So You Want To Do It Yourself, Huh? Part 2

In Part 1 I discussed the importance of obtaining proper permits, and choosing which work to do yourself and what to contract out when it comes to taking on a Do-It-Yourself renovation. Another step that is essential to starting the process is to gain as much knowledge as possible about each improvement item you intend take on. For instance, to do a typical kitchen renovation, it would be good to do some research on plumbing, electrical, proper kitchen layout, cabinet installation, lighting and flooring, just to start. There are countless books on each topic, and the library is a good resource for information, without paying $20 for each book at a home improvement or book store. I suggest checking them out, and keeping them throughout the project in order to use them as reference to check your work as you go to ensure you are on track throughout the project.

Next, come up with a detailed plan for what you want to do. This part of the process requires laying out your entire job. Some components of a good plan include a timeline of tasks, list of materials (including prices and suppliers), and detailed drawings. Your timeline should include every aspect of the project, from obtaining permits and demolition, to the installation of each system (framing, drywall, flooring, cabinets, etc.). I will go into depth on each of these items in later articles. Your plan should also include scale drawings of the current layout, and the proposed changes (these drawings will be required to obtain permits); the drawings don’t have to be professional, however, they must be accurate (graph paper is a great tool for accomplishing this) and complete. You will need to mark the location of any added outlets and light fixtures, as well as any major changes to the structure and/or layout of the room. Taking these plans to the building department will often get you a free plan review, and tons of helpful information about your intended project.

Finally, I want to cover choosing your materials. The old adage “you get what you pay for” is often true in this area. On one hand, if you go with bottom-dollar discount materials, you are often going to end up replacing items in a few years because of poor quality and durability. On the other hand, just because something at the boutique store is priced like it is gold-plated and made by magic elves doesn’t mean it is any more durable than the mid-range products. A good practice is to stay in that middle range of products for the best balance of quality and price. Additionally, if you are planning on selling your home in the near future, you should be careful not to over personalize your style and material choices. Potential buyers may be turned off by overly bold choices, making it harder to sell your home; therefore, it is usually best to stick to current trends, and use your room décor to personalize it.

There is a great deal of pride that can be taken in completing a DIY project, especially when others think it was done by a professional. Follow these steps and you will be well on your way to accomplishing just that.


Inspector Daggett


So You Want To Do It Yourself, Huh?

Part 1

As a homeowner, you may have found yourself facing a much-needed home improvement project, and after watching many of the Do-It-Yourself shows on TV, have said to yourself “I can do that. If they can do it how hard can it be?”  Well, it might just be harder than the show (which is heavily edited for a 30-minute time slot) depicts; though not necessarily too difficult for you to tackle on your own, as long as you consider a few important things before jumping in.

My first recommendation is that if you are going to take on a large project–such as a bathroom addition/remodel, kitchen renovation or finishing a basement–is to start at your municipality’s building department. Contrary to what some believe, the local building codes have not been put in place simply to collect revenue. Building codes have been implemented to ensure that houses are built and maintained with at least the minimum standards of safety and good building practices. The professional contractor, if they are good, knows these codes and not just meets them but exceeds them, remember they are minimum standards. The average homeowner who chooses to do their own renovations likely doesn’t know all of the code requirements; however, the municipal inspectors and reviewers do know these requirements, and usually they are more than willing to answer questions, review plans and give advice on code compliance. Furthermore, many insurance companies will void a policy, or refuse a claim, if damage was done to a home, as a result of work that was performed without the required permits. Relatively speaking, the amount of money you pay for permits and plan review is a small cost, when compared to paying for a house that has burned to the ground, or even worse, possibly dealing with injury or loss of life. Bottom line is, get the permits.

The next step is deciding what you should tackle yourself, and what should you sub-contract out. You have to look at yourself not as a Do-It-yourself laborer but a Do-It-Yourself general contractor. In many situations, you may save hundreds of dollars doing the work yourself, but end up spending an entire week in labor, and still not end up with a quality result. A great example of this is drywall. Having been a contractor for some time I now can hang and finish drywall, and make it look pretty good; however, it takes me 4 times longer than a three-man drywall crew. On top of that, even my best quality work doesn’t match the quality of someone who specializes in drywall; therefore, I almost always sub-out the drywall hanging and finishing. You must identify what is worth the savings, and what is not. Sub-out the really technical work that requires years of experience to get right, and you handle the stuff, that with some research and direction, you can easily knock out and meet the desired quality. Doing something that saves you thousands is a no–brainer, but think twice about the work that will only save you a hundred here or there.

The above is a good starting point. In part two, I will deal with some more items  including choosing/obtaining materials, considering a time frame and job planning.

Inspector Daggett