Knowing when to “Do-It-Yourself” and when to "Hire-An-Expert" (or team of experts) isn’t always the easiest for homeowners to agree on. Everyone has a friend or a cousin or a parent (or themselves!) with handyman experience, but being able to recognize when the project has ballooned past your personal range of skills is sometimes an art in itself. Amongst the several deciding factors are:
Budget: “The quote was too high for our budget, and the contractor made it seem like a simple job. We can save a bunch of cash if we tackle this project ourselves!”.
Timeline: “The contractor I talked to won’t start without approved City Permits, but I need my washroom back before summer! I'm just going to get ahead and jump on the demolition to speed things up.
Perhaps even ego: “What do we need an expensive lisenced tradesman for?!? My Husband / My Wife / I CAN do this!!!”.
Below are some tips to consider when deciding if you're ready to take on your project on your own. If any of these points make you anxious or you know you have trouble with prioritizing or visualizing, perhaps you're better off consulting a contractor or design team for some guidance and advice before you begin.
Start with a plan.
Sounds simple enough, get your new home build or renovation ideas down on "paper": Houzz ideabooks, Pintrest boards, create spreadsheets, cut out from magazines, basically prioritize your wants and needs. Without a solid plan of action at the beginning you’ll be caught adding a seemingly endless list of essential items and services you’d overlooked in your excitement. Adding to the project after you've started is always more costly than knowing what you’re up against at the start. New home builders and renovation contractors can help streamline your desires. They are always happy to discuss the advantages of each added item, as well as how it weaves in with and affects the rest of your project and budget.
Prioritize what needs work first.
Don’t get caught up in aesthetics. If your roof is leaking or your furnace is about to kick the bucket you’re better to protect your investment by repairing the failing mechanical or structural systems rather than ripping up the kitchen counters because you're tired of the colour. Starting with the pretty stuff when your foundation is sinking or you've got a leaky water pipe in the ceiling will likely mean all your hard work installing your new hardwood flooring or drywall will be a gigantic waste of your time and energy. The mechanical systems in your home require lisenced trades to service properly, you should never attempt specialized repairs yourself in case your attempt causes a bigger issue. Having an expert construction contractor on hand will keep your priorities in line and can identify bigger issues before construction starts.
Keep your desires reasonable.
This is really tough, because in new home building or renovations anything can be done! The sky is the limit! It just depends on whether your budget can handle the extra expenses and you family can deal with the additions to the project timelines. Be mindful of your limitations and do your best to dream within your means. Be as realistic as possible with your numbers and if you're not able to determine how much of your plan is possible within your budget then it's highly recommended that you seek professional guidance. There's almost nothing worse than running out of funding in the middle of a project.
No corner cutting!
It can be attractive to homeowners to try to skip certain steps during the project like hiring qualified trades, purchasing quality products or even neglecting to get the required permits because these things are viewed as minor or inconsequential. Cutting corners, especially in the guts or behind-the-scenes portions of renovation or building projects can lead to major issues and huge cost over runs later. Electrical, plumbing and anything else you can’t see needs to be constructed to the highest of standards. Opening walls to expose these items if there are any issues later is a very costly undertaking. Finding out your municipality won't let you sell your home until you can provide adequate permit and previous renovation information is always upsetting too. Good contractors know the municipal regulations, what to watch for, will refuse to cut corners and will treat your home project as if they were working in their own homes.
Cheap rarely actually means cheap, often it means exactly the opposite.
When it comes to the longevity of your investment, don’t expect the least expensive products to stand the test of time. It’s the same with labour work. The cheapest quote may result in the homeowner having to stomach many hidden costs after the initial estimate and/or poor workmanship all wrapped together with a total lack of communication. Look for a contractor that has a well established project management system so you are able to keep track of everything and communicate with everyone on your team at any time. The faster that miscommunications or changes are caught and addressed the easier they are to rectify.
Know your limits.
Unless you have extensive experience or talent in the construction industry you can negate a lot of the potential renovation dangers by simply hiring a professional contractor. Construction contractors with years of hands-on experience have almost seen it all. Reputable companies come with tickets/lisences, liability insurance/WCB, as well as an active knowledge of the rules and regulations in the communities they work and live in. Things that are costly surprises for rookie-homeowners are expected and already budgeted for by the contractor-veterans. Professionals have the foresight to curb any developing issues before they turn into expensive problems or cause lengthy delays.
Do your due diligence.
If you're still assured you can handle your project yourself, try watching pro-videos on YouTube and searching through construction blogs in order to fully understand all the steps required to reach your desired result. If any element of the video or explanation makes you nervous, stop what you're doing and call a professional contractor for further discussion. If you've decided this is not a project you can tackle yourself, start by getting multiple estimates from multiple contractors. Don’t hire the first guy you see on Instagram. Have detailed meetings with the contractor and his team, do more research online, check their reviews, speak with their past clients, visit some in-progress job sites, tour some of their completed projects, and don’t forget to always add a 25% contingency to your budget (regardless of how confident you or the contractor feel at the time).
Whatever the reasoning, there are tons of unforeseen issues that can arise from doing renovation or building projects without the safety of having a qualified contractor to oversee the work.
Click here to read more about how to calculate average square footage pricing for renovations and home builds