It’s a question we’re asked often as a home remodeling company: “How much work can I do on my own remodel?” Most of the time, homeowners are concerned about doing their own work to save costs. If there’s something they can do themselves, it’s something they don’t have to pay someone else to do.
While doing some of your own remodel work is not out of the question, there are a few things to consider before you commit to it.
Over many years of working with Portland homeowners to design and build remodel projects, we’ve encountered plenty of instances where it made sense for people to do some of their own work. Others, not so much.
This article will discuss what kind of remodel work you should do, what you can do, and what work is better left up to the professionals.
How much work are you able to do?
We try not to make a habit of answering a question with another question. However, when a homeowner wants to do some of their own work on a remodel, we need to know how much work they’re actually able to do.
Ask yourself, “Am I physically able to do the work I want to do in a timely manner?” For example, if you want to install your own flooring, can your body handle several days worth of lifting, carrying, and kneeling? If it’s not something your doctor recommends you do, we don’t recommend it, either.
Also, do you have the proper certifications to do the work you want to do? If you’re a certified electrical technician and don’t want to pay somebody to do work you are licensed to do yourself, then great! If not, we recommend you let a professional do it.
How much work will your contractor allow you to do?
The other big question to consider is how much work your contractor will allow. It may be your home they are working on, but accident liability is still a very real thing. To protect themselves and their business, your contractor may not allow you to work on the remodel during their build timeline. Of course, you can always wait until after they leave to do a few things yourself.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, having a homeowner do their own work in the middle of a remodel tends to be a contractor’s worst nightmare.
At Lamont Bros, our philosophy is to put out a product worth our customers’ money; our contract prices range anywhere from $40,000 to $1,000,000 and beyond. The reason people pay us this much money to do a remodel is because they want high-quality work that they can’t do themselves.
Let’s say we do a custom kitchen remodel worth $200,000. When we do that, we want to produce a finished remodel that is worth that price tag in every aspect. So, when you look at every detail of your remodel, from the framing to the paint lines, each one should be to the quality standard of a $200,000 remodel.
Here are a few specific tasks that homeowners often ask to do themselves.
Can I do my own painting?
This is one of our most frequently requested DIY projects. “Can you just do everything else and let us do the painting?” Unfortunately, most homeowners don’t realize how much work goes into a paint job worth its place in a $200,000 remodel.
Painting typically comes right in the middle of a remodel – after drywall and texturing, but before cabinetry and trim. Doing it this way means less risk and less masking off finished surfaces. This, in turn, results in cleaner paint lines and less mess.
If your build team has to pause work so you can step in and paint, you can bet on two things. One, unless you’re a professional painter, the paint job will take twice as long and look half as good. Two, your build team won’t be happy about having to wait.
You are certainly welcome to wait until the job is finished and do the painting on your own. However, you’ll ultimately be creating more work for yourself.
Instead of painting first and putting up the finished surfaces later, you now have to tape off your cabinets, backsplash, flooring, and trim. Even then, accidents still happen. You’ll likely get at least a little bit of bleed from your paint on some finished surfaces.
How about doing my own demolition?
We’ve had clients before that wanted to do their own demo. The problem with DIY demolition is that the homeowner doesn’t know how to fully demolish the space.
When our own team does demolition, they know exactly what needs to happen in order for construction to begin; homeowners often do not. Removing the old materials and fixtures is only part of the goal.
There is a litany of requirements for a proper demolition. Nails left in the floor or walls must be removed or pounded down. The baseboard must be pulled from the wall. Every surface needs to be flat, and the space must be immaculately clean to protect the new materials going in.
Another major part of this is knowing where to stop the demolition and make clean, sharp cuts so that when we put the material back in, it can be done professionally and look good. Removing drywall and framing is particularly important on this level.
Most homeowners won’t get the demolition all the way done to the standard we need in order to do good work.
As a result, the project manager will still have to budget an additional day for the build team to finish the demo to prepped standards before moving on to the actual build.
You also need to be very cautious about hazardous materials. About 40% of the homes we’ve remodeled contained asbestos, a dangerous carcinogen that is known to cause severe respiratory illness. If your home contains hazardous materials, including asbestos or lead, leave the demolition to professionals. It isn’t worth risking your health trying to do it yourself.
Can I do my own electrical or plumbing?
Legally, you’re allowed to do your own electrical and plumbing work in your own home. That said, we as a company won’t allow it as part of our project plan unless you are a licensed tradesman.
We sometimes use one especially memorable example to communicate why this is important – a friend of ours tried to do their own electrical work and accidentally wired their electrical panel door to a circuit. Needless to say, opening the panel to flip off that breaker was an unpleasant experience for them.
Please, leave this kind of work to the pros.
What if I just want to be there to help out or watch?
Simply put, having somebody working on a jobsite who is not a licensed, insured member of our crew is a major safety hazard. We put our carpenters through weekly safety training so they can recognize and address safety concerns on site.
From an insurance standpoint, we can’t have untrained construction carpenters working on a jobsite, even if it is in their own home.
In fact, we recommend you limit the time you spend in the construction zone as much as you can. There are dozens of unseen hazards on an unfinished construction job, and we want you to be as safe as possible.
If you do want to see the progress of your remodel, the end of the workday is typically a good time to check it out – just talk with your superintendent beforehand. You’ll want to make sure somebody is there to walk you through and point out any hazards.
So, what can I do to actually help with my remodel?
As a general rule of thumb, leave the work up to the professionals. There are, however, a few things you can do to make sure your project goes smoothly and avoids incurring additional costs.
Prepare your remodel space
One of the most helpful things you can do for your build team is to clean out the space that is being remodeled. This not only includes moving furniture but also removing any wall decorations.
A general rule of thumb is to clean out the rooms being worked on, as well as any intersecting walls. There’s going to be a lot of pounding, dust, and heavy objects going in and out of the space. The best thing you can do to protect your belongings is to keep them as far from the construction zone as possible.
Communicate with the team
Our expectation as a professional remodeler is that we are partners with the homeowner. It is important for you to keep your design and construction team in the loop when it comes to what really matters to you.
Before construction begins, your team will meet with you to discuss the remodel plans and make sure you understand how the process will look. If you don’t understand something about the design plans, please ask questions. One of the best ways to save yourself from extra work is by making sure you fully understand how the project will progress.
Additionally, please communicate anything to your design and construction team that you think might not be clear to them. Remember, we want to give you a finished product that is exactly what you had envisioned. If you want your floorboards to run in a certain direction, make sure we know that. It’s also important that you communicate any known issues with the home or property so we know what to look out for.
If your build team has questions about the project, you should be available to answer questions in a timely manner. Some questions may be urgent. If you won’t be reachable for a time, it is important that we know this.
Stay out of your builders’ way
As harsh as it may sound, your builders are there to get a job done. If you are doing something that interferes with their ability to work, you’re also delaying your own remodel.
Areas marked off with protective covering should be considered off-limits for anyone living in the home – especially children and pets. Again, this really comes down to safety. Construction zones are not playgrounds, and nobody wants to see a kid accidentally get hurt.
Put your mouth where your money is
As funny as it sounds, you’ll help yourself out quite a bit by letting your money do its work. If you hire a firm like ours to do your construction, one of the things you’re paying for is the process.
Please, let us do the work for you. We want to give you the best final product we can, and 99% of the time, that means we do the work instead of you. Remember, you’re paying us to remodel your home so you don’t have to.
Ready to sit back and watch your remodel come to life?
By now, you should have a pretty good idea of ways you can actively contribute to your own home remodel project. If you’re ready to get underway with your remodel, click the button below to speak with a design consultant about how Lamont Bros can guide you through the entire remodel process, from early designs to the final finish nail.
Still doing your research? You can read more about our Design + Build process and begin to gather ideas for your new remodel from our website.