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Home projects: Doing it yourself vs. paying someone else

Maskot/Getty Images/Maskot

Homeownership comes with an endless to-do list of home projects. Some are optional, some unexpected, and some are downright urgent. Deciding which projects to tackle yourself and which ones require professional help can be a tricky task.

Typically, you can summarize your decision with this basic equation:

Time + Money + Skills = Finished

It's simple addition that can escalate to a multiplication problem before you know it. Below, discover the factors that make a difference when it comes to your home project.

Small updates can pay off

Many home projects are worth the elbow grease. With instructional videos and reality TV shows for inspiration, accomplishing the task may be all the reward you need; saving money is a bonus. Invest in a few basic tools and trust yourself to manage common projects, such as painting or refinishing hardwood floors. A quick online search for instructions could have you replacing caulk, eliminating the squeak in doors, fixing torn window screens or unclogging a sink in no time.

Experts are there for a reason

  • Depending on your skills and available time, there are certain home projects that may have the best chance of success if you seek assistance.
  • Think twice before attempting plumbing jobs more complex than fixing a toilet lever. Projects that use "blow torch" or "welding" in a sentence may be best left to professionals.
  • Changing a light switch or installing a ceiling fan is one thing, but most electrical repairs include more than basic fixtures. Circuits are nothing to mess with unless you know what you are doing. Why risk resale value on a project that isn't up to code?
  • You may have skills suitable for roofing work, but risking injury may not be worth it. Take on a job you aren't ready for, and you may end up with a leaky roof or expensive water damage.
  • Installing or repairing windows and siding yourself can save labor costs, but proper installation is vital.

Saving money adds up fast

As you consider the costs of doing it yourself or paying someone else, keep these tips in mind:

  • Tally all the costs, including tools and equipment, training, and child care.
  • Prioritize the project against your other financial goals. If building a deck yourself saves labor costs, and you can use that money to pay down debt or for retirement savings, it could very well be worth your time.
  • Pull a permit, if necessary. Depending on the complexity of a remodeling project, you may have to apply for a building permit. A hired contractor will take care of this on your behalf, but there is a cost.
  • Know yourself. Prevent personal frustration and potential disagreements with your spouse or partner by establishing household guidelines for which home projects are always hired out.
  • Find online tools to help calculate supplies such as paint, tiles, concrete, wallpaper, you name it. You can also calculate how much your time is worth, which will help you solve the equation at the top of this article.