Where Is Your "Screw It" Line?
We all have an incentive when examining a project or a potential project where we may weigh the options of how much time, effort, learning, and money it's going to take to repair or replace something. These options are weighed against what we expect someone might charge us to do the job.
There are some things that simply do not make sense to take on yourself, but those things are different for everyone depending on your willingness to learn, willingness to spend money learning, your potential to screw up so you have to have someone else do it, etc.
It really depends on the job. I've worked on project cars that required maintenance that any shop probably would have charged as much as $5000 to do, but since I enjoy doing it and there isn't a timeline on getting such a project done, I just fix it myself.
Then there are other things. Things that aren't explicitly fun unless you're a groundhog or are certifiably insane, such as digging a 60 foot trench in 100°+ weather. I recently had a severe water leak I presumed was under my house somewhere. The "plumber" that came out to give an evaluation couldn't find the leak, but reaffirmed my suspicion that the leak was under the foundation of the house. His recommendation was to replumb the entire thing, which he ballparked at around $30,000 for the job.
Now, this company has great reviews and I trusted their opinion, but they missed the mark, hard. I certainly wasn't going to pay someone $30,000 to replumb my house when they can't even pinpoint the exact leak that is causing my water bills to be about quadruple what it typically is. What the plumber neglected to notice was that there was an area in my back alley where the grass was growing REALLY tall, localized to about 9 square feet. Given that I had just cut the grass in the alley not a couple weeks prior, this was an indicator that it was getting water from somewhere. So my brother and I started digging. And digging more. And eventually the ground began to get wetter, and we followed this dampness deeper until we found a heavy stream gushing from a split in a junction. What appeared to have been the original steel line had rusted a joint into a solid piece of stuff that couldn't be unthreaded. We had but one option: cut the line, splice in a new one with high pressure hose, and bide our time while we dig up the entire thing to replumb from the service line.
This is where the "Screw It" line might come in handy for someone in my situation. We had found and dug down to the leak, now all we needed to do was dig the rest of the line, purchase and assemble a new water supply line, remove the old one and put in the new one. Sounds simple enough, until you find stonehenge in your backyard about 6" under the surface.
Now in addition to digging we need to find a way to move 600 lb blocks of pure concrete out of our way to get down to the rest of the supply line, which is the place where I write this article.
Since the line and problem area has already been located, now is the time where it might benefit me the most to call out a plumber again, and have them take care of the rest. After all, not only do they do this all the time, but have the equipment and experience necessary to make the job a lot faster and easier. In addition to saving a significant amount of time there, I may be able to just have them remove the old line, and I can take care of installing the new one and burying it.
It might be worth calculating What Your Time Is Worth, and weighing how long you think the job would take you personally to complete. If the number you come up with is any higher than what a plumber would charge, then you pretty much have your answer of what to do. I'm stubborn and cheap *ahem* I mean smart and financially savvy, so I decided to do the rest of the job myself. I will gain the valuable experience of learning how to install a water supply line, as well as the character building of digging 60 linear feet of dirt. At least the ground is damp since the Monsoons have started!
I think my "screw it" line for this particular job is right around the 500 dollar mark. Any more than that and I would rather just do the work and finish the job myself. Now, onto quotes!