Should You Hire a Professional or DIY on These 6 Home Upgrades?

Man in dust mask sitting on a workbench using his laptop

When you’re making upgrades to your home, it’s easy to pick up the phone and hire a pro. However, the pride of a job well done, learning lifelong skills, and saving money might be significant enough reasons for you to tackle the project yourself. Which home upgrades require a professional, and which projects provide the most benefit if you DIY?

In this article, we’ll cover six popular home improvement projects and give you the skinny on which tools to use, the challenges to expect within each project, the costs, and of course—if you should DIY or hire a pro. 

1. Building a Deck

Owning a wooden oasis a few steps from the patio door is a hot ticket item for homeowners. Maybe you’ve used a circular or miter saw before and think you have what it takes to construct a deck, and you may be right. When it comes to decking, there are a few factors that influence whether DIY is a good idea or if it’s better to hire a professional:

1. State and local building codes – Depending on where you live, there are rules concerning the deck’s foundation, safety features (like railings), height, and square footage. 

2. The level of building complexity – Are you building a raised deck, multilevel, or adding additional features?

3. Your personal experience and carpentry comfort level

4. Your HOA’s rules and regulations, if applicable

  • DIY Cost: $8-10 per sq. ft. 
  • Professional Cost: $25 per sq. ft.
  • Time Requirements: 3-10 days (depends on size and complexity)
  • Recommended tools

Verdict: Build the deck yourself if you feel comfortable using carpentry tools and have a basic understanding of general construction. Remember, check your local building codes and keep the deck simple.

2. Retiling the Bathroom Floor

If you’re looking to upgrade your bathroom, one of the best ways is to retile the floor. Investopedia recommends DIY if the bathroom floor is smaller, like a 10×10 space. 

However, there is a lofty time investment required, especially for larger or irregularly-shaped rooms. You may not know what’s underneath the old tile, which can call for floor leveling and extensive preparations before you install the new flooring.

  • DIY Cost: $200-500 (10×10 area)
  • Professional Cost: $500-900 (10×10 area)
  • Time Requirements: 3-4 days
  • Recommended tools

Verdict: While DIY is quite possible, the cost savings aren’t too extraordinary. Hire a professional for this one and leave the grout work to someone else. 

3. Painting the Kitchen Cabinets

Slapping a fresh paint job on outdated cabinets is a wonderful way to boost your home’s value while keeping your budget intact. After all, painting isn’t the most challenging task, so why doesn’t everybody paint their cabinets?

Well, it’s because DIY cabinet painting is labor-intensive and requires a lot of prep work. It can also be inconvenient to live and work in the space, with the job taking anywhere between 30-60 hours, depending on the number of cabinets. The intricacies of different cabinet designs can further complicate the process and make it difficult to get a perfect finish.

However, the cost savings are significant—the average professional charges $903-3764 versus the DIY price of $200-600 for the paint and supplies. 

  • DIY Cost: $200-600 
  • Professional Cost: $903-3764
  • Time Requirements: 4-7 days (200 sq. ft. kitchen)
  • Recommended Tools

Verdict: If you have the time and it isn’t a big inconvenience to go without cabinets for a few days, paint them yourself and save some money.

Installing a Ceiling Fan

A great way to upgrade any room in your house is to replace the ceiling fan. Installing a new fan takes a bit of handiwork mixed with some electrical know-how. You’ll need to ensure the breaker is off and your electrical box is rated “acceptable for ceiling fans.” Your box must also be grounded, or there needs to be a ground wire in the ceiling. 

If you can verify these things are taken care of, installing a ceiling fan is pretty straightforward. If not, consider hiring a handyman or electrician to install your fan safely.

  • DIY Cost: Free
  • Professional Cost: $100-300 (unless you need new wiring, boxes, or light switches installed)
  • Time Requirements: 1 day
  • Recommended Tools

Verdict: If you’re having trouble identifying if your existing fan was correctly installed and you need to replace your box or wiring, it’s best to hire a professional. Otherwise, installing a new ceiling fan is a simple process (especially with another set of hands to hold the fan!).

Installing Hardwood Floors

If you want to refresh your current flooring and improve your home’s value, you might consider installing hardwood floors. While the savings might look great on paper, there are costs to consider that the pros don’t have to pay. Installing hardwood floors takes several tools like a floor nailer, sander, air compressor, and a miter saw. If you don’t have these tools, it can extend the time it takes to complete the job. It can also have an effect on the finished product. 

Flooring is also considered an intermediate upgrade with the potential to be difficult depending on your floor’s foundation. The subfloor must be clean, dry, level, and structurally sound before you can begin installing new hardwood floors. Once you’ve installed the flooring, sanding and staining can take a considerable amount of time.

There are options to purchase prefinished hardwood flooring that will save you a ton of time sanding and refinishing once the planks are installed. But they won’t save you from renting a bunch of tools for the week.

  • DIY Cost: $800-1200 (White Oak natural finish 100 sq. ft.—different species vary in price)
  • Professional Cost: $1200-1450 (White Oak natural finish 100 sq. ft.—different species vary in price)
  • Time Requirements: 2-7 days depending on your subfloor, tools, and if you use click-lock, nailed, or glue-down boards.
  • Recommended Tools

Verdict: Leave the hardwood floors to the pros unless you have all of the tools necessary for the project. Renting the tools will cut into your savings and decrease the marginal benefit of DIY.

Installing or Replacing Baseboard Molding

Installing beautiful molding throughout your home is a surefire way to bolster your home’s equity. While professionals will insist you need their help, molding can often be an approachable DIY project.

In fact, if you’re proficient with a miter saw and have a basic understanding of cutting angles, you can make light work of installing or replacing baseboard molding. Even if you don’t, this is one of those projects that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, especially if you go slow and follow guides like this one.

  • DIY Cost: $1.24-1.88 per linear foot
  • Professional Cost: $5.55 to $8.63 per linear foot
  • Time Requirements: An expert can install nearly 20 linear feet per hour. DIYers should take longer, and it will vary greatly on their skill level.
  • Recommended Tools

Verdict: If you can figure out how to cut molding correctly, there are massive DIY savings. The tool requirements are limited, and the most essential resource you’ll need is patience.

The Bottom Line

When you’re choosing which home upgrades to complete, deciding whether to DIY or hire a professional is never an easy choice, especially if you’re handy. Take into account your skill level, the tools required, and the time you have to devote to each project. Weigh these factors against the cost savings and decide whether the project is worth your time. 

Remember, if you choose DIY, there are benefits beyond cost savings like learning a new skill and taking pride in your handiwork—those benefits are priceless.

You May Also Like