By Gene And Katie Hamilton
For most of our lives we've been buying and remodeling houses and writing about it. Way back in 1991 we wrote Remodeling: When It’s Your Time, or Your Money, a story for the Washington Home section of the Washington Post. We were in the trenches of renovating a charming old folk Victorian on Maryland’s eastern shore where we were knee-deep in plaster dust and hellbelt on transforming an ugly duckling into a Cinderella story.
Recently I took a look back at the story and some of the jobs and cost analyses and compared the historic data with the current information here on DIYORNOT. In all those years the cost of housing, building materials and labor have certainly gone up, way up. And tools and materials have been developed for the DIY homeowner making it easier for a successful job. But we still caution homeowners to hire a licensed contractor, like an electrician or plumber, when a building regulation requires a licensed pro. Better safe, then sorry.
Not too surprising some of the upgrades popular in the 1990s are popular today because they're basic improvements on home fix up lists. Here's a look at five of the jobs we analyzed then and a link to the current costs.
Popular then, popular today
Installing attic stairs to create an accessible storage area continues to be an improvement to any house in need of storage space. Despite a 55% savings then and 66% now we continue to caution cutting a large hole in your attic floor and ceiling is best left to a contractor unless you’re a handy homeowner with carpentry skills, tools and a helper for the heavy lifting. Install an Attic Stairs
Today: Pro $657, DIY $220 saving 66%
Way back when: Pro $225, DIY $100 saving 55%
Painting a room, on the other hand, is a definite job for even a budding DIYer because the investment in tools and talent is low and it’s one of the best bang for your DIY buck, that can transform a room. Plus, you can paint over any mistakes! Painting was always a job we did because of the savings and satisfaction factor. Paint a Room
Today: Pro $1,842 (15x22 ft room) DIY $205 saving 88%
Way back when costs: Pro $285, DIY $90 saving 68%
Refinishing a wood floor is a must-do project in any home that has durable hardwood floors. Sanding to remove the old worn and often stained surface and applying a fresh new natural finish makes an old home look new. The hassle is removing everything in the room and sealing it off to prevent grit and dirt from permeating the house. Don't be tempted by the big DIY saving, this is best done by a professional floor sander who has a well-tuned machine and know how to use it. Refinish a Hardwood Floor
Today: Pro $1,210 (15x20 ft room) DIY $215 saving 82%
Way back when: Pro $300 DIY $80 saving 73%
Installing fiberglass batt insulation in a 1,000 square feet of attic space will lower heating and cooling bills, but it’s not a pleasant job manhandling insulation up to the attic, working on your hands and knees (wear knee pads) and overhead in a confined area. That said it's a good job for a DIYer and continues to be a long-term investment well worth your time. Plus you’ll enjoy lower energy bills in the future. Install Insulation
Today: Pro $1,426 DIY $880 saving 38%
Way back when: Pro $650 DIY $310 saving 52%
Removing 2 layers of wallpaper in a 10x12 foot room is the epitome of grunt work
because it a messy, time consuming job but the result is a new wall surface to paint or decorate. This is a good DIY job that requires a low investment in tools and material. Remove Wallpaper
Today: Pro $366 (10x12 foot room) DIY $75 saving 86%
Way back when Pro $216 DIY $22 saving 90%
Bottom line: Then and now some upgrades are worth doing yourself if you have the skills and tools and time to take them on, while others, despite a big saving, are best left to a contractor who has the experience and license to do the job.
Source: May 2, 1991 Washington Post