Do It Yourself or Hire a Contractor?

Do It Yourself or Hire a Contractor?

Let’s face it, if you have a little bit of DIY in you, you are probably tempted to take on a home renovation project yourself.  But before you starting demolishing that wall, here are 3 things you should consider before you tackle a home reno project yourself.

  1. Your Skill Level

There isn’t “I wrecked my house” show and numerous other DIY Disaster shows on TV for no reason.  Far too many people over estimate the complexity of a project and find themselves over their head while doing a home renovation.

When considering taking on a project yourself, you need to consider:

  • What is involved in the project? Realistically look at what it’s going to take to complete the project.  Some projects like painting a room are a lot easier than doing a complete kitchen renovation.  Check out various websites, go to seminars to see what is involved in the project that you’re thinking about.

  • Your skill level. Just because you “want” to tackle a reno project doesn’t mean that you should.  If you’re not sure of your skill level, practice first.  Do a sample reno or a small project using the skills you will need on something bigger.   That way you can get a idea of this is something you want to do, and if this is something you really can do or should hire someone to do it for you.
  • Your renovation experience. Just because you successfully patched a hole in your wall doesn’t mean that you are able to do a kitchen renovation.  A friend of ours who is relatively handy wanted to completely redo their family bathroom including installing a new bathtub.  He knew he had the skill level to do it himself but not the experience so he asked his handy cousin who had lots of reno experience to help.  A wise choice and our friend gained some very valuable experience for his next reno project.


  1. Time

If you don’t do renovations for a living, it’s hard to truly estimate the time it will take to complete the project.  You also need to take into consideration the age of your home.  The older the home, the more “surprises” and domino affects you will likely find when you start to renovate.

You also need to take into consideration your current obligations i.e. family, work etc. Is your time deadline really tight?  Are you trying to get some projects done to get your house listed? Do you have time to tackle the renovation in the time that you have?

The timelines on TV shows are NOT realistic.  I saw one home renovation show where they did a complete kitchen renovation overnight.  Really????  They didn’t show the dozens of people it took to do this and I’m sure the “night” was a loooong one. (lol)  To get a realistic idea, take a look at some of the DIY disaster shows where people started a kitchen renovation and six months later, they still have no kitchen.


  1. Money

In one house I was staging, the home owner had put in new floors and baseboards himself to save money.  But to save himself time, he didn’t take off the baseboards  He put the flooring to the baseboard which created a gap between the baseboard and the flooring.  We suggested he put down quarter round to bridge the gap which he did.  It was a relatively easy fix, not perfect but it worked for being a starter home & its location. Not all incorrect DIY projects are that easy to fix.  Some take a lot of time and money to redo.   If the home had been in a $ 1+ million dollar price range or in a trendy location, the flooring would need to be ripped out and done all over again.

A DIY home renovation that is not done well can actually devalue a home.  Instead of saving money by doing the project yourself, it can cost you money by having to redo the project OR if you are selling your home, a potential buyer will offer less money because they need to get the project fixed.

You need to look at what you can realistically take on and what you should contract out. A successful DIYer knows what they can do themselves and when to hire a professional!


Debi Collinson is a Designer.  She renovates “fixer uppers” to flip or to rent.  She staged houses for 10 years. She has seen houses at their best and their worst. Debi passes on her knowledge to help people Add Value to their Home while making their home a stunning retreat at the same time.

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