Hire a General Contractor or Do it Yourself? The Eternal Question

HOME RENOVATION — REIMAGINED

A streamlined renovation platform to design, plan, and build—all in one place.

Help your friends renovate.

Get $200 when your friend completes a proposal call, and you'll both get $1,000 if they move forward with a deposit.

Watch enough HGTV and you’ll feel like there’s no home renovation project you couldn’t handle yourself. Knocking down walls seems like fun, and it couldn’t be that hard to install a sink, right? Well, depending on the type of job you’re looking at, you may be seriously considering the question, “Do I hire a general contractor or do I DIY it?”

Before you decide on an approach, no matter what size the project, there’s plenty to consider. The process of renovating your entire bathroom involves a series of ordered steps, and there is frequently more to the process than meets the eye, especially in detail and preparation.

First there is the demolition stage, commonly referred to as “demo.” This is the fun part, where you get to destroy the old room to make way for something fresh and new. Wearing protective gear and using hefty tools, you break down everything from the old bathroom and find the proper way to dispose of the material according to building codes. It’s a fresh start.

After demo, the first step is to install the shower pan, which includes mixing and pouring concrete, hanging a concrete board, and installing the shower drain with caulk. Then, install the floor tile and paint the walls before you tile the shower walls (and floor if there is no bathtub). After this comes installation of the lighting fixtures. Then installation of the shelving and medicine cabinet, a vanity if you want one, and any other wall-attachments.

After that comes the crucial installation of the plumbing: you will need to install your sink, showerhead, and toilet, and probably hire a plumber to assist in the process or do the installations. Finally, you can decorate the walls with backsplash tile and install towel racks and toilet paper holders—the final touches. Then you have a new bathroom. With no work being done on weekends, this will likely take about four and a half weeks.

So, if you’re considering a DIY approach and you already have a full-time job, prepare to be “under construction” for quite some time.

What Does a General Contractor Do?

A general contractor covers all of the logistics, from providing necessary materials and equipment, to sourcing the labor for the renovation project. General contractors will often hire subcontractors to perform the actual construction and building tasks.

There is also the transportation of materials to consider, which general contractors obtain from vendors they have rapports with. It’s important to find an experienced general contractor, as they are the acting leader. They design the schedule and ensure that the subcontractors stick to the agreed upon timeline and quality specifications.

Things to Consider if you Do it Yourself

Technical steps like mixing concrete properly, measuring and cutting with power tools, and designing a layout require proper research and preparation even if you have prior experience in home renovation. While there are vast resources available to figure this all out and many people fall in love with the process, conducting a DIY renovation requires serious commitment and comes with innumerable dangers and risks.

The feasibility of doing it yourself depends on your previous experience and the extent of the project. It may make more sense to do specific parts of the project yourself, like demolition. However, when it comes to electrical and plumbing work, it’s best, and sometimes required by building codes, to leave to a professional.

Back to Back

If you take the DIY route to renovating your bathroom, you will likely need to acquire power tools, and almost surely hire plumbers and electricians. Some tasks simple require a second set of hands that you’ll have to find yourself. Things like lifting glass shower doors that can weigh somewhere around 200 pounds or precisely placing and positioning a toilet would be taken care of by a team were you to hire a contractor.

However, installing a bathroom on your own can be an exciting project, and will save you the cost of hiring a general contractor, although you may need to hire your own subcontractors for some of the heavy-lifting and expert installing. Having a general contractor involved in the process removes the burden of figuring out logistics, but on the other hand, leaves you much more removed from the process, so it is a choice tailored to how hands-on you’d like to be in the renovations, how quickly you want it done and what you’d like to accomplish.

Stay in the loop with occasional updates from Block.