Late Spring Clean-Up and Repair: DIY or Outsource?

For those of us who own and reside in single family dwellings, this is the time of year to finally decide if you're really going to tackle that project you've been putting off since April or hire someone else to do it. These homey make vs. buy decisions aren't always easy -- for a wide variety of reasons -- and if you're like me, they're even more difficult.

I renovated my own home the summer before entering my senior year of college, rehabbed and re-built additional properties over the years that followed, became an accomplished carpenter, plumber, and electrician, and even owned and operated a general contracting business. But my ability to perform all these tasks is not the dominant factor that makes it hard for me to outsource -- it's because I'm cheap. Somewhere between my vast legacy of construction skills and unwillingness to pay someone else to perform tasks I can do myself lies my authority to continue this post.

If you're among the Spend Matters masses for whom a 12-hour work day is normal, have young children and an adult relationship to nurture, and remember that you have many other interests, activities, and hobbies that help you feel whole, then the solution to this conundrum is easy: Hire someone to perform your springtime fix-up and repair projects, budget permitting. And if you really, really just must do a few things yourself, consider making it a whole family endeavor, carefully scope and define the project, and don't spend more than half of a precious summer weekend in process -- preferably shoot for a half day. If your kids and mate kick, scream, and make excuses for why they can't assist, be firm (why should you be the lone worker?) and positive like Huck Finn – and you might be surprised by the fun and accomplishment.

Another reason to hire a well referenced handyman or contractor for jobs that are physically demanding -- even if you truly have the technical skills required -- is that you are highly unlikely to be in what I call construction shape. Construction shape isn't about looking like Michelangelo's David. it's about deep stooping, awkward positioning, twisting with heavy materials, working overhead for hours on end, and also having tweaked the many fine motor skills and coordination required to operate your inventory of lethal power and non-power tools without injuring yourself or another.

My general advice, stay with simple and easily timed projects and make them family social events. Bundle the bigger jobs with a local person or company once they have initially proven that they can, spec, price, and complete on time at the level of quality agreed upon. Then play a round of golf, dust off that old guitar, go fishing, sailing, hiking and all those other things you dreamed about last winter when you weren't shoveling snow.... gotta run, the delivery truck arrived with my roofing material for this weekend.

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