Should You Do It On Your Own? When To DIY Or Hire A Contractor

“Can I complete this project on my own or should I hire a contractor?”

It’s a question that a lot of homeowners ask themselves. The main reason that most homeowners turn to DIY home renovations is to save money. Sure, doing your own home renovation may save you a lot of money. But if you don’t know what you’re doing you can end up spending a lot more money than you would have if you had hired a contractor in the first place.

So what jobs are suitable for DIY and what projects should be left to a professional contractor? There are a lot of factors to consider before you decide to do-it-yourself. I’ll go over common renovation projects and let you know which ones you can tackle and for which ones you will need to hire a professional tradesperson.

The first thing to consider is whether or not it is legal for you to take on a specific renovation project. In most cases as long as you have all the needed permits and inspections you can do any type of renovation on your own home. But in those same municipalities, it is illegal for you to do the same renovations on someone else’s home.

If you aren’t able to roof your neighbour’s house, should you really be doing it to your own home? There are safety measures and licensing boards in place for a reason after all. Municipal licensing for renovations is usually needed for the following projects:

  • Roofing
  • Drywalling
  • Bricklaying
  • Siding
  • Waterproofing a foundation

Maybe you have experience with one of the above and are confident that you can complete the job safely in your home. But if you aren’t licensed, you should still hire a contractor to ensure the job is being done correctly.

There are other jobs that require a licensed tradesperson that you should never attempt to DIY unless you are licensed in that trade. These include:

  • Electrical - moving or installing new electrical elements
  • Plumbing - installing a new tub or shower
  • HVAC as well as gas repairs and installation
  • Structural changes

A good way to determine if you should be doing a renovation on your own, ask yourself these three questions.

  1. Could it kill you?
  2. Could you destroy your home?
  3. Does it require a permit?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should hire a professional contractor or tradesperson to complete the job.

There are a lot of home renovation projects you can take on yourself that will help you save money, spruce up your home and not leave you in a lurch if something goes wrong including:

  • Installing fixtures
  • Replacing a toilet
  • Hanging doors
  • Installing a vanity
  • Painting
  • Replacing hardware on cabinets and doors

When considering a home renovation DIY project, always remember to ask yourself before you being is this dangerous, could I severely damage my home and will it require a permit? If you answer yes, instead of picking up a hammer, pick up a phone and call a professional instead.


How to Avoid a Home Renovation Disaster


Whether you’ve heard stories from friends and family, on the news or read about them online, we’ve all been exposed to the “nightmare renovation” plot. It all starts out great. A homeowner has a dream for the perfect home renovation that they can be happy with. But along the way, something goes terribly wrong and they are left with an unfinished kitchen, an unlivable living room or some other disaster that they need to fix.

How can you avoid that fate? Take a look at the six tips below and you’ll be well on your way to your dream home renovation.

Hire a contractor

Seems like a no-brainer, but a lot of homeowners with little to no experience in renovation chose to forgo hiring a professional contractor. Sure, you can go it alone, but be forewarned that the road to renovation without a professional will be paved with sleepless nights and a lot of stress. You need to be able to commit a lot of your time to your renovation aka all of your free time.

By hiring a professional contractor, you’re getting someone on your team who has years of experience who can anticipate any problems that may arise. They will also take on the role of scheduling all the other trades who will need to work on your home. Finally, and most importantly, they are there to help you achieve the renovation you’ve been dreaming of—they take on the responsibility for the final product and ensuring that you are happy with the end result.

Be sure to do your research when hiring a contractor—find out the 7 questions you should be asking before you hire a contractor.

Set a realistic budget

I’ve been talking about your “dream” renovation, and it really is great to dream! But there comes a time when you need to come back to reality—setting your budget is one of those times.

Only you can properly set your budget. You know what you want your renovation to accomplish and you know what you are willing and able to spend on it. Work with your contractor to get an estimate and before you get started, be sure you are comfortable with the quote. Remember, finding the least expensive contractor isn’t the best way to choose a contractor. Be sure to keep a contractor’s references and experience in mind when making your choice.


Communicate with your contractor

In every relationship, communication is key. The same is true for the contractor-client relationship—communication can make or break a renovation project. You need to make sure you and your contractor understand one another. You need to be on the same page, so put it on the page—get everything in writing.

You have a vision, and it is important that you don’t assume that your contractor understands everything you want from the get-go. If you get written confirmation from your contractor, you can ensure you are both working towards the same end result.  

You hired a professional for a reason so it is essential for you to be open and willing to listen to your contractor. They will be able to make suggestions and recommendations that are suited to you and your home and are based on years of experience.

Be prepared for things to change

With any large project, there are bound to be some unexpected bumps along the road. As a homeowner undertaking a home renovation, you need to be ready to roll with the punches. Your contractor may find issues that aren’t up to Ontario Building Code standards, older homes may have previously undiscovered issues and you may even be the one changing your mind along the road.

Changes during a project aren’t a deal breaker but if you are prepared for the unexpected, you’ll be more comfortable when something pops up.

Get all your permits ahead of time

Permits, permits, permits. Depending on where you live in the GTA and what your renovation plans are, there are different permits you will need to start your renovation. Most contractors will be able to help you determine which permits you need to apply for. But beware of any contractor who offers to save you money by not applying for permits.

Homeowners are the ones who will be held responsible for any renovation work being conducted without a permit. And if you are found to not have a permit you maybe face problems like heavy fines, a delay in the work schedule and even having to completely remove the renovation because of zoning infractions.

If you are renovating a condo, find out everything you need to know about condo permits and regulations.


Stay calm

A home renovation is likely going to take some time. During that time, your home and life will be turned upside down. Especially if you are still living in your home during your renovation, try not to sweat the small stuff, like dust and plaster messes or the sounds that inevitably come with a home renovation.

Instead, take a deep breath, get out of the house when you need to and remember why you are doing your renovation in the first place. While you may deal with a bit of stress during the process, it’s always worth it once you get to live in your newly renovated home!

Ontario Rebates That Can Help Fund Your Home Renovation


On the eve of a provincial election, we decide to look at all the ways the current government helps homeowners fund different renovation projects. While this might change in the next few weeks, it’ good to be informed about what you can do with the help of government funding.

There are different grants, programs and incentives offered by your local and provincial governments that can help to cut costs when it comes to renovating your Toronto home.

GST/HST New Housing Rebate Program

Have you completed significant renovations to your home? Have you hired a contractor to construct a new build for you? Or have you hired a contractor and design team to substantially renovate your existing home? If so, you may qualify for the GST/HST New Housing Rebate.

The GST/HST New Housing Rebate lets individuals, who met all of the specified conditions, recover some of the goods and services tax or the federal part of the harmonized sales tax paid for a new or substantially renovated house. Note, that the house must be used as the individual’s primary place of residence to qualify for this program.

Home Energy Loan Program (HELP)

The Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) is a program run by the city of Toronto. Through HELP, homeowners can qualify to receive a low-interest loan of up to $75,000 to cover the cost of home energy improvements like:

  • Insulation
  • Windows/doors
  • High-efficiency furnaces/boilers/air conditioners
  • High-efficiency water heaters
  • Rooftop solar PV panels
  • Solar hot water systems
  • Drain-water heat recovery systems
  • Air Sealing
  • Toilets

HELP aims to make it easy for homeowners to avoid the upfront costs associated with renovations by providing interest rates as low as 2% and terms of up to 15 years. It also gives homeowners access to up to $2,250 in incentives from utility companies.

You can hire the contractor of your choice once funding is approved and complete the renovations as you so choose.

Green Ontario Fund

The Green Ontario Fund is a not-for-profit agency that is helping Ontarians reduce their greenhouse gas pollution. Using programs and rebates, they are helping people affect change when it comes to climate change. Their programs help to reduce energy use and also help Ontarians save money in the process.

A few of their current programs that allow homeowners to save money on potential renovations include:

  • Receive up to $20,000 for a geothermal, ground source heat pump

  • Get rebates of up to $7,200 for insulation

  • Get $5,000 for installing select high-performance windows

  • Get a $100 rebate for installing a smart thermostat

  • Get up to $5,000 back for making efficiency upgrades throughout your whole home

Renovating for a senior or person with a disability?

There are a few different programs that can help to fund a home renovation for a senior or a person with a disability that you should be aware of. These programs can help to make it easier to afford to make renovations that will make homes more livable for senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Eco-Roof Incentive Program

Installing a green or cool roof can help you save energy, which in turn helps you to save on energy costs. But you might be wondering, what is a green roof or a cool roof?

A green roof “supports the growth of vegetation and consists of a waterproofing membrane, drainage layer, organic growing medium (soil), and vegetation.” A cool roof actually “reflects the sun’s rays and reduces heat build-up through a coating applied over an existing roof system, or a new single-ply waterproofing membrane.”

There are many benefits to eco-roofs beyond saving you money on your energy bills. They also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce urban heat and improve air quality.

Currently, the Eco-Roof Incentive Program is offering support to Toronto homeowners who install either a green or a cool roof on their Toronto homes. For a green roof, the program offers up to $100/square metre of roofing installed, plus up to $1,000 for a structural assessment. They also offer $2-$5/square metre for cool roof installation.