Saving Money on DIY Projects: Find Skilled Friends to Help

DIY projects can save you money

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.Saving money on DIY projects

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.

Save money buy pouring your own concrete

Almost done by 10 am.

Would you attempt a project like this on your own or hire a professional?

9 thoughts on “Saving Money on DIY Projects: Find Skilled Friends to Help

  1. That’s awesome that your buddy has friends like you to help him (i.e. people who knew what they were doing!) I don’t think Mr. LH would attempt this kind of project on his own and I know I’d convince him otherwise. Too many things could go wrong and the savings would be flushed down the toilet having to fix it.

  2. Wow… if it wasn’t for friends, I wouldn’t get any major projects done. I’ve found I’m able to make money in other ways to pay others to help me when needed… cause left to my own, it would all fall apart.

    • Yeah, after this project I think I could attempt my own concrete project but there are some projects I would just feel better hiring a professional to do.

    • I’m much better with the demo Aaron! My expertise is actually limited. I do a few small home improvement jobs around the house but major ones scare me so I stay away.

  3. We would have to hire a professional because we don’t have the skills.

    However, I am much more likely to hire out than DIY now that I can spend my weekends focusing on blog income instead of just hanging around.

    • Agreed Kay. Sometimes it becomes a question of what your time is worth. If you can make more in that time than you can save by DIY, it definitely makes sense to hire the work out.

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  5. Heh heh heh… And how much was his chiropractor’s bill?

    Whenever I try a labor-intensive project like this, I end up aching from tip to toe. And, well…I’ll never forget the time poor old former DH tried to replace the showerhead and broke the shower pipe off inside the wall. Yipe!

    • Ha! Not sure about the rest of the group but with my back history I’m surprised I escaped with just some sore muscles. I’ve experienced similar bathtub woes. It’s quite a site to see water spraying from the pipes with so much force it hits the wall on the opposite end of the tub. Made a mess in the basement too!

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