I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether or not it always makes sense to DIY projects. Don’t get me wrong, I love to build things but given all the time/skills, tools, materials, and supplies needed. However, I do think it’s worth doing the exercise of asking yourself what is the true cost of DIY’ing and comparing it to what it would cost to purchase something instead, or have someone else build it for you.Admittedly, coming up with a number for the cost of DIY’ing something is far from an exact science. It depends on many factors, all of which vary from person to person. So to help you figure it out, I’ve come up with these 10 questions to ask yourself when deciding between DIY’ing or simply buying something:
- Is there a ready made option that can solve your problem that I can buy new or used?
- Is there something I can repurpose with minimal effort that can solve the problem
- How much does it cost and is it
- Do you have all the materials needed to build your project?
- What about supplies? Will you have to buy things like paint, sandpaper, glue, screws, etc.?
- If buying supplies or tools, how much time will it take to do the shopping? Will you need to go to the hardware store? Can things be shipped to you?
- will the tools and supplies be useful for other projects down the line, or is this a one- off project and you’ll likely never use these supplies again?
- How much time do you estimate it will take to build the project? Whatever estimate you come up with, I recommend doubling it. Things rarely go as planned when you DIY and you will undoubtedly have to make redo something or go back to the hardware store to buy something you forgot.
- How much is your time worth? Perhaps you don’t have to shell out cash to pay yourself for your time, but it is time you can’t spend doing something else – choosing to spend your time building project does cost you something in that sense. Just like if you were to hire someone to do it for you, they would charge us for their time – it’s important to have an idea of what that is because it may tip the scales one way or the other.
- Why do you want to DIY? Is it because you want something that is so custom, it doesn’t exist? Is it because you enjoy the process? Do you want to practice your building skills to get better? How important is it for you to be able to say “I built that”? This is the non-tangible part of building something yourself that you can’t easily quantify but can again tip the scales towards DIY’ing versus buying.
I went though the exercise of asking myself these 10 questions while looking back at my most popular DIY projects that I built for tiny kitchens. Many I would DIY again but there’s a few I would buy if I had to do it all over again:
Projects I would DIY again:
Having the ability to customize the knife rack to work with my knives, and the fact that I was able to use scrap wood I already had on hand makes this the perfect DIY project. You can see the detailed tutorial on how I made it here.
The reasons for DIY this extra shelf for spices is the same as for the knife rack – using scraps makes this a very inexpensive project and I was able to easily customizer this to fit my cabinets. You can see the detailed tutorial on how I made it here.
This project was a lot of work to build but in then end it was worth it in this instance because I was able to build dish rack in a way that it could replace an existing shelf above the sink. I didn’t have to make any holes in the wall, which was an important consideration given this is a rental apartment. However, I will say that if you can find a wall mounted dish rack that fits your needs like this one, and making holes in the wall isn’t a concern, it will likely be less expensive than DIY’ing in the long run, especially when you factor in your time.
Items I would BUY instead of DIY’ing:
While I enjoyed building this project, it wasn’t less expensive than buying one. I had to buy all the wood, paint, molding, plus it took about a day to build, including the time it took to buy all the materials. If these ready made options had fit my space, I would say it’s worth the time you would save by buying instead of DIY’ing.
Pull out drawer for trash can
I had to DIY this project mainly because I was installing the pull out drawer in a rental and I didn’t want to screw anything into the cabinets. Building the drawer isn’t that difficult and can be done with minimal tools but it does require precision if you want the drawer to pull in and out effortlessly. With all the materials I had to purchase, including the drawer slides, and all my labour, I think it would be well worth it to buy custom made pull out drawers like these or buy a pull out trash can system like this one instead.
I would love to hear if you have any projects that you DIY’ed and later wish you had either hired someone to do it or just bought something ready made. Conversely, is there something you built that you could have bought for less time and money, yet would never trade in your creation for anything because you’re beaming with pride at your accomplishment? Look forward to hearing about your thoughts on this!