While talented tradespeople are well worth the money, for many people hiring a team to design and build a renovation project is financially out of reach.
Before you start a project, however, it is important to think ahead and decide if you have what it takes to undertake a major project by yourself. In my opinion, here is what you need:
- Patience – this is the one thing that will make or break you. Almost any renovation project will mean that part of your house is unavailable for weeks or months at a time. It may also mean that the rest of the house is filthy. Can you handle living in a construction zone for the duration? Keep in mind that surprises along the way may mean the project takes much longer than expected.
- Time: If your schedule is already too crowded, then renovations may not be for you, unless you are prepared to give up doing something else you enjoy. For most people, doing renovations will mean putting in time after work and on weekends. Don’t forget that the body needs to rest as well.
- A love of researching: if you don’t already know how to do something, are you prepared to read extensively, through multiple sources (actual books, not just the internet) to get the know-how? Other avenues can be more practical. For example, I once provided volunteer labour to my brother in law (a contractor) in exchange for a chance to learn how to install hardwood floors.
- A love of making things: If something is worth more to you because you did it yourself, that’s a good sign.
- Troubleshooting ability: What happens when you open up a wall and find a problem? You will need to figure out a plan B, involving experts you can turn to if you can’t figure it out yourself. This could be a more experienced family member or a friend – but don’t abuse the relationship. Offer something in return, or ask for a recommendation on another expert (Mike Holmes may be booked already). Bribing people with food often works for me!
- A clear understanding of your level of expertise. Be ready to admit that something is over your head, and that this will mean you have to stop and do some serious research. If needed, you can save up the extra money until you can hire someone who can handle the job.
- Meticulousness: put in the extra time to make it perfect. If you’re going to the trouble of doing something yourself and enduring the renovations ordeal, do not skimp on the quality of work and attention to detail. If you do, you will look at your handiwork a year later, and kick yourself. The advantage of doing it yourself is that you can get a custom solution, so make it count.
- A framework for decision-making when you want to add to the project while it is underway (“scope creep” in Project Management terms). How do you decide if extra work and/or expense is worth it? If it will save labour on future projects? If it’s more environmentally friendly? If it looks nicer? If it adds value to your home? If it is within a certain cost? Know in advance, so you can say no to the extras that aren’t worth it, and yes to the ones that will count for you.
- The ability to finish projects, and not just keep starting new ones!
by Jennifer Priest
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