If you’ve ever thought, “I can do that,” when confronted with a home improvement idea, you might also know the resulting dilemma if you bite off more than you can chew. Is there an easy way to decide in advance how much is too much?

Maybe not totally, but here are some helpful hints that can keep you from wading into the “deep end” of home renovation disaster.

The first clue that you might want to give pause to a potential DIY project is that you don’t have a clue about where to begin — either to plan the work, assemble the tools or buy the materials. That should raise a caution flag, but even if that’s where you are right now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should pick up the phone to call in the pros, at least not quite yet. More and more homeowners successfully join the DIY ranks each year. There are benefits, both perceived and actual, to be derived from DIY home remodeling. Even if they’re just the bragging rights!

Help is available from the staff at your friendly neighborhood lumber store. And it’s yours for the asking. We at NEBS in downtown Boston will answer your questions, point you in the right direction for materials and basic tools, and give you a boost of confidence if that’s what you need. If it turns out that your plans are bigger than your will to do it on your own, we can even help you find the proper professional assistance. We count some fine remodeling contractors among our regular customers.

So, First Ask Yourself:

  1. Do I have the time? Do I have the time and energy to not only begin, but to finish a renovation. If the answer isn’t a resounding “Yes,” you might be better off rethinking the project. If you’re unsure about the time commitment, but you’d like to have a hand in the renovation, separate the job into individual components — commit to doing the demolition and the painting, for instance, leaving the in-between steps to others, or act as your own general contractor, but subcontract specific parts of the job.
  2. Can I map the project from start to finish? Do I understand the full scope of the project — from planning to final cleanup? Every construction project, from installing a new floor or replacing a kitchen counter to adding an entire new room, has specific phases and stages. Work follows a logical timeline, and often cannot proceed until the previous phase is completed. If you can’t identify every step in your mind, as well as on paper, before beginning, you maybe ought to rethink your personal involvement.
  3. Am I well – versed in local regulations? Do I know local rules and regulations, and can I deal with the need for permits and approvals, inspections and licensing? Some phases of construction, notably running plumbing lines and electrical wiring, require using licensed contractors who must obtain permits and call for appropriate inspections. It’s not only unwise to circumvent those requirements, it could be cause for legal action or, even worse, create safety concerns with serious consequences. Always err on the side of caution, and consult a professional if you have any doubts.
  4. Do I have the right tools? Do I have access to the required tools and necessary materials to get the job done right? Many people think that by doing work themselves, they will be able to save a lot of money, and sometimes that’s true. However, when you tally up the hassle factor, add equipment rental, factor in potential ordering mistakes and/or delays, and calculate those costs, you might find that putting your project in the hands of a professional is a bargain. Seek competitive bids if you choose to go the professional route.

No matter what direction you take, know that there are a variety of resources to call on, both online and right here in Boston. New England Building Supply is a local resource not only for homeowners, but also for architects and designers, contractors and developers. Talk to us as you consider professional remodeler vs. DIY pros and cons — we’ve got your back no matter what decision you make.

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