30 Sep Saving Money on DIY Projects: Find Skilled Friends to Help
Is it worth your time to do home improvement yourself?
This morning I helped a friend pour a concrete slab at his house. I’m often a fan of hiring a professional to do the job right, especially when the job requires some technical knowledge. I’ve seen plenty of concrete jobs get botched by people who don’t know what they’re doing, and concrete is an expensive project to mess up.
That being said, this is my buddy’s project, not mine. He had an idea what he was doing, and he brought a friend of a friend who had some experience pouring concrete. I myself know more than the average bear about concrete (my undergrad degree is in civil engineering). So between the three of us we figured we had it handled.
As it turns out, we did have it handled quite well. It wasn’t a large project and most of the prep work was already done so it only took us a few hours to pour and trowel the whole slab. By noon, we were done and everyone had gone home.
DIY cost breakdown
Still, as we wrapped up the project I couldn’t help but wonder if my buddy was really saving enough money to make it worth his time to do it himself. Being the blunt person I am, I just came out and asked him how much he was saving. Here’s what we figured out:
To have the slab professionally done:
- He was quoted $3 per square foot to prepare the subsurface, set the forms and pour the concrete.
- He put in a 16 ft x 28 ft slab, totaling 448 square feet.
- At $3/sf, that would have cost him $1344 for the concrete and labor.
- This quote didn’t include labor to demo the old slab and dispose of the old concrete.
To do it himself:
- He did the demo himself and worked a deal with the neighbor to (legally) dump the old concrete rubble.
- He bought 6.5 yards of concrete, totaling $708 and some change.
- He had four cousins and me doing the work, and he gave us each $20, for a total of $100 in labor.
- He bought $100 of gravel to prepare the subsurface.
- His total costs for doing the project himself were $908 plus some extra pizza & beer.
His total savings just for pouring the slab were $436. Plus, he saved on the demolition, which would have cost quite a bit in labor. On the downside he gave up two weekends of his time to do the project. Was two weekends of time worth the savings? For him, obviously it was. For me, I’d have to be confident I could get the job done right. In this case, it turned out quite well, and I think the savings was worth his time.
Would you attempt a project like this on your own or hire a professional?