Big Benefits to being a “Do it Yourselfer”

I’ve spent the last few days replacing an egress window on one of my apartment units. The local building inspector decided that the window was too high off the floor. The same building department has inspected this unit on multiple occasions in the ten years that I’ve owned this building and this issue has never been raised. So, I requested the property manager to get quotes on lowering the window to the proper height. The best quote came back at $4500. I knew this was not a quick and easy job, but $4500 just was completely out of line. So, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. I priced a new window at $170, various lumber at $30, vinyl exterior trim and window well at $200, for a grand total for materials of $400, a far cry from $4500.

Granted, I have extensive experience with construction, all the required tools, and frankly I’m a bit weird in that I enjoy working with my hands. So I surveyed the job, pulled a building permit, watched a few You Tube videos on removing concrete block in preparation for installing an egress window, pulled the local building code for my state, and got to work. The hardest part of the job was removing the cement block, which took about 1.5 hours. The rest of the job was just tedious and time consuming. I had a total of about 30 hours labor in the job, and I’m extremely slow as I don’t do this type of work regularly. Assuming a labor rate of $30 per hour, the total labor cost would be about $900, plus the materials of $400, a permit and inspection cost of $75, for a total of $1375. This estimate is approximately 1/3 of the best cost that was quoted.

I admit that this type of work is not for everyone and it was something that I would not normally do, but it is a good example of how much money can be saved being a Do It Yourselfer. Just think what someone can save over their lifetime doing various work themselves rather than hiring someone. What might be the impact to our FIRE desires?

Benefits of Being a Do it Yourselfer:

  1. You can save a lot of money – Likely at least 50% and often more.
  2. For each dollar you spend, you have to earn $1.30 to $1.50 of before tax money to clear that dollar.
  3. You don’t have to deal with unreliable contractors.
  4. You control the timeline.  Ever try to get a contractor to work on your schedule? 
  5. You control the quality and know first-hand what the hidden facts are. 
  6. You continue to learn new skills to allow you to do more Do It Yourselfer jobs. 
  7. You can become a YouTube star.  Joking aside, there are endless numbers of Video Guides for the Do It Yourselfer.  I (my wife and I) recently put a roof on a garage with only the knowledge gained while watching YouTube videos.  This was not my first choice as heights are not my friend, but I could not get a reasonable bid from roofing companies, if they showed up to look at the job in the first place.

Drawbacks to being a Do it Yourselfer:

  1. Many people suffer from Procrastination, especially in areas you may not have experience. 
  2. While learning, the quality may not be as good as you would get from a professional. 
  3. Mistakes can cost you money and time.
  4. If you need an inspection, dealing with a Building Inspector can be somewhat intimidating at times.
  5. Depending on the job, it can be hard work, but a good substitute for the gym membership. 

Do you have examples you can share of jobs you’ve done that saved your family significant money?

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