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Hemingway 02-25-2009 03:10 PM

DIY versus Professional
Why does it feel like I can't be allowed to do it myself?

I appreciate professionals and craftsmen, and recognize that they have honed skills that can make a job go so much faster with better results. I learned this lesson the hard way, finishing drywall; getting a corner bead correct - looks easier than it is. I had all the right tools and materials, but just not enough experience for it to go quickly or look right when I was finished.

But I've also had many disappointing experiences with guys who didn't know what they were doing and didn't care. Especially in auto repair. So I believe in craftsmanship, and in safety, and in professionalism, but I don't want to spend my money on someone just because they claim to be a "professional" if I am going to get average results.

On the Electrical board I saw a short discussion on how pro's use metal staples while a DIYer will use Nylon cable straps, and you can always tell an electrical job was NOT done by an electrician if the Nylon was used. The NEC says the Nylon straps are safer because they won't penetrate the cable by mistake, which is why I use them, but an electrician knows how to staple and he does it all day long and he's just not going to put a staple through the romex, period.

If I do the work in a workman-like manner, and follow the regs, I should be okay. But an inspection will reveal that it was indeed a DIY, and I didn't hire an electrician. So because of the permit and inspection I need to hire an electrician?

Also, I don't even get the idea of the permit. See, it seems more like a way for the city to raise money than a way to keep standards high. It isn't like the city is going to come out and supervise, give helpful hints, or loan me their tools.

I've just got too much work to do to hire professionals, and I enjoy learning how to do it myself, and getting satisfaction from working with my hands on my own property. I want to understand what is going on in my house, and not let someone else make decisions for the outcome. And because I'm willing to put the time into it, I'll lay bets that the results will be a higher quality.

So why do I feel this pressure that it is okay for me to water the lawn and pull the weeds, but for really important work, better hire a professional?

Scuba_Dave 02-25-2009 03:19 PM

Around here I can do anything except plumbing & SE feed
I can electrocute myself but they don't want me getting wet :laughing:
I think because plumbers can do gas connections is the main reason. We've had 3 houses blow up recently around here due to gas explosions :(
The State, Town etc set the rules as to what you can or can't do

I prefer Inspections
I've never had a problem & the Inspectors have pointed out a few things to do better. Id much rather have inspections then have a neighbor rig something up that will burn down his house & MINE too

As you improve your property the value goes up & its worth more
And your taxes will go up
If you don't like that then don't improve your property
Why should someone be able to buy a run down house, fix it up & then pay 1/2 the taxes or less then I am paying? In a perfect world every house is supposed to be re-appraised every "x" number of years. Some Towns simply raise the appraised tax value & then you have to file an appeal if you think it is unfair/wrong

Bob Mariani 02-25-2009 03:55 PM

You should be able to DIY. I am in CT and you can do everything as long as you live in your house for one year and it is your primary residence. But many things are not really good DIY jobs. Large slabs, cabinet finishes, new granite, basements (read the threads... no one seems to know how to do it). Some things lead to problems that you will not even know you have. Adding a basement bath, not sealing a cut in the cement thus releasing radon into the house. I could give hundreds of issues a DIY person may not be able to understand the right way to do things. Thus walls are covered and all looks okay. But next homeowner is on here complaining about the detstruction you did by not having the experience to avoid the pitfalls of incorrect methods products and code compliance. If you DIY, question everything. Study and plan everything. Even then hire a pro to consult. it will be worth the money.

Tscarborough 02-25-2009 04:00 PM

My breakdown is: If done incorrectly it can harm myself or others, then it should be done by professionals. The only other caveat, one that covers what I do professionally, is that if done wrong, it can cost twice as much to rip out and re-do correctly. With cementious products, you generally have a small window to do it, so it has to be done right the first time.

Termite 02-25-2009 04:11 PM


Originally Posted by Hemingway (Post 236663)
Also, I don't even get the idea of the permit. See, it seems more like a way for the city to raise money than a way to keep standards high. It isn't like the city is going to come out and supervise, give helpful hints, or loan me their tools.

I'll bite...

As a City inspector, I can assure you that you're wrong about raising money. Nearly all city inspection departments are money-losers or break even at best. Permit fees are usually nowhere near the costs associated with employees, equipment, training, etc. Scuba Dave is right...Here in the USA you have to pay to play. If you want a nice house plan on paying your share of the taxes.

In my years as an inspector, I can safely say that I've saved people more money than I've made in my puny paychecks by working with them and offering them ways to do their projects more cost-effectively while still maintaining the code's standards. I've solved big problems for thousands of people instead of sending them on wild goose chases. There's no way to tally the money I've saved people, but I bet it is easily well over nine digits.

Then there's the things I've caught that would have certainly caused property damage, structural failure, fires, or electrocution. Sometimes those catches cost people money. Read my signature. Code is a minimum standard and if meeting it is too big of a problem you have no business doing the work...DIYer or pro.

Nobody appreciates the building inspector like they appreciate firefighters. Firefighters put the fire out and save cats and dogs and stuff. We keep the fire from happening in the first place in some cases (hack electrical work can cause fires), and the things we require in structures does keep the fire from propogating like it otherwise might. Our job is much less glamourous and our trucks aren't as cool.

I can usually spot a DIY electrical job right off. That doesn't mean that is a bad thing, but pro jobs and DIY jobs usually have differences. Staples are a good example, and you're right, you can use any staple listed for the job. The pro's just know what works better for them.

I'm a major supporter of DIY work, that's probably why I invest so much of my time on this site. I encourage DIY work and inspect a heck of a lot of it. Some DIY work is better than a lot of professionals' work in reality.

If your city won't allow you to do your own electric or plumbing (or whatever), something is awry and that really sucks. My experience has shown that cities that require electricians or plumbers to do that scope of work typically are in pretty tight with the plumbers, electricians, and the unions. File a formal complaint with the city administration, city council, the mayor, etc.

Termite 02-25-2009 04:15 PM


Originally Posted by Tscarborough (Post 236691)
My breakdown is: If done incorrectly it can harm myself or others, then it should be done by professionals.

That really limits things you can do around the house then. People that know their limits and are willing to welcome oversight (inspections) ought to be able to bite off as much as they can chew.

Trust me when I say that "professionals" often do very very very unsafe work. I've built a career on it.

Just my opinion. :whistling2:

Bob Mariani 02-25-2009 04:24 PM

I appreciate your help here even without the cool truck:thumbup:

jcalvin 02-25-2009 04:42 PM


Originally Posted by thekctermite (Post 236700)
That really limits things you can do around the house then. People that know their limits and are willing to welcome oversight (inspections) ought to be able to bite off as much as they can chew.

ditto. i recently turned a job down that a diy was attempting. he called me and i went out after he gave me a brief description of his problem. he had built his entire house by himself and was fed up and tired of getting his inspections turned down. call me a bad business person, but, i felt sorry for the guy for going so far with his house and giving up. instead of taking th job and charging therefore stripping him of the ability of saying that "i built this house" i offered my advice and expertice to walk him through it. took him some time, but he done it. you can to. take your time, study the trade the best you can, and ask questions. but do as termite said, know your limitations, there's no pride whatsoever in your house burning down do to your lack of wiring knowledge.

Rehabber 02-25-2009 06:36 PM

KC Termite, I wish all inspectors worked as you do. However my experience with inspectors has not been as good. Job put on hold for 1 week because 'I want that roof sheathing torn off and nailed with 10p not 8p nails. (Code here is 8p) Had to wait for a city engineer to overrule him. 'You need to bond that ground wire to the water pipe' (the supply line coming out of the ground that he was looking at was PVC) Yeah, terrific idea there you dumb***. 'Double wall exhaust for a water heater set more tan 12" from any combustable.' (Here is the code book, it says i am correct) 'But I want double wall cause it's better' (and a Mercedes is better than a Nissan, which one do you own?) Just a few of hundreds of my own experiences--- Inspectors? NO THANKS:furious:

DangerMouse 02-25-2009 06:49 PM

if someone has the brains to do it themselves and have it inspected and pass, then they have my vote as a good diy'er.
isn't that what this site is all about?
i've had to do everything in this home myself, from electric to plumbing, framing to concrete to drywall...*yuk*
all passed with flying colors and will continue to do so. you want to know why? because if i'm unsure of something, i ask questions! here, or from the inspector, the library, who/wherever! no question is stupid, there are only stupid answers. as to inspectors? they're human too....i've had great ones, and ones that should be behind a desk somewhere....


mwpiper 02-25-2009 08:17 PM

To Contract, or not to Contract? That is the Question.
Greetings Earthlings!

New to the site, first post. But this topic is near and dear.

I have no limits except for what I can lift. And it's probably better that the city doesn't know what I do inside.

In 1986, in my first house, I replaced an old gravity furnace with a new Sears furnace and air conditioner. Took three months, June to September. Turned on the air conditioner on September 3rd and left it on until like December. It's still running 23 years later. (The whole thing. Not just the air conditioner.)

In 1988, bought and rehabbed a handyman special. Rewired the whole thing. Put in about a 1/4 mile of Romex. Fortunately the old fuse box had already been replaced with a breaker panel. Wiring your own house is allowed where I live by taking a test at the Public Works office so they can decide whether you're going to kill yourself or not. And it was inspected with maybe three redoes.

2004-2008 rebuilt main bathroom (I'll do anything, but I don't necessarily do it fast). All lathe and plaster removed except for ceiling (didn't want to get into all that insulation. One wall rebuilt completely and floor joists replaced for rot. When I say I built the bathroom, I mean it. Wrecked it, framed it, plumbed it, wired it, plastered it, tiled it. Downstairs bathroom currently stripped to studs. Wife says it's not going take four years this time...or else.

My attitude towards contractors:
Only if I have to. A contractor put in the furnace and air conditioner in the new house because it died when I wasn't going to be able to take three months replacing it. That was successful. Had three warranty service calls in three years, then no problems (installation related. Cat hair is another issue.) I had a roof put on as part of an insurance settlement after a hail storm. Don't try and tell me how wonderful "professionals" are. "Professional" means they get paid to do it. The roof doesn't leak. That's the only good thing to say about it. I had the driveway repaved. It's one of those jobs that's too big to lift. Paid too much, but I had fairly strict requirements to keep the height below a skirt next to the house and to get it to pitch away.

Philosophically, I like the independence of being able to do things myself even if the opportunity is there to use contractors. I work with people who use contractors for everything. I don't know if they get off on the feeling of dependency or if they are taken with the idea of authority figures absolving them of any responsibility. I don't think its lazy. I'm lazy. I KNOW lazy. That's why the bathroom took four years.

Neighbor down the street works for the gas company. Most (many?) house explosions are not related to gas leaks in the house, but gas leaks underground that infiltrate the house. A gas leak in the house smells. Gas filtered through the ground may not. Gas pipes are easy to check for leaks. Do them yourself. (not his words, but my interpretation.)

Building codes are fine. Tell me what they are and I'll follow them. But I resent being bound by a law or regulation that I then have to pay to access. $100 for a copy of the International Residential Code. BAH HUMBUG! I'll look at an older copy at the library.

They want to inspect it. Fine. Inspect the work done. Not whether or not it was done by their cousin Vinny or a member of the union or contractor's lobby that bought themselves some politicians to make me have to pay them. Got that plumbers?

Wife wants to add to the house to expand the kitchen (I want to build an airplane. Guess which is going to happen first.) Trying to get wrapped around the foundation issue. That's probably the only part that's too big to lift. This project will be one that is going to require *&%@# permits. Guess I'm going to find out how the regulatory environment has changed since last I dealt with an inspector.

End of first post. How'd I do?

Tscarborough 02-25-2009 09:18 PM

Sorry, but DIY should not do some things. If they want to endanger themselves and their families, fine, but that house will eventually be sold, and that is when shoddy work will begin to show itself.

Tom Struble 02-25-2009 09:46 PM

one thing ive learned for being on a couple of these forums is that even the ''contractors'' dont agree on anything,the last poster is better than the one before but if you can suck up your pride alittle theres alot to learn.

dosent really pertain to the op's post just had to vent alittle:jester:

Scuba_Dave 02-25-2009 09:52 PM


Originally Posted by Tscarborough (Post 236859)
but that house will eventually be sold, and that is when shoddy work will begin to show itself.

That applies to a lot of contractors too
One reason I DIY - I do it better

I'd love to be able to find a good contractor who won't then have a hired hand do the work who doesn't know as much as I do

I'd also love to be able to afford to hire a Pro to do the work

And I'd love to be able to find a Pro who shows up when they say they will. I can't afford to wait 6 weeks every time I need work started

Tscarborough 02-25-2009 09:56 PM

Hacks can show up the next day.
Good mechanics are booked out.

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