DIY This NOT That

A Dollars and Cents Look at 10 Home Improvement Jobs to Help You Make a Smart Decision Whether to Do It Yourself or Hire a Contractor.

By Gene And Katie Hamilton

Replacing Siding with Vinyl

How do you decide which improvement jobs to do yourself? Not an easy question to answer because of all the factors to consider. We like to break down a job before deciding and determine exactly what’s involved, what DIY experience and tools are required and how much is saved by doing the job. Sometimes hiring out the work is the most expedient, especially when the job needs to be done quickly. And if the work is time intensive (and we don’t have it), it’s definitely a job for a contractor. Unless you’re a licensed pro like an electrician it’s not wise for a homeowner to run a new electrical line, or any job where experience, tools and knowing the building codes are essential.

Here’s are 10 popular related repairs and upgrades with suggestions of what we’d do and what we’d hire out. The DIY cost is for materials, the Contractor cost includes labor and material.

1. Laying a Vinyl Floor - Tiles vs. Sheet Flooring

Vinyl is a flooring material that provides an easy-to-maintain, durable and long-lasting surface so either vinyl tiles or sheet flooring is a good investment. We’d go with the 12-inch tiles not the sheet flooring because tiles are easy to handle, and can be cut with a low investment in tools and talent, unlike sheet goods which are large and difficult-to-handle material so you have to make tricky cuts around cabinets and permanent installations. And a miscut can be a costly mistake.

Vinyl Tiles: DIY $285 saving 42% vs. Contractor $460

Vinyl Sheet Floor DIY $465 saving 35% vs. Contractor $722

2. Enclosing a Bathtub - Curved Rod vs. Tub Door

A shower curtain is not permanent like a tub door but a curved rod adds more interior space and takes little time to install. A tub door is permanent addition but comes in multiple parts and pieces of hardware and it can make access difficult for those with limited mobility. A curved rod is our best pick.

Curved Rod DIY $45 saving 63% vs. Contractor $122

Tub Door DIY $200 saving 58% vs. Contractor $482

3. Wall Beadboard - Beadboard Wallcovering vs. Wainscoting

Beadboard wallcovering is a look-alike for wainscoting, an enhancement to walls that add warmth and charm to otherwise ordinary walls. If money is no concern, and you want to use your carpentry experienceand tools, go for it. However, the wallcovering is the easy and economical option for a handy homeowner.

Beadboard wallcovering DIY $115 saving 82% vs. Contractor $661

Wainscoting DIY $600 saving 51% vs. Contractor $1228

4. Carpeting - Wall-to-wall vs. Carpet Tiles

Nothing does more to create an almost instant fresh and uniform background in a room than carpeting and since carpet tiles are now readily available they offer a choice between dealing with square 18, 19 and 24-inch tiles or 12 to 15 foot width rolls of carpeting. Either is a good choice and depends on your budget.


DIY $500 saving 37% vs. Contractor $801

Carpet Tiles

DIY $620 saving 43 % vs. Contractor $1098

5. Patio Sliding Door - Replace Rollers vs. Replace the Door

If a sliding door does not open and close easily the solutions may be simply replacing the rollers, not replace the entire door. Both jobs involve manhandling the door - not a trivial pursuit. Carpentry skills and tools are required to replace a door, while replacing the hardware can be learned on the job.

Replace Rollers DIY $25 saving 72% vs. Contractor $90

Replace the Door DIY $1,400 saving 39% vs. Contractor $2,315

6. Ceiling -Tin vs. Tin-look

The ceilings of some old buildings were finished in decorative pressed metal panels and they’re a popular addition in homes today. You can choose between 2-by-4-foot metal panels or 12-inch fire-retardant recycled material, both installed on wood furring strips and finished with a cornice molding to conceal the joint where it meets the wall. Both are attractive choices based on your budget because the look-alike product is a dead ringer for the real thing.

Pressed Metal Ceiling DIY $675 saving 37% vs. Contractor $1080

Tin-look Ceiling DIY $375 saving 27% vs. Contractor $516

7. Bathtub Surround - Ceramic Tile vs. Fiberglass

Old bathroom walls enclosing the three walls around a tub are subject to damage from excess moisture and often need replacement. The work involves removing the old and replacing the sub-surface for a sound backing for either ceramic tile or 3-piece fiberglass panels that fit together. Both new surfaces provide a durable, easy-to-clean and long-lasting enclosure.

Ceramic Tile DIY $705 saving 65% Contractor $2015

Fiberglass DIY $265 saving 53% Contractor $569

8. Kitchen Cabinets - Paint vs. Reface

You can avoid replacing cabinets with a coat of paint or by refacing them; one more budget-friendly than the other, but less costly than replacing them entirely. Both are a good choice if cabinets are in sound condition and well placed. Painting involves preparing all the surfaces, priming and painting, usually with two topcoats. Refacing cabinets involves a new laminate surface being applied to base cabinets, doors, sides, and drawer fronts.

Paint DIY $105 saving 91% vs. Contractor $864

Reface DIY $605 saving 92% vs. Contractor $8150

9. Pressure Washing - Deck vs. Exterior Siding

Both jobs are essential to keeping your home’s exterior dirt and mildew-free so consider these must-do home maintenance, especially if your home enjoys a shady side. Between a deck and siding we suggest power washing a deck not a 2-story house that requires ladders and possibly scaffolding to reach the upper levels.

Pressure Wash a Deck DIY $130 saving 44% Contractor $232

Pressure Wash Siding DIY $175 saving 56% Contractor $396

10. Gutters - Clean vs. Replace

The gutters and downspouts of a house prevent damage to its foundation from excessive rainwater. While they may need replacing, removing debris and a build of leaves twice a year may be all that’s needed to keep water away from the house. Our best advice is to first clean the gutters, observe how the water moves through them during a rainfall and look for holes or sagging downspouts that may need repair. Consider replacing them after you observe them working (or not).

Clean Gutters DIY $35 saving 73% vs. Contractor $131

Replace Gutters DIY $400 saving 43% vs. Contractor $713

Don't want to get involved doing it ourself? Click Home Advisor, a free referral service that connects homeowners with local contractors.

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