Your D.I.Y. Project -- or Not

Your D.I.Y. Project -- or Not
DIY is everywhere.  Do It Yourself.  But will it work?  I've written on this topic before...  and it continues to deserve Much Attention.
First, I consulted my resident architect (husband), looked at some current magazines,  looked up web sites and checked out  Phone apps to help with your Dream Home.
Well, the Dream Home phone app is barely a  1-star success.  DUH... Not enough advice, too many pretty photos. Someone thought an iPhone app would advise him how to design his dream home alone.  Really??  Do people go to college, grad school, trade school, seminars, training sessions so that a phone app can take their place?  That doesn't mean that DIY is ridiculous, more that it probably has limits.  There are handyman apps that can help you calculate wallpaper or gallons of paint.  Those (if accurate) seem quite sensible and helpful.  If you want to put together a 3D representation of a plan for your furniture layout, that can work, and so can a list of "things to do" for your project.
Yes, it's possible to do almost any kind of project at least partly by yourself.
There are many reasons to Do It Yourself.  In today's economic world, DIY seems to define saving money.  It's on morning TV and on HGTV and many home improvement and hardware stores unquestionably encourage everyone to put on a tool belt and buy supplies to put it all together.  If you have done the type of project before successfully, it might be a no-brainer.  If you have a friend or relative who can work with you and he (or she) has the experience, that's also great.  But JUST to save money is (in my life and professional experience)  not likely enough.
Books and web sites can give you instructions for (relatively) uncomplicated projects like building bookcases, fences; painting, replacing faucets, light fixtures. On the other hand, larger-scale projects go like this:
    You need a plan.  Can you do put together this plan?  Again, an iPhone app likely isn't a thorough instruction manual.
    For the plan you need to know proportion, scale, clearances (walking around room), and building codes.
    Up to a certain point, you don't need a permit or blueprints, but you must check that out.
Every municipality has limits to prevent safety errors.  Sometimes it seems like the project is super simple, but the inspector will ring your doorbell if he sees a contractor's truck or a dumpster outside and there is no permit.  Even a super-nosy neighbor might squeal.  They can stop the project until you comply, which can take a few days to weeks.  What a your city/village building department so you don't drown.  New roofs need permits, siding, too.  That's how towns make money.
You have a couple of years to get the project completed once you get a permit, so if you want to do it and are within regulations, hey-- why not?  There are major trades that need licensed professionals:  electricians, plumbers, heating contractors and GCs to make your house larger.  But you can finish up what you can once their part is done.  If your project is at that level of complexity, you most likely will need drawings and the seal of a licensed architect or structural engineer, even if you were somehow able to draw it up yourself.
In theory, it's still sounding like you'll save money to get that tool belt. But...Can you get contractor pricing on materials?  Suppliers I work with discount at least 5-15% more to REAL contractors.  AND are you able to give it the time it needs to get finished?  You know...spend your summer evenings and weekend on this?  After work?  Is it going to be enjoyable or can you use your time better--maybe using the time to earn money to hire a pro.  If you need a contractor at most any level, you could likely get your project at a savings if you'd call a top pro tomorrow.  Business is still SLOW, and prices are down from a few years ago.  (But don't insult workmen by negotiating for ridiculously low prices.)  And if you don't have to wait ages for a bank loan, your position is even better.  You could get your permit, dive right in and probably get the discounted work done FAST.
End of Part I.

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