Monday, February 26, 2007

Save Money By Doing It Yourself

I have a few contractors in my family and I have spent some time working with them on different projects... new bathrooms, decks, roofs, kitchens, flooring, moulding, tiling, doors, closets, aluminum siding, painting etc... From doing these things, I got a general feel for how they are done and also a general feel for how much things cost.

If you can do some of the more basic home repairs by yourself, you can save a ton of money over the long run, and you can also get the feeling of satisfaction you get when you complete a job.

One example I have is plumbing. I know many people who are clueless about the basic workings of a toilet, or how to clear a clogged drain. In most cases, you can solve a basic clogged drain with a plunger. In some cases, it involves some tools such as an auger.

If you're interested in learning how your household plumbing works, a book I highly recommend is Complete Plumbing (Stanley Complete Projects Made Easy). I have found this book extremely useful because it is filled with full color photos, demonstrations of how things work, and details on how to do particular projects such as installing a new sink, redoing a bathroom and yes, even unclogging a drain.

Once you start thinking you have to leave everything to "experts" and realize these kinds of things are things that almost anybody can learn, I think you'll find yourself saving a lot of money. There are books available on almost every topic you can imagine. Get out there and learn!

(Of course if you don't have the time or if the jobs are particularly sensitive, involving building codes and major work, you will have to at the very least consult a licensed practitioner.)


Anonymous said...

Yes this can be a good thing; however definitely consider the building code part. Many items that you can get at your local hardware store (water heaters, bathtubs, doors, etc.) almost always automatically require permits to replace, regardless of cost. If in doubt if a project or something in it requires a permit, call your local building department; they typically have homeowners FAQs, and can answer any additional questions you may have.

Permits insure someone from the town who knows what they are doing inspects what you have done. They also may require reviewing your renovation plans in advance to make sure they make sense.

And if you live in a condominium, doing it yourself legally is largely impossible -- you legally are often not allowed to replace items anyway, as higher quality electric wiring, etc., is required. This is also because any mistake (done under your insurance & liability!) risks injuring your neighbors, and causing them to potentially lose their home. {In my state (Florida) for example, the "Owner/Builder" exemption which allows you to take the liability upon yourself for a renovation does not include any building with more than 4 units/apartments to live in.}

I admit I am a tad biased though; my unit has taken extensive water damage, and is a lot nosier than it should be because my upstairs neighbor in a condo failed to pull any of the proper permits or look at the condo's rules and regulations for what noise padding was required. He also improperly redid his A/C system along with a few of his "friends", and very nicely sopped my ceiling and a few walls when it froze over.

In other words -- I had to learn this the hard way because someone else did not. And if though you do not think a minor mistake may affect someone down the line, a few days or years later it may.

MoneyMan said...

Thanks for the feedback, These are all great points. If you're doing any major work, you will undoubtedly need to do more than consult a book on it.

I have never lived in a condo unit so I didn't realize there were more strict building codes there. Given that it's a shared space, though, I can definitely see the logic in that.