The Dilemma: Do It Yourself or Hire a Contractor?

March 15th, 2009 by Douglas

This is a question that many homeowners face when it comes to their asphalt driveway. It only compounds itself when you consider the state of the economy. Most people set out to do it themselves to save some money, but they do not know the true costs of the job in comparison to what it would cost for a professional to do it for you.

Lets break these hidden costs down:

Cost of the sealer – When you head to your local hardware store to purchase your sealer you see the prices. Generally $10 – $20 for a 5 gallon bucket of sealer. Figure an average 1,200 square foot driveway will use about 25 gallons. I wont mention that the sealers available at these outlets are usually NOT the best. Cost: $50 – $100

Cost of the equipment – While there at the hardware store you will also notice the brooms and squeegees used to apply the sealer to the driveway. Typically the tools at these stores is NOT up to the task, but can be managed in a pinch. Cost: $14 or more

Cost of the clothing – Most anything to wear to do the job WILL be ruined. Shoes, socks, and pants are guaranteed. You might be able to keep the shirt clean. Most people will want to wear gloves when handling the sealer as well. Cost : varies

Cost of your time – Figure what you would make an hour on overtime (you will be spending your extra hours on this project), or at least your normal hourly wage. Now figure that it will likely take you 2-4 times as long to do the job as compared to a professional. Add in any time you spend asking how to do it, weather issues, cracks, etc. Cost: varies

Quality – Unless you had experience in asphalt sealing, the odds are that you did not do as good of a job on your driveway that a contractor could do otherwise. If you didn’t do it properly, you increase the odds that you will have to do it again sooner, as opposed to the usual 3 year cycle most can expect. Cost : none immediately

Adding up the costs : Figure on a mid-high grade “commercial” sealer you will pay about $85 for the sealer. A low end squeegee will run you at least $14. Clothing costs.. $15 shoes, $2 socks, $20 pants, $10 shirt, $1 gloves. Add in your time of 2-4 hours (ill figure at $10 an hour base rate) $30 dollars for a 3 hour job. Now figure that since I do not use the best quality sealers, Ill have to do it again every 2 years, instead of three (I wont add this cost, but you will seal 3 times in a 6 year cycle, where normally you would seal twice.) Total cost to do it yourself: $177 on a 1,200 square foot driveway.

Did you know that a contractor would do this same job for $100 – $200?

It does sound crazy, but lets look at a few things in the contractors favor.

Cost of the sealer – He is getting a high grade sealer direct from the manufacturer. His cost per gallon are under the $2 – $4 mark that you are paying for in a bucket as he is buying bulk quantities instead of small amounts. This is also a much higher grade of sealer, so the coat lasts much longer. Cost : $50 (or less)

Cost of the equipment – His equipment costs are much higher than yours, but being a business owner he gets to expense them all on his taxes. His equipment is much more suited to the task as well. His squeegee is much larger, he has a blower and brooms to clean off the debris, etc. Not to mention he more than willingly pays these costs because it isnt a one time job, he will use them for a while.

Cost of time – They are figured in the bid. His time costs are based around the buisness. He is doing this job to make money, he isnt doing it to try to save money.

Quality – Given you chose a good contractor, the quality is going to be much better than anything you could have done yourself. He does this for a living, so it is to be expected that his work will outmatch your work. He probably wouldn’t be as good as your job as you are, so why expect yourself to be as good as him?

Now, I will add that there are contractors out there that WILL rip you off, and I will be discussing how to pick a reputable contractor in a future article. But, in general, you have your driveway sealed for about the same price if you hire someone or do it yourself. Save yourself the headaches and sunburn and hire a professional.


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