Here's a scenario most do-it-yourselfers can identify with:
What appears as a simple home project instead becomes a nightmare on your street -- repeated trips to the hardware store for parts and tools, "Easy to install!" instructions decipherable only by a rocket scientist, and lots more hours spent on a job you thought would be a no-brainer.
There goes your budget, and there goes your weekend.
So what happened?
According to Bill Pettita of The Home Service Store, many homeowners don't consider the real cost of home projects beyond price tags on materials and parts. True costs include homeowner time, talent and foresight.
"What looks easy in ads and magazine pages gives people the sense they can do anything fast," says Pettita. "They need to account for many different factors, not just price tags at the store."
Perhaps most precious to homeowners -- enough time to do the job -- is often in scant supply. In two-income households, home projects are often relegated to evenings and weekends. Pettita says time is more than those moments you have tools in your hands. Hours spent to plan, shop for materials and equipment should be assigned a per-hour cost.
The Achilles heel for many projectors is lack of specialized skills and tools for a task. "It's easy to tear boards and walls out," says Pettita, "but the real trick is the fine points that make the final product look like a Class A job because it can just as easily look like something an amateur did." What homeowners don't often possess are the right tools and the ability to use those tools properly.
Where homeowners get into particular trouble is the horrifying realization in mid-job that they're in over their heads or they caused damage they can't repair. This is when a once-simple project can get expensive. "A job that should take 30 minutes and $50 now costs $300 because the homeowners needed a professional to come in to rescue them," says Pettita. "What happens, and people don't realize it, is now all of a sudden your cost variation can be tremendous."
In many cases a professional can ultimately cost far less than the homeowner who starts a project hoping to save money. "If it takes a pro an hour to do a job that would've taken you 4 to 5 hours, then you will probably get a better result at lower cost," says Pettita. When hiring a professional, be sure to check references and quality of work. You'll need to have project measurements and a materials list handy for the professional to give you an accurate bid.
Homeowners can weigh their costs vs. a professional's costs by visiting Web sites such as trusthss.com, for free cost estimators. A side benefit of using online tools: cost estimators use your zip code to help you focus on local costs.
(The Home Service Store manages home maintenance, repair and improvement tasks in more than 130 markets nationwide and can be found at www.TrustHSS.com.)
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