DIY or hire a contractor for your home renovation?

Updated September 11, 2023

To do it yourself or not to do it yourself, that is the key question when it comes to home renovations. You’ve all watched the home renovation shows that are so popular on TV. On the other hand, you’ve undoubtedly heard horror stories from friends who have decided to renovate kitchens or bathrooms: the monstrous mess, eating take-out food for weeks on end, or the project that drags on and on.

You might be tempted to do it yourself: not only will the finish line be predictable, but you’ll save a chunk of money. Right? Well, perhaps…

Two contractors at a construction site

When you need a professional contractor

When deciding whether to take on a renovation challenge, you need to balance the cost savings—and personal satisfaction—against your ability to get the job done and done well. In the following situations, you should choose to leave the work to those trained to do the job:

Electrical and power related renovations

If the job is potentially deadly and doing it incorrectly could result in death or serious injury, leave it to the professionals. This includes any renovation involving electricity, other than changing a lightbulb. When you’re dealing with electricity and a misstep could kill you, it’s time to hire a contractor.

Structural renovations

If your renovation includes changing the structure of the house—working with load-bearing walls, for example—stay clear. You don’t want to compromise your home’s structural integrity.

Plumbing and pipe work


If the work you’re planning involves major pipe installation or replacement, beware of the potential for floods and expensive water damage. Why risk having to board an ark for dry land when a plumber could handle the task easily?

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Other reasons to consider a professional

Endless paperwork

If your renovations are so extensive that a building permit is required, you may want to add a contractor to your phone’s contact list. These permits guarantee that a job was done safely, and it may be your first clue that a more experienced set of hands is needed. Besides, if the scale of the job doesn’t drive you crazy, the necessary paperwork and approvals might.

The home’s value


If shoddy workmanship will decrease the value of your home, make that phone call to a professional. “Nothing is a bigger turn-off for a buyer than seeing work that was not done professionally,” Jim Smith, broker/owner of Golden Real Estate in Golden, Colorado, told the U.S. National Education Association’s membership. Why let a poorly installed tile floor ruin your chances for getting the price you want for your house?

Time and money considerations

Even if you’re convinced that you are the second coming of the television DIY stars like Chip and Joanna Gaines, it’s important to realize that the renovations you see on television aren’t necessarily realistic.

Before you enthusiastically take the DIY plunge, you need to carefully estimate what a particular job will cost you, both in time and money. This requires doing your research:

  • Parts. Visit some building supply stores to peruse the materials available and see what they cost.

  • Tools. Do you have what you need? If not, do you know what it will cost to rent them? See if there is a tool share organization in your area to save on costs.

  • Labour. Ask a few contractors for their estimates of the job cost.

  • That little extra. Add 20 to 40 percent to the labour costs, because there are often surprises when a renovation is underway.

  • Expertise. Do you have the know-how for the project, or do you know an expert willing to pitch in? There are many YouTube videos available to teach you basic skills, but be sure you’re not getting in over your head.

  • Time. Estimate how long it will take you to do the job. Again, don’t let the enjoyable TV shows get in your head—they’re professionals, and they’re providing entertainment.

  • Stamina. Do you have the energy to carry out the project you’ve just evaluated? Give it some thought before you commit.

  • Permits. Find out if permits are needed, where to acquire them and how much they will cost.

Compare your budget to the estimates you’ve received and determine whether doing it yourself is worth your while in time and money. Decide whether the results will achieve what you’re hoping to do. There is great pride and satisfaction to be had in a job well done, but in the end, it’s a personal decision. Choose wisely!

Want to learn more? Visit our Home Improvement resource centre for tips and inspiration for your next big home improvement project. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.


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