The Goods

Straight from a contractor: Renovation mistakes that could be costing you time and money

DIYs, designers, permits and parts — Darren Voros breaks down what's really worth our time and money.

DIYs, designers, permits and parts — Darren Voros breaks down what's really worth our time and money.

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It can be super tempting to try to do as many of your renos on your own as possible, but it turns out that some things are best left to the pros. Of course some small-scale DIY's are worth tackling, but it's always best to weigh time spent versus money saved. And sometimes, you can have the best of intentions but your hired professional actually knows best and can get the job done much faster — and safer. If you're about to tackle a home improvement project, there's a lot of advice out there that can be hard to sift through. So we had our go-to contractor Darren Voros stop by The Goods to debunk a few common myths that can lead to costly mistakes.


Myth: Doing it yourself (DIY) is always going to save you money

On a small project such as backsplash tile or even changing out door handles, doing it yourself is cheaper. But on a larger scale project, most people will end up spending 10 times longer than it takes a professional to do the same project and they will often make costly mistakes. In the end, most people who choose to do the renos themselves will save a little bit of money, invest a ton of time, and end up with a lot more stress in their lives. For example, Darren arrived to begin work on a kitchen in a home to find that the owners removed a load-bearing wall in their house. Not good! This meant that the family had to move out, an engineer had to be brought in, and the bill wasn't pretty. If your project is tricky — particularly if plumbing and electrical work is involved — get help from a professional.

Myth: You can save money by buying your own materials

Most contractors have preferential pricing that they get from their suppliers. Even if they mark things up slightly, it usually works out to about the same as buying it yourself. A lighting fixture that you buy from the big box store is not the same as the fixture that your electrician may get for you, but you can work with them to find similar items from their suppliers. For example, thin LED pot lights are huge right now. You can buy these at the big box stores, but your electrician will likely get you a better rate. It's also important to consider that the difference in pricing between big box versus contractor could actually be about the quality of materials. Items like faucets from the big box store may look the same but they often use inferior parts to the one the plumber can get.

But most importantly, you'll likely be taking on less risk if you let the pros source your materials for you. If an electrician comes into your home and installs a new light provided by them, they'll return and replace it at no extra charge if there is something wrong with the product. However, if you provided your own light and something goes wrong, you'll be charged for them to remove the product. Then you need to deal with the supplier yourself, and then call the contractor back to reinstall it. These multiple visits can become costly very quickly.

Myth: Minor renovations don't require a permit

Any time you are moving plumbing, electrical or HVAC, a permit is required. If you're developing your basement, you need a permit. If you're building a deck that is attached to your house, you need a permit. Plus, it's great for resale when you can show potential buyers you did things properly by licensed contractors — in other words, permits are worth your time.

Even seemingly innocuous projects can cause issues. Darren shared a story of a huge treehouse that caused one family a lot of problems — and money. This was a bylaw issue that may have been caught if it went through the permit process saving a lot of money.

To get a permit, go down to your local municipality and talk to the people in the building department. They'll help you acquire the proper paperwork so you can get to work knowing that you've taken the necessary steps before renos get underway.

Myth: Designers are a waste of money

The only time you can save money on a renovation project is in the planning stage. A thorough plan could end up saving you thousands of dollars. Designers or architects can foresee potential problems and deal with them before you even get underway. If you get to the renovation stage without a proper plan and have to have your contractors sit around for a few days to make adjustments, that will cost you. It's always faster for the contractors and the subcontractors to get the work done if there are drawings. So if your project has the potential to be very time consuming, paying a designer to make a solid plan might save you money in the long run.