Tuesday, November 8, 2011

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro: The Studio

Obviously, as we are attempting homesteading the lady of the house and I are comfortable, and indeed actively tend to do things ourselves rather than getting a professional to do so. That said, I'd like to examine some of the pros and cons of each. One of the big attractions to us about our house is the big garage with a second floor on it, but it did need finishing. Given our rather slim financial situation, one might assume that we did the whole thing ourselves, and you'd be wrong. The why I think is the important part.

The Specifics Of The Studio
The studio space we are working on came to us bare studs, and rafters. The windows were in, ish. They hadn't been caulked, framed, anything, they were just tacked in. There wasn't flooring, insulation any of it. I'm going to list off the things that needed/still need to be done in some cases. There is going to be a dash next to the pieces we hired someone else to do.

* Electrical wiring -
* Data wiring -
* Insulation
* Hang, mud, and tape drywall -
* Frame a wall around the stairs -
* Install the flooring for the attic -
* Install a door -
* Install a ceiling hatch to the attic -
* Install a wood stove and attendant fireproofing -
* Frame, and caulk the windows
* Fix the existing external doors
* Paint the walls
* Install flooring of what ever type we need
* Place lighting, switches, and plug sockets

Last but not least

* Understand code and deal with inspectors

Why Have A Pro Do The Things We Did?
The wiring I had a professional install because, simply, the time I needed to get it done in, I couldn't. In addition to that a professional electrician knows tricks to make sure wire pulls go smoothly, wire doesn't get crimped and broken, etc. The same person also did the data runs so that they didn't get run too close to the electrical runs. In a lot of ways this is one I'd normally have done myself because then things would have been exactly where I wanted them, and anything that was a problem was my problem. But sometimes based on the schedule you have to keep, you have to hire someone else to do it. In addition, because a professional did it, dealing with the electrical inspector was quick and easy. There is also the benefit of not having to bumble around pulling a permit, which is not an easy process if you don't know the system.

The drywall, framing around the stairs, flooring of the attic, door installation, and the ceiling hatch to the attic were an easy choice for me to not do. I simply don't have the tools to do most of those both well and quickly. I don't know if any of you have hung dry wall before, but I will pay to have someone else do it every time if I can. What would have taken me and a friend weeks, took these two a week, and it only took that long because the moisture content in the area slowed down their ability to mud and tape properly. Again, their assistance with dealing with the inspector was literally, invaluable. Things got significantly delayed, and because my contractor knew the code, and knew how things were supposed to work he was able to get things moving with the inspector in ways I wouldn't have known to. Beyond that having a contractor in there has meant that I'm able to ask questions to make sure what I am doing around his work is correct.

Finally, installing the wood stove. This is one that I just won't do on my own. When you could burn your house down in minutes by screwing up, get a professional to do it if you aren't absolutely sure of yourself. In addition to that in many places you have to get a certified installation technician to install wood stoves, and they know all of the code associated with doing so.

Why Do What We Did Ourselves?
Insulation is easy. It is time consuming, and if you don't tape yourself into your clothes it itches like fire. Ok, it itches even if you do tape yourself in. Just make sure when you do your own insulation you are wearing proper protective gear because that shit will destroy your lungs and eyes.

The windows, well, to be honest I think I decided to do that on my own because it didn't seem that hard. Man was I ever wrong, but I'm still glad I did it. I'm actually going to do a whole post on the windows, so stay tuned for that.

Fixing the existing exterior doors, I decided to do on my own because mostly it is a matter of drilling a hole for a handle, and putting in a proper weather seal around it for now. In the future it will include buying new doors to replace the abominations that are there and installing those. Putting in doors is relatively easy as long as the space is set up for it, and you have a second person to bear the weight of the door while you hang it. That said, you can do doors on your own if you are meticulous and willing to take your time and do things carefully.

Painting the walls was an easy choice for me to do myself. Painting is a matter of paying attention to what you are doing, thinking ahead, and patience. Painting walls especially is very easy. Tape off anything you don't want covered, get a roller, and go. Make sure when you are using a roller to paint that you don't get too much paint on the roller, and that you coat evenly. When you use a brush, use firm confident motions that give even coverage along the close spaced areas. In corners, get as close as you can with the roller, and then use the brush. Don't get your brush or roller dirty, and if you do clean it before painting further. Also, remember when you're done painting to clean your brush and roller for future use. It's not rocket science, so anyone can do this themselves if they have time. (Big if, I know.)

Installation of flooring is something I chose to do myself because of cost. It came down to we are running out of money, we can have bare plywood flooring all around if we insist on professional installation. Alternatively in places that we can afford flooring, or where we are taking stone from outside, we can do it ourselves. This is going to be a hell of a learning process for me I suspect, and am a little apprehensive about putting down carpeting and stone. I will be updating on this.

Finally, hanging lights, fans, and installing switches and sockets. Realistically, if the power is off putting in switches and lighting fixtures is a matter of reading the manual. Seriously. Follow the directions exactly, and you'll be fine. If the power is on, or you're not sure if it's off it is a very different situation. Having worked as an electrician's apprentice for a while, and having done theater electrical work for over a decade, I'm confident in my ability to A: make sure the breaker is off, and B: be able to work safely even if it is on.

More About DIY vs Contractors
I'm going to have to do a post about the pros and cons of each in the larger scale because I didn't realize how much this post would have all on it's own.

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