Houzz Logo Print

A list of DIY tasks? And some better left to professionals?

15 years ago

What projects in a kitchen remodel were easy to tackle as a first time DIY? What tasks are better left to professionals? I will be doing my own demo work, and I am thinking about designing my own layout, laying the wood floors, putting crown molding in the ceiling, etc, but I do not have experience to tell me which things I should look to hire a professional for and which things I could definitely do with a little reading material in hand.

This is a whole room remodel in an old farmhouse. Hoping for a farmhouse kitchen with soapstone countertops (although finding that hard to do for a reasonable price-- wish that was an easy DIY project!) and an island with cooktop. Nothing will remain from the old house except the plaster walls and the trim. I am trying to do as much as possible to cut costs but I have read some posts from people who said that some things are worth paying to have a professional do, but I have a lot of energy and a flexible schedule-- just no experience!

Any advice would be great! Thank you :)

Comments (19)

  • sue36
    15 years ago

    I think crown molding is not for a first time DIYer. Same with hanging cabinets, installing wallpaper, electrical and anything but basic plumbing.

    If you do the demo, are you going to leave the electrical intact? I would throw the breaker for that area while you do the demo.

  • pcjs
    15 years ago

    Everything is DIY friendly, as long as you have the time and tools. We did everything but hang the cabinets and then we paid to get someone to teach us how to do it (my husband and I were his assistants) just to get it done quickly. We are doing our own molding, which takes forever, but again, worth it to duplicate exactly what we had before. We got a good miter saw, air compressor and nail gun and are good to go (with a few other tools and good DIY books. If you are handy, don't let someone who isn't DIY talk you out of at least trying it - try it, if you can't do it, then pay someone but you'll be amazed at what you can do when you try. I can't say you'll save any money as we then flipped the savings into things like nicer cabinets. We are DIY with plumbing and electrical too - the only thing we didn't do was the heavy up. We had no experience either when we started but we learned and learn every day.

  • Related Discussions

    winter tasks for butterfly gardeners


    Comments (15)
    I'm seeing new growth all over, too! The one and only serviceberry/amelanchier arborea that I planted has leafed out big time, and many other plants are doing the same. My buddleia asiatica got top killed by a freeze, but I noticed that it's making new growth from the bottom. I saw a cloudless sulphur yesterday, and today I saw my first duskywing bouncing around, stopping occasionally to bask in the sun. It's either a horace's or a juvenal's - that was the first butterfly I saw last year, too. This is the second year in a row that I haven't seen spring azures early, so I guess the hurricane damaged their host plants - they're much less numerous than they used to be. I've been planting some more this afternoon - a dogwood and two red crossvines. I'll be planting some more tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the ........ :) MissSherry
    ...See More

    NEW: What's Left on My Want List Swap 2013


    Comments (143)
    lol I have a little room upstairs where I keep all my seed stuff. After I mailed out the last package last year, I just closed the door and did not go back in there to deal with the mess for weeks! Downstairs there are too many cats, and it takes only one to make a complete disaster of a seed box. This year I am going to take photos of the seed sorting and result mess! Mary, I'll update your list right now!
    ...See More

    Granite Countertop Cleaning from a Stonecare Professional


    Comments (1)
    My installer recommended Gole from Bed, Bath and Beyond for cleaning. Any comments on this product?
    ...See More

    Different types of clutter professionals


    Comments (23)
    I appreciate the suggestions. I know it is hard trying to "solve" someone else's situation. I think maybe it is more moral support. MIL does not want, at this time, to set anything aside or take anything, other than perhaps some clothing, to Goodwill. She wants me and DH (who is her DS) to come and identify things we might want. I believe she probably wants the other available children and grandchildren to do the same. She says she does not want my visit to be used sorting into piles--just looking over and saying yea or nay, I believe. I'm certainly planning to nudge her a little on that when we go visit, as in, we're here, we're free, why don't we do some sorting? But I'm not real optimistic. What is frustrating is that I've already "reviewed" all of the china and many other items on past visits, but apparently that did not register, as she keeps mentioning the same items. That is just part of her letting go issue, though, I think, or kind of, this is your last chance! Yes, the company has a website, national listings, says it's bonded. Of course there is more that can be investigated to be sure. I'm not too keen on storing stuff--in their situation. I think the biggest issue is getting down to deciding do they think they need to have a "living" estate sale of the items they don't want to take with them. This is actually a big roadblock because a) it inhibits "letting go" of stuff, because it's being "saved" for the estate sale, rather than taking stuff bit by bit to Goodwill (or whereever) b) they can't really have the sale until they move out, and further can't have the sale until they've moved out AND removed a large volume of other stuff, like papers, and they're not working on that now and c) it doesn't make sense to tightly box up lots of stuff for estate sale (unless using one of those types of companies that holds it off-site),. So it may be possible for me to try to engage them in a discussion of, to have an estate sale, you would need to pursue strategy #1--estate sale readiness and also try to consider costs of doing vs. proceeds; if you forego estate sale, your de-cluttering strategy is then #2 approach. It's not so much that one is wrong or right, but just the pros and cons. It's interesting because, with all of their "stuff" and if priced right for vintage items, I think it would bring a fair amount of money, so you hate so sound like, oh, just give it away, when talking to people about their home furnishings and china and things of a lifetime. But, if you were to factor in a $10k fee plus estate sale percentage plus, perhaps, the constraints of the professional person , you then begin to ask, is the reason you need to have such a person, and such a sale, just because you think you need to have the sale, whereas,if you could just let go, your DS's and DIL's could be, and could have been, doing stuff for you all along the way.
    ...See More
  • rhome410
    15 years ago

    Wow. That's tough to answer. Do you have tools? What ones? Are you handy at all/done any carpentry or woodworking before? Do you have any knowledgeable people around to help? Almost anything can be done DIY with the right tools, some skill and common sense, great care, some acceptance of trial and error, and a boatload of patience. But not everyone has those things, or the time to put in. We are building our whole house DIY, but my husband is a construction teacher with numerous quality tools, skills and experience, and several people to contact when he encounters something he has a problem with or questions about. It's still tough, at times. It's also very rewarding.

    You should be able to plan a layout, and we can definitely help you with it after you get your ideas down and post it for us to see (hopefully on something like graph paper, so it's to scale).

    Best wishes!

  • cocontom
    15 years ago

    I just want to suggest Ikea cabinets- they're extremely DIY friendly. Instead of having to get wall cabinets level, plumb and flush in one shot, you level and screw a rail in the studs, then hang the cabinets from there and adjust. They were the second easiest part of our remodel- the gas line was the easiest, we just walked the plumber around and waited. :-)

    Rhome does make a great point about the tools- we spent over $500 on our counters, and the marble tile we used was only $2sf.

  • bignich
    15 years ago

    DIY projects can include most anything if you have the tools, patience and knowledge or desire to learn. I have done most everything from larger gas supply lines to 220v electrical runs, panels, etc. to new sewer lines, roofing, insulation, framing, brick and block masonry, concrete forming and flatwork, floor and wall tile, painting, rough and finish carpentry.

    Having owned 3 homes over the last 30 years has taught me a lot on how NOT to do things. Everything I do comes out at least as good and most often much better than if a pro was to do it. No one will do as good a job for me as I would do myself. The very few times I have hired pros to do work and being very picky, I have been disappointed in the results and had wished I had done it myself.

    I find the key to anything is to visualize myself doing it, then going for it. It's worked for me!

  • muscat
    15 years ago

    I have limited specific experience and limited tools, but I'm over all a handy and self-sufficient person, and this is how the breakdown is working for me. Note: I am NOT done, so this is not yet a success story.


    All design elements
    demolition of cabinets and lino floor
    sanding/Finishing cabinets
    Installing cabinets (I will ASSIST my dad)
    Installing UC lights
    backsplash tile
    Laying laminate floor

    Hired preofessional:
    Demo of soffits
    Major Electrical (adding circuits, rewiring, recessed lights, supplying wiring for UC lights)
    Plumbing new line for fridge water
    Plumbing new gas line for range
    hood installation
    granite installation

    I had one guy and his assistanst come out to do all that "professional" stuff (not granite yet- totally separate) and while I'm sure I could have learned to do drywall, and plumb a waterline to the fridge location, it was just a lot more efficient to get all that done at once, and I've heard that doing drywall and texturing is not something that makes a lot of sense to DIY, if you have someone there who knows what they are doing. Initially, I wanted my hands in every phase of the project, to really call it "mine." Eventually, I realized that learning to design the darned thing, finish cabs, play with tile and laminate floor was plenty of learning for me, and that I should just work a few extra shifts to pay for the rest.

  • patches123
    15 years ago

    Many community or vocational colleges offer basic plumbing and electrical classes for pretty cheap. It is worth it, IMHO, to learn those as they can eat a budget. Crown molding can be very frustrating if you do not have a power compound mitre saw, and know how to find the angle of the walls and use the settings on the saw. Once you conquer that its not bad. Buy some cheap crown molding to practice with.

    Things I found easy to learn:

    Ceramic tile (floor and walls)
    Drywall (its tough work physically, but hanging it is not technically difficult even on ceilings if you use a drywall lift)
    Electrical (with the class)(such as adding new outlets, or new light fixture)
    Plumbing (with the class)
    Installing prefinished hardwood floor
    Installing cabinets
    Installing laminate counters(we installed at our previous home, my sisters and my moms)
    Framing a new window opening
    Installing a new window
    Framing an interior door opening
    Installing prehung interior doors
    So crown molding took awhile and a lot of frustration (get the tools, the angle measurer and the holding jig for your saw)
    Installing baseboard
    Installing chair rail
    Framing a closet/pantry
    Installing a dishwasher
    Installing a microhood

    Things I paid for:
    Corian counter installation. Its pretty difficult to get your hands on Corian for DIY.
    Installing a storm door ($50 for the install and it took him 3 hours - a very good deal for me).
    Painting the exterior of my 3 level home. Best $3500 I ever spent.

    I paid to have a fence installed and regretted it - some of the worst work ever. And it took him six weeks.
    We want a new deck and would love to pay someone, but most of the deck work I have seen is crummy. So we will DIY.

    I do suggest Ikea cabinets as well - we will be using them on our next house. Also, renting specialty tools can be cost effective if you need them for just a few days or so. For example, we needed a floor nail/stapler for our hardwood floors. The model we looked at was over 1k. We rented it for the week from HD for $100. Now a nail gun, compound mitre saw, drill, reciporcating saw, etc, those are basics you will need. But check craigslist etc as you can find some very good deals.

    Oh on the soapstone - I know a few people on this forum have DIY that as well. So it can be done.

  • pinar
    15 years ago

    I hear that tape and texturing can be very noticeable -in a bad way- when done by unprofessionals. So we are hiring someone for it.

    I generally agree with the suggestions above. I think it depends a lot on your skill level and the tools you have handy. One other factor I may add is what shape your house is in generally. A lot of our reno was realizing how badly some things were done around the house, and not to code either of course, and fixing that. If somebody hadn't told me about them, I am not sure if I would have noticed, so experience is a big one, too. If you have a newer house, you will have fewer of the not to code issues.


  • Jon1270
    15 years ago

    There are a few particular tasks, such as demolition, that come to mind as especially doable, and a couple that are especially challenging or require special equipment, such as fabricating countertops, but most of the work falls into the vast gray area between those extremes. I used to work in an industrial woodworking shop and occasionally train newbies, and my experience was that most people can learn to do most tasks. Whether it's worth your time to learn this stuff depends on what else you might choose to do with your time, and on your baseline skills and aptitudes.

    Almost of the hands-on tasks are combinations of measuring, cutting and fastening. How comfortable are you with precise measuring? Can you read a level? Can you tell the difference between square and wonky? Are you scared of electric saws? Do you know how to drill pilot holes, drive screws and nails? Do you have a basic understanding of electricity? Can you wield a propane torch indoors without igniting the house? Your aptitude for these elemental tasks will determine how quickly you can move along. Assess your weak areas and figure out how you'd get around them. Do you have a handy friend whose guidance you can seek when you're stuck?

    Ultimately, you can do almost anything. Focus on the question of what it's worth doing.

  • ajpl
    15 years ago

    We are DIYing most of this house we are building. We've foudn that having the tools we need and some friends we could consult with iif we needed it was really helpful. I like to plan a ot befor eI Tackle the job and DH tends to want to start and re-evaluate once he sees where it is going. We do better choosing a project and doing it with help from the other person. We don't do well both tackling the same project.

    In the past we've done tile, laminate countertop, simple woodwork, plumbing fixtures, electrical work and building cabinets in our kitchen. In this new kitchen we are going to be doing a DIY concrete countertop for a new experience. We'll be making the cabinets a bit more unfitted looking with a furniture style (I design and DH builds). We paid a plumber to do the rough plumbing b/c he was a good price, worked quickly and a famly friend. We knew we could do it but it would take trial and error and we just didn't want to. We've been lucky to hire an electrical consultant. This electrician lives next door and stops in beforwe work in the morning to give DH instructions and the next morning checks his work. DH helped him on some other jobs before to get some experience.

  • weedyacres
    15 years ago

    We're DIY-ing our kitchen remodel 100% except the granite countertops. Here's our play-by-play if you weren't following along. It really hasn't been that hard.

    How much DIY you do depends on your skill level, your sense of adventure, and your available time. My DH and I complement each others' skill sets well, and agree that neither of us would be taking on the projects we are if it weren't for the other. We're good at collaborative thinking to get out of jams or solve design or execution issues that stump us. So I'd say if you've got a good buddy (whether it be a spouse, friend, or a couple of good experts on retainer), that'll make the whole thing go more smoothly.

    Like everyone else said, there are books, classes, online resources, GW, and skilled people at hardware stores that can help you figure things out. Getting the right tools for the job will save a lot of time and grief.

    Oh, but do let someone else finish the drywall. That's an icky job I just utterly hate!

  • pcjs
    15 years ago

    A lot of the fun is buying the cool tools... what is funny is we buy buy tons of tools, and barely us half of them as you truely don't need all of them... they are just cool. We got the fancy lazer levels and all the other stuff to do the kitchen... didn't use any of it...

  • sue_ct
    15 years ago

    As someone who has taken on only part of my remodel as DIY, let mention a couple of things. 1. Age. don't know yours, but although I hate it, hours of bending over laying flooring and nailing it in takes a much bigger tole than it would have 20 or more years ago. :) As a result, I lay much less floor in a day I expected to. 2. Laying hardwood in a newer home with pretty level floors and walls, not at all the same as laying it in an older home. To my surprise, floor came to a standstill when wood would not go down easily or well due to dips in subfloor in a 50 year old house that has seen its share of abuse, including a fire. Then I had to learn how to shim the floor from the joists below, which is not hard but requires expensive 4-6 levels and MANY trips up and down the stairs to hammer in shims and check the progress with level, back to hammer in the shim in some more, etc., you can see where this is going. Two people available for all shimming/leveling work MUCH better. You may not know what your house has been through exp if it is even older. 3. Out of parallel walls are not something I had a problem with but is a very common one, and one of the biggest sources of problems with novice DIYers laying it down. You could end up with the last row so off that the last board is 1" wide at one of the room and 2 1/4" wide at the other. If walls are out of parallel, make sure to include a solution in how you lay it - start at the most visible wall possibly, so the side you finish with is under cabinets, furniture, etc. 4. Buy the most comprehensive DIY books on the subject you can find and have them available when issues you didn't count on come up. 5. make sure the budget can handle calling someone in to finish it up if your job winds up being more complicated than you can handle, due to unforeseen issues.

    I thought it would take me 2 weeks. I am going on my 3rd month. However, whereas I did not know how to use a pneumatic floor nailer 3 months ago, I can now rebuild one. :)


  • pcjs
    15 years ago


    We're not going to talk about our one year kitchen remodel that still isn't done or our two year wall paper removal project for a 900 square foot house with no rooms finished. But, just think, if you didn't go DIY, you'd wouldn't have that great story to tell. In less you are in your 20's, age probably doesn't help. I'm 33 and my husband is 44 and after a long day... everything hurts. You forgot to mention the several trips in one day and multiple trips a week to Home Depot, Lowes and several stores having no clue what you are buying. :) But, that is all part of the learning curve.

    We had the problem with our kitchen floor where some of the subfloor was rotted and we had to pull it out. We didn't shim so our floor squeeks but that gives it character. We, in hindsight, should have glued down the plywood to the joists, but we wanted easy removal in case we wanted to swap out the vinyl for hardwood or tile later on. We also decided to leave all the dips when we refinish our floors... it's just part of the charm, but ours aren't as bad as yours probably are and most of our wood is in good shape, gratefully (we only need to replace one big section and a few others - want to help since you clearly know what you are doing?

  • bob_cville
    15 years ago

    One thing I've found in the course of many DIY projects is that even if you don't have the necessary tools to complete a given portion of a task, often you can buy the tools and still finish the task for less than a pro would charge to do it. Then if you ever need to do that sort of task again your savings will be even greater.

    Their are certain tasks that I would never try to DIY: plumbing work on gas pipes, heat pump/air conditioner work involving freon, working on garage door torsion springs, pumping septic tank (Eww.), building trusses, very large tree work (or medium trees close to the house), stone slab fabrication and installation.

    Other tasks I evaluate on a case by case basis for costs, skills and tools required, likelihood of me needing that skill or tool again, and likelihood of my inexperience killing or seriously injure me or others, and usually end up deciding to DIY.

    Regarding cutting crown molding, at one point in my DIY kitchen remodel I was framing in an angled soffit that goes up to an angled ceiling. Even with a sliding compound miter saw it took half a dozen tries and about three hours to get the framing piece that would attach to the ceiling cut to the right angles; and even then although it was good enough for a framing member, it wouldn't have been good enough for a piece of exposed trim.

  • sue_ct
    15 years ago

    Fortunately I had no rotting of the subfloors, which were actaully in good condition. The problem I am told is probably that when there is a fire, what happens? Those wonderful fireman in the process of saving ours lives and property must soak everything in water. What happens when wood gets wet? It warps. The previous owners had the fire and apparently when the rebuild was done they did not replace some or all of the floor joists, some of which are probably now slightly warped, and they left the old subfloor down, just put a new layer over it, which eventually conforms to the wavy shape of the first layer of subfloor and joists under it. In order to correct it I would have at least had to have pulled up the newer subfloor and the older subfloor (decking) under it, only to find that I might have to replace the floor joints. WAY too much for me or my budget just to satisfy my desire for a hardwood floor. I raised some of the dips in the floor by shimming between the joists and the subfloor from below, which did not create a nice flat floor, but just decreased the waviness enough to get the floor down. I actually had to tear out about 25-30 square feet I had layed down and reinstall the area. My nail gun died and needed 170.00 part just as I was picking up speed again. I had to rebuild it. I just finished that and it went pretty well, so now I can finally move on.

    Sorry, I have learned a great deal, and might even tackle the upstairs when some time has passed and the pain dimmed a bit, but won't be doing anyone else's at least until mine is finished. The kitchen floor is fully installed, the hallway is installed except for the last row that I need a table saw to rip to size, and the livingroom is started. However, I am always happy to share what I have learned.

    I am 47. :) I would be done by now if I was still in my early to mid 20s!


  • pcjs
    15 years ago

    You're welcome to borrow our table saw! That's the one tool I will not touch but I love the miter saw. :) It it makes my husband happy, I'll be happy to buy it. Right now we need a new nail gun though as his brad nailers aren't cutting it. I was hoping to get a deal given its the holiday's but it's not looking good and I may have to take the plunge.

    What ashame they didn't fix your house properly. That is one thing we are grateful for - our house is old and worn, but well cared for.

  • snookums
    15 years ago

    Easy to DIY - flooring, painting cabinets, hardware, even plumbing as long as you aren't moving any lines, just hooking stuff up (gas, faucet, dishwasher, refrigerator), painting walls, trimwork, installing cabinets, possibly electric if it just involves installing new fixtures. OF course if you are particularly handy...

    Very difficult to DIY - granite.

  • kren_pa
    15 years ago

    agree completely with the lists of muscat, patches, and bob_cville, although we have actually done some of the things on the "don't do" list. my hubby has fallen off the roof, almost knocked over a 60 ft tree on the house while cutting it down, etc. another word about the texturing...i am currently smoothing joint compound over the homemade textured ceilings in our house...the POs thought that was a DIY job...but it wasn't! it looks horrible. soon it will be smooth. by soon, i mean of course within the next five years. hope you're patient, we're on month 15 of a total kitchen remodel (redo floor, electrical, plumbing, ceiling, walls, moved doors, new cabs, lights, etc...). moulding is another difficult a mitre saw and practice on mdf or plastic moulding scraps before using your stained wood kitchen mouldings at $50 a stick. good luck! kren