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Can doing DIY really save you money?

So you're looking at finishing your basement to make it a family room. You've already sat down and figured out a rough estimate of costs to determine a budget. Once all the materials are calculated you decide the easiest way to cut costs is to just do the work yourself. After all, why hire someone when you can do the work yourself for a fraction of the price, right?

While home projects can prove extremely rewarding when you successfully tackle them yourself, it is important to realize when a renovation is appropriate for do-it-yourself and when it should be handled by a professional. Though proceeding without a professional may seem to be a cost-effective choice on the surface, this could prove to be a more costly decision.

Before deciding to DIY your next home renovation, ask yourself some of the following questions to determine if bringing a professional onboard for your project will provide long-term cost savings.

1. Do you have the experience required to complete your renovation? If putting in baseboards has been the extent of your experience and you are looking at gutting your kitchen, it is probably best to acquire the services of a professional. Simply put, even with a significant amount of research on your part, a professional is likely to save you money by knowing what items to purchase, making better use of the available materials (as in not wasting three sheets of plywood trying to get the right cut) and knowing what permits are required for your renovation.

2. Do you have the time? Even the so-called simplest of projects can stretch on forever, particularly if your renovation work primarily takes place after a full day at the office and on weekends. This can lead to DIY errors due to frustrations and an all-around eagerness just to get the work done, not to mention that it is important to not underestimate the value of your personal time. A professional can focus on your bathroom renovation, allowing you to spend time with your family rather than working on grout.

3. Do you need help getting your project to fit within your budget? For basically any home renovation, the budget is going to be a key factor when it comes to making decisions. A professional can help by reviewing your needs and making recommendations on how to reduce costs.

4. Have you thought about insurance? Without a professional, damages to your home or neighbour's property will be paid out of your pocket. However, any qualified professional should have insurance to protect them - and you - in the event of such occurrences. The Canadian Home Builders' Association suggests that homeowners ask "for proof of liability insurance - a copy of the policy or a certificate of insurance. Take note of the limit and extension of coverage and the date the policy expires. Ask your insurance representative to review it to ensure that between the renovator's insurance and your own policy, you are well covered. In addition, you should ask the renovator for proof of workers' compensation for employees of the company."

If you are going to serve as general contractor to your own project and bring in sub-contractors, it is imperative that you consult with your insurance company to find out what additional coverage you will need. Without the necessary extra coverage you could find yourself being sued for damages if one of the sub-contractors is injured while on your property.

5. Are you prepared to deal with mistakes and repairs? Avoiding costly mistakes is a major reason why people hire a professional for their home renovation. As per the contract for your home renovation, a professional will provide a warranty for completed work on your project. Meaning if something goes wrong after the work has wrapped up, such as a leaking pipe or cracked drywall, you can contact your professional to have the issue remedied. They will also be able to assist with deciphering the manufacturer's warranty on any materials installed in your home during the renovation. If you've done the work yourself and a pipe bursts afterwards, you might think of calling up your insurance company to have this fixed under your homeowner's policy. More than likely, however, you will find such a potential claim denied, since insurance policies do not provide coverage for faulty workmanship, which would apply to work done by professionals or yourself.

By Erin Kelly

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