Pro or No for Kitchen Remodel?

Some homeowners considering a kitchen remodel ask me if they can do some of the work themselves to save money. They tell me they’ve watched HGTV and have seen how easy it is to knock out walls and lay down a hardwood floor.

Here’s my advice.

Those make-over shows make everyone feel as if they’re only a couple of power tools away from being home renovation experts, but don’t be fooled. There’s a reason building and construction jobs are considered “skilled labor”.

I tell them that doing some of the work can be a great way to save money, but if they can’t do it properly and correctly, it may cost them more in the long run. A DIY project that goes wrong can be expensive to fix. And it can possibly be dangerous.

When they ask me what parts of a kitchen remodel project they can take on, I tell them it depends on their experience, their available time and their willingness to make the effort to do the job right. Some remodeling projects are doable, with the right tools, knowledge, materials, and prep work.

Some “Dos” And “Don’ts” for D-I-Y Kitchen Remodel

I have years of experience working all aspects of construction, and I’ve seen what can go wrong when well-meaning homeowners take on DIY projects they don’t know how to do. Here are a few “dos” and “don’ts” I’ve put together.

Be honest and admit if you don’t know what you’re doing. Some people try to do projects when they don’t understand how the job needs to be done. Don’t be one of them.

Don’t kid yourself about what you can or cannot do. Just because there’s a YouTube video showing how to do something doesn’t mean you have the skill to complete the job safely and efficiently.

Don’t think everything will magically fall into place once you get into the project. If things aren’t done properly from the beginning, they aren’t going to “fix themselves” later.

Don’t think project instructions will make sense later. It’s important to know what you’re doing right from the start. You could get halfway through your project and find you can’t finish.

Regarding tools, especially power tools — if you don’t know how to use something, you probably shouldn’t be using it.

Choose caution over cost. Be honest with yourself and admit that you’re unsure about your ability to complete the job.

Don’t be like Homer Simpson when he tried to build a barbeque in his yard. No spoilers here, but it doesn’t end well.

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When to Call the Professionals for Your Kitchen Remodel

1. Someone knowledgeable advises you to hire a professional. If you go to the hardware store and after explaining what you want to do, the workers tell you (politely, of course) that you’re crazy for attempting it, this should be a big red flag. And if the experts at the home improvement store tell you that your project will probably be a nightmare, you should probably listen.

2. Your time is limited. Even if you are capable of finishing a home renovation project on your own, that doesn’t mean you should take on the project. If your schedule is already filled with work and family obligations, how much time are you going to devote to the renovation? Will you want to live with your kitchen being torn up for weeks or months?

If your answers are “not much” and “no,” call a pro. Hiring a professional will get your project completed much faster.

3. It will be obvious you did it yourself. If your kitchen cabinets aren’t installed properly, it will probably be obvious to everyone who walks into the house. A visibly inferior job can affect the value of your home if you decide to sell it, even if you’re ok with the results.

4. Mistakes Could Be Costly. If you’re not sure what you’re doing when you take on a DIY project, you risk having to call in a contractor to fix your mistakes. So instead of saving money by doing it yourself, you could end up paying twice for the same job.

5. It Could Hurt Your Home’s Value. Real estate agents report that sloppy-looking home improvement projects are a turn-off for future buyers. Even the most expensive backsplash tile looks cheap if it’s poorly installed.

6. Serious injury is possible if something goes wrong. Jobs that require technical know-how are jobs you want done by a contractor for safety reasons. According to an article by, approximately 170,000 people go to the hospital each year because of injuries related to ladders alone. Another danger is knocking down walls when you’re not sure which beams are load bearing.

These repairs require an expert to guarantee quality, safe installation:

  • Electricity: Electrical mistakes could lead to house fires, putting your family’s safety at risk; certainly not worth trying to save a few bucks. Any wiring inside the walls, ceiling, or panel box should be handled by a licensed and insured electrician.
  • Plumbing:  A DIY plumbing job can lead to a big mess and water damage that will end up costing more to fix than you would have paid to have the job done right in the first place. Avoid jobs involving enclosed pipes, which, if done incorrectly, could weaken surrounding structures and cause mold.
  • Refinishing hardwood flooring: Running a drum sander can be scary for someone who is inexperienced. It’s really easy to leave dips and scratches. If you have an inconspicuous space to practice, somewhere that no one but you and family will see, then you can try but really, you should leave this job to the pros.

When You Can Try DIY for Your Kitchen Remodel

1. Your project is small and you’re a fast learner. You can watch tutorial videos, read books and/or articles about the project and ask for advice.

2. You have the patience to work through mistakes and setbacks. You may have to make extra trips to Home Depot because you didn’t buy the right thing you need the first time. Or you didn’t buy enough of something. Your DIY project most likely won’t be perfect on the first try, so be flexible enough to work through small errors.

A D-I-Y [project gone wrong can be expensive3. Your project is more hobby than work. If you like carpentry, painting and other renovation-type activities, your DIY project can be enjoyable and bring you satisfaction when it’s complete.

4. You’re OK with “good enough”. If your project doesn’t turn out as good as it would have if a professional did it, ask yourself if you can live with the results.

5. You need to cut costs. You can often save money by doing parts of your remodel project yourself. Demolition is one area, since it doesn’t require much skill to swing a sledgehammer. You can also save money by doing the cleanup and other finishing tasks, such as painting. That way you only need to pay the contractor for the parts of the job that really have to be done by an expert.


So what is my final word? Know your limits and know when to call in the professionals.

The choice between DIY and hiring a contractor is more than just dollars and cents. It’s other factors as well: less hassle, faster results, safety, and professional-quality work.

Don’t have a contractor? Craig Allen Designs will design your kitchen, and then they’ll access their network of experienced contractors and help you find the professional who will bring your new kitchen to life. Contact Craig Allen Designs today. 201-444-2239

Sources used in this article and for further reading | Hiring a Contractors vs DIY Cost Benefits Money Crashers | Tips to Avoid DIY Home Improvement Disasters Do It Nerd | Home Improvement DIY or Hire a Pro Money Crashers | DIY or Hire a Contractor for Home Improvement