Should You DIY Your Kitchen Renovation?

Tired of cooking in your cramped kitchen? Are your circa-1980 cabinets ready for the dumpster? A new kitchen can help boost property values and greatly improve your overall enjoyment of the home.

The catch? A kitchen remodel isn’t a weekend project. Depending on how involved your plans are (replacing cabinet doors vs. gutting the whole room), your project can either be affordable and simple, or expensive and complicated. Here’s how to figure out whether you have the resources to go the DIY route or if you’re better off hiring a professional.

Evaluate your goals and your skills

Kitchen renovations take money and time, says Brandon Fuchs, owner of North Canadian Construction Group (NCC), which operates in Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“You have to determine: are you planning on selling your home and just renovating it to freshen it up, or is this your forever home?” he says. “And if you’re in an expensive neighbourhood and you do the kitchen yourself, the quality of the work you’re producing might be a deterrent when you sell your home.”

Feeling confident about your abilities? You’ll still need to consider equipment. If you don’t own the proper tools, factor in the cost of renting or purchasing what you need.

Consult a designer

Fuchs admits when he first launched his contracting business, he didn’t appreciate the value of working with a designer. He has since changed his mind.

“A cabinet company makes a plan for cabinets, but they don’t make a plan for your project,” he says. “Designers create that blueprint and use software that visually takes you right to the end of the project. They have experience on job sites, so they’ll help guide you to make the correct decisions.”

Consult a Realtor

You may not be selling the house right away, but consulting with a local realtor is a good idea before starting any home renovation project. Realtors know what buyers are looking for in your neighbourhood, whether it’s the style of cabinets or the quality of the countertop. Knowing these things in advance can help you make decisions for a potentially better resale value in the future.

Settle on the scope of your project

Even if you aren’t knocking down walls or changing the footprint of your kitchen, check with your municipality to see whether you need permits and what the building code requires, says Fuchs.

“For example, where we are, as soon as you touch a kitchen, you have to upgrade the electrical,” he explains. “So if an inspector gets wind that you’re doing your kitchen and you haven’t hired an electrician to follow those new code restrictions, you could get into trouble.”

Consider how much time your kitchen remodel requires

Binge-watching home improvement shows makes us believe that renovation projects can be accomplished in a few spare hours. The reality is just the opposite, says Fuchs.

“Some people think it’s more cost-effective to do things on their own, but I have a different perspective: What’s your time worth? If you’re employed and you work eight hours a day, you might work for another eight hours after that, because you’re not as efficient as a pro,” he says.

Smaller projects such as putting up backsplash tiles or swapping cabinet hardware don’t require a huge time investment. But hanging cabinets, changing a sink and faucet, or installing a new countertop could take a lot longer than anticipated.
The work will also probably disrupt your daily routine, plus you need to be ready to live with the mess until the kitchen is complete.

You may pay less (or more) for materials

If you’re good at researching materials and products online to find the best deals, your DIY kitchen could end up costing you less in the long run.

Fuchs notes contractors usually get special ‘for the trade’ pricing from suppliers. But if you don’t mind spending time buying and transporting supplies, some big-box stores will allow you to open an account if you’re planning to purchase lots of items, so you can negotiate a small discount.

“Because of the relationships we’ve built over the years, we get more than just a discount on material,” he explains. “We also have more control on availability.”

Fuchs also said contractors often have access to higher quality materials than what’s available to consumers.

Know when to call in a pro

Renovating an older home? It’s probably better to hire an experienced general contractor that can spot potential problems, suggests Fuchs.

“Does the house have asbestos, mould, or rot? These things sound really bad, but you can prep for them before you actually start. However, people often jump into renovating their home without knowing what they’re doing, and that’s when the extra costs come up.”

Generally, the average DIYer should bring in professional help for plumbing, electrical, or gas hook-ups, along with asbestos or mould remediation.

Ask for extra help during your DIY

As you embark on your DIY project, it’s important to note, a number of companies also offer their services online. From plumbing, electrical to general contracting, a quick Google search will connect you with a professional to help avoid any DIY disasters.
Whether you take on a project yourself, entrust a professional contractor or go with a little bit of both, take the time to research all your options before you grab a sledgehammer.

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