My “DIY vs. Hire Out” List

I’ve been working hard to get the hallway cabinet finished, and it’s almost there. Everything is built, sanded, and primed. It just need a little more sanding, a bit of caulk, and then paint. I’m hoping I can get it finished today and show you the finished product tomorrow. After that big project is finished, and since I finally got the problem door installed, the rest of the hallway should be fairly easy.

But I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to this post about how to decide what to DIY vs. what to hire out. Y’all had some great input about that, so I’ve been mulling over my 2017 house goals list, as well as other projects that have been started this year, and trying to be really honest with myself about what projects I want/need to do on my own, and which ones could/should be handed over to someone else.

After today, I will have finished 33 of the 54 items I had on my list for this year. That’s not too bad, but September is almost over, so we’ve got three months left in 2017. Yikes! And considering that the hallway cabinet has taken me over two weeks now, I would imagine that the pantry alone will take all of October (if not longer) for me to finish.

So I had to get real with myself. I can’t do all of the stuff on my list by myself and finish by the end of the year. And my main goal for this year was to have all of the main areas of my house finished and functional by the end of the year.

A few things on my list were just busy work. There’s zero benefit in me doing it myself. I have nothing to prove to myself and nothing to learn from it since I’ve done it a hundred times already. Things that fall into this category include installing trim (like all of the quarter round/shoe moulding that still need to go on my baseboards) and doors.

How much of that I do in the hallway will depend on how soon I can get my guys over here to do it for me. If they’re not available really soon, I’ll do it myself since I want my hallway finished ASAP. But there’s no need or benefit in me spending days installing shoe moulding in the rest of the rooms. I’ll gladly hand that over.

I’m also considering handing over the living room draperies to someone else. This is a big step for me. 🙂

I have one panel made, and I need five more, with two of those being double-width panels. This is another project where I really have nothing to prove to myself and nothing to learn. I’ve been making draperies for years. I’ve made them for myself, for clients, for my mom. I’ve made all kinds, different styles, and I have several step-by-step tutorials here on the blog (which you can find here). So forcing myself to make these is just busy work, and I don’t need busy work.

And then there’s the sofa I want to use in the living room — the one I found at a local consignment store.


I already have the fabric for it, and my mom said she’s ready and willing to help me reupholster it. But I think I’m going to let the upholsterer take care of this one for me. I would like to strip it enough so that I can refinish (or paint and topcoat) the wood before I take it to him, though.

The upholsterer is going to charge me $900 for labor and supplies, which include new batting and a completely new seat cushion (I want one long cushion rather than three), so I will have to take on the other upholstery projects myself (i.e., the two chairs for the music room and the two chairs for the living room).

Interesting tidbit — the cushions that are currently on the sofa don’t have a single bit of foam in them. They’re completely filled with feathers/down, which is why they don’t keep their shape. It’s so strange. Generally when a sofa has feather/down cushions, that means it has a layer of feathers/down that’s wrapped around a foam insert. But whoever did this sofa didn’t get the memo. 😀

One random thing I had on my “to do” list was to build or find a new coffee table for the living room. For some reason, I’ve envisioned something with a white marble top on it, and I had a plan to build a base for that top. Part of me wants to keep that on my list since I love to build things and to challenge myself to dream up, design, and create new things. But on the other hand, if the goal is just to get it done (for now), I already have a perfectly good coffee table ottoman that I built from scratch and upholstered, and that would work just fine for now.


It’s not exactly what I had pictured for this room, and I actually plan to use it in the family room once we do that addition, but it’ll work just fine in here for now. That’ll get one more thing off of my list for this year so I can get the living room finished and usable, and I can build a new coffee table with a marble top next year…or the year after…or maybe never.

That’s it for my official 2017 house projects list. I’m hiring out the sofa upholstery, living room draperies, and trim and door installation. It doesn’t sound like much, but those items alone will probably buy me three weeks that I can spend on other things.

But in addition to my list, there’s also the studio and exterior projects. The studio and exterior weren’t even on my radar at the beginning of this year, which is why they weren’t on my house projects list to begin with. But now that they’re started, they need to be finished.

On the exterior, the only thing I’ve done is select a paint color (#4, which is Sherwin Williams Mindful Gray)…

And then my brother and I spent some time one Saturday caulking.

This is one of those projects that was hard for me to let go of. I like to try new things, and I’ve never painted a house exterior before. But on the other hand…it’s caulking and painting. How new and exciting can doing those thing on a exterior actually be when I’ve done them on the interior a thousand times? There’s nothing new about either of those things for me, so I’m going to hire it out. Plus, I’ve been told that HardiPlank siding needs to be painting within 180 days of installation, so that’s another reason I really need to hire this out and get it done. 180 days seems like a long time (about six months), but time really flies by when you’ve got a house full of projects that need attention.

On the inside of the studio, I’ve decided to just take it one project at a time. Things need to be done in a certain order, so I’ll decide as it’s time for each project to be done whether to do it myself or hire it done, based largely on our budget.

studio progress as of 8-1-2017

The first thing that needs to be done is electrical. I’m pretty sure I’ll do that myself since electricians are very expensive. Next I’ll need insulation and drywall. I’ll definitely hire out both of those things. And then the hardwood flooring can go in. It’s so easy to install that I cringe at the thought of hiring that out. But on the other hand, I’ve done it before, I have nothing to prove to myself by doing it again, and I have nothing to learn from it. That’s time I could spend on other (new and challenging) things, so if we have the budget for it, I’ll hire it out.

I also need my new 15-lite pocket door installed between the breakfast room and studio, and I’m perfectly fine with hiring that out as well.

Once those major things are done, that’ll get me to the fun stuff (like building cabinets, which I’ll do myself) and the pretty, decorative stuff, which of course, is my territory.

So that’s the plan. 🙂 I’m slowly but surely learning to relinquish control over some of these things, but it’s not easy. I just need to keep reminding myself that the goal for this year has been (and still is) to have all of the main rooms finished, decorated, and functional by the end of the year. That’s the goal, so I’ll do whatever I can to get there.

And as far as my studio goes, my goal (which I’m holding pretty loosely right now) is for it to be completely finished and usable by the end of June 2018. And that includes everything — cabinets built, installed, and painted, workroom table built and usable, and the whole thing organized, decorated and done. If I can get it done by that time, then the studio (including the half bath and mudroom) will have been a one year project from beginning to end. That sounds reasonable to me.

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  1. Oh my, what a long way you’ve come. Kudos to you for taking a clear, thoughtful look at the big picture and making informed decisions. Congratulations on sorting this all out.

  2. You seem to be very realiztic about your 2017 goals. If you’re hiring the upholstery of the couch outside, maybe your Mom would be willing to do the 4 chairs you want upholstered and you’d have another couple of tasks off the list.

    I love your tufted coffee table and think it would work fine in your living room. When you get the family room complete, it could be moved there and a new marble-top one put in it’s place.

    I’m very excited to see these areas complete but also know that you shouldn’t push yourself too hard or you could injure your shoulder/back again. That’s never good. I think you’re doing great and remember that goals are something you ‘strive’ towards. If you don’t quite get there, they can always be added to your 2018 list.

  3. I think your plans/decisions make a lot of sense! I agree that hiring out things that don’t add to your development as a DIYer is totally reasonable. Not only is this your house, but your house (and the related DIY) is your career and your job. If I were your boss, I would tell you to focus on career development. 🙂

    Super excited to see things come together!

    And, I know it’s probably a while away, yet, but I so want to see a video tour of the main living areas and the outside of your house painted!

  4. I’m so glad you decided to hire out painting the exterior. I have always loved painting interiors and have never hired it out. The exterior was always painted by “pros” because we lived in two-story homes. But now that I find myself in a one story home I was seriously considering painting it myself until I decided to paint the garden shed this past summer. It was so much harder than painting interiors! I’ve now hired a “pro” to paint the outside of the house.

  5. So impressed with your progress so far, and your thoughtful decision making regarding what to DIY and what to hire out. In terms of hiring out I would appreciate knowing who you intend to use to make your drapes. I have recently moved to Waco to be near my daughter and son-in-law and my soon to be born granddaughter. I am unfamiliar with the best sources in Waco for custom draperies and trust your judgement. Thank you in advance for your help.

    1. Plumlee Place is the only drapery workroom I know of in this area. They’re in Robinson, and they do the draperies and soft furnishings for most of the designers and decorators in Waco. They generally do really great, professional work, but after two very frustrating experiences with projects for past clients, I probably won’t use them again. I know those two experiences were the exception and not the rule, and they have very good customer reviews. But two bad customer service experiences kind of taint the good for me. 🙂 I’m hoping to find someone new, but that might be challenging. Plumlee Place is very established here and kind of has a monopoly on the drapery workroom business in Waco.

      1. Kristi,
        Remember me from years ago when I made draperies for you on a couple of projects? I would love to sew for you but I am in TN. Would you want to discuss it?

  6. Keep up the good work! I think I am more of a DIY than most, I guess. I dont hire out anything I (or hub) can do ourselves. Just feel too guilty when I know I’m capable. I like using the money saved for other things. Sounds like meeting goals is important to you. Enjoy reading about your progress.

  7. I think your hire out plans sound very reasonable to allow you time for other projects on your goal list. I agree with Sue’s comment, maybe as your Mom offered to help you with the upholstering of the sofa, now that you are going to hire out that project now, your Mom might be willing to help you with the 4 chairs instead? It’s very exciting for all of us to see your main house areas coming to fruition, decorated and furnished. I also really like the SW Mindful Gray color you’ve decided on for the exterior siding, it really pops against the white window frames.

  8. I noticed that you have an electrical outlet on the bottom shelf of the new hallway cabinet. You might consider putting it a small fan for ventilation/circulation for Peeve by her box. Can’t wait to see the finished hallway!

  9. IMHO Excellent choices. Much of the pressure is removed, from you.

    Good deal! Can’t wait to see how they all come together!

    Now to find the perfect ones to do the jobs! Good luck!

  10. Sounds like you have a great plan, Kristi. Glad you are going to be able to enjoy all the living spaces in your home. You and Matt deserve to enjoy your home. And you, especially, should not feel pressured to do all the projects by yourself. Things you’ve done numerous times aren’t new or fun projects that you need to keep doing. This blog is your business and you have enough talent and projects to keep it going without getting bogged down in repeating certain projects or tasks. Plus you have a personal life to live and enjoy, too. Because you are so real, and your good heart comes across in your blog, I love following everything you do. Keep smiling and doing what brings you joy!

  11. I’m so glad you’re going to use the coffee table ottoman that you built from scratch and upholstered, because that is one of my favorite projects that you did. It’s lovely.

  12. Love it all, ….. ‘NUF said.

    I just DIY’d electric outlets right into some cabinets and love it….
    My bathroom vanity… inside on the side, for plugging in my hair dryer, LEAVING it plugged in then tossing it right back in the cabinet
    Also for my Water Pik, that sits in a door shelf/basket, it is still usable/reaches while sitting in there, the tank pops out for filling
    AND for my dudes beard trimmer…. also sits in the door shelf basket, always has a charge.
    AND ALL OF THE ABOVE ARE OFF MY VANITY COUNTER, which in my case is too small, but even if it was bigger, all those things are UGLY. Call me lazy but take out, plug in, use, unplug, store is a dull way to start or end my day!

    When I build other storage… kitchen, pantry or otherwise I am going to install a few in cabinet outlets again. Haven’t thought it all through yet but I bet there are other similar ways I’d achieve a happy place with this small modification. Like why do all tech recharging stations have to be on counters…. suppose heat might be an issue??????

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen in-cabinet electrical outlets before. Sounds like an interesting idea, but I’m wondering if they are code-compliant? Do you use GFCI outlets?

      I’m too paranoid to leave anything plugged in all the time, I’ve heard too many horror stories of appliances and such things shorting out and causing fires. I actually watched my boyfriend plug in a surge suppressor one time, which started to smoke at the wall outlet, so he had faulty wiring at least at that outlet. My skin crawls thinking of what could’ve happened if he’d plugged it in and we’d left to go to a movie or something! My sister used to leave her curling iron plugged in all the time, until her cat’s tail caught on the cord and the iron somehow switched itself on as it was falling off the counter onto the bath rug on the floor. She found it before the rug went up in flames (she could smell a burning odor), but it could’ve easily resulted in a house fire.

    2. Yes GFCI outlets.
      I get your concern.
      Don’t do curling iron business.
      And let dryer cool but I get your concern. For me more risk in cat knocking off counter, not opening cabinet.
      So you actually unplug everything, even surge protector? That seems like it would have impossible to predict. …. Water Pik or groomer seem harmless?

      I’m going to do some checking on code plus have a professional firefighter pal. Seems like I’ve seen plug ins in medicine cabinets. We have so many bathroom appliances these days the counter can get quite cluttered.

      1. Sounds like a great idea to me. Since so many kitchens have appliance garages with outlets, why not the bathroom, as well? I hate having my counter tops cluttered up with all that stuff, and hate the plugging in/unplugging and storing somewhere else as well. I’d love an appliance “garage!”

  13. It’s probably a good idea that you plan to hire out the sheetrock work. With your nerve issue, hanging sheetrock could definitely set your healing back.

  14. Kristi, I am so proud of you! You are taking a big and important step by giving way and hiring out the type of work that you have already done. As you said, you’ve already proven yourself quite capable of that work, many time over. I think you will feel lots of relief when you find that you now have time to spend on the projects you want take on a new challenge or a NC (I think its Hickory Chair) has all down back cushions. I don’t like the amount of fluffing required and they were supposed to be foam core with down. I just did not feel like sending it back and the seat cushions were as ordered. I will say, though, that those all down back cushions have held up so much better than I ever thought. Love the single seat cushion idea. I have had about three single cushion sofas or loveseats and I really like the seating on them as well as the nice clean line it gives to the front if the sofa.

  15. Kristi – I agree – its smart to hire some things out since there is only one of you and only so much time in the day. I am amazed with each Blog on the amount of stuff that you do. But on the curtains, I think you should do those yourself. You already had a bad experience in the past with the top shop in your area. Trying a new shop may or may not work out. I would outsource something else instead of the curtains.

  16. I don’t know why, but this post has me more excited than ever. Your reasoning is so simple and so brilliant – done it before, so what can I learn from this – nothing? Move on! Life lesson here!!!!

  17. Your projects and progress are inspiring! I am also addicted2decorating and have taken on major projects lately, but you seem to move much faster. I appreciated this article because, for the first time, we just hired a crew to remove tons of ugly tile in our foyer, back entrance, kitchen, powder room and butler’s pantry. They are weaving red oak into the existing floors in the office, dining and family rooms and they’ll be staining them dark. It’s the FIRST time we hired anyone since we usually do everything ourselves, but we’re getting older now and these labor intensive projects are too much. Now we’re hiring someone to tape and float the drywall where we removed a half wall and hall closet to open up the family room. I think I like hiring someone else! Thanks for all the inspiring work. You are very talented.