Here’s a question people often ask me: How do you decide when to DIY versus hire a pro? (In fact, someone asked me that question last week during the live chat I did for Lifehacker, and trying to answer quickly in three sentences or less might have made my eye twitch.)
My own personal metrics whether or not to DIY pretty much depend on how crazy I’m feeling at the moment. Have I slept at all in the last month? Did I recently roll my car over and have to spend my “new project fund” on a new vehicle (or two)? Do the chickens want me to hang out and sing them songs all day? How many rabies shots have I had recently? Eight? Eight. And, most importantly, will it give me an excuse to buy more tools?
Time is by far my most precious resource, but if I’m going to be honest, my ego plays a big part in these decisions too. Paying someone to do work around the house is realclose to admitting I need help, and we all know I’ll go to ridiculous lengths to do things without help (as evidenced by possibly my favorite video on this website.) The Liberty House has presented a few unique challenges though, and, being a one-woman show, I’ve been more willing to hire out jobs on this house than on any of the others. Particularly on projects that might take me the rest of my natural life to complete. Like the miles of oak trim that needed seventeen coats of paint? Happy to outsource that one.
Recently I’ve been considering hiring out another lingering project on the farm…
The pasture fence.
Take the number of times I mentioned this project on the blog over the last seven months, multiply it by 324, and that’s how often I’ve been thinking about that damn fence. And yet, you’ll notice, my donkeys are still being contained by a combination clothesline and prayers.
I kind of feel like the first time I was dragged across a field by a three-foot tall donkey was a rite of passage, but because neither Parker nor I have any desire to repeat the experience, I feel like the fence situation needs to be remedied. Soon.
So. Here’s where I’m at. Back in early spring I spend a couple of weekends laying out the pasture boundaries and pounding dozens of T-posts around my property (half of which were still in the car when I flipped it. That was a fun way to almost decapitate myself. Don’t do that.)
My plan is for the fence to mimic the pasture at Memorial, with 2-rail split rail on the front and one side leading to the barn, and welded wire around the rest, like this…
Which means I have to sink about 30 posts in the ground.
But even though I’m no stranger to fence installation, this project has eluded me all Summer. Now that the leaves are changing color and my holy-shit-it’s-almost-winter panic mechanism has kicked in, I’ve started to consider swallowing my pride and calling for help.
Other than the bruise to my ego, here are the kinds of things I look at to see what DIYing vs hiring out will really cost me…
If I do it myself:
- 200 LF of 2-rail, split rail = $600
- 200 LF 30″ welded-wire = $220
- 24 hour Bobcat rental with post-hole auger = $350
- Quickrete= $100
- 10 4×4 treated posts = $70
Total= $1340 + 10-12 hours of labor (if I don’t finish in 12 hours and need to rent the bobcat for another day, $1700)
If I hire it out:
- Split rail materials plus labor, including welded wire installation = $2200
- Labor for 10 additional 4×4 post installation = $400
- 10 4×4 treated posts = $70
Total = $2670
I am so on the fence about this decision that I don’t even know if that was an intentional pun. Probably not.
On one hand, the soonest I could even start this project is the first weekend in October. If I was sure I could finish it in a weekend, I might just dive right in, but I’m not sure I can set thirty posts in a day (or even two) on my own. And if I don’t manage to set the posts in a reasonable time frame it may actually be more expensive for me to DIY than hire out, depending on how long I’ll need the bobcat.
On the other hand, if things go well, I could save $900 for the low, low cost of anywhere from 11 to 20 hours of my time and a ton of splinters. I could refinish at least half the master bath with that extra money, and I’m not sure I’ll survive another winter without a decent bathtub to take a soak in.
Also, just to make this more difficult, just about the time I decided it was going to be worth the extra money to hire this project out, I learned my family has an auger hiding somewhere that I might be able to hook up to the tractor and use, which would save me the cost of the bobcat rental, but may or may not be available until the end of October.
No decision has been made as of yet, but I totally plan to work through this conundrum over the next week with at least one bottle of wine and lots and lots of sawdust.