Doing It Yourself
by Edouard A. Szajna

Part 1 - Taking on the Job

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”
– Thomas Edison

On the surface, any construction project can seem like a daunting task. However, by following a few simple rules and using a structured, well thought-out approach to understanding your scope of work, the big picture can be brought more into focus and building out your space could actually be satisfying accomplishment (providing you don’t bite off more than you can chew, of course).

We understand that “Do It Yourself” is a pretty broad statement and that only you can be the best judge of what you can do on your own and what can’t. Do your talents lie in project management or in any of the trades? Are you “home-owner handy”? How are your budgeting skills? Can you be your own general contractor? Or does the thought of getting your hands dirty make you cringe?

We use two simple rules of thumb to determine if we want to take on any job:

  • What is your time worth?

  • What is your skill set?

In our experience (acquired over a few lifetimes of construction projects and sometimes learning the hard way), we've found many times some things can be accomplished faster, cheaper and better by a hiring a qualified professional rather than trying to learn the process or making it up as you go (and thereby, recreating the wheel).

If you value your time at say, $100/hr; is it a good business decision whether to do it yourself or hire a specialist (someone well versed in this discipline to perform the specified task)? Which decision saves you time and money and in the end, accomplishes the goal?

If you consider yourself pretty handy and your new space requires some light renovation work, you may be able to take the job on yourself. If you’re a competent carpenter or electrician or plumber you may be able to increase your workload to include those improvements.

If however, you need to install commercial ceramic floor tile and have never set tile in your life, the decision to do it yourself may wind up costing you much more in lost time, poor quality of work and the overall aggravation! Always take a pragmatic look at the big picture and then decide where your talents lay. Be honest with yourself, sometimes nothing costs more than a bargain!

It all starts with an initial site inspection. From there, you can make the DIY determination and start developing your initial construction budget. If, after your initial walk-through you find the required work is beyond your skills and/or your time would be best served doing other tasks, chances are that you’ll be better off hiring a General Contractor or, at least, some sub- contractors to complete the task.

In that case, please refer to the “How to Choose a General Contractor” article.


NEXT in Doing It Yourself

Part 2 - Tools of the Trade

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