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Determining To DIY Or Hire A Contractor

Maintaining a house can be a costly investment. The regular up-keep and general repairs a home needs year-round can really take it's toll on your wallet. Therefore, it's not surprising to see that many homeowner's are tempted to take on the role of handyperson instead of paying for a professional.

However, if you take on a job that is above your abilities, you may just end up paying more to fix the damage you've done than you would have paid in the first place. Of course, this doesn't mean you should avoid making repairs to your home. So, when do you make it a DIY project and when do you call in the pro's?

Take a Yearly Look
Most people do repairs on their home to maintain and improve the conditon of their house. By doing this, you extend your homes life as well as increase its market value. To make sure your house is in top form, regualrly inspect it from top to bottom every year. And this doesn't just mean glance around each room; really inspect it.

Rot and decay isn't always visible to a passing glance, but the damage they eventually cause can be a serious problem. Look at the condition of the materials behind the walls and under the surfaces of your home. Once you have identified problems that need to be repaired, it's time to decide what you can tackle yourself and what requires a professional.

Doing it Yourself
Before you decide to make a repair your newest DIY project, consider these questions first:

  • How much work is actually required to make the repair?
  • What is your actual skill level?
  • How much time will you need to spend to make the repair?
  • How much do you expect the repair to cost?
  • How much will it cost to hire a profressional?
  • What kind of materials are required for this repair?
  • Will you have access to the same types of materials as a professional?
  • Will you actually save money by doing the repair yourself?

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to DIY projects is to get it right. If you don't have the time or the skill to do a job correctly the first time around, you may find yourself looking at repair bill for twice the amount you originally thought the project would cost. Even if you start the job, a repair person won't charge less to finish it for you.

Hired Help
So, you've decided to go with a professional. While there are numerous reputable handypersons out there, every now and then a bad apple will fall into the bunch. Help protect yourself (and maybe pick out that bad apple before it's too late) by following these guidelines.

1. Before you even pick up that phone to call a repairperson, figure out the kind and quality of the repair needed. Not only will this help ensure there is no "miscommunication" between what you expect and what the repairperson does, it can also help protect you against the old "bait and switch" tactic (you're quoted a nice low price in order to hire the service but later on are convinced into buying a more costly repair).

2. Whenever you are hiring a contractor, always, always, ALWAYS put your agreement in writing. Even if your contractor gives you her word, has a great reputation or says a verbal agreement is sufficient, protect yourself and get it in writing. If she really means what she's saying, it shouldn't be an issue to have it written down.

3. While you're writing things down, draw up a contract that outlines exactly what services you expect for the amount of money you are paying. This contract or agreement is known as a specification.

Being Specific
Make the specification brief and to the point. And make sure you are paying for quality materials. Otherwise you may find yourself needing another repair person in the not so distant future. Although all specifications vary somewhat in their content according to the repair that needs to be done, almost all will include:

  • Exactly where the repair is needed
  • The extent of the repair
  • Whether or not repairs have been made to the area before
  • Whether or not the repair requires new work to be done
  • The type and quality of materials to be used
  • The color and size of materials to be used
  • If there is painting involved, how many coats should be applied
  • A binding agreement that all work performed will conform to local and state codes

Binding Words
When you draw up the contract, here are some items that should be outlined in the agreement:

  • All material, labor and equipment necessary for the job
  • When the expected job completion date is
  • Who is responsible for cleaning any messes that may result from the job
  • To what extent the repairperson or contractor is responsible for damage done to your property or that of your neighbors
  • The signed agreement frees you from any liens that may be placed against the job if the contractor fails to pay for materials, labor, equipment, etc.
  • When payments are expected and how they will be paid
  • If any changes are made to the contract, they will be made in writing and agreed upon by both parties

When you are looking to hire a repairperson or contractor, go with someone whose work you're familiar with. Ask friends, relatives and co-workers for recommendations. Always get at least three bids for the work you need done before you decide on a contractor.

The Finished Product
Once the repairperson has been hired and the work has gotten underway, do your best to stay out of his way. While you may want to know what's going on with your home, be aware that interfering too much can not only lead to delays, but may compromise the quality of the work, cause a disagreement with your repairperson and could even result in additional costs.

If you are not paying cash for the job, then you may be expected to place a cash deposit before work begins. Make sure you get a receipt that reflects this initial payment, the amount you currently owe and how this will be paid later (one lump some or a series of payments?). Leave the final payment until after all the work has been completed correctly.

When the job is done, do an inspection of the work with the repairperson by your side. When you are satisfied with the job, then sign off on the contract and enjoy your improved home.

Get more advice about hiring a contractor in our forum