|Yes, you really can save a pile of money by doing it yourself.|
Yet when I suggest to money-conscious clients that they take on a part of their project themselves, you’d think I asked them to drain the Pacific with a teaspoon. Their eyes glaze over and they begin mumbling things like, “Well...maybe I could sweep up at the end of the day.”
|Framing—it's all standardized. Don't be afraid!|
If you feel utterly clueless about how to approach such projects, study a few online videos or, better yet, take a few "hands-on" how-to classes. They’ll be well worth your while, because even if you decide not to pursue the work yourself, you’ll be a better-informed in hiring a professional. I don't recommend written how-to guides because books are generally less helpful to the serious do-it-yourselfer—the projects they describe usually exist in a perfect world where lumber never warps, cuts are always straight, and no one ever smacks their thumb with a hammer.
|Insulation: It's no fun to put in, but neither is it|
rocket science. How much is a day of itching
worth to you?
• Framing is an excellent candidate for do-it-yourselfers. Framing conventions are standardized and easily learned. Better yet, wood is relatively forgiving, and even a major screw-up isn’t that difficult to fix. Moreover, the standard of “professional” quality framing isn’t always that high to begin with—in production framing, speed, not accuracy, is the objective. Visit a large housing project under construction to see for yourself. A do-it-yourselfer has a pretty good chance of matching that caliber of work.
|Modular cabinets are easier to design with,|
and also easier to specify and install.
Your local building emporium has tons of them.
Some kinds of finish work are do-able as well:
• Hanging drywall is well within most people’s abilities; although it’s a backbreaking job, the results are gratifyingly visible. Alas, the most expensive part of a drywall installation—taping and texturing—is both difficult and extremely conspicuous, and hence is best left to professionals.
• Installing modular cabinets, which come in standard widths of 3" increments, is fairly straightforward. If you’re at all conversant with the use of a spirit level, you’ll probably do all right. Installing preformed plastic laminate countertops is also relatively simple. For other countertop materials such as tile or cultured marble, take a class to gauge your aptitude first.
|This, however, is not the place to learn on the job. A mistake|
in the foundation, such as an out-of-square corner,
can haunt you all the way through the project.
Naturally, there are also some areas to stay away from:
• Pouring your own foundation is only advisable if you're a masochist, insane, or both. Otherwise, stay away. Unlike wood, concrete is an unforgiving material—errors such as misaligned forms or overlooked anchor bolts can create major headaches throughout the rest of the job. A botched foundation will also dog all subsequent phases with line, level, and squareness problems. Leave this part to the pros.
• Installing roofing is seldom cost-effective for do-it-yourselfers, since the learning curve is long, the job is miserable, and mistakes can leave you all wet.