When to Turn to a Contractor

Basement Remodel
November 4, 2009
Keys to A Successful Remodel
January 31, 2010

When to Turn to a Contractor

Wondering whether you need to hire a professional for your next old house project? Here’s how to know when a project is beyond your own skills.

When renovating an old house, people often walk in and out of the do-it-yourself role. This can occur out of economic necessity or sheer determination. Tear out the kitchen floor? No problem. Lay a brick path? Why not? Tear into a load-bearing wall? Wait a minute…

There is a point when even a skilled do-it-yourselfer should step aside and let the professionals take over. Here’s how to know when you’ve reached that point.

Examine Your Skills
Start by taking a realistic look at your skills. Old houses can be tricky and often require the trained eye of a professional. Just because you’ve learned a little carpentry over the years doesn’t mean you can tackle the job of piecing together cracked old molding and making it look seamless.

The Materials
When planning a project, take an inventory of your tools and materials. Do you have a miter saw for cutting crown molding? A wet saw for cutting tile? You might need several hundred dollars worth of tools just to do one project. Consider how often you would use the tools and how quickly you could learn to use them. Are you better off hiring a contractor?

The Surprise Factor
Many home owners turn to contractors when they are in the middle of a project and find an unwelcome surprise. They start to tear down a wall and find the main plumbing stack and some old wiring. Would you know what to do with such an old house surprise?

There are many cases when doing the work yourself makes sense. You should be careful, however, of jumping into a bigger project–or one with many structural components–before understanding the details. Otherwise you might be calling a contractor from a room filled with plaster dust.