DIY vs Professional Help - What Doing My Own Renos Taught Me
My motto for 2021 is "Do Gooder". I'm changing the way I do a lot of things in my life to make it easier and better. We only get one shot at this.
It isn't what you think. Doing things yourself can save you a lot of money but spending a little money can save you even more time! What I realized is I get paid to do the boring knowledge work that people who aren't financial planners don't want/have time/desire to do. We provide a service for your financial life much like a dentist services your teeth. You wouldn't fill your own cavity, would you?
Here is a rundown of the massive renovation we completed last year.
Before we get started, I want to clarify that I actually am qualified to do all of these projects. In a former life, I was a carpenter's apprentice and had on-the-job training. If you don't know what you're doing, you can get hurt badly. Please don't trust YouTube to teach you everything you need to know.
What Ken did
Pot Lights - I live in a bungalow so getting into the attic is no big deal. Being almost 6' tall, over 40 and crawling through an area only 4' high AT THE PEAK is, however, a big deal. If that weren't enough, it took me two days to figure out which wire was providing the power and where all these other wires were going! Once that mystery was solved, drilling 14 4-inch holes (messy) and moving the insulation (itchy) to run the wires was fine. Total time: 15 hours. Worth the time: If you know what you're doing. Electricity is dangerous.
Cabinets - Getting them off, easy. Sanding them, messy. Painting them, FUN! We bought a new paint gun and I went to town on the cabinets. Then I found more things to paint: bathroom drawers, window casings, bedroom doors. Having a paint gun will get me to finish a few more projects I've been holding off on. Total time: 8 hours. Worth it: Yes
Removing Stucco Ceiling - I tried every trick in the book (read: YouTube) and I could NOT get it off. I finally decided that instead of totally ripping down the ceiling (what a mess that would have been) we'd add another layer of flat drywall and then mud it. Don't forget that I had already drilled the holes and ran the wire for new lights so a lot of accurate measuring needed to be done. It took 3 people 3 days to install the drywall. It's heavy, it's awkward, it's messy. Total time: 20 hours. Worth it: Nope. Hire that out
What Ken paid someone else to do
Mudding the ceiling - I can mud a wall. I can mud a ceiling, I choose not to do the latter. We contracted that out. Total time: 9 days including drying time. Worth it: Absolutely
Painting - Like most of you, I've painted and repainted my house a dozen times. I'd like to think that I'm not bad at it. That is, of course, until you see a professional do it. I took care of the main floor (walls and ceiling) over a week's time with this pattern: Paint, clean up, and wait. Second coat, clean up, and wait. Move furniture and repeat. We were running short on time to get the addition done for our Christmas party so we asked around for help. We hired a friend of a friend to come and paint one, albeit large, room. It took her, and I kid you not, 2 hours to paint the entire thing...TWICE! And, it looks better than the walls I took my time on. Never. Painting. Again. Total time: A week, off and on. Worth it: Not anymore
All told, the renovations took 4 months from start to finish. I took way too much time off work to try and save some money and do things myself. I added mounds of stress to myself and my relationships. In the end, we saved a lot of money doing it ourselves, but it took us 8 times longer than a neighbour who did the exact same thing but hired a contractor.
Long story short, doing things yourself CAN save you money but, exchanging money for time is more efficient. If I had contracted the job out
1- I could have been working more, earning more to pay it off
2 - I could have enjoyed more time with friends and family instead of working on the house
3 - I could have avoided putting myself through a lot less stress and anxiety over finishing things on time, putting a strain on my personal and professional relationships
Moral, pay the professionals to do what they've been trained to do. Everyone will be better off in the end.
Kenneth Coombs CFP® CHS™ RRC®
Ken has worked in the financial services industry since 2005, is a Registered Retirement Consultant and a Certified Financial Planner. Ken has written financial planning columns and has been a guest in financial print, radio, and podcast programs.
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