In recent years, Portland has been at the heart of a DIY revolution in music, art, bikes, literature, you name it. Many people are interested in doing for themselves things they may previously have left to a professional, whether cutting a kid’s hair, tuning up a bicycle, raising chickens, or building a website. People take on these challenges for economic reasons, certainly, but also in the interest of broadening personal horizons. As DIYers ourselves, we understand the desire many people have to improve their homes with their own hands, and under the the right circumstances, we can work with home owners who wish to perform some or all of the work themselves. Many contractors will run away from DIYers, and there is sometimes good reason for this. If you are thinking about taking on a project, there are several things to carefully consider:
- Are you only interested in doing the work to save money? Obviously, cost savings are a major motivator for the DIYer, but if this is your only motivator, please reconsider. If you’re saying “how hard can it be?” realize that it can be quite challenging, especially for the novice. If you have no interest in the work itself, and in learning new skills, you’re better off leaving everything to a pro.
- Do you have any skills or experience? What projects have you tackled in the past? Did things go smoothly? Did you have a warm, fuzzy, proud feeling at the end of the project, or were you just relieved that it was over? If you’ve never taken on a major home improvement project before, start with something small, like painting a bathroom (it’s not easy to do a good job painting a bathroom, you’ll learn a lot), or fixing that rotten section of fence – don’t take a sledge hammer to the kitchen just yet, or you may be eating microwave burritos for years to come. Be honest with yourself about what your skills are. Most men and many women consider themselves “handy,” but please make a realistic assessment. We can help with that assessment.
- Do you have, or are you willing to acquire tools? Having the right tools is critical to getting a job done quickly and well, and the right tools are quite expensive – you can easily spend hundreds on basic hand tools, thousands on decent power tools. If you’re planning a lot of work, tools can be a great investment, but for a small, one-time project, it might be better to put the money toward a contractor. We can help you prioritize tool purchases, and let you know when you can get by with the “good enough” tool. Of course, expensive specialty tools like floor sanders or jackhammers can be rented, but figure this cost into your plans.
- Are you willing to do grunt work? Many DIYers picture themselves setting tile mosaics or building a beautiful fireplace mantle, but realistically your strong back and willingness to schlep may be more valuable, especially if you’re not experienced with the more glamorous work. Most people can learn to demolish walls, dig post holes, sand woodwork, or hang insulation pretty quickly, and these are tasks that can be accomplished on weekends or evenings, so they fit into your schedule. Contractors generally have to charge the same rate for all kinds of work, so doing lower-skilled tasks yourself can pay off. Know that these tasks can be quite demanding physically, and often require quality safety equipment, especially respirators. Having said this, we realize that you may really want to set your own tile mosaic or design and build your own fireplace mantle. We can help with this, too. You might not save money, but if it’s important to you to put your personal touch on the job (whatever that may be), we are happy to accommodate, standing side-by-side with you throughout the process, if necessary.
- Do you have time? If you’re working full time, and/or caring for children, you’re not going to have a lot of time and energy for your home improvement project. If you’ve hired a contractor, you don’t want them changing their schedule to accommodate yours – this will kill any potential cost savings. Carefully consider how much time you actually have to devote to the project, and be prepared to let your contractor handle things if you can’t get to them.
If you are truly committed to taking on a significant portion of your project yourself (or if you’re already in over your head), we can help. We offer consultation and training on an hourly basis, and we can step in to perform skilled work as needed. We can help you create a written plan to do the work in the right order, and give you a reality check regarding the difficulty of various tasks, and the tools required. If we are your general contractor, we can give you “homework” assignments for evenings and weekends, and inspect your work to make sure it’s done correctly. Depending on the nature of the work, building officials may inspect your work as well.
Let us help you make your home improvement project an educational and rewarding experience, with an outcome that matches your original vision. If you have questions about our consulting services, or a specific project, please contact us .