DIY: Thinking It and Doing It

DIY: Thinking It and Doing It

DIY is everywhere.  Do It Yourself.  This is a topic I discuss often with clients, friends and vendors and showrooms both wholesale and retail.  I have also consulted my resident architect (husband), looked at some current magazines and even looked up web sites.

And, I've been looking for apps.  It's a bit hard to find one with lots of stars in the rating.  DUH... Not enough advice, many pretty photos, and many "in app" purchases.  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.

DIY for this Blog falls into categories involving architecture, construction and interior design in its many subdivisions.  We'll start with the macro and the philosophy.

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 and put it all together.  If you have done the type of project before successfully, that's 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 or professional experience) probably not enough.

Books and web sites can probably 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 this plan?  Again, an iPhone app isn't your 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 have to 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.

Do you believe that "time is money"?  If so, and especially if it's you own time, how long will putting this all together take?   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.  Give this some thought, too:  can you get contractor pricing on materials?  Suppliers I work with discount at least 5-15% more to REAL contractors.  Also, are you able to give it the time it needs to get finished?  You know...spend your evenings and weekend on this?  Are you willing to wait the length of time a DIY project could take?  Will you be living in a mess?  Will it be enjoyable or can you use your time better--maybe using the time to earn money to hire a pro?  Unless you are looking for the challenge or experience of this project, consider all of your options.

Furnishings next time...

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