Guide to Kitchen & Bath Remodeling

Guide to Kitchen & Bath Remodeling: Hire a Contractor or DIY

So, the monotony of quarantine has gotten the best of you. Upon hours of scrutiny, your kitchen, with that funky 90’s charm that you LOVED when you first bought your house, is starting to look a bit more drab than fab…

And just when you can’t look at your kitchen any longer, you fall down the rabbit hole of YouTube DIY projects. You think to yourself, ‘if these people can do it, why can’t I?’ And despite the numerous DIY fails you scroll past, you tell yourself that you are a smart, capable homeowner, and surely you wouldn’t make such rookie mistakes…

But let’s take a step back and ask ourselves, what’s really better? DIY or hiring a contractor?

Here at Studio M, we’ve seen this time and time again, and we definitely have some opinions about the wisdom and practicality of attempting to save money by doing it yourself. Education is the best policy, in our book. In today’s post, we are going to share 10 things you should consider before deciding to go rogue on your home improvement project.

Get out of that rabbit hole, put down the hand saw and let’s get started!

1. Experience

On tonight’s episode of, “Are you Smarter Than Your General Contractor?”….. The answer is probably not.

General contractors have continued education that gives them valuable knowledge on building codes, construction techniques, appropriate materials and project planning. So, even though you may have done some home improvement projects in the past, hiring a contractor will rid you of the headaches of doing it yourself and ensure that your project goes off without a hitch. With a trusted contractor on board, you should be able to achieve an amazing result while avoiding problems if anything unexpected should arise.

2. Construction Drawings

Construction drawings are far more complex than most people realize and, alas, that A+ in middle school art class will only get you so far.

If you are doing things like moving walls, changing a roofline or adding windows, your architect or general contractor will provide you with the construction drawings you need for your project. And if you are not using an architect, your general contractor will ensure that a professional draftsperson provides the necessary drawings.

3. Permits & Inspections

Doing renovations in your house is exciting, and doing things like picking out paint and cabinets is a blast! But obtaining permits and coordinating inspections is well…. less of a blast. Lucky for you, this is where a general contractor comes in handy.

Some projects, including major plumbing, electrical or structural overhauls, require that you obtain permits so that you are following appropriate codes and meeting your municipality’s minimum standards of safety. A licensed, experienced contractor will know exactly which permits need to be gathered and which codes should be followed, both for safety and in adherence to the laws in your area.

And when it comes to keeping your project on schedule, periodic inspections will need to be done prior to moving on to each next step in your project. Knowing what needs to be inspected, who to call, and how to schedule these inspections is a serious art form. Failure to do this properly can, at a minimum, slow your project down and can even involve costly tear-outs and rework. Like we said, less of a blast.

4. Insurance & Paperwork

Beautiful design magazines and HGTV highlight the glamour of renovating your space but often leave out the ‘not so glamourous’ details, like the importance of insurance and paperwork, in taking your project from the drawing board to the finish-line.

You need to be detail-oriented and well-organized to effectively manage all the necessary paperwork for your project. And if you aren’t up for the challenge, a general contractor can be an amazing benefactor in keeping your project running smoothly. Contractors are responsible for all the paperwork and accounting for your project. From obtaining certificates of insurance and invoices from subcontractors, to issuing 1099’s and ensuring that lien waivers are received, they will take care of it all, so you don’t have to.

5. Lien Rights

You may have heard horror stories about lien rights. But trust us, if you do things right, they aren’t as scary as you think.

Anyone doing work in your home can put a lien on your property if they are not paid by the party that hired them.  You could pay your subcontractor in full, but if they don’t use that money to pay their labor (assistants, plumbers, electricians, etc.) or material suppliers you will be responsible for paying them a second time.  Make sure you personally vet anyone doing work in your home and confirm that they are financially sound.  Many have been known to “Rob Peter to Pay Paul” and end up in trouble, then are able to file bankruptcy, and open a new business a week later and avoid all the hassle, while you are stuck in litigation and possible foreclosure on your home. 

6. Financing

A big problem with DIY is that many lenders will not recognize you as a general contractor without a license and proper experience. And because of that, they may be apprehensive about financing your project without a licensed general contractor involved. So, even if you have all of your ducks in a row, if you’re missing that license and experience, you may not get the money you need to fund your project.

7. Project Management

Trying to keep track of all the moving parts that go into your home project is like trying to solve a 1,000 piece puzzle. Doable, but time-consuming and difficult!

Fortunately, as a result of their experience, professional general contractors are masters of problem solving and able to coordinate all aspects of your desired project – relieving you of unnecessary stress. In addition to hiring the right people for the job, contractors are also able to manage all of the moving parts of your remodel while keeping everything on schedule.

Every construction project should have a clearly defined schedule, communicated to all parties. The general contractor knows how to manage people on a team – and your project will definitely involve a team!  There are many moving parts in a remodel project, often involving several subcontractors. And many times, one subcontractor cannot start working until another completes his or her work. While your general contractor strives to minimize schedule changes, if changes occur, the contractor will handle any subsequent “ripple effects.”

8. Trusted Relationships & Cost Savings

Your project is going to require a team of people. Make sure those people are ones you trust! A seasoned general contractor has subcontractors that are known and trusted and who accommodate the general contractor’s schedule. The subcontractors know that they will receive future work if they perform well, and the general contractor knows he can count on his or her subs.

9. Servicing

Picture this — you finally have your beautiful new kitchen and you go to make a celebratory cup of coffee. While pulling out your favorite mug, the cabinet door falls off its hinge…. What do you do now?

Lucky for you, if something fails under warranty or is defective, your general contractor is in a good position to support you in getting the problem addressed promptly. You may not have as much leverage on your own.

10. Time

Let’s ask ourselves the big question: Is the money you save as your own general contractor worth the time it will take you to do it yourself? There is certainly satisfaction in being able to execute your project on your own, but acting as your own general contractor will require a significant amount of time. Here are a few things that you may not have considered.

You need to make sure you have time to:

  • order parts or pieces
  • schedule deliveries
  • receive deliveries and inspect products
  • solve a problem that is outside your comfort zone
  • resolve problems between subcontractors

Whether you decide to DIY or hire a contractor, we hope we have given you some useful things to consider before you begin. If you would like to discuss your dream project with us, contact us!

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