Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The True Cost of Do-It-Yourself

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

screw-it-up-yourself

The moment our clothes dryer started making a funny noise, I did what any frugal, internet-enabled person would do–try to Google the sound. Unfortunately there were no results for “scrteeeeeeeeeeb,” but I did find some insightful discussions on the many noises a dryer can make. At this point, I’ve narrowed the problem down to either a worn rear bearing or demonic possession. The priest will be over shortly to rule out the latter; the former is a relatively inexpensive fix that I am tempted to…

DO-IT-MYSELF!!!

But in the end, I will likely end up either (a) hiring someone to fix the dryer; (b) waiting until the dryer stops working completely, then hiring someone to fix it; or (c) buying a new dryer. Why would someone so obsessed with saving money like myself let any of these events come to pass when I could simply attempt the repair myself? It’s simply a matter of realizing my limitations. Yes, that rear bearing replacement sounds simple when you read it on an internet discussion forum, and the rear bearing replacement kit is tantalizingly cheap, but there’s a hidden cost associated with any do-it-yourself home improvement or repair: the “oh crap” cost.

The oh crap cost is the price you’ll have to pay if you screw up a do-it-yourself project. Perhaps you didn’t read the directions completely and installed something improperly, or your hand slipped and you punctured a hole in the drywall, or you accidentally tiled over your car keys.

Consider the following examples which compare the professional installation and repair fees vs. the do-it-yourself price vs. the oh crap cost.

Example A: Ceiling Fan Installation

ceiling fan, or electrical menace???

Professional Installation Fees:

  • Ceiling fan: $100
  • Installation labor and materials: $100

Do-It-Yourself Price:

  • Ceiling fan: $100

Oh Crap Cost:

  • Electrical burn treatment: $250
  • Fried wiring replacement: $300
  • New ceiling fan: $100
  • Installation labor and materials: $100

Example B: Shower Head Replacement

shower head, or tidal force???

Professional Installation Fees:

  • New shower head: $80
  • Installation labor and materials: $100

Do-It-Yourself Price:

  • New shower head: $80
  • Teflon tape: $5
  • Caulk: $5

Oh Crap Cost:

  • Cracked tile replacement: $200
  • Installation labor and materials: $100

Example C: Gas Water Heater Replacement

water heater, or bubbly broiler of brutality???

Professional Installation Fees:

  • New water heater: $500
  • Installation labor and materials: $300

Do-It-Yourself Price:

  • New water heater: $500
  • Other materials: $50

Oh Crap Cost:

  • Fire department bill: $5,000
  • Emergency room visit: $2,000
  • Reconstructive surgery: $15,000
  • New house: $200,000

The oh crap cost is a risk associated with every do-it-yourself project. If you know what you’re doing, chances are you’ll avoid it entirely and save tons over hiring a professional to do it for you. But if you merely spent 15 minutes Googling and have a “pretty good” idea of what to do… well, make sure you have a few extra bucks in your savings account just in case you find yourself saying “oh crap.”

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