D-I-Y or Get a Guy?

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When to do-it-yourself or call a pro for home improvement projects
With the inspirations of summer's
longer days and spurts of vacation, that long list of home projects and
improvements may seem more doable than ever. But how do you know when to tackle
them yourself and when to bring in a professional?
No doubt
about it, budgets are tighter these days,

When to do-it-yourself or call a pro for home improvement projects

With the inspirations of summer's

longer days and spurts of vacation, that long list of home projects and

improvements may seem more doable than ever. But how do you know when to tackle

them yourself and when to bring in a professional?

No doubt

about it, budgets are tighter these days,

and with home values in flux, you need to be extra selective about the projects

you plan. Sometimes going the DIY route saves money and time, but in other cases

it can end up costing you more all the way around. Set yourself up for home

improvement success by carefully thinking things through and picking the right

person for the project, whether it's you or somebody

else.

style='font-family:Arial'>Eyes on the prize

Before you start stocking up

on tools or choosing paint colors, think about the exact result you're after.

What kind of overall change are you expecting to make, and what degrees of

craftsmanship, care and design savvy should be present in the result? Now work

your way back through all of the knowledge, techniques and elbow grease involved,

doing whatever research is required to fill in the blanks.

style='font-family:Arial'>Assess your abilities

Next up is an honest

evaluation of whether or not you're the best person for the job. I always

encourage homeowners' enthusiasm and pursuit of DIY knowledge, but the time to

learn definitely isn't when you're faced with critical systems requiring skill

beyond that which you already possess. One plumbing mistake and you could get

really wet, but get some wires crossed during an electrical endeavor and you

could get really dead.

Also understand that every project

requires a certain amount of preparation and a sliding scale of time to

accomplish, neither of which are obvious in the many popular home improvement

TV shows that edit days, weeks and months of hard work down to a few minutes of

home improvement bliss.

Think about it: how much

time do you realistically have available to devote to this project, and how

does that match up with the deadline you and your family have for enjoyment of

the results? Midstream mistakes add dollars and hours, and can wipe out any

savings expected from going the DIY route. So be honest about your abilities

before work even begins, and you'll have a much greater chance of hitting

targets where quality, safety and price are concerned.

style='font-family:Arial'>Build a budget

Before searching for a

professional to take on your project, compile the best possible estimate of

potential costs. This will take a little research, but needs to be done so that

you're well acquainted with what's involved and can determine your financial

limitations before bids start rolling in. Include a reserve of about 20 percent

to cover inevitable project surprises and additions, and line up your

financing.

style='font-family:Arial'>Get the help you need

Whether you're looking for a

handyman or remodeling contractor, personal recommendations from family members

and friends are critical to finding the right match. Also check out Angie's

List (www.angieslist.com), a great

online resource for local pros and candid customer reviews of their work, and

check in with trade associations, the folks at the local hardware store, and

local building inspectors. From there, invest proper time in due diligence. That

means interviewing both the pros and their past customers, scrutinizing

competitive bids, and carefully reviewing project timetables before making precious

commitments of time and money.

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weeklye-newsletter, visit the program's website.

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