Most people undertake DIY projects to save money. And remodeling, renovating and repairing your home yourself can indeed save thousands of dollars. According to HomeAdvisor, you can install a new roof on your home for $2,500 to $5,000, versus the $5,000 to $10,000 average to hire a professional. Or replace your home’s insulation for an average of about $962, compared to $2,937 if you outsource the work, according to the latest American Housing Survey (AHS) from the US Census Bureau.
But not all DIY projects are created equal when it comes to cost-effectiveness. Theoretically, you could tile your floors yourself for, say, a third of what the pros cost. But given the additional need for expensive equipment, a skilled approach and a lot of time to get the job done right, the savings are often less than you expected.
Here’s a guide to identifying the best money-saving DIY projects, along with some examples.
What types of DIY projects save you the most money?
When identifying which home renovation projects offer the most economy, look at labor costs — and specifically, where labor costs make up the bulk of total costs. Painting a house is an example: the painting services amount to between 70% and 85% of your total costs. In contrast, when you install granite countertops in the kitchen, the biggest expenses are on the stony things themselves; the labor only adds $5 to $10 per square foot for the job.
Bathroom/kitchen renovations or remodels will often save you the most money of any home improvement project due to the higher (and often specialized) labor costs involved. For example, hiring workers to renovate a bathroom could cost you as much as $75 an hour and make up up to 60% of your budget. Highly skilled professionals, such as plumbers or electricians, often cost even more per hour.
Of course, some jobs require the services of a licensed professional — usually those with electrical wiring or plumbing (which is why people often leave sinks, bathtubs, stoves, and dishwashers in the same spot when remodeling). Yet it can save you half the project costs by doing the less specialist parts of the renovation yourself.
DIY Savings by Project Type
The price tag on a DIY project is almost always lower, saving between 50% and 80% on a comparable contractor’s work, according to AHS data. Here are some examples of common projects and their costs.
|Project||% of jobs done do-it-yourself||Professional job costs (average)||DIY costs (average)||Saving amount|
|Rec room addition/reno||47.67%||$22,480||$10,760||$11,720|
Source: US Census Bureau, American Housing Survey
5 DIY projects that will save you the most money
These home renovations offer particularly juicy savings when you do them (or at least a lot of them) yourself.
1. Add or replace a shed
Professional costs: $9,149
do-it-yourself costs: $3,883
Total Savings: $5,266
Installing a shed or garage can add some much-needed storage space to your home. Keep in mind that if you plan to do it yourself, you will need to factor in additional costs and time for materials and their delivery and tools to assemble it. But it is a relatively simple construction job.
2. Add or replace windows
Professional costs: $5,097
do-it-yourself costs: $1,493
Total Savings: $3,604
Adding new windows will breathe new life into a room in your home. And by replacing windows with energy-efficient models, you can lower your utility bill, saving more on the project. Again, this is the kind of job that doesn’t require super-specialized skills.
3. Install a patio
Professional costs: $10,730
do-it-yourself costs: $2,995
Total Savings: $7,735
A deck creates an extra room that you can use when the weather behaves. And it can be attractive if you’re considering selling your home in the future. If you are planning to install one, keep in mind that wooden decks will provide the best return on your investment. While you may need a professional to perform some aspects, doing certain parts of the job — like demolishing an old deck and cleaning up after the new one is in — can still save you money.
4. Bathroom renovation
Professional costs: $19,130
do-it-yourself costs: $5,720
Total Savings: $13,410
Adding or upgrading a bathroom gives your home more functionality. It earns back at least half the cost, according to home improvement‘s Cost vs Value Report, and Opendoor estimate that it increases the value of your home by an average of 5.7%. Keep in mind that if you want to rearrange the fixtures in an existing bathroom, you’ll probably need to hire a professional plumber.
5. Add a fence
Professional costs: $3,765
do-it-yourself costs: $1,457
Total Savings: $2,308
A fence isn’t much of a savings in pure dollar terms (because it’s a fairly inexpensive project) — but in percentage terms, it’s pretty good: DIY costs are almost a third of the professional cost. And given its simplicity, it’s a sensible project to undertake, even if you’re a novice DIYer.
Will a DIY Project Save You Money?
DIY projects save dollars, the statistics show. But statistics don’t always tell the full story.
Remember that time is also money. When deciding whether to create a project, consider the investment you need to make on days, nights, and weekends. Unless you’re quite experienced, you’ll go slower than a pro, and so your DIY project will take longer to complete — even if you factor in the delays that inevitably occur with contractors.
Do you also have the expertise to do advanced work? If you don’t, trying to DIY can be more time and expense, especially if you have to pay someone to fix your mistakes.
Another factor to consider is HOA or municipal permit requirements. Many jobs require a work permit. Some permits are issued only to professional contractors. Some associations require you to hire a professional for the safety of yourself and others.
Finally, what is your motive for the project? If it’s just for fun, it’s fine for DIY. But if it’s more to increase the value of your home, especially for an imminent resale, you may be thinking twice. Potential buyers can easily spot amateur jobs and are often turned down by them.
In short, when considering DIY projects, focusing on the whys — as well as the money — can help you determine their worthiness.