The Value of DIY Renovations

This past weekend, I ventured into the wilderness that was my backyard.  We’re talking months of neglect.  We have a lawn guy for the front, and it’s a fairly large yard for our area.  It’s also more than adequate for our Mini-Celt, so we had no use for the backyard.  But I got sick of feeling like Teddy Roosevelt wandering through Panamanian jungles every time I walked by the back door.  For my out of state readers, the humid and hot Florida climate makes shrubs and grass grow like no other.  We’re talking zero to four feet tall in just six months, if left unchecked.

Renovations Gone Wrong

Bathroom Renovations Gone Wrong

The good thing about yard work like that is that it’s easy on the mind, which allows me to idly think about other things.  So I got to thinking.  First about how much a lawn guy would charge me to clear out the backyard (for its dire state of repair, I estimated about $200).  Then I got to thinking about our upcoming renovations on the home.  Renovations that I am determined to do myself!  My DIY mentality was born out of a willingness to learn and the thought that knowing these skills might be good for my eventual venture into land lording.  It also doesn’t help that I’m a public servant and thus not flush with cash.

The Art of Renovations

I’ve never once called myself a handyman.  When I was a child, my uncle tried to teach me a lot of different skills: carpentry, electrical, design.  He tried hard.  The only thing I really took up quickly though were computer skills.  Because he was also handy with a computer, that became our thing that he would help me learn.  Computer skills though don’t have much translation to renovating a house though.

So why do I think it’s even possible to do this?  Well, I did take four years of Calculus, so understanding the math behind renovation shouldn’t be difficult.  I’ve also got pretty good eye-hand coordination from playing sports most of my life.  For a knowledge base, I have the internet which is a big one.  The CFC mother-in-law is also fairly handy, as she does set design for a local playhouse.  The Lady Celt and I are also taking classes at our local Home Depot.  Our next class is “How to Install Tile”.  Our previous one was supposed to be “How to Install Bathroom Fixtures”.  What it actually turned in to, because no one else showed up, was a 1 on 1 introduction and Q&A with the department head for kitchen and bath.  She explained to us, in wonderful detail, how to do a full tear down and renovation of a bathroom.  Something we plan to do in about a year.

All it takes is a willingness to learn and make mistakes.  We’ve done a few small projects to test the waters.  Projects that have remained undone because I didn’t think I could do them.  But they’re done now.  Lady Celt and I installed a Bi-Fold door for the pantry, changed out the trim kit for the bath, installed a new drain for the bath tub, and drywall patched our house.  Lady Celt installed new electrical outlets in a few rooms because I am still terrified of electricity.  You have to draw the line in the sand somewhere.

The Cost of Renovations

So what is the labor worth to me?  A lot it turns out.  For our bathroom remodel, our Home Depot contact quoted us approximately $5,000 assuming no contingencies.  That’s labor and materials.  After shopping around, the cost of supplies (including a new bath tub with professional install) is about $2400.  A savings of $2600.  If you assume a week long renovation at six hours a day, I’m saving about $86 an hour.  That’s well above my wage rate, and therefore in my best interest to do myself.

We’re also planning to install laminate flooring in about 900 square feet of the home.  After material, labor, and haul away we received quotes varying from $3500 to $4000.  After the material purchase for sub-flooring and the laminate, I’m at around $1500.  Throw in a $75 or less dumping fee at the local landfill, and I’m all in for less than $1725 – I added a 10% contingency into the laminate installation for edges and screw-ups.  That means, best case, I have savings of $1775.  At an estimated three hours for installation, and another four hours for furniture removal and put back, and an hour trip to the dump, my manual labor is worth $221 an hour.  Again, well above my wage rate, and therefore in my best interest to do.

I can probably also include $15 for a new bottle of Ibuprofen.


One of the most striking things about learning about basic construction and is how simple it is.  An electric drill, hammer, and some common sense can solve a lot of problems.  A quick trip to Youtube and the internet can solve the rest.  There are dangers of course.  I haven’t had to use a saw yet, so at this point I’m still intact.  I’ll report later if my new nickname becomes “Nubs”.

One of the other reasons you should start DIY, other than the cost savings, is the feeling of accomplishment.  After I put in the trim in the bathroom, I felt good.  After I wrestled the drain out of the bathtub for 45 minutes and put in the new one, I was elated.  I know once I see that beautiful laminate flooring go down, I’m going to feel the satisfaction of a job well done.  I can’t even begin to fathom how happy I will be after the bathroom renovation.  Then I’ll look at my bank account and smile again because I spent my money in a cost-effective manner.

The light and happy feeling of satisfaction coupled with the heavy feeling of those dollar bills still in my bank account is the true value of DIY.


Readers, have you ever compared the cost of DIY vs a professional and opted to do the renovation yourself?  What were your experiences?  Be sure to also let my readers know about any horror (or heart-warming stories) you’ve had in dealing with contractors.  As always, be sure to check me out on the Cash Flow Celt Facebook page.

If you’re stuck paying too much for a phone bill, be sure to check out my review of Republic Wireless!  For two lines, I pay a small $26 for great service!

Cash Flow Celt

I'm just a local business and finance nerd looking to help people get educated about small business, marketing, and personal finance! I write about anything and everything that I can tie into those themes. I'm also Central Florida's only Kilted Realtor, so I write about Real Estate too! Check out my About Me page to see the origins of Cash Flow Celt.

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5 Responses

  1. Cathy Colangelo says:

    All estimates I have read of DIY labor vs. professional are that DIY take 2.5 times as long as a pro to do. So more some less. That doesn’t account for tools needed, injuries, learning time and aggravation. Some chores are not worth the savings in my mind. Because of my knees, laying flooring of any kind is out.

  2. Jack Catchem says:

    Hi Celt,
    With any DIY project I make an assessment: can I do it well or can I just do it. I value quality and if I can’t provide it, I need to hire out. My wife is a perfectionist and will not tolerate “done” instead of “perfect.”

    I had an experience with DIY I’ll remember forever. I spent 4 hours unsuccessfully attempting to fix a plumbing issue in my house. Failed miserably. I went to work exhausted the next day and was told with a serious face by my boss Lt. Ling “Jack, you’ve been a cop for almost 6 years now. At some point in your career you need to focus on doing what you do best so you can pay others to do what they do best.”

    Upon my return home, a pro fixed the problem in under 30 minutes. Lesson learned.

    • Cash Flow Celt says:

      Fair points. One of the things my uncle instilled in me was “if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” It’s a mantra I’ve tried to live by. There are some things that I’m not equipped to do – especially not with a bad back – but at this point in my career (and age) it’s worth trying for me. Laminate is supposed to be so easy a caveman could do it. That bodes well…I hope.

      All else fails though, I do have the cash on hand to pay a professional. I’m just hoping it doesn’t come to that.

  3. Youtube has become a game changer in the Mustard Seed Money house. Before that I would never feel comfortable trying to do a home project on my own. Having tried to read through books on specific projects I never had a comfort level. With Youtube however, I feel like the solution is always at my finger tip and feel much more comfortable.

    • Cash Flow Celt says:

      I was reading Yetinvesting awhile ago and she was talking about these renovations she had been doing on a new four-plex. “I spent about 15 minutes beforehand watching Youtube, so I was pretty much an expert at that point.” I thought it was hilarious at the time, but then I started thinking about it and I have the same mentality. I would’ve never thought I could change a drain in a bathtub and then I read about it — and Youtubed it. Voila, just like that, I have a brand-spankin-new chrome bath drain.

      It really is a game changer; provided you don’t get lost in the cat videos.

      Thanks for commenting Mustard Seed!

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