To do it yourself or pay a professional?

To do it yourself or pay a professional? Some home renovations are just meant to be left to the experts.

Bathroom renovation
ARTICLE Carly Flynn

My mother is a wise lady, and more often than not – she’s right. She once quietly told me after a failed painting attempt, that was hot on the heels of a sloping deck attempt and a DIY wallpapering attempt, that sometimes, with some jobs, it’s just best to call in the experts.
Put aside your naïve assumptions that painting a wall can be ‘good fun and rewarding’ if you’re afraid of monotonous manual work. Truth is, if you ain’t got the knack, or the stamina for the necessary ground work, it’s best stick to your own profession and pay someone else.
But sometimes, we don’t always listen to our mums. And after an overly expensive series of quotes for a tiny en-suite bathroom makeover, my wonderfully creative, but not so practically minded husband decided, “how hard can it be to put in a new toilet?”
It’s here that I should point out (darling) that the completed project looks wonderful, functions perfectly, and cost us a fraction of the professionally quoted cost. Although there’s still the mere matter of the rest of the bathroom – but that’s another story.
This is not a story of disaster, but I would like to question the legitimacy of the two or three weeks of missed paid work time it took to 1. Plump a toilet 2. Sand a one-point-five metre by three-metre space 3. Plaster it, and 4. Paint it.
It looks good, mind you. But after all was sanded and sealed, we still had a dripping, leaking toilet; which was after all, one of the main reasons we’d decided to replace the old pink loo in the first place. And so, in week three of having to stumble downstairs in the dark to the main bathroom, my patience was thin and I politely suggested we call in a plumber.
I didn’t intend to offend the man of the house. It’s just that we’ve already had three water related disasters in this particular part of the house (not thankfully from any of our own renovating attempts), but I didn’t think the insurance company would take too kindly to hearing from us about a fourth flood claim, or in fact ever again.
It was a case of: “Honey, you’ve done a brilliant job, why don’t you do what you do best, and let’s call in someone who does this best.”
So that afternoon, a qualified plumber arrived to look at the potential problem/s. Prematurely embarrassed by what he might find, I was relieved to hear him proclaim; “There’s no leak!” “Can’t see any problems!” “This job is done!”
I felt foolish for doubting the hubby, and then came a quick check below the heavy coal of silicone at the base of the loo. A tiny slit made way for a gush of water.
“Ahh there it is,” said the kind tradie, “no point gluing it up if the water is still sitting behind it.” Fair play. It has to go somewhere, and preferably always out of the building.
And so the toilet was removed, a part was discovered to be missing (suppliers’, not hubby’s fault), and – relief of all reliefs – within the hour, we had no more drips, no more leaks, and a perfectly functioning brand spanking new loo.
So $330 later, on top of the time and cost of work already done and product already purchased, the tradie told us the husband had done 90% of the job. It saved us time and money even. Not bad for a cameraman. He too was relieved.
The en-suite is not going to win any grand design awards for small spaces. The old lino, shower and hand basin remains. But the dripping 1970s pink lavatory is in a skip, replaced by a modern day one, the wall painted a fresh white.
And now every time we flush the dunny there is a sense of pride that 90% of it was done by ‘us’. We saved money, not necessarily time. But it was worth it.
And next time, that experience has given us new skills and knowledge of what we can achieve ourselves, and an idea of when we should ask for help.
I don’t think we’ll be tackling the master bathroom any time soon, but I have to admit it was a satisfying challenge, and even I might be inclined to pick up a paintbrush, if only someone else professionally sands and plasters it first.
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This column by Carly Flynn featured on page 24 of Issue 012 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

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