DIY Remodel – Does It Save You Money?


The Downside of DIY

HGTV makes it look so easy. An idea and a five-minute trip to Home Depot and you’re ready to move on a shiny DIY remodel just like you saw on Kitchen Crashers. A bit of internet research and a Black and Decker book and you’re a few days away from that showroom-like setting, right?

  If you’ve any kind of Pinterest experience, you’ll know that DIY very rarely equates to saving money. The idea is that you’re buying the supplies and saving on labor right? Consider that the experience deficit means that you’ll spend more time on research, reference, asking for help, or just generally sweating over your decisions. Think about it- what do you make an hour? You’re basically paying yourself to work. Once you’ve spent 10 hours carefully tiling a bathroom only to discover that 3/16th of an inch variance hundreds of tiles ago actually matters and everything must be torn out, paying a professional to do what they do best is looking better and better.  Read on to discover the five things you should consider before starting your own DIY remodel. 

What You Should Consider


DIY Remodel,  Green Kitchen, Design

Good design is what separates a successful project from a dud. If all you need is a facelift, a designer will learn your style and select options that you might not have considered. A lifetime of education and passion gives designers an insight that will help your project reach the next level.

If you’re changing the exterior, making significant changes to the interior layout, or the cost of the project exceeds 5% of the cost of the home, design help is a must. It is in your best interest to hire a licensed architect to create detailed plans of the intended project. You’ll need these for building permits, for contractors, and for bidding purposes. Good technical drawings are a must for a successful project. Architects want to design beautiful and long lasting homes. The innovation that comes with a good architect will ensure that your project is beautiful both inside and out.


DIY Remodel, Materials, Supplies

A short trip to Home Depot will illustrate the sheer volume of building supplies on the market, and that’s only the tip of the ice berg. Material selection, ordering, transportation and delivery, storage, and installation are all things to consider when starting a project. Do you have the means to transport the raw materials? Do you have the tools to work them, or the expertise to install them? Failing that, do you have the time to become and expert before your wife needs her kitchen back?

D/B :When you choose to work with a design/build remodeling expert, part of what you pay for is ongoing education and decades of experience. Your contractor is going to be up to date on the latest products and they are also going to have experience with what’s already on the market. Additionally, they know appropriate product pricing, they have the know-how to correctly determine the quantity of materials, and they’ll have resources for delivery of your materials.


DIY Remodel, Permit

Not all remodeling jobs require a permit, but if yours does and one is not pulled, it will cause you expensive and time consuming headaches. Permit processes vary by townships, so you’ll need to speak with a building inspection representative to determine what exactly your particular office will need. It’s usually a form and two to four copies of the architectural plan. Some townships require certain plans to be stamped by a licensed engineer, or will require you go in front of a design review board. This usually applies to towns with a heavy emphasis on home aesthetics. (Take a drive around Whitefish Bay. The neighborhood didn’t get so gorgeous on pure chance.) There will also be a charge for the permit, usually a small percentage of the total cost of the project.

D/B : If you choose to work with a design/build firm, this is one of the many things you no longer have to worry about. We know the requirements, do the footwork, go before the review board if necessary, and make sure everything is in order before ground is even broken.


DIY Remodel, Trades, Contractors

On the front end, it may sound desirable to save the 10% by playing general contractor yourself. This involves sourcing all of the trades (electric, plumbing, HVAC, painting, millwork, carpentry, ect.), checking their credentials, scheduling walkthroughs and interpreting proposals, coordinating schedules and overseeing the actual work, and resolving any disputes after the fact.  Please don’t consider skimping on this step either – so many remodeling disasters came about because of unlicensed and unchecked ‘handymen.’

D/B: Check with local builder organizations for hundreds of proven contractors, or work with a design/build firm. Those decades of experience come to your aid again in the form of trades with established histories and a burning desire for repeat business from your firm. All of the work funneling through one channel also means your firm will schedule out the entire project, so a six month project for you and your family becomes a six week project under the careful guidance of a professional.


warranty CollageMistakes and surprises happen, it’s a natural part of working with homes. Remember that when you general contract your own project, the responsibility may fall with a certain trade it is ultimately on you to ensure these trades fix their mistake or pay for it. Hopefully you won’t have any issues worth throwing down about, but it could mean a lot of phone calls, emails, and persistence to get a workman back to a project they consider finished.

D/B: Any firm worth their salt with offer at least a year warranty on all work done. Even better, prior to calling the job complete, they will conduct thorough walkthroughs and compose a ‘punch list.’ This is a list created at the end of a project to detail anything that needs to be corrected or finished. Usually it’s comprised of small things – patching nail holes, fixing paint, or reattaching the odd vent cover. It is well worth having someone with an eye for the work go over your project with a fine tooth comb. Remember – it’s just as valuable to your firm that your project is finished well. They want to be able to brag about your project as much as you do, and they want you to speak well of them going forward.

Like car mechanics, attorneys, and doctors, the end result of your project is going to be determined by the quality and skill level of the individuals you hire to do your work. If you’re confident in your abilities to source and confirm your trades, then you can have a successful project. If you’d rather have a worry-free remodel with magazine worthy results and concierge level service, we would love to discuss how Refined Renovations will make your project spectacular.

DIY Kitchen, Green, Granite