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DIY Home Renovation Challenges

Although 2020 was a ridiculously horrible year for a multitude of reasons, almost every company I know that touched a house experienced growth. Why so much growth in the home improvement category despite the plights of COVID and a plethora of economic issues? One given is that we operate in an affluent community where many homeowners commute to Atlanta or just outside of the perimeter. Forsyth County has an average income of over $100k and is considered in the Top 20 for affluency in the entire United States1.

Despite those key stats leading to a lot of home improvement projects prior to COVID, I think it’s fair to say that when folks entered quarantine and were working completely from home for the first time in their lives people were scrutinizing their homes a lot more than usual. Thus, a home renovation boom. As of June 2020, there was a 58% annual increase in project leads for home professionals2.Businesspeople that literally traveled every week had to adjust to working and living in their homes. Then it seems that all at once the majority of North Atlanta decided to update their cabinets that they had been staring at for three months straight or try to create a functional home office space or maybe even use the money they weren’t using to travel to make total design changes in the home just because they could.

Before Front DoorAfter Front Door

My personal house was absolutely no different. We used this time and spare funds to complete a laundry list of home improvement projects that we didn’t have the time for before. Some of our home reno projects included improved landscaping, powder bath renovation, gutter cleaning, new front door, interior painting, and, unfortunately, rebuilding after three water leaks.

Our multitude of leaks began in October of 2019. We believe it may have been a clogged gutter leaking on top of a broken or clogged French drain, and then a massive storm led to a leak in our foundation. At the same time, we realized that our bay window was leaking from cracked caulk and, possibly, the same clogged gutter. About a month after that, our son’s toilet line was clogged and leaked into our laundry room and down into the basement. Needless to say, it was a mess.

After Laundry Room

Thus, we began our 3-month journey to repair, and hopefully upgrade, the areas that were damaged. My wife had always wanted a nicer laundry room, and she pointed out that this was the perfect opportunity to finally update it to her standards. Due to the 2020 circumstances, we were ready to not only fix our current problems but take the opportunity to finally make some meaningful changes in our home.

Our first mistake in this home improvement process? DIY. You see on TV how “easy” and “fun” it can be to do a DIY project, and you see on social media all the praise and admiration get when they do a home project all by themselves with no professional help whatsoever (because yeah, you’re just that skilled). I consider myself a very handy person with carpentry and home improvement. Of course, managing multiple Five Star locations, we paint ten to fifteen homes each week. I feel that I probably have more knowledge than the average person in terms of home improvement, but even I wasn’t ready for all the pitfalls that came with attempting to DIY these projects.

All that aside; here are the 8 reasons that DIY projects suck.

  1. The store trips take much longer than you think.

It starts with needing a simple part. But what do you do when you get to the store and realize there are 27 different kinds of that part, you forgot what it’s supposed to look like, and you don’t know if it’s measured by the opening or by the size? My number one recommendation: take pictures of the part and research it before you go to the store to avoid multiple trips and yelling at your wife on the phone for five minutes trying to figure out what exactly you need. Unfortunately, researching exactly what part you need and making multiple trips to the store takes you a lot more time than it would take a professional – which leads me to my next point.

  1. The overall timeline of the project will never go how you think it will.

I had to dedicated entire weeks to do many of these projects. I was working eight to ten hours a day cutting wood and running to the store often for at least three to four days longer than I expected the project to take. The average working person does not have that amount of time to do a DIY project which is why projects often get left abandoned or unfinished for months as homeowners attempt to find the time to do these projects in between work, taking care of the kids, and the ten thousand other things on the docket for the week.

  1. You use muscles you don’t normally use.

This might seem like a ridiculous reason – especially if you are in your twenties or in ridiculously good shape. I’m in my late forties, and every night I had to take a Tylenol PM to get to sleep. Constantly bending over, standing on a ladder, or being hunched down on the floor trying to caulk a dodgy corner takes its toll after a while. Not to mention the headache that comes with thinking about the never-ending to-do list and doing it all over again tomorrow.

  1. It requires an unbelievable amount of patience.

In the midst of rushing to get the laundry room due to the never-ending pile of laundry building up during its absence, Home Depot cracked and broke our custom floor. My wife ran out and bought a floor she didn’t like just to get it done. The next day, we looked at each other, realized we hated it, and went out to buy a new one. If you don’t have the patience to wait for the right material, you may end up with something you hate and invest an unnecessary amount of time and money into redoing it not long after finishing it. You also have to very methodical in how you perform the project, because if the order is not correct, it could mess up the project completely. There is a lot to consider in every step which requires a great deal of patience in a home improvement amateur.

  1. The price of materials is more than you think.

I was shocked at the prices of wood at the store. My team has told me that wood prices have gone up due to supply and demand issues, but I had no idea boards are easily up 30% in pricing. The benefits of hiring a professional is that they often get a discount on materials which gets passed through to you as well as the added benefit of not having to deal with it yourself. While you may be paying slightly more for the project, you are ultimately saving in terms of your time and material costs.

  1. You get injuries you don’t expect.

As previously aforementioned, I like to think I know more than the average joe in terms of home improvement. I literally own a painting company, so I understand all of the safety measures that need to be taken in order to perform a project and safely as possible. Despite all of that, I still managed to lean on a saw blade and needed to get five stitches in my arm. I lost time on the project, and I lost money on the medical bills.

  1. You probably don’t have all of the tools you need.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have the right tools. I currently own what I thought was a pretty effective (and definitely expensive) battery powered brad nailer by Paslode. But it turned out to not be up to the job, and I needed to borrow my friend’s compressor with two guns. If not for my kind friend, I would have had to purchase my own for at least $1,000! Having to buy all of those specific tools really adds up. At that point, am I really saving money by doing it myself?

  1. The project may truly be outside of your area of expertise.

You need to be self-aware enough to understand when you are in over your head. When installing a new sink in my laundry room, I barely even attempted it myself before quickly giving in and calling a professional. Of course, he did a fantastic job, but even he had to spend a good deal of time on it and even make a run to the store.

At the end of the day, no matter how much I want to be a DIY master, it made a lot more sense in terms of money, time, and sanity to hire local professionals to do the projects. Big THANK YOU to the following local businesses, without whom we could not have completed these projects: ServPro, Value Plumbing, The Trusted Toolbox, LVP, Floor Coverings International Alpharetta and Trotter Company!

  • Scott Specker, Owner of Five Star Painting of Cumming, Alpharetta and Buford

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