Hire A Contractor or DIY?

Hire A Contractor or DIY?

Never has there been more home-repair information available than today. “Just Google It” is the ever ready expression any Do-IT-Yourselfer’s needs. Yet, there are certain areas that the DIY’er, like the football kicker, should think twice about before tackling. A recent email typifies the problem.

“My husband and I need to replace the ceiling in our 100+ year old apartment in Manhattan. Part of the ceiling has fallen leaving a 3 X 3 foot hole in the lath and plaster and there are thin cracks over the entire ceiling. It looks like it all could fall. Are we required to hire someone certified for lead removal or can we do it ourselves? My husband has done home improvement stuff, worked for a contractor during summer in college, and is now an architect, so he is more than capable of removing the old and putting up the new, but I’m unsure of the laws. Which NYC code pertains to this? Local law 1? And what about the EPA’s RRP?”

If you’re doing the work yourself and the work is non-structural, no one should be able to stop you, especially if it is a condo. However, I would be concerned with asbestos as well as lead. As this chart shows, lead was used widely in buildings built prior to 1978.

Incidence of lead in your home

Probability Of Lead In Your Home

I definitely would not do the work and try to live in the space while doing the work, especially if there are children around. Local law 1 was passed in NYC to prevent lead poisoning of children and would only apply if children were living in the house. Lead can make children very sick and cause permanent brain and nerve damage. It can also result in learning difficulties and behavior problems.

Homeowners have no responsibilities under the new EPA RRP rules. You can do your own work as you please, but are “encouraged” to follow lead safe practices. Before doing your work, we suggest you read Lead Paint Safety: A Field Guide for Painting, Home Maintenance, and Renovation Work. It is eye-opening. You may decide the work is too involved. You may want to find a certified contractor to perform the removal work.

There are other areas where you might want to consult or hire a professional. Plumbing, wiring and natural gas lines come quickly to mind. Continuing with the football analogy, do you pay or play. Bankrate has some suggestions:

Assess your skills – map out each step in the process. Are there places you need help and what happens if the project goes south?

Consider the costs – usually the place you save with a DIY project, perhaps as much as 50%, is labor. It’s called sweat equity. Many contractors earn their money finishing projects that DIYers started. Consider also that contractors may be able to buy materials cheaper than you can. Really, what is your time worth?

Evaluate your options – The project may take longer if you go it alone, or you may be able to give more attention to detail. You may value the privacy of your home and take pride in the completion of the project.

Finally, get multiple bids on the project. Just talking with experts may point out aspects you hadn’t considered. Make sure the contractor is qualified and if you need advice or help, drop me a line.



About the Editor:

RJ Diaz is a renovation and remodeling construction management executive in New York City. RJ is passionate about high quality, well-crafted construction and requires the same from every member and subcontractor on his team. RJ started RenovatingNYC in 2010 to share the best resources in the New York City renovation industry. For advice about your own renovation or remodeling plans, preliminary cost estimates and project opportunities, please contact RJ using the form below.


The Courage to Do It Yourself: Start with basic projects for the small wins – The Epoch Times