When should I hire a contractor?

Being a contractor, you need to be informed about many different areas of the trades. We may be experts in a few areas, but for the ones where we have more basic knowledge, we need to know who to call when the rubber really hits the road. How many lights should I ideally have in this kitchen? Let me call my electrician! Is the home remodel we’re planning a good candidate for a tankless water heater? I’ve got my plumber on speed dial. Being knowledgeable in your field is key, but as they say, it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know! The same holds true for us as homeowners. It’s all very well to work on your own projects, but it’s important to know when to call the experts for advice or on-the-job skills.

Not long ago, I decided to undertake a simple plumbing fix in my house. Now I’m no plumber, but I pride myself in my ability to roll my sleeves up, figure things out, and get it done. If I can reframe a home repair or upkeep item into a challenge to overcome, my sense of accomplishment when the job is done is that much greater. Armed with basic soldering skills, I embarked on what seemed like a straightforward repair—a leaky ball valve on a pipe in my basement. My abilities were immediately put to the test; a few hours and two trips to the hardware store later, all I had to show for all my effort was a burned finger and a still leaking pipe. Cue banging your head against the wall.

At this point, my family was clamoring for me to turn the water back on to the house, and I needed to make a decision: keep trying or call in a professional. Naturally, I chose option number three! I remember our plumber had recommended push-to-connect fittings (the most common of which is Shark Bite) as a good option for some applications, especially where a quick fix is needed. So, I zipped on down to Menards one last time, got an Auqualock valve, pressed it onto my pipe, and voila! What I’d been struggling for hours to accomplish was done in a matter of minutes. I could now either finish the repair at my leisure or call in the professionals.

So, what lessons could I learn from this whole episode? Don’t be too proud to get help from an expert when you are out of your depth. Try to be flexible and willing to change plans if what you are trying isn’t working. Try to make the best use of the resources available to you, whether those are materials (like that magical fitting) or people (like my sage and experienced plumber).

As contractors, that is something we have that most homeowners don’t: plenty of resources in the construction industry. We’ve been in this business for decades and have seen pretty much everything; and if for some reason we encounter something new, there’s a good bet we’ll know who to call. We’ve got a stable of subcontractors who we trust and rely on and who have come through for us again and again. As a homeowner, we encourage you to get out there and try to do things on your own—Not every project requires the services of a full contractor. However, if you’re ever in a position where you realize you might be in a little over your head or a project you’re thinking about is beyond your comfort zone, give us a call. We’d be happy to be your friend in the trades.

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