When planning projects around their property, some people seem to think that just because they enjoy home improvement TV, that means they’re ready and able to tackle big projects around their home and yard. This isn’t always the case, so choose carefully before saying,” Oh no, I don’t need a contractor. I can handle this!” 

Lots and lots of people are getting on the DIY bandwagon. And for some tasks, that’s a perfectly good idea! Why not repaint an older piece of furniture? Changing out the knobs in the kitchen is a really good way to upgrade the look of the place without calling in a professional cabinet maker. And there’s lots of other (little) things that any unskilled homeowner can tackle with no stress or strain at all. DIY magazines and shows, along with YouTube, now provide a good reference guide for those who want to undertake these types of smaller tasks and succeed at them.

Where people often get themselves into trouble is when they opt to take on bigger tasks; the kind of tasks that require highly skilled training to complete successfully; and quickly find that they’re in over their head.

How can you know whether to DIY or call a contractor?

Consider the following checklist:

  • Does the job require filing a permit with the city?
  • Does the job require tools you don’t already own or have never used before?
  • Does the job require heavy lifting or other physical labor you can’t do without one or more helpers?
  1. Jobs that require filing a permit with the city are pretty clear cut – you might not need a permit to put up a simple 4x6ft shed from a box kit, requiring nothing more than a screwdriver. But a permit will be required if you are going to pour a foundation, run electrical and plumbing, and your outbuilding is going to be over a certain size. The scale of a given project and the details of what’s going into it, like plumbing and electrical, will require permits – and that’s when you should include a contractor in your planning. Similarly, electrical wiring jobs in your house, plumbing upgrades and other kinds of modernization, upgrades or improvements can require a licensed technician and a permit. So don’t attempt such work on your own.
  2. Are you considering making, building, renovating or upgrading something, but you don’t own the necessary tools? Or, do you think you can run down to the hardware store, buy that thingamajig and dive right in? Be careful! In #1 above, we mention things like electrical work and plumbing requiring a skilled technician to do the job. This applies just as much to the tools that are necessary for a great many jobs around a home. Injuries are very likely when a person picks up a tool they don’t know how to use. Saying that you watched an uncle use one when you were a kid is not the same thing as having someone walk you through the safe use of a power tool, teaching you how to use it and having you practice using it on a spare piece of 2×4 to learn how to do it right. If this is really the route you want to go, look up classes at your local junior college or at nearby community centers that teach people the basic use of power tools and essential DIY know-how before you dive into a project. Skill and knowledge are required! Don’t have the time to learn how to safely wield the necessary tool? That’s a dead giveaway that you should call a home repair contractor to take care of it for you.
  3. Heavy lifting tasks like putting in a large solid marble expanse of countertop, moving landscaping boulders, or excavating better drainage around your house: these tasks and anything like them, consider calling a professional rather than throwing out your back trying to do it yourself. Where some projects might seem suitable to calling on your family and friends to get the (unskilled) labor required, many homeowners are prone to biting off more than they can chew. Make sure that’s not you!

Local contractors will be happy to discuss your project ideas and help you understand the work involved to achieve your goals. A good contractor will be more than willing to discuss the amount of time and labor that would go into their work for you, and provide a cost estimate to help you understand your project budget in advance.

Come talk with our team of skilled landscape designers to talk about your outdoor projects!