DIY or Die Trying?(Part 1 of 2)February 3, 2022
Hiring a Design & Remodeling Firm
What’s really involved with hiring a design and remodeling firm to handle your home remodeling project? Everything they can do, you can do yourself, right? Let’s walk through some pros and cons so you can discern if hiring a firm is the right move for you.
Expanding Your Vision
Remember we said a good remodel begins with a vision? The vision needs to move from your imagination to the physical world so you and others working on the project can see it in full color. A professional designer will talk with you, listen to you and look at your living space. They will create a design that looks great and works for your unique home.
Since designers understand how different colors work with different materials and rooms and set certain moods, they can offer suggestions you may not think about on your own. Designers can also let you know if the paint you have your heart set on will actually work in your home or not and why.
Did you know professional home designers can help select building materials and fixtures too? They understand how all the individual components work together as a whole in the room. They also have access to unique materials not available to the general public. A professional home designer can expand your vision while reducing your stress.
One Stop Shopping – Construction Resources
When you hire a design and remodeling firm, they coordinate all the construction for you. A firm has all the sub-contractors you need at their disposal. You have one point of contract in your project manager. The firm makes sure everyone stays on schedule and within budget to complete your remodel according to the design you approved.
So instead of you locating a painter, floor installer and a cabinet person, the project manager looks at the approved design and materials information and rounds up these people for you. This frees up your time tremendously compared to the DIY remodel approach.
Using a firm means your project will run smoother and quicker than going it alone. Stressful situations will arise, but a remodeling firm knows how to navigate the various challenges that come with these projects. If supply chain issues, unexpected installation challenges, etc. come up, you’ll have a professional to guide you and take responsibility for executing the solution.
Couples can often become frustrated with each other during a DIY remodel. When progress is not as fast as one partner expected or the quality of the work is not up to par according to one or the other person, friction develops in the relationship. Using professionals takes the burden off of both homeowners so they can work together more easily.
Quality Work & Peace of Mind
The level of expertise a skilled plumber, wallpaper hanger or painter has stands out in the finished project. While a resourceful and skilled homeowner can make things work and learn how to properly complete certain tasks, professionals can often do the job at a higher level. Your project manager will hold each contractor accountable for doing a quality job. This provides an extra layer of oversight for your project.
With full DIY, if you break or ruin your materials during the project, you absorb financial loss. Using professionals means the firm will correct things on their dime, not yours. Design and remodeling firms are insured as well, so all the work will be covered.
So What’s the Catch?
There are so many great reasons to hire a design and remodeling firm. What’s not to like? Glad you asked. There are a few cons to hiring a firm you should consider.
Cost / Expense
The most obvious drawback of hiring a firm to do your design and construction is the cost. Depending on your specific needs, a firm can be more expensive than hiring several contractors yourself. Of course if you’re considering doing most or all of the work yourself, you could definitely save quite a bit of money compared to using a firm. In either case, carefully consider your total budget and how much time and energy you can commit to the project. The financial investment could make sense depending on your priorities and situation.
While projects handled by a firm generally finish faster, you may not be able to start when you expected. The timeline of your remodel is subject to the firm’s schedule and availability. Once it starts, there could be delays which you have no control over. If you go totally DIY, you can work whenever you want, including late into the night. Professionals will have their set working hours. They will schedule you based on the workload they have.
Along the same lines, you may not receive the attention you desire for your project if the firm is juggling numerous projects at one time. Depending on the firm you choose, they may be more “hands off” once construction begins or they may have limited time to discuss and oversee the project in person. Be sure to ask prospective firms how much personal oversight they provide and how many clients they handle at one time. This gives you an idea of what to expect so you can choose wisely.
Privacy / Disruption in Routine
Hiring a firm can mean lots of different people in your home. Depending on your project, there be several contractors (and their crews) coming in and out of your home for several weeks. This is the trade-off for receiving expert work for each aspect of your remodel. The alternative is to hire a general contractor/handyman skilled in several areas. This would reduce the number of people in your home, but you may lose some of the specialized knowledge that comes from tradesmen who focus on one specialty such as painting or plumbing.
If your version of DIY is to hire several sub-contractors, you’re expecting to have multiple people working in your home already. The difference with a firm is you’ll have one project manager who coordinates and manages everyone coming and going.
If your DIY plan is doing the labor yourself, consider if you want to minimize strangers in your home. Is privacy and the ability to choose when the noise of construction happens more important than professional oversight and guidance? Only you know the answer.
Three Tips for Hiring a Design & Remodeling Firm
Know Your Budget
Take an honest look at your finances and decide a realistic range for your remodeling budget. Search online to get an idea of cost. Prices will vary depending on what components you change or replace (cabinets, countertops, appliances, lighting and flooring). While People can be concerned a designer will inflate prices to exhaust their budget, being secretive about how much you can spend actually sabotages your process. Designers have access to a myriad of materials in all price ranges. Knowing your true budget enables them to best match your aesthetic taste with options you can afford. This saves you valuable time and frustration. It also ensures you don’t miss out on some great options due to the designer mistakenly thinking you don’t have the budget for them.
Ask Good Questions
Learn key information about your prospective design and remodeling firm with these specific questions.
Are you insured?
Do you have references?
Do you have a portfolio?
What is your minimum project amount?
What is your process?
Even if you have a recommendation for a design firm already, it usually pays to talk to several firms before signing an agreement. Each company has its own personality, process, strengths and schedule. Speaking to two or three design and remodeling firms gives you a sense of your options. You want a firm that makes you feel comfortable about the process. There’s a broad range of prices and approaches, so take time to find what works for you and your family.
Best of Both Worlds – E-Design
There is a third option that combines the freedom and affordability of DIY remodeling with the guidance and timesaving of hiring a firm. E-Design is a service that provides a professional design and professionally selected materials for your remodel. You as the homeowner receive a rendering and a list of the materials with prices so you can purchase them yourself and install them or hire subcontractors to install. Not all firms offer this service, but some such as SMZ Luxe Homes do offer E-Design.
DON’T Die Trying – Which Will You Choose?
Do It Yourself projects are popular these days, especially as we try to maximize our home remodeling budgets. Some homeowners thrive on the challenge of large home projects. Others prefer the assurance and free time a trained professional provides. Whether you’re a DIY Dynamo or a Diligent Delegator is not the most important thing. The key is to enjoy the process and create a space you’ll enjoy for years to come.
DIY Remodeling Quiz
Are you a DIY Dynamo or a Diligent Delegator? Find out with this quick quiz.
Repainting a room is…
a. Really fun
b. Tolerable if I have to do it
Taking things apart at home is…
a. A rewarding challenge
b. Something I avoid
c. A recipe for disaster
The last home service I paid for was…
a. Money down the drain
b. Expensive, but saved me some time
c. Worth every penny
When I think about selecting colors, materials and fixtures…
a. I build an idea board
b. I lose interest quickly
c. I get overwhelmed / impatient
Spending weekends installing a cabinet sounds like…
a. A cool adventure
b. It’s doable if I’m motivated
c.Too much trouble
I handle DIY projects by…
a. Following a plan to completion
b. Occasionally getting sidetracked
c. Leaving them to someone else
My favorite part of remodeling is
a. Getting my hands dirty
b. Choosing colors and fixtures
c. Knowing its over
A professional contractor…
a. Overcharges and under-delivers
b. Is good when necessary
c. Gives me peace of mind
My/Our timeline for completion is…
a. 6 months to a year
b. Open-ended / flexible
c. As soon as possible
After paying for the materials for my remodel…
a. There’s not much left in the budget
b. There’s enough to hire a handyman
c. There’s plenty left over for consultants
A = 3 points B = 2 points C = 1 point
Enter your total points for each letter below.
What type of remodeler are you?
Diligent Delegator (10 – 19 pts)
You enjoy imagining your home’s new look. You may even look forward to selecting colors and fixtures/appliances. Once you communicate what you want, you’re perfectly happy to let professionals handle the details. The investment in a firm is worth it to you. It frees up your valuable time for producing more income, time with family, community service or leisure.
DIY Dynamo (20 – 30 pts)
You get fired up at the thought of a new creative project, even (or especially) if it means you must learn some new skills. The thought of shopping for materials and watching how-to videos is invigorating to you. (Or at least it is a worthy trade-off to keep more money in your pocket.) Rolling up your sleeves to paint, hammer, lay tile, etc. is great fun in your book. You take pride in saving money and showing off your handiwork.