• Melanie Evans

Should You DIY Your Waterloo Region Home Renovation or Go Pro?

Is It Ever a Good Idea to Act as Your Own General Contractor?




Renovations to a Waterloo Region home can be very expensive. Because of this, a lot of Canadians question whether they could save money by acting as their own general contractor. But is that actually the wise financial move that some claim it to be?


A CIBC survey found that 34% of homeowners finished renovations in 2021. Another 31% had home improvements and enhancements in mind for 2022. 71% of those Canadians used their savings to pay for their renovations.


Going the DIY route might not be a bad choice these days, given the staggering spike in timber prices and the low existing housing supply. But it can also end up costing more and taking longer than you anticipated, and sometimes even negatively affect the value of your Waterloo Region home should you decide to sell.


According to one study, Canadians will experiment with a DIY project for an average of five hours before seeking professional assistance. However, 57% of those same respondents said they wished they could go back in time and had made the contact to a professional before they began.


Given the huge number of online educational and instructional resources, however, and the fact that not all home renovations call for a great deal of technical skill, it can still be a tempting idea to do some home improvements at the weekend by yourself.


Here, we are going to more closely examine whether hiring a general contractor makes more sense for you than DIY renovations and becoming your own contractor in terms of time, cost and the future saleability of your Waterloo Region home.


What Is the Real Difference Between Being Your Own Contractor and Hiring a Professional?


When deciding whether to take on a DIY project or employ a professional, a few things could become crucial difference makers:


Your Skillset


This is, of course, the biggest consideration of all. Do you have the skillset to complete your project? Often, if it is a smaller project - like re-tiling a kitchen backsplash, painting your bedroom walls, or adding a new eco-friendly toilet in the guest bathroom, the answer may realistically be yes, especially as there will be those dozens and dozens of YouTube tutorials you can reference for help...




Some projects however are more complicated. Replacing all the fixtures in your bathroom, for example, or any project that will involve electrical work. Getting these wrong can prove to be an expensive, and even dangerous mistake. Therefore, being honest with yourself about how difficult a project will be, and if you are really up for the 'challenge' is a must.


Your Access to Tools


Having the necessary tools and equipment on hand is another factor to take into account while undertaking DIY tasks.


Will the cost be lower than engaging a general contractor if you have to buy or rent the necessary equipment? After all, they will already have the tools needed to finish the work. They will also know how to use them correctly. Construction tools can be heavy, difficult to manipulate and sometimes just downright confusing to use. And once again, dangerous if you really don't know what you are doing.


These are important things to consider while planning the renovation's prospective budget and timeline as your own general contractor, versus hiring someone to help.


The Time


This is one aspect of a DIY renovation project that lots of homeowners fail to take into account properly (if at all.) You will need to determine approximately how long your project will take, add about 25% to that figure - because delays are inevitable - and then decide if you have the time to do the project without disrupting your life in the home.


For example, a simple basement conversion could possibly be a longer, weekend only project as no one really uses the space right now anyway. However, how long could your household last without a kitchen sink, or a working shower, if your DIY project runs long or hits a snag?


The (Real) Cost




Certain factors will influence the cost of your renovation, including:


  • The age of your home

  • The size of the space you’re renovating

  • How complex the project is

  • Your timeline

  • The quality of the materials

  • Surprise expenses: permits, design fees, unexpected mistakes

  • And of course, who you do or don't hire


One way to estimate the cost of your remodelling job is to speak with a qualified contractor and request a quote, rather than just searching the internet for average renovation expenses. Also, don't be afraid to inquire as to how likely it is that you can complete the task alone. Even while they could try to persuade you not to, you might still wind up receiving some valuable guidance.


You can also visit stores to get a general idea of the materials you need and their costs. In this way, you can keep an eye out for sales and gradually accumulate the tools you need to do the project, especially if you aren't on a tight schedule. Just keep in mind that you should take into account your time commitment to the project when determining the cost breakdown as well.


DIY Renovations and Home Value


When you’re ready to start renovating, focus on the projects that will provide the most benefit, both now and should you decide to sell your Waterloo Region home in the future.




A kitchen makeover is a high-ROI project, as it doesn’t involve a full-scale demolition while still adding value. Buying new kitchen appliances, updating hardware, refacing cabinets, installing new flooring, and painting the walls can yield an ROI as high as 72 percent.


In addition to renovating the kitchen, bathroom remodels can provide between 70 and 78 percent ROI. These two areas yield plenty of value indoors on their own. However, if you want to take it a step further and finish an attic or basement, those projects could add an additional 65 and 76 percent value to the interior of a home, respectively.


When it comes to making outdoor upgrades, you may be surprised to learn that updates with the biggest ROI are simple ones. Making minor upgrades to your curb appeal with basic yard care, tidying up the landscape, adding bark mulch, painting your home exterior, and installing a new garage door can produce an ROI of 238 percent


While it would seem that renovations always improve home price, there are times when upgrades can actually downgrade your home’s value. For instance, too much wallpaper can negatively impact home value. Additionally, bold colours have the potential to turn off buyers when trying to sell your home.


Decreasing your home’s number of bedrooms by combining them can hurt value, particularly if houses in your area generally have a certain number of rooms. Extremely lavish updates in the bathroom or kitchen can also put you at a disadvantage. Finally, bad landscaping features can have an adverse effect on home value.


If you are unsure of the potential effect on your home's value a project might have, you could also ask a local real estate agent. As people working in your local market on a daily basis, we are often best positioned to know just what is - and isn't - appealing to buyers.








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