What to DIY Versus Hiring the Pros
This is the Simply Home Podcast - Ladies Who Build, a podcast for women by women.
This is Ashley Wainscott and Michelle Mullins.
After spending the last 10 years revolutionizing the construction industry and raising the bar of the contracting world.
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Episode 11. What to DIY versus hiring the pros.
We are going to be going over each trade and skill and what we think you can DIY. And what our recommendation is.
The common misconception that you or your spouse will get to it. And what's important to consider when thinking about doing it yourself.
Yeah. Good points. Let's dive in.
So starting out. Our top items that we put together for what's a good DIY versus like who you should hire for the pros. Come to mind are.. Okay, well, maybe we should start broader? Like, okay, what I'm thinking is plumbing. HVAC, electrical.
Framing. I would say those are like the very top absolute no. Don't do on your own. I mean, I wouldn't even change like a valve, but also I'm just like, lame. Probably other people could change a valve like a plumbing valve, but I would say those are the top that I would hire out for a hundred percent. Because any wrong mistake you make in any of those trades could be so detrimental. You know, like imagine if you didn't cap a wire off correctly. And you have kids running around and dogs running around, like that's terrifying.
So even, if you think that you know a little bit about those things, just don't. Just hire a professional, a person who's certified in that.
Yeah, because there are those little things like switching out a garbage disposal.
Or swapping a faucet that people feel confident in doing. Right? There are those little things that are associated with plumbing, same thing. There are associations with electrical where it's like, “Well I'm just changing out this light fixture or I'm swapping a faceplate”. I feel like they're a little things that I might, I wouldn't do it. But I feel like someone's safe if they want to switch out a garbage disposal, right? Like you're not going to ruin the entire plumbing system in your home, or if you want to change on the light fixture yourself. I wouldn't advise that personally because if you need a license to do something, in the state of Texas or in any state, to me, there's a reason for it, right? So like…
Maybe you grew up with your parents as a home builder or you grew up, you know, or you're a general contractor yourself or whatever. There are certain situations in which I feel like…
You could do it.
You could do it, but in general for the public that Michelle and I are talking to, I really wouldn't advise it because you just don't know enough about what could happen. And if you break something under your sink and then your sink isn't functional, or it's snowballs and you take the garbage spreads off, but then it's not working and you actually realized the electrical, that the garbage disposal is plugged into is unsafe, right there, maybe things that snowball. And then you don't have a functional sink or you don't have a functional light fixture. And it's like, is that worth that?
It's interesting it gets because it depends on kind of you’re, are you a GC yourself or, I mean, a contractor or did you grow up doing this in your house growing up? And so it's almost like those items could be considered handyman items.
If you've done it before, if you know how to do it while, and that you have the time, if you didn't do it while like half the time to go back and fix it. So I think there are things like that, that Teeter on, is this a handyman item? Is this a tradesman? Cause we, you know, it could go both ways. But like, if you're okay, if you're doing like a bathroom remodel and you need to reroute your plumbing, I would not. And it's so interesting. I watch videos of people are they're like DIY and like flip properties or something. And they're like, look, me and my husband are putting in new plumbing today in the shower. And maybe it turned out great. Hopefully that it did, but it makes me cringe because I'm like, just pay for the profesh. You know.
You can do it!
That’s the professional way to say professional.
But like, then you get a warranty from the trade, right? So like it's insured, it's warranted. So it's like the bigger stuff like plumbing. Especially if it's on a two-storey, you have to have certain angles, the pipes, the pipes have to go. And then if you get an angle too much, you can clog your water back up. It's a lot.
Oh, yeah. And especially like do not, absolutely do not touch plumbing and electrical in your walls, in your slab. Do not try and replace the flange on a toilet. You know.
We've had that done by the handyman.
Don't do that. Don't cheap out.
That's not a great idea, even if you're like, well, the handy gets here, it would be so easy. I get it. It's annoying to call a plumber and to get them over into coordinate and that la-la-la. It's worth it though. It's worth every single penny.
Okay. Is there any electrical that we, you would, I mean, you said maybe switching on a light fixture, maybe switching out a fan. Maybe like, and then I would obviously like put on a new faceplate if I was upgrading the color from yellow to white, but that's kind of about it. I don't know that more electrical that I would even be touching.
No. Faceplate yeah, I can do this.
Yeah. I’m just not confident. And anything else?
And I really wouldn't advise anything else because, because I think we see where electrical snowballs, you know, we started somewhere and then we see something and then you just want a professional.
The other thing with HVAC, I think there are little things like switching out your registers, grills, vents, whatever you want to call them.
Switching those out, I think is okay. Replacing your filter and your unit, I think that's all okay.
I think even maintenancing your unit is okay. Renting bleach, blowing out the lines, all that stuff. I'm not saying you have to, but I'm saying all that's okay. The thing with a track that's interesting and a lot of people don't realize it is load calculations, right? It's not something that you would ever want to run ductwork and know the static pressure that's in your unit or no. Why air may or may not be flowing well, you know, I just feel like there's so many little things that you wouldn't know that an HVAC person would know because they've been doing it forever and ever.
Yeah. I feel like when you hear about people DIY-ing, I don't think I ever hear someone saying, “Yeah, I DIY my HVAC”.
No one really does that.
Actually that's so true. It's the one thing that no one's ever done themselves.
Right. It's like, “No, I better have good AC”.
Well, they don't mess around with AC or heat.
Those things are serious.
And especially in the summer months, I mean, you know, when units are going out left and right, because it's 1000 degrees in the state of Texas.
I mean, it's an actual sauna box outside and I mean, all those new Sonic companies that are opening up, I'm like, that's so great for you. Outside temperature here is a sauna. So… That's beside the point.
The other point I wanted to make is what you missed out on when you're doing it yourself and the three things to consider. I think it's the knowledge, the experience and the impacts of your decision. So if you're thinking, okay, I want to do this electrical work, myself. What is the knowledge? What is it that I don't know? What is it that I don't have experience doing?
And like, be honest with yourself. Cause I think there's some people that like, I know I've got it. I've seen my dad do it.
Oh, I could probably do it.
I mean. I get that you do see it as a blessing, but it's also a curse in that it gives you the confidence to think you can do some things. But it could put you in a really tight situation. I mean, electrical leads to fires, right? Plumbing leads to flooding.
So, those are just two things you really don't want to end up in a tight spot. Because by you doing that, those one or two things you could, one of those things could happen and then you would be out of your house for how long, and it's a safety hazard, et cetera.
I think the knowledge you consider, the experience. The experience that a pro has is not just the knowledge, it's that they've been doing it for 10 to 15 to 20 years, and they've seen and done a lot more than you have. They've come across things. They know how to problem solve way quicker than you. I mean, it might take you a day or a week to figure out a solution when they would maybe see it every day.
And they probably have it on their truck and they'll just pop it in.
Right. And they're like, “Oh, that's easy. Just do this.” But you would be on Google, forever.
So, I mean, if you want to sign yourself up for that. And then I also consider the impacts of your decision. So some of the things of like, if I do this, what are some of the consequences that could happen? Right. Which hopefully would never be the fire or the flood, but, I mean, could something else short out? Could the breaker get overloaded? I mean, you just don't know.
And then you have a hurt ego. Another thing you're…
Maybe you forgot you couldn't do it. And your wife is upset. You know, I’ve seen that happen.
And then you made that promise for years, and then you finally did it and you blew it.
That's your standard.
That’s probably your biggest impact.
Okay. So I just want to point out that how many times have we walked into properties and you're and you think like, oh yeah, this looks nice. And then you look closer and you're like, I could tell that was DIY. And I don't know by who, who did it, one of y'all did it, but then you can just start noticing when you see so many houses that you're like, okay, that was not done professionally. Or that miter cut was done weird.
And then, you know, when somebody's.,, Somebody is trying to fix something. Right.
So like they did a really shoddy job on a drywall patch or, you know, and a mitre cut and there are tons of gooey, cocking all over the place to try and cover it up.
I've seen DIY flooring jobs done like laminate floating floors done. And I'm like, “Oh, Whoa. Wow. I can feel that you are just walking on this, I feel you did this.”
I feel I am walking on clouds but in a bad way.
In a bad way.
And where you feel and hear every step in that. I mean, yeah, that's not ideal.
Yeah. So it's like also people, if you're selling your house, maybe not everybody can know or have the eye to see, and that's fine. I bet your realtor knows.
Yep. I mean, you may have some people walking through that they know.
Because they've experienced. I mean, I remember the houses. I mean, we've worked on in the houses I've purchased for myself where I was looking at the work thinking, this is actual horrible work.
Like this looks like worse than me doing it. You know?
Which would be bad.
Which would be horrible. So that just brings it way down. But the other thing I was going to talk about too, I mean, I know we had, landscaping on here too. Which I thought was interesting because most people love to do landscaping. They love to garden, but if you're doing a large landscaping project, there's so many things to consider with it, right? We, we thought it would be simple for our clients, but instead you're not thinking of one, what plans are in season. Two, what kind of lighting do they need? What kind of watering system do they need? Do they have the correct watering system? How often do they need to be watered and then are they needed or the plants native to the area? Is this something that will do really well here? Or is this something that you're like fueling the fire because it isn't native and it shouldn't be here. Or the deer's gonna eat it. Do you have deers in your neighborhood? Then they could eat them. And then the other thing is drainage.
Oh. Yeah, I was thinking of drainage. People do… There are some houses that I see people that do like bomb landscaping. And if you have a green thumb and you love that, sure it could look great. I don't have a green thumb, so I would not. And like edging, I just think about all these things that there's like a certain amount of thickness and edging. And if you get it too thick, then you can see it.
We've seen edging installed horribly, you know, where it's supposed to be a straight line and instead it's all…
Wobbly and it's not cute.
And if you don't think about your drainage and how water flows, and you're putting in, you know, a patio yourself, or you're having rocks in a certain area or whatever. It's just something that you have to consider in your free. You're not doing it all the time. It's going to take extra thinking.
Yeah, for sure.
Like, I think about French drains we put in and how there's like…
Perfect amount of slope you have to have with those or else the water backs up. Like it's crazy.
Yeah. But, I mean, you can do it yourself.
You can. That's one of the things that I take doing by myself.
Do it. We devil dare it. The other one that we had, you can do it yourself is handyman and painting. You were saying it wouldn't be great.
But you can do it.
You can do it.
I would just say, make sure you get those extra coats, because we can tell when someone DIY is. Oh, make sure you use blue tape on your edging. Make sure you use the right sheens.
Oh, my gosh. Yes.
You know. Yeah.
Yeah. Don't use like a high gloss on your ceiling.
Don't use high gloss. Actually, I have seen some DIY painters that are really good. Like our clients, I'll be like, “Wow, this actually looks professional”. And then there have been some that like, “Yeah. I DIY-ed. And I was like, “Oh, I could tell. You didn't have to say that.” I was like paint lines on the trim or there's like paint on the ceiling and I'm like, oh, you kind of bumped off for that one.
Well, especially cause they usually get so worn out from painting. Right. Oh, yeah. I started in this room and then I did this room and I just, was tired of it.
So that's what I did at my house. And my fiance was. For sure. He was like, this is easy. We don't need to spend money on this. Well, that took six months for us to finally decide, like we need a professional. Professional comes in. He literally gets it done in two days. And we’re like, six months painting the same wall. It was so stupid.
It’s so silly. Yeah. I mean, also that. Why torture yourself through all of that painting. Yes, you can do it yourself. It will be a level of torture though. If you don't have the tools. And you know how to do it.
But it's also a time constraint because then we'd work and then you'd get off of work. And then you're like, oh, let me just go paint this wall and stand up on this ladder in sweat. And be really annoyed. Or I cannot.
And then you probably do an hour or two because then you have to eat dinner and then do other things and then go to bed. And so. Here you are six months later. And you have like a wall painted.
But you've probably saved yourself like a hundred bucks or two.
Right. Like we didn't even save money. We’re so stupid, but whatever.
The other one is carpentry, which I'm torn on. I think carpentry, there are some things like there's some people in our team that are very skilled and like carp, anything, carpentry items like building furniture or step floating shelves or stuff around the home, that I'm fine with it. That makes a ton of sense.
But if it's something. I don't know, something more intricate, right? Like an intricate vanity, things you need tools for, I mean, I guess you could technically DIY it.
Yeah. You could.
It just, I don't know how well it's gonna hold up and if you know all the intricacies, right? There's a reason we pay carpenters a lot of money because that’s exactly how it works.
Yeah. Carpentry is a skill. I mean, you have to have a skill. We have really skilled carpenters on our team. And they are just, I mean, it looks just perfection. You know, but you have to have a passion for it and the patience for it and like the tools for it.
I'm just such a big belief that like, people study and do work. For like these, these traits bins that we work with. Like they study this craft and they know this craft. And so they’'re really good at the craft. Like sure, you could do the carpentry, but why not just hire a professional that knows how to do it, right. Like, sure I could do my taxes, but do I want to do them? Am I going to do them right? Probably not.
So I'm going to hire a tax professional, right?
That’s a gamble.
That's a gamble. I think that you just rely on the professionals to do their job short. We can all do the things that are involved in a remodel. But just don't. Just hire someone that knows how to do it. I don't tell you how to do your job.
All right. Sass. Ms. Sass. Don't come here and tell me how to do things. I did have a friend recently that she was telling me how she did this quick patio addition on onto her house, because it's something for the short term while they are actually in the long term going to do an addition in a few years. But they just needed some more livable space, right?
Within Austin, you have those older homes that are just tiny. They have bigger lots, but they're just tiny. And so this was a topic that we were talking about because she was asking me, you know, what do I DIY? What can I hire just a cheaper general contractor to do? And I mean, the patio makes sense, right? Because if it's, if you're going to do a large remodel, and totally tear apart your home and do an addition, then damage that you might get from, you know, a crappy roof on this patio or damage you might get from the concrete going into the post or whatever. There's, there's some things that you should definitely think about.
But again, it all, it all depends on what your goal is and if it's technically safe. So can the frame and structure of the patio actually hold up or is it dangerous? Right? There's some things that you want to consider no matter who you're hiring. I would still recommend hiring an engineer for something like that. Pay. You know, pay the thousand dollars, but I understand that sometimes DIY is just what's necessary in the moment. So if you're going to paint your home or do some handyman stuff to just get you through the next couple of years, I totally understand and see where you're going.
Just always consider if it's safe though, because, you know if you haven't been through it, you're not going to know like, oh yeah, I didn't think about it. Is the structure structurally sound?
And yeah, a lot of those little things, but I mean, you were talking about this earlier, where you could walk up and easily see this patio, for instance, and see like, oh, the siding isn't tightened correctly, or water may get into the house this way or whatever. Right?
But, I mean, I, I walk up places and see this stuff all the time, like…
Any restaurant I go to…
Any Airbnb I've ever gone to, I can't stop looking. It's like…
Oh I know.
I can't look away. But I can't stop looking and I'm like, oh my God, this is so bad.
Airbnbs you've stayed in and you're like, oh, you did this on your own.
Yes, there's no doubt in your mind. That they did that themselves.
Yeah, no doubt.
And it actually. Because I know the quality of work that it should be, it makes me feel uncomfortable.
Like it makes me actually feel icky. I’ve realized not everyone has all of the money in the world. I totally get that. And…
You can just tell a difference in quality.
I mean, I mean, it is what it is. Like, you can just tell a difference in quality and people who care about quality and like craftsmanship and notice those things, especially us in the industry. And there's a lot of us in the industry, whether it's like designers or realtors or you know, like even our tradesman, like they all know. And so it's like when you walk into a place, you can't not notice.
And then it just makes you think like, hmm, did you put enough time into this? You just start questioning. It's totally judgy. I get it, whatever. But…
Because it's what we do every day.
I know what good work looks like.
Right. You can't help. It's just a fact.
It's just a fact.
That you're like, that is not good work.
Period. That's my fact.
I will show you a good work.
That is not good work.
And it's just not, it's not good work. But when you've been in this industry for so long, you can not help it. It's just, it's, that's a blessing and a curse.
Yeah, that is. But to your point, like if you really can't afford it, which we get, obviously not every person can be like, let me just call a tradesman for every little thing. But then if you're going to DIY at them, just put the time necessary. You can do the landscaping, but just put the necessary time it takes.
Because a tradesman could do it and maybe a couple of days, whereas you might need a couple of weeks.
And I'm obviously like that can vary, but just, just know, like, if I am going to DIY this, I want to make sure that someone walking in doesn't know that I DIY-ed it.
Yes. Okay. I’m gonna tell you guys. I epoxied the floor of my garage, myself.
And you can tell, I did it myself. Like, does it look nicer than it did? Yes, it does.
Okay. What makes it, why can you tell?
Because the difference is with those kits that you get at Home Depot, the sprinkles that you put on it..
They throw it out.
Yes. And I love that part of it. It’s like I was at a gay pride parade. Oh, it was just like, oh my gosh. And I had, I had like the flip. Perfect.
And now, I mean, I just pictured myself on this parade, Right. I was like, wow. But then I noticed at the end, it doesn't look like the pros that for whatever reason, they have all the speckles where it looks so perfectly done. Whereas mine looks, mine looks good, but there's just not as many like specs. I don't know. Those home kits just don't give you the same look as the professional…
Look, I mean, it looks better, so DIY can help it look better.
But it's not going to look, “Wow. Oh my gosh. Those floors look perfect.”
I'm thinking there's lots of things like, painting your patio or putting tile on your patio or, I mean, these are all things around my house, right? Cleaning the gutter, which we did, and then putting gutter guards on, you can put those on the impact of you doing that is really low. You're not really going to hurt anything by you putting your own gutter guards or cleaning up.
All those, all those little home maintenance things. Those are all fine. It's the bigger things that you should think about. I mean, you could even honestly, you could DIY your own backsplash.
Yeah, you could.
That's super fun. We've had clients put those in.
Yeah. Literally it's a peel and stick granite, you have to still use spacers. You have to measure out your wall. You have to cut properly. So in my mind, I'm like I'm out. I'm not doing any of that. But we've had professionals install, homeowners, peel, and stick tiles. And it's so fun. Like it's really cool putting it in. But still a professional.
I mean, and aesthetically, that brightens your place up. That's a good DIY option for you.
And I mean, obviously you cannot do countertops yourself. That's…
No, I mean, those slabs are so heavy.
And there's like two guys carrying them and I'm like, whoa.
I know. And there's like a little cut that I have to carry and I'm like, whoa.
Like a little you've dropped a few.
And it's like a one by one and I'm like, “Ooh. I'll be right there in a minute.”
It really is.
Thanks to those guys for that.
Pay for what you could do. But caveat there is being careful, like how long your nails are, because what if you shoot one in and there's a plumbing pipe or a wire or whatever. But you can do baseboards and trim. You can do doors by yourself. I think doors have interior doors.
Oh, interior doors. Yeah.
Exterior doors. You have a lot to lose there because of water getting in and stuff. We've seen the disaster of poor external door installation.
Long story long. There's a lot of things you can do. Like cosmetic things you can do, but we went into all the serious things that you should not do.
Don't even think about it.
Yeah, because we'll know. And they call you out for it on this podcast.
Yes, we will. I know you did that.
As soon as you peeked, tag us. And we'll tell you if it looks good or not.
Okay, well, that is all for today. Message us. If you have any questions about DIY versus not. And…
And we’ll probably get a lot of hate mail. I'm like, no, I can do that. And I have done that and look at this photo.
And like, I love that. I love that for you. We're just going to apply to you for being one of the humans that can.
And we'll see you guys next time. Bye.