Contractors talking about project

How to choose between a general contractor and a DIY

If you’re someone who enjoys taking on small projects around the house that involves using power tools, you’ll probably be more than tempted to take on larger renovations by yourself.

It goes without saying that DIY projects are fun, fulfilling, and more wallet-friendly. Not to mention, a job well done always serves as a conversation piece when you have guests.

However, putting up a few shelves or building a reading nook does not a licensed contractor make. You may have skills with a hammer and nails but there’s a reason why professional contractors exist.

In this article, we’re going to discuss when it’s appropriate to take on a project alone and when it’s time to hire a professional.

Read on to learn more. 

When to Hire a General Contractor

First things first—it’s important to understand exactly what a general contractor does so you can understand their value and when to hire one.

General contractors are licensed professionals that are hired to take on a specific set of plans and turn those plans into a building or some sort of structure.

These are the people who understand where architecture and physical construction meet. They typically have their own crew of professionals, tools, and a set selection of vendors they can order materials from. Moreover, he or she will take on the responsibility of orchestrating the entire project from start to finish.

That means ordering the materials, scheduling the crew, inspecting the work, and handling all of the other paperwork including bills, payroll, and invoices. They’ll also be your line of communication should an issue arise on either end.

General contractors are also responsible for contacting, hiring, and scheduling subcontractors, such as specialists like electricians, plumbers, tilers, roofers, dry-wallers, and so on.

Any subcontractor hired for a job is under the responsibility of your general contractor, making it a hands-free project for you—although you should make it a point to visit the worksite often and stay in constant contact with the contractor to ensure everything is going as planned.

As mentioned above, general contractors are licensed professionals. They learned their skills through trade schools, apprenticeships, college programs, or all three.

The types of jobs that general contractors typically tackle include the following:

  • Plumbing
  • Electrical work
  • Roofing
  • Home construction and major renovations
  • HVAC work
  • Carpentry
  • Cabinet Making
  • Tiling
  • Structural repairs

Usually, when you hire a general contractor, you’re hiring them to take on a specific project such as a kitchen or bathroom remodel, foundation work, roof replacement, flooring installations, and so on.

When to Take on Your Own Projects

There are plenty of home improvement projects that fall within the realm of DIY skill levels. However, it’s important to understand what goes into each project, for example, technical steps such as properly mixing concrete, measuring and cutting wood or ceramic tiles, layout design, and more.

Even if you have experience working construction or with certain home renovations, many DIY home projects involve a number of risks and hazards that you may not be aware of. Sure, there are plenty of resources out there that can guide you through projects step by step, but they don’t account for your schedule or all the things that can go wrong.

A DIY project’s feasibility depends on both your experience and the type of project you’re taking on. You may be able to tackle certain tasks of the project by yourself with ease, such as demolition prep work, however, anything that requires building codes, pipes, and electric work should be left to a licensed professional.

Typically, the types of home improvement projects you can get away with doing yourself are more superficial, such as the following:

  • Painting projects
  • Installing linoleum or vinyl flooring
  • Installing a kitchen backsplash
  • Building a wooden deck
  • Cabinetry
  • Shelving
  • Installing fixtures and accessories
  • Building entertainment centers

There’s plenty more you can likely take on yourself, depending on your skill level. However, things like roofing and structural foundation repairs don’t fall into the realm of DIY—or anything else that requires a permit from your municipality for that matter.

Should You Hire a General Contractor or DIY?

Of course, just because you can handle yourself with a paintbrush doesn’t mean you have the time or know-how to properly prime and paint your home.

If you’re unsure of whether or not you can tackle a home improvement project yourself, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine whether or not it’s time to call in a general contractor:

How long will it take to complete the project?

Is this something that could take longer than a week? If so, you’ll probably want to call in a professional as he or she can give you a proper estimate and keep the project’s schedule running smoothly.

Do local building codes matter?

Your municipality’s building codes will undoubtedly dictate which projects must be done by a licensed professional—who also must obtain the proper permits that you can’t get as a non-professional.

How in-depth is the project?

If your home improvement project involves a total kitchen remodel or a new roof, it’s likely that you’ll need to get subcontractors involved.

Projects like these have several layers, from demolition to plumbing to drywalling, tiling, and more—which will require the services of multiple tradespeople who a general contractor can call in to get the job done properly.

Taking on heavy-duty projects yourself can easily result in injury or further damage to your home. Not to mention, if you don’t have the proper permits, you can incur some rather severe fines from your municipality.

DIY projects can be very rewarding, especially when they turn out great. However, it’s important to understand your own limitations, especially when it comes to your home.

So, feel free to take on the simple projects like putting up new shelves—but please leave the skilled work up to the professionals who have had years of training and have built up legitimate experience

Share this post