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Whether you get your inspiration from Chip and Joanna (Fixer Upper), Drew and Jonathan (Property Brothers) or your hundreds of pins on Pinterest, there comes a time to turn your dreams into reality (or your water-damaged basement into a home office). But how do you determine when to do it yourself or when to hire a pro? We’ve put together a checklist to help you decide the best approach for each project.

Home improvement project checklist:

  • Can you make the time? Whether you do it yourself or hire a pro, figure out how long the project is expected to take and then get your calendar out. By setting aside time to tackle your projects, you are less likely schedule over it and more likely to finish your project closer to your goal date.
  • Do you have the tools? You’ve done your research on what needs to be done, so be sure to make a list of what tools you’ll need to get the job done. If you don’t have all the tools, make note of which ones you plan to buy, borrow or rent.
  • Do you have the skills? First things first, do you know how to fix it yourself, or can you find the resources you need to learn how (hello seemingly endless videos on YouTube)? Keep in mind that in some cases it could be dangerous to do it yourself (like electrical work that’s not done right and causes a fire) or other projects might require certifications and permits you don’t have.
  • Are there others who can help you? Whether you grew up in a big family, your college roommates are your go-to crew or you’ve got another set of helping hands in mind, ask around to see who’s done it before (or who’s willing to learn alongside you).


If you checked each item off the list above, DIY is the way to go. Here’s how to get started:

  • Research your project like it’s your thesis. From a kitchen backsplash to repairing that giant hole in your drywall, get lost on the internet looking for what others have to say. Just like a research paper, be sure to look at a variety of sources, including home improvement stores, contractors and fellow DIYers. While no two projects are the same, make note of what you learned, including a list of tools you’ll need to do the job, the materials you’ll need to purchase and time-related items (like dry times for grout). Since there may be a considerable gap in the time you did your research and the time you start your DIY project, write down the steps you’ll need to take and bookmark the videos you watched for easy reference if things get a little complicated during your project.
  • Price it out. Many home improvement stores show their inventory and prices online, so go ahead and build your cart. Be sure to check the suggested items or list of items that others added to their carts to see if there is anything you may have overlooked. Be sure to check around your home for any leftover supplies from previous projects that may come in handy for your next DIY job.
  • Get your crew ready. Now that you’ve done your research and are ready to purchase supplies, reach out to those who have either volunteered to pitch in or those you think might be willing to help out.
  • Prep your work area. Once you know who’s helping and when you’ll be starting your project, it’s time to get your work zone ready. Do as much prep work as you can so you can hit the ground running when your friends and family arrive to help, including moving items that may get in the way and getting tools set up close by. Don’t forget to think through who will be doing what so you can spend more time working and less time answering questions on what your helpers should do next.
  • Make your purchases and get started. Once you have everything ready, purchase supplies and pick up tools to get the job done. Then bring them home and get everything sorted so you know where things are when you need them.


If you checked off only a few items, hiring a pro may be the better route. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Outline what you want. Before you reach out to contractors for estimates, know what you want to achieve with your project. This will help you set a scope and avoid an end-product that’s not in line with what you had envisioned.
  • Check ‘em out. Do your research on potential contractors—check out their website, reviews on Facebook, Google and other online directories, and ask around. Then ask your top three picks for estimates. This will give you a good range of price options, as well as some bargaining power with contractors willing to negotiate their costs.
  • Ask LOTS of questions. Get a good understanding of the contractor’s work and communication style, set expectations for when work will be occurring, as well as how they will leave the jobsite when they are done each day. Find out what’s included in your estimate and scope of work and how your contractor will handle any surprises so you can know what to expect from a timeline and cost perspective.
  • Get it in writing. Be sure to get your home improvement project timeline, costs and expectations in writing, either in a formal contract or a written acknowledgement of some sort that you both review and agree to prior to renovations.


Looking for more tips to save money on your home improvement projects or more details on financing your home? Check out our Home Life blog posts.