Know When To Call A Pro

Written by bprescottFebruary 1, 2012
A contractor heading toward a ladder

Doing It Yourself of Hiring A Pro

 Remodeling can consume your life from the very beginning. It can easily become the most important thing in your life from the second the thought of remodeling creeps into your mind to the time when you actually say, “Honey, let's redo the bathroom,” to the point where you think, “Whose idea was this?” to the day when you finally say, “Glory be to God, it's finished.” Everyone is affected by remodeling, even in a house with multiple bathrooms. That's why in most cases the faster the bathroom remodel, the better. To achieve that goal means putting in the time before the tear-down so that the redesign and rebuilding process can take place on time and on budget. This can mean hiring professionals for all or some or none of the job. Your participation can range from managing the work of others to doing all or some of the work yourself.

To help you decide whether you want to hire professionals or do the work yourself, begin by thinking about your time, talents, and budget. You may know exactly what you want in a new bathroom and want to do some, but not all, of the work, so hiring contractors is the way to go. Or you may be clueless and need input and advice and someone to oversee the project, such as a general contractor, a designer, or design center professional. You may fall somewhere in between and want to manage the project and hire the contractors needed, or perhaps do some of the work yourself while getting reassurance and advice from a bathroom designer. Or you may want to do it all from start to finish. It's one small room with many options, so make it the best it can be.

Figuring Out What You Can Do Yourself

Before you don your hard hat, call your local building inspector to find out what type of jobs you can and cannot do during your bathroom remodeling project. Some jurisdictions allow homeowners to do all the work, some require you to pass a proficiency test first, and others require pros to do all the plumbing and electrical work. Checking in with your building department and being honest with yourself about your skill level are the best policies.

Pick up a copy of local building codes that pertain to bathrooms and become familiar with the specifications. If you decide to do the work yourself, you’re responsible for making sure that all materials and workmanship meet those codes.

Know what type of wiring, electrical boxes, and plumbing pipe that your local code requires before purchasing and installing anything. Just because something is sold at your local hardware store or home center doesn’t mean that it meets your local building codes. If in doubt, take a sample to the building department and ask questions.

After you know the requirements of the local code, you can decide just what makes sense for you to do. All codes basically allow you to do the grunt work, and much of bathroom remodeling work is just that. Grunt work is our affectionate term for unskilled labor that even unskilled laborers don't want to do. This work includes jobs such as removing wallpaper, scraping tiles off the wall, removing layers of flooring, unhooking and removing old fixtures and faucets, and repairing a water-damaged window. Note: Any and all repetitive jobs like these- you know, the kind that require more brawn than brains- are ideal for homeowners.

The only reason to do the work yourself is to save on labor charges. Hey, that isn’t so bad, is it? Some of you may even enjoy the extra cash in your pocket. It at least makes grunt work bearable. Understand, however, that you don't have to do all the work yourself, and to help you save on labor, the rest of this chapter explores the different roles contractors and subcontractors play in a remodeling project. From there, you can decide just how much or how little you want to be involved. But, whatever you do, don't skip this section when you’re hiring out the project, because understanding the players can save you big bucks when you do.

Acting as Your Own Contractor

A skilled and savvy homeowner can do just about anything, including remodeling a bathroom. The ideal situation for this scenario is when the homeowners have more than one bathroom, so they don’t feel pressured to complete the job quickly and possibly short-circuit the work. When you have the time and want to tackle the job, go for it.

Acting as a contractor is a full-time job. For putting up with all the hassles of supervising subcontractors and trying to keep the customer happy, contractors usually earn about 20 percent of the total cost of the remodeling project. That can run into some real dough for a large project.

When you’re willing to take on this role, you deserve that 20 percent savings. The most important point to remember is that you have to earn this money by taking on the role of general contractor, and you need to know that doing so doesn’t always mean an automatic savings. Exact duties of the general contractor are outlined in the section “Kicking Back While the Pros Do the Work,” later in this chapter. Remember to always hire pros. If you hire inept subcontractors and don't manage them well, that 20 percent saving may seem like petty cash when the wrath of your household descends on you.

On the other hand, if you have managerial skills and a flexible work schedule and enjoy a confrontation or two, you can be good at the job. You have control of the project and get a bathroom that is exactly what you want. Another nice thought is that general contractors usually don't do the actual work; instead, they watch others do it. So if you think you can do it, you can cut your budget and still not get splinters.

Sharing the Workload with the Pros

Another alternative is to do some of the work yourself. You may be a whiz-bang painter or want to hone your skills at installing floor tile. You can do part of the work, but be forewarned that you better be on schedule and not delay the work progress, especially when the work involves sequential steps that tie into the inspection process. If you're going to do part of the job, do it right the first time and do it on time.

Of course, in the best of all worlds, you have a talented relative who just loves to help out. Uncle Harry may be a plumber, or your sister-in-law's favorite pastime is laying tile. For the cost of a couple of beers and a bratwurst, you may be able to tap into these sources of help or at least get some valuable advice. But be advised that financial dealings with friends and relatives can get a bit sticky if they don't work out as planned. Just imagine yourself in small claims court facing down Uncle Harry.

If you want to be a part of the crew but lack the know-how, be a gofer. Instead of paying a skilled tradesperson to make a coffee or materials run, you do it.


From ‘Bathroom Remodeling For Dummies’
Copyright © 2003 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.



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