| Homeowners

If you’re considering a home renovation project, you’re not alone. Homeowners went renovation crazy during the pandemic. As demand increased, contractors became harder to come by. Many are still spread too thin, making it challenging to find a contractor who can deliver on their promises. This could pose a problem getting your projects underway. You’ll also run into budget issues. Prices are rising thanks to ongoing supply chain issues, increased demand, and inflation. We hate to be a buzzkill, but these factors can make your dream project feel out of reach. Don’t despair! You can modify your plans by either DIYing some of your renovations or doing things on a smaller scale. Here we review when you should and shouldn’t DIY it and make a few cost-saving reno recommendations for the best ROI. 

Looking for more home renovation content? Check out these other blogs:

It’s All About Certification

First, you need to know your skill level. We’re talking about the types of projects that require certification. We start here because it’s the easiest way to decide where you should fear to tread, including:

  • Plumbing: Done wrong, you can either create slow leaks that rot out wood and cause mould or major sudden leaks that damage your furnishings, ruin hardwood floors, and basically destroy all your carefully selected décor. 
  • Electrical: A good jolt of electrical shock aside, faulty electrical can lead to fires. 
  • HVAC: CO2 leaks, potential electrical issues, plain old energy waste, and inefficient comfort levels make HVAC a good project for the pros.
  • Structural changes: Walls and roofs caving in. Asbestos and mould contamination. Hidden plumbing and electrical. Enough said. 
  • Natural gas: Gas leaks can make you sick or even kill you, not to mention cause explosions. 

These projects are DIY don’ts in our minds, and for good reason: When done wrong, you literally put your home and all inside it at risk. 

Do You Need a Permit?

Permit? Yep. While this might not seem important, as real estate agents, we’re here to tell you that permits matter. When it comes time to sell, if work you DIYed is not up to code or performed without a permit required by your municipality, we guarantee you’ll face some serious challenges. Most buyers will write in quite a few contingencies before buying a home with building issues. Several renovations require permits, including:

  • Plumbing and electrical upgrades
  • HVAC system installations 
  • Structural changes 
  • Additions 
  • New openings made for windows and doors
  • Certain size decks and outdoor structures such as gazebos or pergolas
  • Outbuildings of a specific size, such as she sheds
  • Fireplace installation 
  • Suites in unfinished basements or attics

Putting these projects on the back burner makes sense when contractors are scarce and material costs are high. 

Many home renovation projects in Toronto require a building permit! Learn more about building permits in Toronto here.

Remodeling vs. Renovation

That brings us to renovations versus remodeling. Renovations improve outdated or damaged elements of the home and all the components, such as basic electrical and plumbing. Examples include:

  • Exterior finishes such as a new front door 
  • Kitchen and bathroom updates
  • Flooring
  • Painting
  • Lighting

Your inner designer is more than capable of heading up renovation projects. Remodeling, on the other hand, changes the structure requiring some demolition or construction, such as:

  • Open concept floorplans
  • Moving a bathroom or kitchen location
  • Additions
  • Converting unfinished attics or basements into suites or livable space

Many aspects of a renovation can be handled as DIY projects, whereas the remodel requires the technical knowledge of an experienced contractor. 

How Much are You Really Saving?

Requesting quotes from a few contractors or an interior designer to understand the actual costs doesn’t hurt. Often DIYers are gung-ho to take on projects to save money. However, you might not be saving as much as you think. For example, professionals get discounts on materials and home décor items. You can shop around and get some pretty good deals on your flooring, tiles for the backsplash, kitchen counters, furniture, and more, BUT you might not be saving as much as you think compared to a contractor or interior designers’ discount. Also, mistakes cost money in material waste, improper application, and cost for a professional to fix DIY issues like faulty plumbing and wiring. These are just a few details that eat into those DIY savings. 

If you’re planning to sell your home, you will definitely want to consider the ROI of your renovations Learn more about homeowner renovation returns here.

To DIY or Not to DIY?

It’s easy to feel inspired by confident Tik Tok DIYers with mad skills that make everything look straightforward. And they’re right to a certain extent. There are plenty of projects you can take on as long as you keep your skill level in mind. Some ideas can include:

  • Tiling: Judge tiling projects on the risk factor. Backsplashes have little to do with plumbing, while a shower stall or bathtub surround do. Backsplash, yes. Tub and shower surround, no. 
  • Painting: Painting is always an easier DIY project that just about anyone can tackle. Consider where you’re painting. For example, a 20-foot wall requiring scaffolding might be best left to the pros.
  • Kitchen cabinets/Bathroom vanities: Installing kitchen cabinets or bathroom vanities from your local DIY store is not too difficult to tackle for people with medium skills. As long as you have the tools and strength to lift the cabinets and understand the importance of drilling into studs, you can do a pretty respectable job on this project.
  • Electrical: If you know how to turn off the main power source (and seriously, make sure you do!), things like installing new light fixtures or even updating your light switches are pretty doable.
  • Plumbing: Installing a new shower head, or a kitchen or bathroom faucet isn’t so bad. You’ll know if there’s a leak soon enough as you’ll see it. Tub faucets are a little trickier as the leaks are less noticeable. 
  • Drywall: Drywall can be easy for some and disastrous for others. We lean more towards letting the pros handle this one, but patience, careful measuring, and tedious attention to detail can yield good results. 
  • Flooring: Laminate and luxury vinyl floors are DIY-friendly, while hardwood gets trickier. 

Ask yourself how confident you feel about each DIY project. Information is power, so check out the steps involved to help decide whether you can handle it or not. 

Make the Right Renovations for ROI

Don’t get too carried away with major, high-cost changes. We recommend going for the following cost-effective changes to see the best ROI for your renovations:

  • Re-facing cabinets/vanities 
  • New pulls and handles
  • Appliances
  • Sink, fixture, and toilet replacement
  • Quality laminate, stone, or glass countertops
  • Resilient flooring
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Fresh paint and wallpaper
  • Tile backsplash 
  • Tub or shower tile surround
  • Curb appeal upgrades like a new entry door, garage doors, or updated façade 

A real estate agent is one of the best resources for advice on home renovations. We know the market and can recommend where you’ll see the most bang for your loonie. We can also point out where poor execution with the wrong DIY projects will bite you in the you-know-where when it comes time to sell. 

If you want kickass advice on the right DIY and home renovations in your neighbourhood, The Christine Cowern Team is ready to help. Give us a call at 416.291.7372 or email us at hello@christinecowern.com. We’d love to work with you!