Allen Norwood

Web site helps you decide to DIY, or go pro

It's the day after Christmas. I'm proud to say that I have not touched a putty knife or paintbrush once during the entire holiday season, beginning the week before Thanksgiving. I hope you and yours have been enjoying the holidays, too. It has been a decade, or seems that long, since I could say that.

The holidays always seem to be a sharp prod to get work done before company arrives. You know, hurriedly paint the guest bedroom or recaulk the tub. But (a) we haven't had any overnight guests this year and (b) everybody else who has stopped by has seen the cracks and smudges. Bless good friends and understanding relatives.

I've written in years past that I enjoy those chores. True – but to be brutally honest in the spirit of this special season, I didn't miss them all that much.

We are planning some projects in the new year, which offers an opportunity to share a fun and informative online site. It's It compares the price of hiring a pro to tackle a variety of home repairs and improvements, or doing them yourself.

For instance, the site says that the average professional cost to reface kitchen cabinets is $7,500. A competent DIYer can do it for $650. That's a hefty savings.

It says that a pro will charge you $246 to remove a tree stump, while you can do it yourself for $150. (I say the pro is a bargain, whatever he charges.)

You can plug in your own ZIP code to tweak the calculations.

My wife, Linda, and I are kicking around ideas for a bathroom update in the new year. says that the national average for hiring a pro to convert a standard 5-foot bathtub into a shower, with new base and surround, is about $2,900.

The DIY cost is $1,200. When I plugged in our ZIP code, the estimated pro cost dropped to $2,400 – while the DIY cost remained the same, $1,200. In other words, it would be just as much work with smaller savings.

There are all sorts of how-to tips on the site. But there's one feature that might be the most helpful: Other visitors to the the site give projects a thumbs-up if they'd tackle the same chore again, and a thumbs-down if they'd hire a pro. Install a retracting screen? Up. Install gutter guards? Definitely down.

If you're planning a project in the new year, or just want to escape from the hubbub in the family room, check out the site.

Dispatches from the squirrel front

Thank you for all the squirrel stories. Lots of fun. Here are a couple of quick tidbits, then we'll put the critters to bed for a while:

Indeed, despite my skepticism, some bird feeders are squirrel proof. Reader Annie West said she purchased a Yankee Flipper ( after seeing it in action on “America's Funniest Home Videos.” “We recharge about once a year,” she said. “Entertaining when the squirrels do ‘test’ it.” Entertaining, indeed. For video visit the site or Google “Yankee Flipper.”

Marion Clemans sent along a video of a squirrel munching away on seeds in a feeder mounted to window glass. The camera inches away didn't bother the varmint a bit. The solution: A metal mesh ball feeder filled with black sunflower seeds.

Allen Norwood: