Real Examples of When and When Not to DIY

by Kelley Rowland

Wallpaper, yes. Demo, definitely not.

Let’s face it: there are just some projects you can do yourself and others that need a professional. At Sweeten, a free service that matches renovators with general contractors, we take a pretty hard stance on that fact. Numbers also show that homeowners often regret taking on DIY projects. According to a survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by the online referral source Improve Net, 63 percent regretted at least one project. One in three respondents had to call a professional to redo their botched work, too.

We put together a list of projects that are totally okay to DIY, like wallpaper installation, and others we recommend hiring a contractor for (demolition, plumbing work—to name a few). To see real-life examples of those ideas, check out these Sweeten remodels below, where renovators completed a few small DIY projects themselves, plus DIY jobs that ultimately led to the homeowners hiring a contractor.

DIY: Painting cabinets

black kitchenAs architects, Kate and Arthur know a thing or two about renovations. When they decided to purchase and remodel their very own fixer-upper, they came to Sweeten to find a contractor to reconfigure the walls, expand the kitchen, and overhaul the bathroom. The couple also decided to take on a few small projects themselves, including building out the IKEA kitchen cabinets and painting the fronts (26 panels, some over 10 feet tall). They warned potential DIYers: only take on a do-it-yourself project like this “if you have the time, patience, and space.” While it was a money-saving exercise, it took a took almost a full month to paint the cabinets, plus they had to do the work in their own apartment.

DIY: Installing wallpaper

wallpapered bathroomFlipping the floors of a Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone to move the rental apartment to the garden-floor was no small project. Bellamy and Zak hired a Sweeten contractor to handle the majority of the work, from exposing the brick walls to tearing down walls. “This was our first time doing a serious renovation that would require more than our DIY skills could handle,” Bellamy shared. They instead put those skills to use in the first-floor bathroom, installing a peel-and-stick dotted wallpaper and black wainscoting.

DIY: Material sourcing

open living area and kitchenTo save on time and money, Barbra did all of her own research on materials, from the kitchen appliances to the wallpaper. This was no small feat, as her family was planning a complete overhaul, including the kitchen and bathroom. “I never knew how many different types of doorknobs there were—or even realized I had strong preferences in doorknobs,” she said, “until I actually had to choose one.” That said, their contractor did give his input on where to splurge and save on materials, advising to invest in custom closets and tile, but to save on cabinetry instead of going custom.

Hire a Contractor: for demolition, plumbing, and electrical work

Just to reiterate: we do not recommend attempting any demolition, plumbing, or electrical work yourself. Rules and regulations aside, it’s also a matter of safety. Not to mention, demolition may look easy, but just think about getting all of the demolished drywall, cabinetry, and even appliances out yourself. In one Sweeten renovation, the contractor had to saw through the old stove and refrigerator to get them out of the kitchen! Stick with our suggestions for DIY projects and you’ll be on your way to a dream home you’ll love coming home to every day.

bathroom and laundry roomElizabeth wanted to update a half-bathroom into a bath-utility room combination. She started the demolition herself, and then came to Sweeten to find a general contractor to complete the work when she realized figuring out how to fit everything she wanted in the room was going to be tricky. Her contractor was able to find the best way to make use of the room and ended up finding extra space behind the wall that made a big difference, in addition to building custom shelves and cabinetry.

kitchen A series of DIY mishaps, shoddy professional work, and a leaky dishwasher (that ruined the floor) ultimately led Susan and Carl to post their kitchen renovation to Sweeten. Their Sweeten general contractor ended up completely demolishing their DIY’ed kitchen and came up with a design plan to work around what the homeowners thought would be potential roadblocks. While the homeowners thought a beam would force them to shorten the cabinet height, their contractor “knew exactly how to notch out the back of the taller cabinets to accommodate the beam,” Susan said.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to find a general contractor in your area—and what to expect.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

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