rather tell someone your vision and let them do their thing, sometimes contracting is a better option.

Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages

There are several reasons to do the work yourself or hire a professional. Here are some top advantages of each.

Top Reasons to DIY

  • Have experience/can easily learn: If you’ve done similar projects before or the project is simple enough to learn, you may opt to DIY.
  • Passion for DIY: You may love getting your hands dirty and see home projects as relaxing and empowering to take on. Go for it!
  • Restrictive budget: When the budget for a project is tighter, getting it done yourself can often be less expensive—assuming you know when it’s time to cry uncle and get an expert if you come across unexpected problems.

Top Reasons to Hire an Expert

  • Project requires it: If you use a home renovation loan, some loan terms require you to hire professional contractors. Certain renovation projects also require a permit, which generally means the job must be done by a professional.
  • Complex, high-stakes, or large-scale project: You might be able to learn how to gut and rebuild your kitchen, but if you haven’t done that before, an expert is often the best call.
  • Quality/preference: You may hire an expert for the peace of mind the job will be done correctly. It is also perfectly valid to not want to invest in the self-education, time, and energy to DIY. 

Funding Considerations for Home Improvement Projects

DIY home renovation projects can often be a cheaper route, but they may be prone to more unexpected twists and turns—including additional expenses you didn’t foresee. Extra costs can come up when contractors are on the job too, but their quotes are usually closer to the true cost than DIYers might estimate for themselves.

Therefore, one might want a more flexible loan for DIY renovation projects and more defined loans for contracted renovation projects.

[Questions about funding a major renovation project? Talk to a Great Midwest Bank loan officer about stress-free home renovation loans.]

Next Steps

For home renovation projects, there is generally not a right or wrong answer on the DIY versus hiring-an-expert decision. It’s ultimately up to you and your needs, budget, and comfort level. Weigh the pros and cons on a project-by-project basis.

If you’re ready to tackle that major home renovation project, Great Midwest Bank can help you determine your home renovation loan needs. Our experienced and friendly loan officers can answer your questions about renovation loans or home equity loans and help determine a fit for your project needs.

We know it’s a lot to consider, but we’re here to help. We aim to rejuvenate your loan experience, so you can rejuvenate your home.




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