Should You Hire a General Contractor or Try DIY Home Improvements?

General contractor

We all want to save money on home improvement projects. And DIY home improvements tempt those with basic skills to try tasks way beyond their comfort zone. When is it necessary or smart to hire a general contractor and when is it possible to try DIY? Although it depends on your skill level and budget, certain projects are better suited for a professional contractor, while others provide DIY opportunities galore.

Home Additions = General Contractors

Unless you have extensive contacts in the construction industry, running a home addition project will drown you in details, dealings and issues. Your general contractor is well equipped to handle every stage from building permit applications to arranging for subtrades, ordering materials and organizing the construction schedule.

Running a project of this size is a full time job. Municipal building departments are consulted during the design stage, various subtrades need to be lined up at critical times in the project and materials need to be ordered and delivered at appropriate stages. Communication skills and time management are required, along with an intimate knowledge of new home and home addition construction.

The cost of a general contractor is well worth it when planning a home addition. They offer expert design advice that will result in an efficient, well-built addition, as well as providing the skills and knowledge necessary to make your project run smoothly. Expect to pay between 20 and 25% of the total labor and materials cost to a general contractor, although that figure varies depending on your location and the scope of your project.

Finished Basements = DIY

Many handymen and handywomen can finish their basement, given a decent length of time to learn about and complete the various stages. Homeowners can break up the finished basement tasks and handle some on their own, while hiring specialized contractors for the more difficult jobs.

For instance, framing and installing drywall, putting up the drop ceiling and hanging interior doors and trim are all jobs DIY enthusiasts can handle. You should trust more complicated tasks - plumbing, electrical and flooring - to trained professionals. This allows you to save money on the overall project, while trusting dangerous or specialized jobs to licensed pros.

If your basement finishing project involves a hefty amount of removal, as well as electrical and mechanical alterations, it makes sense to hire a general contractor. Large basement layouts with extensive built-ins and a gas fireplace are also moving beyond the DIY territory. Remember that unless you can complete the job to top-notch standards, a professionally done renovation holds more value than a DIY job. Consider all of the options when finishing the basement, and talk to a general contractor if the job seems daunting.

Kitchen Renovations = General Contractor

Gutting an existing kitchen and installing new kitchen cabinets, flooring, countertops and fixtures takes time, even for veteran DIY fans. How long can you live without a fully functioning kitchen? And how important are top quality finishing and reliability in this busy room?

Hire an experienced general contractor to handle this job quickly and professionally. They will take care of every detail, including the removal of existing materials and the installation of new cabinetry, new appliances and modern lighting, plumbing and finishes.

Difficulties are bound to come up over the course of replacement projects. Trust a professional general contractor that has been through countless kitchen renovations and has a long list of satisfied clients. DIY fans can learn as they go when working on straightforward projects, but as challenges arise the need for a quick, professional response becomes clear.

Check out the general contractor's portfolio, keeping a look out for kitchens with a similar design as yours and including features on your wish list. Dreaming of a concrete countertop or eco friendly cabinetry? Find a contractor with experience installing these products and the design expertise to bring your new kitchen together seamlessly.

Decks = DIY

Most handymen and handywomen can handle installing a simple deck. Digging the posts or piers is hard work, and putting railing components and stairs together can be challenging. But wood is forgiving and with a few sets of helping hands you could install an average-sized deck in a weekend.

Consider obtaining a detailed set of drawings for your deck design. This drawing should provide you with the beam location, joist spacing, deck board direction and railing particulars. Ask at the lumberyard or purchase a ready-made deck plan that can be easily adapted for your property. Also be sure to obtain the necessary permits and call for utility locates before digging the deck posts or piers.

If your deck design includes more complicated features such as pergolas, tempered glass railings, landings and skirting, you're better off hiring a general contractor or specialized deck installer. Not only will your finished project look better, but a general contractor also knows how to build the deck safely. They should have extensive knowledge regarding local building codes, fasteners and superior materials, providing you with the particulars required for a more complicated project.

The choice between embarking on a DIY project and hiring a general contractor depends on the scope of your home improvement project. Trust a general contractor for home additions and kitchen renovations. You can rely on their wide range of expertise and industry knowledge to get these complicated jobs done efficiently and professionally. On the other hand, some of the less complicated projects, like basic decks and some aspects of finishing the basement, can be handled on your own with knowledge, tools and a sense of adventure. Consider all of the aspects of your project and weigh the added value a general contractor against the money saved on the DIY route.

Posted by: TrustedPros
Great renovations start with a great contractor.

Since 2004, TrustedPros has been helping homeowners find the right contractor for their home improvements and repairs.

Post Your Project

Within hours you'll be comparing offers from top-rated professionals. It's free to post and you're under no obligation to hire.

Search the TrustedPros directory and discover the best contractors in your area. Read real customer reviews, browse photos and compare credentials.

Find your home service pro
comments powered by Disqus

Trustedpros Inc. does not warrant the accuracy, completeness, safety, legality or usefulness of any Content, or Whether Content is Current and up-to-date, and TrustedPros Inc. Shall have no liability whatsoever with respect to your use or reliance upon any content or for content being removed or otherwise ceasing to be available. Please refer to the terms and conditions of use of this websites for more details.

Get Free Estimates

Post your project and compare offers from top-rated pros.