More homeowners doing it themselvesby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Strapped consumers are increasingly looking to save money by taking on home improvement and repair projects themselves.
Melissa Hysing, her father Bruce, and home inspector John Trostle are going through a south Minneapolis home Melissa is thinking about buying -- and fixing up.
One item on her to-do list is a leaky water valve on the basement ceiling.
Hysing suggests her father can fix the leak, as well as help her with other projects, such as sloping soil away from the foundation, retiling the bathroom, and others.
"I think I'll probably try to pull up the carpeting myself and do as much as I can, and then call him for advice and probably ask him to help out with some of the plumbing stuff," Hysing said. Trostle, the home inspector, is hearing prospective home buyers talk more and more these days about do-it-yourself projects.
Trostle says you can do work yourself for one-third of the cost of hiring someone to do it for you. Trostle says people can tackle a lot of tasks themselves.
"You practice the little stuff, build up to the bigger stuff, and you can get pretty good at just about anything," said Trostle. "There are places where you can get free lessons on how to do a little this, a little that."
It's hard to measure how much the do-it-yourself business is taking off. No one tracks how much consumers are spending overall on do-it-yourself projects.
But Home Depot, for instance, says it has been seeing more of a trend in DIY as the economy has gotten tougher. It's noticing an increase in landscaping and gardening, and home fix-up projects. Attendance at Home Depot's in-store workshops has been rising.
Peggy Paske runs tiling clinics at the Woodbury Home Depot. On a recent Sunday morning, Paske took eight folks through everything from preparing a subfloor to cutting tile.
"You do want to put a little pressure on," she said as she drew a cutter across a tile and then snapped it in two.
After the hour-long session, Kathy Hartman of Stillwater was confident she and her husband could tile their basement bathroom themselves.
"I just enjoy doing stuff myself," she said. "I like the hands-on kind of thing. Also, it is less expensive. And you get the satisfaction of seeing something you've done yourself."
More people are also trying appliance repairs themselves. That can save them a repairman's visit that'll typically cost them $75 or $100, for starters.
"A lot of them want to try it themselves because they need to save the service call," said Tom Grzywinski, a sales manager and trainer for Dey Distributing, which sells appliance parts to repair professionals and consumers.
He says consumers like to repair or replace things such as washing machine water inlet valves and hoses, dryer door catches, garbage disposals and heating elements for ovens.
But he warns people to be careful with those heating elements.
"They have to realize they have to disconnect the power. Because even though they have it shut off, one side of that line will be fired up in that thing. So, if they touch to ground, they're going to get good shock," said Grzywinski.
A few months ago, Dey launched a Web site that caters to consumers looking to find appliance parts. Grzywinski says Web site traffic and orders are picking up.
That's not a real shocker, though, given how many people are eager these days to save money by doing repairs themselves.
- All Things Considered, 07/06/2009, 5:23 p.m.