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When Home Renovation DIY goes Awry

11 January 2013

According to a recent survey done by BMO, nearly half (49 per cent) of homeowners about to embark on home renovations are planning to do the work themselves. Regardless of whether or not they’re applying for home renovation financing in order to fund those projects, homeowners often opt for the DIY route as a way to save themselves some money. But, when deciding how much that DIY project is actually going to save them, it’s important that homeowners don’t only compare the price of a contractor to the price of materials. Because whether or not you’ll save money actually goes much deeper than that.

Moe Abbas, president of Ottawa General Contractors explains, “A carpenter gets $40 or $50 an hour and he can install a new door and trim in five hours or less. If it takes you 15 or 20 hours, you’re working at under $15 an hour. People don’t take into account the time it takes to set up or they don’t know how to handle tools of if they run into an issue, they don’t know how to correct it.”

And it’s this last point that homeowners should really pay attention to. Sure, contractors on TV and even that you’ve seen in your own home or around the office, make it look easy. Throw up some spackle, smooth it down, paint, and you’re done. That’s how it’s supposed to go, right? Unfortunately, those pros are pros for a reason. Because they can make it look easy, effortless, and quick. But that’s because they’re professionals who do it every day. Homeowners need to remember that they are not.

If it’s time for your home renovation project and you’re thinking about taking on the task yourself, remember that there are a few key areas in which you should never consider doing the work yourself, and for which you should always hire a professional. These are:

John Liptak of Oakwood Construction says that decks, particularly upper level decks, are some of the most often poorly constructed projects he sees when homeowners take on the work themselves. And he says, they can also be some of the most dangerous. The most common element installed incorrectly in decks, says Liptak, are the joints holding it to the property’s structure. When these aren’t installed correctly they can easily become loose and cause the entire deck to tear away from the home. When these are on upper levels, it can seriously injure or kill anyone that’s on it, or underneath.

Tiling work
For some reason, we all think we’re professional tilers. In fact, tiling is a much harder job that it first appears. Taking off the tiling, mixing the grout properly, installing the new tile, and smoothing everything over to look clean and pretty is hard enough, says Joey Peloso of Five Tree Construction. But there are even bigger problems homeowners often run into when doing this work themselves. One of the main (and most costly) errors is that they can really mess up the joints in the drywall behind it, meaning that will also need to be replaced after a poorly done job. Also, countertops may also need to be replaced or repaired once the tiling is in, because homeowners don’t think about protecting this space before they begin.

Plumbing, wiring, electrical stuff – this is all reno work that involves the actual structure and soundness of your home. Unless you want to find yourself knee-deep in water, with more spurting out of faucets, call in the pros for this type of work.

Doors and Windows
You may think taking out an old window or door and putting in a new one is pretty easy; and it can be, if you purchase the right size of replacement. The problem is that many homeowners don’t, and even when they do they still sometimes need to worry about things such as headers to support it, or materials to fill in remaining gaps. This can quickly become a real mess for DIYers, but are things professionals know how to deal with quickly, before any more damage is done.

Completing your own home renovations can be a good decision if you have a lot of time, can do a lot of research, and simply love getting your hands dirty. But if you don’t, and you’re simply trying to save money, remember that sometimes the only way to do that is by hiring a bona fide contractor to do the work.

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