DIY Home Projects – What Home Improvements Can And Can’t You Do?

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I am absolutely in love with learning and sharing all things real estate. I’m an agent for Jacaranda Real Estate In Harare, Zimbabwe. This blog will be the ultimate resource for all things real estate so subscribe and stay tuned.

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It’s a 5 days before your guests arrive for your biggest gettogether celebration of the year and both the toilets in your home are clogged and about to flood your home, there’s an area on your ceiling that keeps dripping water and the paint in the walls in the entertainment room are covered in cracks, chippings and holes from moving out the old photos of you. What do you do?

 The necessary contractors are going to charge 3 limbs and a big toe to sort it out for you but you’ve done the math if you step up to the plate and rise to the occasion with spectacular DIY skills; you could do it at a fraction of the cost.

But is it worth it? Let’s find out…

What Are DIY Home Improvements?

Concerning home improvements, DIY – “Doing It Yourself;” Is a method of accomplishing the following home activities without the direct employment of paid professionals.

The following are the 4 possible categories of home improvements that would need to be practically done by you and potentially your friends and family to be DIY projects:

  1. Home Maintenance.
  2. Home Repairs.
  3. Home Augmentations.
  4. Home Renovations and Additions.

1. Home Maintenance.

Tasks that need to be routinely done on a home component to prevent damage that might otherwise lead to the destruction or impaired performance of that aspect of the home.

Routinely cleaning aspects such as the gutter, applying rust dissolvers on exposed and vulnerable metal such as gates and fences, and applying pest repellents and poisons during the necessary seasons are all forms of home maintenance improvements.

2. Home Repairs.

The tasks that are necessary to restore an aspect of the home that no longer functions at all or as it should due to neglect or damage.

The filling of chipped walls or drill holes, repairing or replacing broken or deformed tiles, and completing the necessary steps to unclog a blocked drain or gutter system.

3. Home Augmentations.

The task of replacing a damaged or well-functioning aspect of a home with a different or updated aspect that will serve the same purpose as what is being replaced. When you maintain or repair, you are aiming to maintain or restore the same thing – when you augment, you aim to have something different perform the foundational same function.

Replacing and installing a broken window or door, converting a regular on and off switch light system to a dimmer switch system, Replacing appliances and furniture, and replacing the tiling of a home.

4. Home Renovations and Additions.

The task of adding something completely new to the home or the restructuring of aspects of the home to change the founding design or structure of the home.

Adding a new bedroom to the home, adding a swimming pool, building a shed and breaking down walls to make a room larger

Generally speaking, the order by which the above potential avenues of DIY home improvements are in the ordered in descending fashion from least difficult to most difficult. This is subjective to what you would be comfortable or experienced doing; but generally, routinely cleaning the gutter will be easier than building a swimming pool in your backyard.

*To be DIY, the task has to be fully carried out by you without the direct competition of the task by a paid professional. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use professional resources to improve your success potential on DIY projects such as using YouTube, books or professionally led tutorials to learn how to do what you want to do.

What Is The Alternative To DIY?

As you’ve probably already deciphered from the above, DIY is a substitute for hiring and paying a professional. For whatever home improvement you want accomplishing, there is a company or individual who not only has; far greater skill and experience in completing that task but also have all the necessary tools needed to get it done faster and better.

Professional carpenters, electricians, builders, home designers, and plumbers are all alternatives who will likely do what you want to be done faster and with fewer errors simply at the cost of a high price tag.

Truth be told, there are both benefits and costs of choosing to go down the DIY route and the Professionally done route which I will cover below:

DIY vs Professionally Done – Pros and Cons.


Why DIY Is Better Than Professionally Done: Why Professionally Done Is Better Than DIY:
Cheaper (maybe). Cheaper (probably).
Flexibility. Professionalism – Experience and skills.
Fulfilling. Convenient.
You learn a skill – makes it easier the second time around. Speed and assurance.
Appreciation and Opportunity. No investment.
Connect with others  

Why DIY Is Better Than Professionally Done:


1. Cheaper (maybe).

Contractors are usually rather expensive for all but the most mundane of a task and you might also have to deal with package deals where they will insist on having to check everything and not just the main issue you have now.

Packages are often done to your aid as the main problem you might be dealing with today. could be a sign that something else is on a downward slide to cause you issues today. Plumbers and electricians who work with package deals are likely doing so to make sure everything that needs to be done – is done and you don’t blame them next week if the house floods.

This package system, their time, experience, and equipment will unfortunately but necessarily be at the cost of a big chunk of your wallet. When you DIY the problem yourself, financially speaking, you can save yourself a very large bill; if you do what needs to be done successfully.

2. Flexibility.

For all but the most urgent of tasks, When you DIY any project; you can do so at your leisure and convenience. Like building a car; you can work how you want to work; saving money incrementally to complete a project over months + your imagination and willingness to learn and adapt are the only restrictions for what you do and if you don’t like it; change it.

When you hiring a contractor, once you sign on the dotted line, it might as well be set in concrete. Not only are you given less flexibility when it comes to financing the project (unless you want “interest” with your order) but if somewhere down the line you don’t like how the improvement is coming out – changing it is rarely an easy or affordable option.

3. Fulfilling.

The sense of accomplishment you’ll get from finishing the monumental take you started (even if it’s unclogging the toilet) is not to be underestimated. No matter how small the task is when you complete a DIY home improvement project; you’ve done something that most others wouldn’t even dream of doing.

Take pride in that!

4. You learn a skill – makes it easier the second time around.

When it comes to doing most home improvements, you’ll only be a novice once – maybe twice but no more than thrice. That is to say, the more projects you do; the easier they all become because you become that much more confident with your ability to figure it out.

With every project down, you learn what to do next time to do it faster, cheaper, better, and with your dash of pizzas added for extra effect.  

5. Appreciation and Opportunity.

Connecting with the points 3 and 4, when you start doing DIY home improvement projects it opens a new world for you that not only helps you understand the current professionals in the industry who often have the contributions scoffed at when you feel they are charging too much but it also opens the exposes you to the opportunity of doing more for yourself and others.

After all, what is a professional if not yesterdays’ DIY enthusiast? Pretty soon, you could be the one charging people to get the job done.

6. Connect with others

Very rarely, will a DIY home improvement project be something you can or want to do alone; especially when you start doing larger and more complex projects. Use the time to connect with your friends and family – get the kids, siblings, or spouse involved in the whole ordeal.

You’d be surprised just how much connection can be had during the process of putting up a new coat of paint around the house.

Why Professionally Done Is Better Than DIY:


1. Cheaper (Probably).

OK, hear me out now. It’s undeniable that when you perfectly complete a DIY project; financially speaking, it’s going to be vastly cheaper than if you had hired a professional to do it for you – especially for large and complex projects.

But honestly speaking, there’s a reason why most of these contractors charge what they do to get the job done; it’s because the vast majority of these projects take skill. And when you are getting involved with those large and complex projects; they take a lot of skill.

You can get away with making some mistakes when you paint a small room but when you’re dealing with your home’s plumbing or electrical system; if you make a mistake, you’ll likely be forced to hire a professional to fix it. And it will probably be at a far greater cost than what you wanted to do in the first place.

2. Professionalism – Tools, experience, and skills.

When you hire a contractor, you can safely go in knowing that if they say they can do it – they know they can do it. The right contractor is the right tool for the job when it comes to having the know-how, experience, and tools needed to get the job done.

3. Convenient.

Regardless of the project, every second you spend on getting it done is a second you’ve lost to do something else. And though this may be a cost you’re willing to pay when it’s just a few hours on painting a bedroom a new shade of beige, but when you’re building a room or redoing some plumbing, this can be days of your time taken away.

Work, friends, family, relationships, and just general you time can all be eaten away by some of these projects.

When you hire a contractor, all the time that would have been taken away from you to complete the task; is lifted off your shoulders and placed on those of the contractor; which gives you all that time to do as you please.

4. Speed and assurance.

It’s in everyone’s best interest to get the job done as quickly and as competently as possible when you work with a professional.

For you, you’ve just paid a probably hefty amount to get a project completed; you’ll probably want the fruits of your labor to show quicker as well as getting the person who just charged you an arm and a leg for your new kitchen to be out of your house faster.

For the contractor, the longer they spend time working on your project, is the longer they’re kept away from other paying projects. And they can’t just do a half-effort job on it as well because for most contractors; their reputation is their life’s blood.

When you work with a professional, you can rest assured + any contractor who’s worth they fair share of your limbs, should at least offer a warranty that guarantees they know they did the job right.

5. No investment.

Almost every DIY project you embark on is going to include buying something you’re investing in; in that, you’re paying for something you’re going to have to store and maintain.

Sometimes these things can be small and generally good to just have around. You can’t go wrong from having a few paintbrushes, a hammer and some screwdrivers around the house.

But some of these tools do start getting niche and meant for one particular purpose only. Consider cement mixers and flukes.  Once you buy it for this project it’s yours to keep, store, and maintain forever until you need it again; which could be a long time of just taking up precious storage real estate.

When you go with a contractor, they make use of everything they asked for and bring and take away the rest. Your space is left for the things you want and use regularly only.

Considerations – How To Decide What Home Improvements To DIY.

If you’ve evaluated the pros and cons between going with a professional and going it DIY and you’ve come out of it still wanting to go down the road of doing it yourself; the following a few considerations you should keep in mind for any project you decide to start.

  1. Is the home improvement meant to be permanent or temporary?
  2. A home improvement budget plan.
  3. Skills and experience
  4. Tools, materials, and storage.
  5. Convenience and opportunity cost.
  6. Comfort and risk – Considering the worst-case scenario
  7. How costly would be a backup plan?

1. Is the home improvement meant to be permanent or temporary?

This is a consideration that has greater importance if you ever think you might sell or rent out your home down the line. A fixed DIY project of something meant to be permanent on the property is almost always easy to point out unless it’s done perfectly.

Messing up your wardrobe for a home you want to live in forever can be a charming reminder of your first attempt to DIY something but when you’re planning to sell or rent your home, these fixed mistakes can become factors that influence how quickly you get the house off the market and at what price.

This is far less important for temporary DIY projects like a bad paint job or movable furniture because they can either be fixed cheaply and quickly or you can just pick it up and go.

2. A home improvement budget plan.

Do you have a budget for the home improvement and does that budget account for mistakes and mishaps? Almost every contractor and home renovator are going to tell you that the end project almost always goes over budget – and that’s for people with experience and budgets.

Knowing how much you have, is a great place to start to help you decide whether or not a project is DIY friendly or not. What is the cost of a mistake in this scenario and can you afford multiple mistakes?

If not, you might want to save a bit more and get a professional and work up to that project when you have a bigger budget and more experience and comfort doing such tasks.

3. Skills and experience.

This isn’t to say you can’t DIY a project if you don’t already have the skills to do it. The vast majority of DIY projects will be and have been done by complete novices. When it comes to skills and experience, I’m referring to your awareness of which skills you necessarily need to complete the task.

When you know what you need, you can evaluate which ones you do and don’t have. And once you know that, you can work on finding out where you can learn these skills (YouTube will be your best friend).

The worst-case scenario you can encounter when you DIY a project is not knowing what you don’t know and skipping these likely essential steps needed to properly complete the task.

4. Tools, materials, and storage.

All DIY projects are going to end up involving tools, materials, and storage. The more complex the home improvement the more likely it is that the tools and materials are going to be larger, more complex, and more expensive.

And whatever tools you need for the job, you’ll likely have to keep and store – this goes for any leftover materials as well.

All in all, space is going to be an important consideration for what you can reasonably take on a DIY improvement without having to move your car out of the garage to make space for your new saw table and cement mixer.

5. Convenience and opportunity cost.

The following are 3 important “time” related to questions to ask yourself when you are planning on taking on a new DIY home improvement challenge:

  • How long does it usually take to complete this project + novice tax.

A general Google or YouTube search on whatever project you want to do will likely give you an estimated time of completion and if the person doing the renovation seems like a professional; add novice tax.

Novice tax is doubling or possibly tripling the estimated time of completion to account for how new everything will be for you. Trust me, this will be essential

  • How much time can you reasonably spend on this project?

Now that you know how long it will roughly take you to complete the task + tax; you’ll need to be honest with yourself on how much time you can dedicate to this project during the week. This becomes increasingly important for larger projects that would have estimated completion times in the day’s range.

Dividing the time to complete by the time you can afford will let you roughly guess how long it will take you to get the project done and once you account for the next step, you can evaluate whether or not this particular DIY project is for you.

  • How quickly do you need to get this project done?

This is generally subjective for small projects like painting a wall or building a bookcase; no one is going to have their lives shattered if your DIY paint job of the house takes 3 months of your home being half blue and half white.

On the other hand, if you’re doing a DIY project that involves plumbing, electricity or breaking down some walls in the house – faster is better and people might start to get irritated if the power is switched off every day for 2 hours for the next week because you want to install a security system.

6. Comfort and risk – Considering the worst-case scenario

A great rule of thumb for all DIY projects is to do what you’re comfortable with and what won’t kill you in the worst-case scenario.

Everything considered, your worst mistake when it comes to painting the walls of your house would likely be getting paint where paint shouldn’t be; not you finding a way to drown yourself in the bucket of paint.

On the other hand, if you’re playing with electricity or plumbing and you’re feeling uneasy and uncertain about; you might want to hire a pro or at the very least spend some good many hours researching what you need to do and how you do it.

Your gut and your head will give you a good estimation of what you can and can’t do – yet.  

7. How costly would be a backup plan?

Not to be pessimistic, but you should always consider and brace for the worst-case scenario. Not in saying that you should start a DIY project expecting to fail but that you should have the comfort in knowing that you can fail and it won’t be a disaster because you know what to do if things don’t go your way.

Asking an appropriate contractor to be on standby or to routinely come to check up on your work can be a real lifesaver in ensuring you don’t dig yourself into a financial pit you can’t get out of.  

So Where Should You Start? – DIY and Professional Project Recommendations.

All in all, you are the final decision maker when it comes to taking up the challenge of DIY home improvements but the above considerations should be kept in mind.

If you’re looking for some recommendations on easing yourself into the world of DIY, the following are 5 projects I believe are beginner-friendly and 5 projects I believe are a little more advanced and should be left to the professionals until you are comfortable with the work.

5 Home Improvements You Should DIY.

  1. Painting – rooms, doors, railings, and cabinetry.
  2. Filling wall cracks, chippings, and drill holes.
  3. Installing dimmer switches and lights.
  4. Changing or repairing the gutter system.
  5. Updating cabinetry knobs and handles.

5 Home Improvements You Should Leave To The Professionals.

  1. Constructing a new room.
  2. Replacing or augmenting carpet or tiles for a large room.
  3. Updating cabinetry and wardrobes.
  4. Roofing.
  5. Security systems.

Conclusion On DIY Home Improvements – Should You Do It?

I would say, the most important thing to keep in mind before you get into DIY home improvement projects is this; there is a reason why proven professionals are well paid. Don’t go into any plan thinking it will be simple and easy.

Respect the project and people who have dedicated their lives to doing it but go in knowing that it is doable. Always have a backup plan and have fun doing what you’re doing.


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I am absolutely in love with learning and sharing all things real estate. I’m an agent for Jacaranda Real Estate In Harare, Zimbabwe. This blog will be the ultimate resource for all things real estate so subscribe and stay tuned.