100 Words On: Why It Doesn’t Always Pay to Do It Yourself

With the current economic malaise continuing to strain household budgets, it’s no wonder that a growing number of people have decided to stretch their incomes by taking on more do-it-yourself tasks. As a result, thrifty folk from all walks of life are now boldly tackling complex and ambitious jobs that they’d never dream of handling in better times. Even so,   DIY projects can be financially risky too.

The bottom line: Do-it-yourself projects can certainly help stretch your income — but they can also end up costing you a great deal more if the job is done incorrectly the first time around.

Photo Credit: Qfamily


  1. 1


    When I am tackling a project for the first time, I seach YouTube to see if they have any instructional videos. These videos are a lot more helpful than a book or magazine.

    When you start off knowing what to do and have all of the necessary tools and materials, it’s way more likely the project will be completed properly.

  2. 3


    When I got the estimate for painting our two porch floors I got out the brushes and did it myself! However, when we needed our upstairs hall and stairwell painted (10 foot ceilings) we let the pro do it. It is all about knowing your skill sets.

    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      Speaking of not knowing your skill sets, I love watching “Renovation Realities” on the DIY network. Have you ever seen that show? People take on some home renovation tasks they have no business doing. I saw one couple decide to create an “open floor plan” and, in the process, ended up removing a load-bearing wall — which required professionals to come in and fix. They probably should have checked out YouTube on how to check for load-bearing walls before they started knocking down all the walls. LOL!

  3. 5

    tracee says

    i learned this the hard way…. i am not good at installing floors. it ended up costing me double. oh well, live and learn right?

  4. 7


    Recntly, our kitchen sink backed up! My usual solution is to call a plumber or rooter company. I did that on Sunday, however no could come over so I took apart the trap and cleaned it out myself. I probably saved a couple hundred dollars, although thatwas just a bonus.

    • 8

      DC says


      If you have a double sink with a food disposal on one side, here’s a trick I’ve learned.

      Block the non-disposal side (typically using a drain plug) and begin running water in the disposal side. When you have maybe a couple of inches of water, press down on the drain plug to make sure it stays in place, and switch on the disposal. The disposal kicking on will cause a pressure surge, which is usually — but not always — enough to unclog the drain. Works most of the time for me.

      • 9

        Len Penzo says

        Hey, I’m going to try that the next time my sink backs up, DC! Thanks for sharing that tip.

        (Thanks to my great readers, you never know what you’re going to learn here at Len Penzo dot Com!)

      • 10

        Mary says

        I pour baking soda in the drain followed by vinegar. This will foam up and after a minute I pour water down the drain and I can hear the water running thru the pipes!

    • 13

      Len Penzo says

      Oh, Barb! Housekeeping is one task I think most people would prefer to always leave to the professionals. I know the Honeybee thinks that’s how it should be. LOL!

  5. 14

    Kathleen says

    There is another consideration when deciding whether or not to tackle a project yourself. Does it make sense financially? For instance, my husband (who is retired) could do most of the lawn maintenance himself. However, it would take quite a while and, quite possibly, end up with him in the hospital with an injured back. On the other hand, paying someone else to do the lawn work frees him to spend more time on his video transfer business, something he enjoys immensely. He gets paid more for doing something he enjoys (and is physically able to do) than he would save by doing the lawn work himself.

    • 15

      Len Penzo says

      Me too, Kathleen. For the past year or so I’ve finally let a professional take care of my lawn — after 20 years of doing it myself. The good news is, for folks who choose to do their lawns themselves, the risk of screwing something up so badly that a pro would have to be called in to fix things at great expense is pretty low. At least it seems that way to me.

  6. 16

    Dan says

    For those do-it-yourself types just remember that just because the local hardware store sells it doesn’t make it legal or safe to use. As a master plumber I have many many times have the misfortune of telling the homeowner the new remodel job they did themselves has to all be torn out because of no permit and not installed according to local codes. This includes tearing open all walls, floors, etc to expose all items to the local inspector. This issue always comes out when you try to sell the home and inspections are required prior to the sale which tends to colapse quickly after I show up with the bad news. Paint all you want but remember that structural and mechanical items require permits and licenses not so we can make money but to insure your safety.

  7. 18


    I often consider the mental stress involved. I know that if I suck at something there’s no point to stress myself out lol. Did I mention that I’m impatient? If I know I suck at something I hire a professional.

  8. 19

    Spedie says

    I leave plumbing, electrical and installation of floors to the pro’s. But I have no problems ripping up and disposing of carpet to save money on the job.

    I recently got a $3,300 estimate for tuckpointing my chimney. The inside of it was fine. Hubby and I got out there and did it ourselves. It took about 15 hours of work (15 total for both of us) and expense of less than $100 in materials.

    Tuck pointing is a task most homeowners can do if you don’t mind ladders. You Tube was very helpful as was the internet. Yes, I bought Type N cement..

    I refuse to pay someone $150 an hour or more for manual labor.

    BTW: The chimney looks excellent. Hubby and I were very careful and made sure we did it the right way. We are perfectionists.

    It is ridiculous what some of these contractors will charge!

  9. 20


    There are somethings that I think you can most surely tackle on your own with having to worry about the cost. There are however something that I think should be left to professionals. In this day and age though everyone who claims to be a pro/expert may not be.

  10. 21


    Years ago my brother and I replaced a screen on the sliding patio door. It felt like forever and my fingers hurt like hell. Looking back, I would gladly spend the money to avoid that time lost and the pain!

  11. 22


    While I agree that DIY projects don’t always turn out to be good from a cost/benefit perspective, one should also factor in the knowledge gained during the DIY process. I learn best while doing, and while my first try replacing a toilet may have been a bit touch and go, it definitely made the next time far easier! Eventually I think there’s an ROI!

  12. 23

    Ray says

    Up until I was 42 my weapon of choice was a pen since I made a living selling. Then I started buying rental properties. Had almost no tools or knowledge of how to use them. I used a handyman for the first year or so and watched carefully as to how he did things. Then I started tackling issues myself and found that not only did I enjoy it,I also saved a ton of dough. Eventually I wound up with 53 units and did everything myself with the exception of roofs.Some mistakes…sure…but thats how you learn. I wound up learning basic electrical,plumbing,carpentry (make my own cabinets now) painting and drywall (which I do hate).
    Some of my fellow landlords would pay a plumber through the nose to free up a bathroom sink p-trap.That is a whole 3 minute job most of the time.

    This is a sore point with me.The govt.pushes college on everyone.Not everybody is wired for that.How many grads have small fortunes in student debt that are flipping burgers or changing bedpans?

    We need blue collar workers. Folks will look down their noses at plumbers.That plumber makes a very good living.By golly,he gets paid every time he starts his van up. The day that blue collar disappears is the day that the country shuts down.

    It’s a crying shame that the days of apprenticeship programs is all but gone. Part of the problem is that youngsters believe that they should start at the top and heaven forbid that they get their hands dirty or have to lift something.

    • 24

      Deb12 says

      I’ve done some things myself if I can find a You Tube video and the risk and cost is low. I bought a switch for my clothes washer for $100.00. It was out of warranty and the tech visit would have been $65 at least. Other than unplugging and opening the washer, all I had to do was unplug a gizmo, plug in its replacement then turn it on. I was lucky that the error code was very clear.

      When my dishwasher went out, I couldn’t troubleshoot it accurately and the parts were much more expensive, so the trusty service tech was my best friend.

      I agree that many young people are funneled directly into college when they haven’t been exposed to other possibilities in the trades. Maybe they have never even talked to a plumber!

      HVAC, appliance service, plumbing, electrical and so many more good industries are scraping to fill positions with sharp people who can work with customers and present themselves well. The pay is decent, though it does involve work.

      An interesting take is Mike Rowe’s presentation to congress about this issue. I believe it is also on You Tube.

  13. 25


    I YouTube or Google the problem. If it’s an “easy” fix for me, then I attempt it. If it has multiple parts that make me cringe, I outsource. :-)

    • 26

      Len Penzo says

      My son uses YouTube to learn a lot of things too. It really is a valuable tool that way!


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