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Guest post by Tara Dobbs
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Photo Credit: Tanais

In the age of Home Depot and Mike Holmes, more and more of us are feeling empowered to tackle home improvement projects by ourselves.

And why not?

Doing these projects yourself can save a boat load of money, not to mention the satisfaction you feel in telling your friends that, yes, you did install that laminate flooring all by yourself.

But how do you really know what you’re getting into with a project when you have never done that kind of work before? Will you really end up saving money? What about the risk of causing damage to your home or worse – yourself?

Hopefully I can give you a few tips in deciding which projects to take on yourself and which projects are best left to the professionals.

Is the project something that would normally take someone an apprenticeship to learn how to do? If so, don’t do it yourself.

I know it sounds silly when I put it this way, but seriously, the time, money, frustration and danger in getting started on a project such as installing a light fixture or re-plumbing a toilet only to discover you are in over your head is not worth it. There is false economy in thinking doing your own plumbing or electrical work will save you money.

Is your house/condo built before 1990? Then your drywall, flooring, or ceiling texture may contain asbestos and no work should be done without getting an asbestos abatement company in to test.

Living in an environment with asbestos containing building material is not hazardous to your health. However, tearing apart those materials apart becomes very hazardous when those asbestos-containing particles are freed into the air. This is when the asbestos can be breathed in and be harmful to your health.

As long as the area you are working in is free of asbestos-containing materials, then doing demolition work yourself in preparation for a renovation is an excellent way to save money and something very doable for the layman. However be sure that the places you are demolishing are free of asbestos.

If they do contain asbestos, then the demo work needs to be carried out with proper WorkSafe permits and certified professionals.

Are you really clear on all the steps needed to complete your project properly? If not, get a contractor to quote and break the project down into steps, and the cost for each steps.

Any contractor worth their salt will offer free quotes whether you use their services or not, and will also be willing to work with you on choosing which parts of the job can be done without the expertise of a professional.

The benefits of getting a professional to quote on and work with you on your project are twofold:

  1. You will get the benefit of a professional to breakdown all the steps to your project, ensuring that you are well aware of all that is involved.
  2. You also get access to their network of trades – minimizing your risk of choosing a fly by night company to do the work for you.

Just be sure than any contractor you choose has been in business for a good amount of time, is a member of the Better Business Bureau and has proper certifications for the type of work you are using them for.

Be careful in choosing which projects you do yourself. Often it seems like it will cost less but actually costs more when someone has to come in to fix your work. Working with a professional jointly is an excellent way to both minimize cost while still ensuring that quality and integrity of the structure are maintained.

We, of course, are always happy to offer advice and or quotes to anybody that needs it.


Tara Dobbs is the owner and CEO of Easy Care Restoration Ltd. Easy Care provides full service disaster restoration, quality rebuild and renovation services, carpet and flooring installation, and professional carpet cleaning.

About the Author


Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com

DIY Renos v. When To Call In A PRO Comment

  1. brad

    This is really good advice. A pipe in our basement developed a small leak a few years ago, and I kept saying I’d look into how to fix it, putting it off for more than a year. Finally I sat down and researched how to do it and realized that even something that simple would require me to buy new tools and go through a complicated procedure to remove the old pipe (which was PVC joined to copper tubing), so I called a plumber. Good thing I did, as he explained that the original pipe was installed improperly (probably by another DIYer) and that was in part the cause of the leak. It cost me $80 to have the pipe replaced and it was worth every penny. I do a lot of my own work around our house but when it’s out of my expertise I find it’s always worth it to call a professional, especially when there are building codes or any safety issues involved.

    [Reply]

    Jul 07, 2009

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