Determine the time needed to complete a project. It can be easy to misjudge.
Take painting, for example. It may not take long. It's the rest—covering floors and furniture, correcting wall problems, taping trim, buying drop cloths and brushes, shopping for paint, and cleanup—that eats up hours.
For larger projects, time becomes a bigger factor. "For most people, the only time they have is on weekends," says Ed Bourke, owner of Bourke Construction, Anaheim, Calif. "For projects such as a kitchen or bath remodel, that limited amount of time can have a homeowner spending months to complete a task that a contractor should finish in weeks."
Once you decide if you have the time to do a project yourself, consider these factors as well:
Do you have a vehicle to pick up materials and dump trash? Sometimes details are overlooked or forgotten, or plans change and you need to run to the local home-improvement store, says Bourke. Will 2x4s or full pieces of sheet rock fit in your vehicle?
Michael Hydeck, Telford, Pa., president-elect of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, Des Plaines, Ill., says rental shop employees may show you how to operate the tools but they don't provide information about how to do the job.
"Home remodeling is not a subject or skill that you can learn off a Web page. It's a very hands-on skill set," says Bourke.
"You have to know your limitations," says Hydeck. "If you are happy with the work you do, then take on the project. But don't tackle anything without talking to someone else who has done it." He suggests talking to a pro by paying for a few hours of time to pick his or her brain.
Fasteners shot from nail guns can puncture building materials and body parts. If you work on a roof, there's always the risk of a fall. With ladders, people not only can fall from them, but the ladders themselves can fall if not properly secured or braced.
Bringing in new materials and disturbing existing materials can present dust and toxic fume dangers. The Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., reminds consumers that it's important to take steps to minimize pollution.
If you make it a DIY project but hire casual labor to help with parts of it, there are other considerations. Hiring someone may mean tax liabilities. If a worker gets hurt, you may get sued. If a worker causes a fire or major damage, it may invalidate your homeowners policy.
If you're unfamiliar with certain tasks, such as cutting tile, add the cost of extra tiles or other materials to replace those ruined as you learn.
Do you plan to sell your home at some point? Greg Herb, regional vice president with the National Association of Realtors®, Chicago, and owner of Herb Real Estate Inc., near Philadelphia, says that while homeowners can improve the appearance of their homes by decluttering indoors or adding mulch to gardens, projects requiring permits are best left to professionals.
"Most buyers today are getting home inspections and putting houses under the microscope," says Herb.
Many states also have disclosure laws. Sellers have to inform potential buyers about improvements and disclose whether the seller obtained building permits.
Even if a homeowner did a good job but one small part is off, it can build a poor image and make potential buyers anxious, says Herb. He suggests calling on a local real estate agent for a fresh set of eyes on improvements and to better understand which projects bring the best value in your area.
Contact your credit union for the best financing option. Typically, credit unions fund home improvement projects through either home equity loans or home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).
A home equity loan is a standard loan based on the value of your home and your equity in it. You get all of the approved money at once and repay it though fixed-rate amortized payments. A HELOC is set up more like a credit card with a maximum amount you can borrow against as needed for a set period. Repayment is based on an adjustable rate.
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