How to Know When DIY Won’t Cut It for Your Home Improvement Projects

We all know it’s tempting to save money when it comes to home improvement. And there is certainly a great sense of pride that comes with tackling a project on your own. (With the exception of plumbing and electricity — seriously, kids, don’t try either of those at home.)

While it’s true that certain home renovation projects are billed as DIY-friendly, it doesn’t mean you are DIY-friendly. There are many “simple” projects that have turned out to be anything but. And before you know it, the money you thought you were saving gets spent on calling in a professional to fix your mistakes.

Do you have what it takes to DIY?

Before you dive into any home improvement project as a property investor, you should at least consider these three factors:

  • Tools: Ask any contractor: You need the right tool for the job. But you don’t have to blow your budget on buying them all. Thanks to places like Home Depot (NYSE: HD) and Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW) that offer tool and equipment rentals, you can take on more DIY projects even if your own toolbox is limited.
  • Skills: Let’s say you’ve got the tools. Do you know how to use them? More importantly, can you use them safely? If you can answer yes to both questions, DIY is looking pretty good for you so far.
  • Patience: Patience is a virtue, and you’ll need it as a DIYer. Whether you’re learning as you go, completing the work only on weekends, or need to, ahem, redo something that didn’t as well as you’d hoped, give yourself a bit of a break as an amateur.

What matters to homeowners during COVID

Sears Home Services (OTCMKTS: SHLDQ) conducted a survey of more than 1,000 homeowners and home improvement trends during COVID-19. Not surprisingly, 81% of homeowners found that saving money was the most important reason in taking on any home improvement project. And take on projects they did: 59% of homeowners reported they took on more home improvement projects during the pandemic, with the average homeowner doing two to three projects since lockdown happened in March.

According to the Sears report, the top five reasons homeowners gave for doing things their own way are:

  • To save money (81%)
  • To improve skills (54%)
  • To work at own pace (48%)
  • To have more control of the project (46%)
  • Available downtime (42%)

As far as the actual work, 60% of homeowners said they were feeling brave enough to tackle more advanced projects, while 54% of homeowners said they had a professional visit their home during the pandemic. Which generation was more likely to commit to improving their homes? It was Gen X — 58% of them said they were more likely to DIY it during the pandemic.

Why the focus on DIY? Well, some homeowners might have been feeling good about tackling the work now that they had more time for it. But it could also be because some were rightfully hesitant having outsiders come into their home during the pandemic. There’s some good news for the home improvement industry in this respect: Many contractors started doing virtual consultations to keep projects moving along during the pandemic.

What really happens when homeowners decide to DIY

The Sears survey yielded some interesting data on what homeowners could and couldn’t do on their own when it came to some popular projects:

  • The top three projects DIYers accomplished — and had a good experience to boot — are painting walls (63%), installing a shelf (55%), and installing a mirror (49%).
  • The top three projects homeowners haven’t tried but are confident that they can DIY are refacing cabinets (39%), waterproofing a deck (38%), and installing under-cabinet lighting (38%).
  • The top three DIY projects homeowners attempted and regretted for one reason or another are installing under-cabinet lighting (17%), installing tile (15%), and installing drywall (15%). In addition, 46% of homeowners who attempted a project on their own had to throw in the dropcloth and hire a professional to redo it. The damage to their bottom line was more than $1,600 on average.
  • The top three projects homeowners wouldn’t attempt themselves are running a gas line (55%), repairing a roof (47%), and installing new windows (44%). Indeed, these are all projects best left to the pros, as mistakes can lead to serious harm for the individual, let alone the property.

The ugly side of DIY

Forget about making mistakes or doing a substandard job — there’s personal safety to consider as a DIYer. Sears reported 38% of DIYers experienced an accident that caused an injury. And even if homeowners did manage to keep their projects moving smoothly, 25% still reported sustaining an injury.

While avoiding getting hurt is paramount, homeowners also want to avoid property damage. Here’s some bad news on that front: 27% of homeowners reported they did major damage to their home during their DIY project.

Some other whomp whomp moments reported by DIYers include:

  • Underestimating the project timeline (57%)
  • Underestimating the effort required (50%)
  • Not budgeting correctly (40%)
  • Not having the right tools (37%)
  • Underestimating the level of skill needed (37%)
  • Being dissatisfied with their own work (22%)
  • Having to redo the project a number of times (20%)

The bottom line

If you like things done in a certain way, we get it. If you want to save money, it’s totally understandable. But after reviewing the stats in this report from Sears, it’s safe to say you should think long and hard before committing to any DIY project. The ability to say “I did it myself” sometimes just isn’t worth the trouble.