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Hiring a Contractor: When to Know When You Need One

Any remodeling project can be a big job, and although some can be done fine by experienced do-it-yourselfers, it's important to ask yourself some hard questions before taking on a project.

Consider carefully the pros and cons of a do-it-yourself home remodeling project. Many homeowners attempt a remodeling in order to save money, only to find it wasn't worth it in the long run.

"Take a good, hard look at whether you can -- or want -- to take on a DIY project.  In many cases, it is more time and cost effective to spend overtime at your job (whatever you do - selling insurance, working at Starbucks, being an office manager, etc.) and then using that money to hire home remodeling pros, who are also good at what they do.  They can make quick work of your project," says Lee Wallender, guide to About.com's home renovations section.

Although some homeowners may have the chops to do the job, most would benefit from looking carefully at the common mistakes do-it-yourselfer's make, and weighing the benefits of hiring a licensed professional instead. 

Here are most common mistakes of would-be do-it-yourselfers.

1. Taking on jobs you cannot handle. "Spend time on forums or talking to real people who have remodeled, rather than home remodeling books, which tend to cleanse the process and make it seem easier," says Wallender. Having a true picture of what a job really entails can prevent you from getting in too deep from the get-go.

2. Being unrealistic about the pressures on your family. "Work on one project at a time, rather than several. Don't do everything DIY -- the pros can speed up the process considerably, making everyone happier," says Wallender. Peace of mind can be just as important as saving money when it comes to major renovations. Be sure to make this calculation before you start the job.

3.  Being unrealistic about the time and money the project will take to complete. Wallender suggests, "Budget 20 percent more time and up to 50 percent more money than anticipated." Running short of money or time will frustrate anyone, and can doom a remodel from the start.

4.  Lacking a plan to tie in your project and other elements in the home. "Come up with a master plan before knocking down that first wall," warns Wallender. "The plan will keep you on task whenever you consider diverging from it."

In the end, if you do end up with a contractor, doing this kind of research on a project will be beneficial. "Remodeling books can teach you the 'language' of home remodeling. Learn this before talking to the professional.  Do not rely on the professional to teach you," says Wallender.

Kathy Wilson is a home and garden writer, author and consultant and is the home decorating expert for LifetimeTV.com. Visit her for more home and garden ideas at http://www.TheBudgetDecorator.com and

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