Author Topic: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?  (Read 1191 times)

Case

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when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« on: July 01, 2018, 12:07:44 PM »
Because the market where we are kind of sucks, my wife and I are considering making some concessions such as getting a house with a crappy kitchen/bathroom/etc... and then renovating ourselves.  I have a little experience with small DIY projects, but nothing major.  I'm open minded to investing time and sweat equity, but also trying to consider the benefits of saving my time and instead focusing them on improving my earning potential at my job, or other small earning opportunities.  Any general thoughts here?
« Last Edit: July 01, 2018, 12:13:37 PM by Case »

afox

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2018, 02:20:19 PM »
it takes more time than u think it does.  u can do it.  in regards to the time my advice is to think about what you doing with your time now that you will not do when you are spending that time on your remodel.  This is a better way to think about time management than: "i can squeeze it in", "i have some downtime", etc.

So if your remodel would take one person working full time for 1 year (2100 hours) and you want to complete teh remodel in 2 years that's about 25 hours a week that you will work on the remodel.  What are you doing now with 25 hours a week that you are going to forgoe for your remodel?

letired

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2018, 02:37:35 PM »
How much is construction labor vs how quickly can you increase your earning potential? My friends and I help each other with big DIY projects because it's not actually reasonable/possible to make that kind of hourly wage that quickly in our day job (and to be clear, we all make good money these days) and construction labor is hella expensive in this town. There's also the quality issue, and for a lot of jobs, we're obsessive enough that it takes longer but our work quality is Quite Good If I Do Say So Myself.

Lmoot

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2018, 03:56:58 AM »
...when itís something that interests you. In my 20ís I bought a house that needed a total gut job (bathroom, kitchen, plumbing, roof, ac, rewiring). I was fortunate to have handy friends and family, but I did what I was comfortable with and started there. This included floor tiling, painting walls, and demo. I saved a lot of money on my bathroom remodel by removing the tiles and fixtures.

For my kitchen I went with mostly freestanding since it was cheaper, and didnít require a lot of measuring, cutting, or bolting; and I could add pieces gradually.  However it is not my dream kitchen and my main goal was to make it functional after the repairs were done. Your goal might be different. If youíre talking about simply updating something for looks, then aesthetics is going to be more important to you, and that can work either for or against you. If you do it yourself you may work harder at trying to get it closer to what you want exactly, but it could also mean more skill work is involved.

With fixeruppers, fixes can be cheaper and fun, but some of the hardest fixes are the hidden things that arenít cheap and fun, and typically require licensed skilled professionals.

Jon Bon

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2018, 12:41:00 PM »
Yeah its worth it if you like it for sure.  I personally love it and I have basically turned it into a business/primary income.

If you have it, yeah probably a bad idea. Heck if you hate DIY stuff you should probably just rent your entire life.

Sweat equity is definitely a thing. However houses are so dang expensive right now where i am its hard to justify buying anything fixer or not.

Good luck out there.


mountainfamily

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2018, 10:06:07 AM »
With both my husband and I working + having a new baby, we have adopted a hybrid approach that works well for us. We hire out the stuff we can't do easily or don't have the tools for, then do the many hours of cleaning, planning, shopping, finishing work, etc ourselves. Example: we had a lot of overgrown trees at our new house so my husband borrowed a pole saw from a neighbor and trimmed them. Then we had a landscaping company swing by with their truck to chip the branches up because it was cheaper/faster than renting a chipper ourselves ($120 cash to the landscapers vs. $200 for the chipper rental + time/hauling/using the machine). We facelifted all but our kitchen/bath, which included getting new interior doors and baseboards/trim. We hired a carpenter to cut and install the items, but then we spent many hours sanding, caulking, priming, and painting the new trim and doors. We did a great job that would have been very expensive to hire. Now we're on the bathroom. We had some simple plumbing and electrical done by a good handyman, had a pro painter re-drywall the room (could DIY, but it's pretty tedious and requires practice), and now we're tiling, painting, installing new fixtures, etc. I spent a lot of time planning the projects and selecting just the right materials and colors. The guys we hire are good and like working for us; having a contractor babysit our whole project wouldn't be feasible.

We need to do our kitchen, and to be honest that one is so big and has many components that we may save up and hire more of it than the other house projects we've done.

sokoloff

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2018, 12:03:23 PM »
How much is construction labor vs how quickly can you increase your earning potential? My friends and I help each other with big DIY projects because it's not actually reasonable/possible to make that kind of hourly wage that quickly in our day job (and to be clear, we all make good money these days) and construction labor is hella expensive in this town. There's also the quality issue, and for a lot of jobs, we're obsessive enough that it takes longer but our work quality is Quite Good If I Do Say So Myself.
There's also the fact that, for high income people, you have to earn $40K to spend $20K because half (plus/minus a small amount) of your marginal income goes to income-related taxes.

That makes DIY, whether or not your enlist friends to help, much more attractive than it first appears.

I've seen the quality side go both ways; I'm an engineer and a bit of a perfectionist, so my jobs also take me a lot longer than the slapdashery of a pro crew, but I've also made some time-wasting and material-wasting mistakes along the way that no experienced person would make. There are few things that make me more aggravated than spending time tearing up work that I did that was sub-par because I missed something.

MayDay

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2018, 06:17:38 AM »
We DIY some. Even after ~13 years of home ownership we just aren't efficient at most projects. So it takes a lot of time and some rework. My H re-piprd some leaky copper pipe and it took three tries (and lots of expensive copper) to get it right. And now he is faster, but still not actually great at it. And then in 5 years when he needs to do again, he'll have to refresh his skills because he'll have forgotten.

Painting, easy. Drywall patches, easy.

We just regrouted a shower. It took so many hours. I don't know if pro has better tools, or more likely would have torn out the vintage tile and started from scratch. It was miserable to do though.

Kitchens make me nervous because I don't want that torn apart for months.
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Jon Bon

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2018, 06:51:12 AM »
Also worth noting to most of your kitchen renovators out there.

Good luck finding subs! Most guys are so busy right now you cant even get them to bid out a job, and if you do find someone that sends you a quote they probably send you the "Don't want the job" price.

Folks like us have normal-ish kitchens and actually have a budget. They would rather be out doing 100k kitchens where they make 15% margin versus your 30k kitchen at 10% margin. (made up numbers, but you see my point. )

I recently built a garage and had a heck of a time finding contractors, and I have a half way decent group of guys I've used for years. So yeah using professionals is 'faster' but you might have a torn up kitchen for months anyways waiting on said professional to fit you into his crazy schedule.

letired

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2018, 11:18:34 AM »
How much is construction labor vs how quickly can you increase your earning potential? My friends and I help each other with big DIY projects because it's not actually reasonable/possible to make that kind of hourly wage that quickly in our day job (and to be clear, we all make good money these days) and construction labor is hella expensive in this town. There's also the quality issue, and for a lot of jobs, we're obsessive enough that it takes longer but our work quality is Quite Good If I Do Say So Myself.
There's also the fact that, for high income people, you have to earn $40K to spend $20K because half (plus/minus a small amount) of your marginal income goes to income-related taxes.

That makes DIY, whether or not your enlist friends to help, much more attractive than it first appears.

I've seen the quality side go both ways; I'm an engineer and a bit of a perfectionist, so my jobs also take me a lot longer than the slapdashery of a pro crew, but I've also made some time-wasting and material-wasting mistakes along the way that no experienced person would make. There are few things that make me more aggravated than spending time tearing up work that I did that was sub-par because I missed something.

^^ oh man so factual about the mistakes! So frustrating! And it does take a lot longer. I helped my friends re-do a large bedroom into a master suite (ie gutting everything and expanding a small toilet + sink to include a shower + double vanity and putting in a closet), and it was about 2 years when all was said and done.

Related, its helpful to know which tasks suit your personality and which Are Not A Good Fit. My friend will sit there and obsess over repetitive detail tasks like laying tile perfectly, but her husband goes a little nutso with that kind of repetitive detail work, but he's great at figuring out the jigs for cutting things whereas that makes my friend nuts.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 11:21:18 AM by letired »

affordablehousing

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2018, 12:13:47 PM »
I think it depends on whether you like it or not. Another hidden cost savings is materials are usually way cheaper when you source them yourself, as you can find dented boxes, habitat restore leftovers, craigslist salvage, coupons or discount gift cards etc. With ikea cabinets kitchens are now as easy as measuring, plus you get a product that doesn't look like a flip, that will only hold value for 4 years before tastes change.

gardeningandgreen

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2018, 12:22:10 PM »
Over the last 3 years we have built a garage and almost fully remodeled our house our self. The only thing that we have decided we are never doing again is taping and mudding drywall. We also decided before doing any projects that we do not want to pour foundation. We have figured that the projects have added around $60,000 of value to our house and we spent around $30,000. This house has always been one that we plan on only living in for a few more years though.

It all depends on what you want on the projects. Do you want to customize the house to live there for 20 or 30 years? Do you want to do work and move on to a different house? The projects we realized will be different based on the answers to those questions. There were many things in our house that we did a bit differently because we know we plan on selling this house in a few years.

sokoloff

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2018, 12:32:08 PM »
The only thing that we have decided we are never doing again is taping and mudding drywall.
Taping, mudding, and hanging can all be done incredibly efficiently by experienced crews and is, as a result, very cost-effective to sub out.

gardeningandgreen

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2018, 01:55:51 PM »
The only thing that we have decided we are never doing again is taping and mudding drywall.
Taping, mudding, and hanging can all be done incredibly efficiently by experienced crews and is, as a result, very cost-effective to sub out.

For us the hanging wasnt terribly difficult but the mudding and taping just takes so long and is amazingly noticeable where we made mistakes.

GuitarStv

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2018, 01:57:16 PM »
Always.  It's always worth it to learn to do something on your own.  You may never do it again, but the experience and mindset is invaluable.
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jpdx

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2018, 11:06:36 PM »
GuitarStv is right. There's an opportunity cost when hiring a pro instead of DIY: the opportunity to learn a new skill.

I've replaced all the supply plumbing and electrical in my house (with the help of friends and family). Now I know where every pipe and every wire is located, I know it was done right, and I know how to fix problems if they arise. And I have more confidence to tackle other projects I was intimidated by. That's priceless.

Blindsquirrel

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2018, 07:50:42 PM »
 Do. It. Yourself.    Buy cabinets off Craigslist or internet or Lowe's commercial sales. The mark up on kitchen and bath renovations is nuts. I have bought 15k worth of cabinets for 1500 from folks putting a 50k kitchen.
Losing interest in the whole work thing

clarkfan1979

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2018, 12:23:07 AM »
It depends on how much you make per hour and how much you pay someone to do the work you don't want to do. My step-dad hires everything out because he makes around 250K/year. When he was younger and only making 80K/year he would try to do a few things DIY here and there.

I live in a HCOL area, so I try to do most things DIY.
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Lmoot

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2018, 02:26:00 AM »
It depends on how much you make per hour and how much you pay someone to do the work you don't want to do. My step-dad hires everything out because he makes around 250K/year. When he was younger and only making 80K/year he would try to do a few things DIY here and there.

I live in a HCOL area, so I try to do most things DIY.

Iím not sure how that would play in. Surely you would do it in your spare time, or use paid time. If you work all of the time and prefer to use your free time otherwise, then go for it. Or if you earn so much that DIY is not going to make an iota of difference in your lifestyle, then by all means hire out.

monarda

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2018, 09:18:40 AM »
We've done 5 bathrooms, 5 kitchens, and a lot of drywall and trim over the years. We can do one of our rental kitchens in a weekend if it's just a cabinet replacement and everything is all planned out.  At our house, we have 4 different areas of cabinets (uppers, area by the stove, area by the sink, separate nook). We did one area per weekend last year. Very doable, and the kitchen remained operational pretty much the whole time. (This only works if you're not replacing the flooring)

I'd recommend starting with a half bath and see how it goes. Swap a toilet, vanity, and replace the flooring while everything is out. Check the subfloor, it might be rotten around the toilet. Read a lot. You'll get a taste of all the parts of a remodel. If all goes well, you'll be ready for a kitchen! You might find that you like some parts more than others.

We like to do woodworking and have chosen to make our own vanities in the bathrooms, so they are exactly the size we need. We buy JSI kitchen cabinets from Millwork City. Those are shipped flat and arrive ready to assemble.  For your first bath project, you might buy something from a big box store that's not too expensive and see how it turns out. You can also do a lot with putting new doors on existing cabinets. Price it out and see (we've used Horizon Cabinet Doors).
« Last Edit: July 15, 2018, 09:23:27 AM by monarda »

Rubic

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #20 on: July 15, 2018, 09:56:24 AM »
Always.  It's always worth it to learn to do something on your own.  You may never do it again, but the experience and mindset is invaluable.

+1

I visited a 95 year old WWII veteran last month.  His 20-year old microwave
had broken, so he took it to into the garage and diagnosed a faulty diode (or
capacitor, I forget which).  He regularly repairs neighbors' computers and
purchases/restores "bricked" electronics from ebay.  Inspirational.

To a lesser extent, last year I replaced a faulty light switch ($1.35) rather
than calling an electrician and replaced a bathroom faucet ($8.95) instead
of employing a plumber.

genesismachine

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #21 on: July 19, 2018, 05:50:33 PM »
For some stuff, it is absolutely worth it to do yourself. Other stuff, maybe not.

For my wife and I, we decided to flip houses a few years back, so she quit her job and became a carpenter to learn skills. I also started reading and watching videos and stuff, but kept my non-construction job. It's work we both like to do.

We ended up switching into more of a landlord kind of mentality, but we did fix up two houses and sell them for way higher than we otherwise would've. One of the houses/condo had a quote for $35k just to replace some flooring, and redo a bathroom. We ended up remodeling the whole thing (2-3x more work/materials vs the quoted work) for $10k in materials and our weekends/afternoons for a month or two.

We didn't even care if we saved money or not on the first one (even though we did) because A) We had certainty over the timeline, B) We 'earned' an education which will pay off hugely for future projects. I know we certainly won't be making the same mistakes again and probably could cut that material cost down by another 20% with the same results.

This only makes sense if your 'education' actually gets applied later - which it won't if this is the only house you plan to ever remodel. There is some carry-over for stuff like general carpentry that would be useful. There is other stuff like electrical code which is unlikely to ever benefit you unless you plan on literally doing that exact task again.

We're remodeling the house we live in right now, with no rush since we aren't going to sell anytime soon. That's a whole different story. Living in the house you're remodeling is miserable. If we were living in the condo we remodeled, it would've taken at least 3-4x longer. This is because in order to do many tasks like flooring, you ideally want to tear out the whole house at once. Going room by room, moving your stuff around, covering furniture for dust, etc... takes forever.

If you don't plan remodel a lot in the future, I would stick to general carpentry as that has the most carryover - stuff like installing cabinets, trim, flooring, tiling, etc... Maybe paint too. Stay away from complicated or high power electrical and working with existing plumbing (doing whole house pex retrofits is ok though).

GuitarBrian

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Re: when is learning to DIY a house reno worth it?
« Reply #22 on: July 19, 2018, 11:38:22 PM »
I am in the camp of always DIY. The skills learned are valuable and you'll find many cross over to other things. Sometimes you'll learn something and never use it again, but I have found that to be the exception, not the rule.

Houses are amazingly easy to work on. If you want a challenge, try working on boats. No straight lines, everything is made from EXPENSIVE and hard to work with materials... And every project seems to include some rare part that is only available on the opposite side of the world... Buying cabinets.. Ha!! Everything is painstakingly built in, then sanded and varnished and sanded and varnished and sanded...
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