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5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Call a Contractor

01/23/2013 08:34 am ET | Updated Mar 25, 2013
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Completing do-it-yourself home improvement projects is a great way to save money. However, if you become overambitious and try to complete a project outside your range of knowledge, you could end up spending far more to have a professional repair your mistakes than if you'd simply hired one in the first place.

If you objectively observe the project at hand and carefully consider your general skill level, it is possible to determine whether you should tackle your next home improvement project. But if you're in doubt, ask yourself the following five questions to arrive at a conclusion:

1. Have I Done This Before?
If the answer to this question is no, that doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't take on the project. However, you should have at least some general experience. For example, most minor home improvement or repair jobs, such as replacing a kitchen faucet, are fairly simple. But, if you're considering taking on an electrical project for the first time, you may want to think twice.

2. Have I Consulted the Experts?
Unless you've previously completed the exact job you're considering, always consult the experts. Stop by your local hardware store or home improvement center and run the project by an associate for tips and advice. Disclose your general skill level, and ask whether they think you can handle the job.

3. Do I Understand the Risk of My DIY Failure?
Before you even begin the project, consider what will happen if you don't complete it properly. It could become quite costly, especially if you end up having to call in a contractor to finish the job and clean up your mess.

4. Will Doing It Myself Truly Save Money?
If you have to purchase a bunch of expensive tools before you even start the project, you may be better off calling in a professional. This is especially true if the tools you must buy are specific to your current job and won't be very useful for future projects. For example, most drywall projects require expensive tools, which can seriously increase the overall cost.

5. Do I Have the Right Contractor?
If you end up deciding that the job is too much for you and you need to hire a contractor, don't pick the first name you find in the phone book. Instead, take the time to do extensive research and call at least three contractors. Most should be willing to provide you with a free estimate. Ask for references and follow up with them to find out the contractor's reputation. The last thing you want is to pay for a job poorly done.

Final Thoughts
The biggest thing that stands in the way of making the right decision concerning your home improvement projects is your own ego. However, if you take on new projects in a slow and steady manner and learn from your mistakes, you can gradually work your way toward becoming a DIY expert.

What DIY projects have you successfully completed?

David Bakke is a homeowner in Atlanta who frequently takes on DIY projects for his house. He contributes lifestyle and money management advice to the blog, Money Crashers Personal Finance.

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