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DIY Checklist

Ask yourself 6 questions before opening your toolbox

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DIY Checklist
DIY Checklist

Think you’re ready to tackle a home-improvement project yourself? Deciding whether you’re up to the challenge or whether you should hire a professional can be tricky.

“The feeling of accomplishment you get from doing something with your own two hands is priceless,” says Craig Webb, editor in chief at Remodeling magazine, adding that DIY home improvements are a great way to learn how your house functions.

But some renovations are better left to professionals, says Mark Clement, co-founder at MyFixItUpLife , a resource for DIY home remodelling. Home-improvement TV shows have distorted how many homeowners view renovation projects, Clement says.

Ask yourself these questions before opening your toolbox.

1. What are the risks?

Clement recommends caution when sizing up a project requiring a ladder, such as repairing damaged shingles or replacing a second-story window.

Similarly, home projects that require you to handle harsh chemicals can pose health risks, says Liza Hausman, vice president of industry marketing at Houzz, a home remodelling and design website, so make sure you know what products you’re dealing with in advance.


2. How much do you value your time?

Labour costs can add up when using a professional contractor. “As a general rule of thumb, about one-third of what you’re paying for are the materials, and the other two-thirds are for the skills of the remodeler and their time,” Webb says.

3. How much can you save?

Compare how much it would cost for you to hire a professional to what you’d spend if you do the work yourself. The easiest way to do this is to get a quote from a professional contractor for the project and to ask the company to separate the costs of materials from the labor costs. Factor in equipment costs if you must buy or rent tools.

4. What’s your skill level?

Be honest with yourself about your skills. “It’s easy to get in over your head,” Hicks says. Depending on the project, “if you screw up, you can do serious damage to your house.” Check whether you know how to use the tools you’ll need.

If you don’t have a lot of experience, start small and work your way up to bigger renovations. “Painting a room is a great first DIY project,” Webb says. “If you make a mistake, you can always paint over it.”

5. Is the project complicated?

You should be able to map out the project step by step; this is where online videos can come in handy. Home-improvement experts such as Ron Hazelton, Bob Vila and Mr. Fix It have how-to videos on YouTube for many renovations. Pro tip: “Watch the video from start to finish to see what the scope of the job is,” Webb says.


6. Will you need a second – or third – pair of hands?

Is the project a one-person job? If not, decide whether you feel comfortable asking friends to help you – but keep in mind that you need people who know what they’re doing, because any mistakes they make can cost you money.


Text Daniel Bortz Photograph Max Pixel