Q: When should I take on efficiency projects myself, and when should I hire a pro?
A: When it comes to home do-it-yourself projects, I recently asked myself, “Why hire someone to do a mediocre job when I can do a mediocre job myself?”
That may sound odd, but I hired a contractor to remodel my kitchen. Needless to say, I was not happy with the quality of the work.
Unfortunately, hiring a contractor based on positive online reviews and references doesn’t always guarantee quality work.
One reason to DIY instead of hiring a contractor is if you are convinced you can do a better job. Naturally, this depends on the scope of the project and how much you know about the work.
There are additional reasons to tackle a home-efficiency project yourself:
You are unable to find a contractor who is available and reasonably priced.
You need the work completed in a tight timeframe or during odd hours.
You are certain you can save a lot of money.
The job is one you may enjoy doing yourself.
On the flip side, there are several good reasons to hire a contractor:
Specialized equipment is required. For example, the best wall insulators use a fill tube, which results in a higher R-value. Some contractors use an infrared camera to review wall framing and air leaks.
Specialized materials are needed. Attics need proper ventilation. Contractors may have easier access to buying attic insulation baffles or roof vents.
There is a safety issue. I once moved insulation in our attic and accidentally stepped onto the sheetrock ceiling and fell through to my waist. My legs were dangling in the air, and the room below was littered with broken sheetrock and insulation. I wasn’t hurt but could have been. As I repaired the damage, I regretted the decision not to hire a contractor.
Expertise is required beyond your capability, such as tuning a furnace or repairing holes in a sheetrock wall to match the wall around it.
Tackling the project yourself will save little or no money. I discovered years ago some contractors can install insulation cheaper than I can buy it.
As you consider whether to do the job yourself, research the required tools and supplies. There are amazing resources online.
When you search for information about how to insulate an attic or how to air seal a home, you will find fact sheets and video tutorials from contractors, home improvement shows, big-box suppliers and material manufacturers.
YouTube videos often show experts making the installation of anything seem simple. But beware: Some of these videos are aimed at other experts and not DIY homeowners.
To ensure you get technically sound information, visit the Energy Star website at www.energystar.gov. An energy auditor is another great resource, providing specifics about the materials you will need, and information about local contractors and suppliers.
Don’t tackle energy-efficiency projects yourself before doing thorough research. That upfront knowledge will help you even if you decide to hire a contractor. You will be able to identify and hire a contractor who knows you recognize a quality job.