As much as it pains me to admit it, my father was right all along. For as long as I can remember, he’s been the kind of guy to “do-it-all” himself.
While most people might hire out work to a contractor, not my father. He was a die-hard do-it-yourselfer. He’d teach himself how to do anything. Then he’d order any tools needed to complete his project. Even if took ages to complete, he’d do it all himself.
When I was younger, I thought this was a fantastic waste of time and money. If he was going to spend all that money on books and tools, wouldn’t it cost about the same to hire a contractor?
I thought a contractor could complete the job faster, and do a better job. So I thought…
Now that I’m a homeowner myself, I realize I was wrong. Very wrong.
The Back Story
I grew up in very rural part of the world. If you can imagine a life living off-grid, you wouldn’t be far-off from the truth of how I grew up. We had power and water (most of the time), but not much else. It was an extreme DIY life. We did everything ourselves.
When most people in the modern world need something, they simply pop over to the store. Right? Growing-up, stores weren’t even an option. There just weren’t any stores nearby. We had to either fix it or build it ourselves.
For heat, we cut down trees and chopped the wood. It was the only heat we had. I spent many summers chopping wood…all summer long. While other kids might have been out at the beach enjoying summer vacation, I chopped wood. A lot of wood.
For protein, we fished and hunted wild game. It was the only meat we had to eat. Seriously. If we didn’t catch it or kill it ourselves, we didn’t eat it. It wasn’t until I moved away from home that I had my first opportunity to eat a real beef steak.
For a kid growing up, this kind of “do-it-yourself life” seemed like a hard life. Consumerism and a corporate job seemed so much easier. Seductively easier.
The chains of consumerism don’t look like chains until you’ve worn them for awhile.
This weekend I had my own little DIY job that inspired this post. .
One of our toilets finally rusted through the bolts (after 30 years), and was beginning to leak on the bathroom floor. It was time to replace it!
While we could have gone ultra-frugal and just replaced the rusted bolts, a new toilet seemed like a better idea.
Modern toilets are designed to use a lot less water than older 1.6 gallon toilets. Most models now flush with 1.28 gallons or less per flush.
Considering that our bi-monthly water bill costs more than a new toilet, it seemed like a good idea to upgrade to a high-efficiency model.
Before last weekend, I had never installed a new toilet in my life. Turns out, the job is extremely simple. It only took about 10 minutes of pre-studying (using Youtube) to understand the process.
The hardest part was actually getting the old toilet removed. Believe it or not. Time and rust had done their thing, making some of the bolts difficult to remove. Others just fell right off.
In total, the entire job took a couple hours.
How much did it cost? The toilet was $149 and the water supply line was $5.25. After sales tax, the total ended-up being $168.90. The cost will show up in our “August 2016 Dividend Income and Expenses” post.
Had I hired-out this project to a plumber, it would have easily cost twice as much. Those guys won’t show up for less than $150. Doing-it-yourself is simply the better option.
Being A Homeowner & Contractors
For many years I relied on my landlord to do most of the fixing….and I paid for it too. Most of the costs are hidden while you’re a renter.
This all changed after I became a homeowner. You could say that being a homeowner rekindled my DIY spirit…but that’s stretching the truth a bit.
What really changed my mind was the gigantic amount of money contractors charge to do extremely shitty work.
Contractors basically suck. They do terrible work. It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of contractor either — Painters, carpenters, flooring installers, furnace repair men, plumbers, fence builders, roofers….they all do shoddy work.
All the while charging you more than $100 per hour.
Which is ridiculous when you think about it. I’ve never made $100/hr in my life. If I ever did shoddy work like that, I would have been fired. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior seems to be the norm with all contractors I’ve used.
If you are a contractor that does excellent work, then I sincerely apologize. You are a rare breed amongst your brethren.
I think the main reason contractors do terrible work is that they’re in a big hurry all the time — they rush through the entire job. They hurry so much, the work isn’t quality.
That’s only when you can get them to show-up, of course. Most of the time they’ll start a job, leave it half-done, and then not show up for a month. Yet another common problem with contractors.
What they get away with is absolutely deplorable and unprofessional behavior.
A DIY Life
After years of trying to hire decent contractors, I realize the folly of my ways.
I’ve learned my lesson. My father was right. While I don’t take it to the same extreme he did, I now see the benefits of doing-it-yourself in most situations.
DIY isn’t a waste of money — Doing-it-yourself will save serious money!
I won’t beat around the bush either — doing-it-yourself does take a lot of time. But that’s because you’re doing it right.
As a homeowner, I want a quality job. I’ll take my time and do it right.
Contractors simply don’t care enough to do a quality job. Before they’ve finished, they’re already on the phone lining-up the next job. Quality doesn’t matter to a contractor like it does to a homeowner. The contractor doesn’t live with the results, you do.
It may take you longer, but the work will get done correctly.
I’ve often heard people say, “I don’t have to tools to do [the job] myself, and buying them would be too expensive”. Frankly, that’s a stupid excuse! The cost of tools shouldn’t frighten anyone away from a DIY job.
As I’ve shown in previous posts, you can get the most common tools almost for free. The kind of tools you’ll use all the time.
Any truly specialized tools can be rented from your local home improvement store — Tools like tile-saws and jack-hammers. You really don’t want to purchase those for one-off DIY jobs. Specialized tools are frequently better to rent.
Renting will often get you a better quality (and heavier duty) tool than you would normally purchase anyway.
But there’s numerous other options to consider when it comes to tools. Refer to my old post about tools for additional ideas.
Think you don’t have the skills required to do-it-yourself? A lot of people skip the DIY option because they believe they lack the skills to do it properly.
You know what? You couldn’t possibly do a worse job than any of the contractors I’ve hired. Even the most inept homeowner can do a better job than those guys! It’s because you care.
In most cases, DIY work is actually pretty easy. I’m serious! Most of the time it isn’t hard. All it takes is a little time to learn.
Before YouTube, most people had to learn from “handyman guidebooks”, like this one. Now all we need is YouTube. A few minutes of watching instructional videos can give you a good idea how to complete most DIY jobs. No books required.
Need even more help? Local home improvement stores, (like Home Depot) offer free workshops to get you started on a huge variety of projects.
Got a DIY project you want to tackle? Just do it! Jumping-in is absolutely the best possible way to learn!
Getting started is half the battle!
[Image Credit: Flickr]