Do it Yourself or Hire a Contractor / Remodeling Company?

We know that there are a lot of talented “Do-It-Yourselfers,” and you may be one of them. However, a lot of work goes into a basic home remodeling project, and managing it often loses its appeal when you begin to experience all the moving parts.

If you decide to go at it alone, here are the questions you’ll be answering:
– Who will design my project?
– What materials will I use and are they the right ones?
– When should I order the materials to get them in on-time and who will accept delivery at my home?
– Who will keep all my paperwork in order?
– Who is going to do the construction? How much supervision is required on my part?
– Who will do the touch-up work? What about warranties and repairs?

If these questions seem daunting or overwhelming, that’s why we’re here. You don’t have to go it alone. At RFMC, design and remodeling is what we do every day. We know all the potential pitfalls and how to avoid them. Our goal is to take what can be a stressful process and make it as hassle-free as possible. Don’t just take our word for it; listen to what our customers have to say.

Who will design my project

Remodeling Company / Professional Contractor:

Your project will require precise measurements and drawings to scale in order to accurately specify the materials needed and properly construct it. Typically, design/build firms have trained designers on staff that will determine whether plans for your project can be crafted by an in-house designer or require architectural drawings. Many companies have architects on staff or close affiliations with these professionals, so finding one for the project with the proper credentials shouldn’t be a problem.

Do it Yourself:

Unless you have formal design training, it is unlikely that you will be able to craft design plans yourself. You may have ideas of what you would like to go where and how you would like things to look, but translating those concepts onto paper is another matter. You can invest in various different software packages for your PC or Mac, but you’ll have to learn it well enough to prepare working drawings. Most likely, you’ll have to hire a designer or architect to create the design plans. This process will require interviewing and due diligence on your part.

What materials will I use and are they the right ones?

Remodeling Company / Professional Contractor:

After your project is properly drawn, you’ll need to choose the many products for it. And this can range from dozens to hundreds – yes hundreds – depending on the scope of the project. Remember, that with each product also come choices of color, type of material, style, size, etc. Working with a design/build firm generally provides you one of two opportunities. Either you will have a designer who will take you to many stores and showrooms to help you make your selections, providing guidance along the way, or if you hire a firm that has a showroom, most if not all of the selections can be made in one place.

Do it Yourself:

First, create a list of everything you need; next, decide what basic styles you like, e.g., traditional vs. contemporary; then start shopping to see all those choices. There are numerous stores and specialty showrooms where you can purchase materials you want and need for your remodeling project. You can go to the major chain home stores, tile showrooms, appliance stores, etc. And, of course, there’s always the Internet. Even if you go to one of the large stores, you’ll have to contend with numerous different salespeople, of varying skills, training and motives, that will try to sell you on what they think is best for you. You’ll need to keep track of each item you select to make sure it coordinates from a design perspective and will also fit with your design.

When should I order the materials to get them in on time and who will accept delivery at my building?

Remodeling Company / Professional Contractor:

With your materials list prepared, the design/build firm will order your various products and often find out lead times so you can be advised if something is out of stock or has an inordinately long delivery time. If they have a purchasing department, they will track when these orders are supposed to be received.
Be sure you work with a design/build firm that has a showroom, warehouse or storage facilities, so your materials will be delivered to the company and brought to the project site when they are needed. At the very least, the design/build firm will be responsible for accepting deliveries and processing any returns due to damages, missing parts or improper shipments.

Do it Yourself:

Some of your selections will be point of sale purchases; meaning you will walk out of the store with them the day you purchase them. Undoubtedly, many products will have to be ordered. The stores will place some of the orders for you. Others, especially online purchases, you will make on your own. Thus, purchasing can be cumbersome. And, keeping track of what’s in, or out of stock and following lead times, requires a lot of attention to detail and dedication on your part.

Who will keep all my paperwork in order?

Remodeling Company / Professional Contractor:

Whether you live in a privately owned house, a co-op apartment or a condo, there will likely be some level of paperwork required for your home improvement project. You may have to obtain various permits and/or submit plans to a board of directors. A good design/build firm will have personnel trained in this area to know what you need and how to take care of it. They will also be able to assist you in getting the documents you need to get your project built.

Do it Yourself:

Research is the first step here. You’ll need to contact your city or town buildings department and decipher the legalese in their codes. If you own a co-op or condo, you will also need to get information from your building manager to determine your building’s requirements. Then you will need to fill out forms, draft responses to questions, coordinate all of the requisite licenses, insurance documents, etc. and submit plans in order to get approval for your project.

Who is going to do the construction? How much supervision is required on my part?

Remodeling Company / Professional Contractor:

The whole premise behind the design/build approach is that the same company that designs the project builds it as well. The main benefit is that everyone is working in concert right from the beginning of the process. When the teams have the opportunity to collaborate (and it should be before ground is broken), it reduces confusion. Also, the design/build firm is responsible for making sure all the necessary tradespeople, such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc. properly perform the job. Additionally, the firm is responsible for keeping track of costs and paying the people working on the job.

Do it Yourself:

It is unlikely you will be doing any major remodeling with your own two hands. So, presuming that you are not the ultimate “do-it-yourselfer, ” you have a major choice to make regarding construction. You can hire a general contractor (GC) that will do the construction and hire all the other tradespeople, probably from lists of subcontractors they use. The benefit here is that the GC will typically supervise the construction. Or, you can hire the various different tradespeople yourself, manage them all, direct them, and keep track of their payments. Either way, expect to do a lot of due diligence when hiring the people that will be working in your home. You’ve heard the horror stories and have seen the exposés on TV, so be careful. Check all the licenses of the people you hire so you can see how long they’ve been in business under the company name they gave you. Contractors tend to go out of business and reopen under a new name and license number if too many complaints get lodged against them under a given license.

How many projects are you currently are working on?

Remodeling Company / Professional Contractor:

After every remodeling project there are touch-ups that need to be made, whether it’s a scratch to be repaired, painting to be cleaned up, a broken handle, or what have you. It is not unusual to have a punch list several items long. Also, despite the best intentions and hardest work of quality tradespeople, mistakes are made and things do break. If you work with a reputable design/build firm, having the touch-ups done in a timely manner shouldn’t be a problem. Furthermore, a good firm will warranty their work – the better ones up to five years – and make repairs if problems occur within the warranty period. The reason is most design/build firms are longer lasting and not fly-by-night operations and tend to take more pride in the final outcome of their projects.

Do it Yourself:

Failing to complete a job is by far the biggest complaint homeowners have against contractors. Getting them to come back to “touch-up” or repair the job after it is paid for in full is nearly impossible. Depending upon whether you hired a GC or all of the tradespeople yourself, you’ll have an even bigger challenge getting your punch list done if you have to locate several people. And, rest assured, one tradesperson will most definitely blame another and deny responsibility for a repair that needs to be made. Most contractors don’t guarantee their work. If they do, make sure they’ve been in business long enough to convince you that they will be there for you in the future.


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