Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Do It Yourself

I flushed the toilet the other morning and the handle came off in my hand.  I thought to myself, “Huh, that’s interesting!”  I knew we needed a new toilet but I didn’t realize it was going to be that morning!  In fact, we needed two.  The toilet in the kid’s/guest bathroom needed to be replaced as well.  I could have made a call to my plumber and said, “Hey, Mike, I need you to install 2 new toilets.”  Mike would have come over and installed 2 new toilets for about $600.  Instead, I decided to save some money and do it myself. 

Now I understand installing a toilet is not the most difficult thing but I’ve never considered myself the handiest person in the world.  So I did what any amateur does, I looked up “How to install a toilet” on YouTube.  After a few ‘how to’ videos and a visit to consumerreports.org to find the best toilet for the money I was on my way to The Home Depot.  It took me about 3 hours but two toilets are now successfully installed in our house.   Total money spent... $328.  Money saved...$272!

About a year ago we needed to replace the door from our garage to our living room.  We had a local company, which we trusted, come in to give us a quote.  We knew the company because they had put in our sliding glass door and we liked their work.  Their quote...$1300!  A friend suggested that he and I do it together.  We made a trip to The Home Depot and priced out doors.  For just over $300 I could put in a fire rated door myself.  In just 4 man hours we had our door installed.  Total money spent...$310.  Money Saved...$990. 

If you’re not handy, like me, how do you become handy?  I suggest starting with a small job: painting, replacing an old thermostat or an electrical outlet.  After you’ve completed some simple jobs tackle a tougher one or help a handy friend take on a bigger job.  

If you decide to go it alone, there are plenty of videos online, books you can borrow at the library or classes that you can attend at The Home Deport or Lowes that will help you through any task.  And if worse comes to worst, and you completely mess things up, call in a professional.  For example, Andrea had a ring fall down the sink drain and I went into the trap to get it.  Taking off the trap was no problem. Ring retrieved and all was well.  Well, not quite.  Our trap was metal pipe, not PVC, which increased my chances of screwing things up.  And I did!  I stripped the threads.  I called my plumber Mike to fix that one.  

Attempting to home improvement projects yourself not only saves you money, a huge incentive, but you also get to learn something new.  I love learning.  I’m constantly asking my friends who do their own home improvements if I can help.  I’ve helped my father-in-law put in hardwood floors, a buddy lay concrete for a fire pit, and another buddy put up a deck.  It’s humbling to realize what you don’t know but it’s exciting to learn something new.

As you gain experience, you’ll be able to take on larger jobs.  I have two friends who have each finished their own basements.  One friend did practically everything: electrical, plumbing, framing, sheet rocking, taping, stair bannister and painting.  He did everything except install the carpet!  Another friend of mine also did most of the work finishing his basement except he paid someone to do the taping and carpeting.  I won’t say what they spent but I can tell you they each saved well over $15,000 finishing their basements themselves.

As you can see, you can save hundreds, even thousands, of dollars by doing home improvement projects yourself.  Not only will you save some cash, you’ll also get to learn something new and maybe even spend some quality time with friends or family (my kids are always watching when I’m attempting to fix something).  Give it a shot.  The worst thing that can happen is you call in the professional to clean up the mess.  

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