(Please queue up Kenny Rogers’s timelessly wise “Know When to Hold ‘Em” while reading this post.)
We ladies at Bitches Get Riches are enthusiastic do-it-yourselfers—mostly by way of being stingy harpies with desk jobs that leave us thirsting to interact with something other than glowing ones and zeros. But sometimes, you need a pro more than you need the money you’ll save by doing it yourself.
Here’s a handy guide that should help you spot the difference.
Could you die?
Old Scratch already wants your soul—so don’t make it too easy for him! If it’s something that involves heights, electricity, explosives, chainsaws, asbestos, lead paint, heavy objects, grueling labor, tight spaces, or any combination these, I would take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself: “Is today the day I’m ready to see what he keeps in his black sack?”
At the very least, work with a buddy. So you can die together.
What is the cost of a do-over?
Let’s say you’ve decided to paint an accent wall, and let’s say you do it badly. It’s no big whoop! The most cost you might incur would be to go out and get another gallon of paint. The cost of doing it twice is still less than the cost of hiring a professional.
On the other hand, if you try to retile your bathroom on your own and you don’t do it correctly the first time, you’re almost guaranteed to sacrifice all of your materials in the process. It’s also a very laborious and time-consuming process. And even worse, an incorrectly tiled bathroom wall could let in water and create health- and infrastructure-damaging mold and mildew. Maybe it’s better to hold off until you can afford a pro—or start with a smaller project to build up your skills.
Can you use these skills again?
I never turn down a simple carpentry project because carpentry skills come in handy in a huge range of DIY projects—and I am a lousy carpenter who needs practice. I’m happy to make occasional mistakes and re-purchase wood as-needed because it improves an overall valuable and reusable skill.
However, there are other types of projects that are one-and-done. There is a bizarre battery-powered remote-control light in my house. I have never seen one before; my home inspector had never seen one before. There are no tutorials or videos I could follow along with to help me replace it. So I’m just going to wait until I have to call an electrician for a more substantial project and tack this one on at the end. It’s not really worth my time to figure out how to do it if I’ll never realistically need to do it again.
How crucial is perfection?
My husband installed one of those ye olde thyme ceiling medallions around the chandelier in our dining room. (It’s in keeping with the period of the home.) (I am absolutely white.) We did it ourselves and it’s actually not plaster, but a plastic designed to look like plaster. The seam is pretty visible if you scrutinize it closely, and you can tell it’s plastic if you touch it.
… You know what people don’t touch or look at closely, though? Ceilings. We get compliments on it all the time. Nobody notices its minor imperfections.
However, we’re also getting ready to have a fence installed. It’s a vinyl fence, meaning it will last forever—and any mistakes I make trying to install it myself will also last forever. The major investment is in the materials, so it’s worth it to throw a few more bucks onto the bonfire and have it done correctly the first time by professionals who know exactly what they’re doing.
Basically if it’s dangerous, easy-to-mess-up, a learning dead-end, or really needs to be done right, consider hiring a pro.
Basically if it’s dangerous, easy-to-mess-up, a learning dead-end, or really needs to be done right, consider hiring a pro. It’ll be worth it if it keeps you from making some expensive mistakes. And you can always lie and say you did it yourself, you sociopathic braggart.