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Do It Yourself Home Renovations: Tips for Cost-Effective DIY

In hopes of increasing the value of your home, and to offset the cost of hiring potentially expensive contractors and labourers, more and more people are choosing to take the Do It Yourself (DIY) route. But how can you ensure a DIY project won’t end up costing you an arm and a leg (figuratively and literally!).

Whether you’re thinking of completing a smaller project like putting in new kitchen counters, or something larger like replacing your windows, here are some tips for cost-effective DIY renovations.

One Project at a Time

Decide on what needs to be done one project at a time. This may sound obvious but, once you start thinking about home renovations, it’s hard to stop yourself from wanting to cross everything off your wish list at once. Later, if you find that you have enough time and money to budget in a second project, you can decide to do so then.

Get some Advice

Talk to everyone you know. Ask about the home renovations your family, friends, and neighbours have completed. Find out what went well and what went wrong. Did the initial budget not cover the total costs? Did any unanticipated events or mistakes arise? Was everyone able to complete the DIY project or did anyone eventually need to hire help?

Research the Costs

Research all costs, both obvious, and hidden. Depending on the project, you may need materials and supplies, power tools and/or hand tools, and if it requires a task you have never completed before, you may want to buy an instructional resource (although YouTube is great for this type of stuff). On top of the resources, you should factor in extra fuel for your car’s many trips to the hardware store, a budget for take-out food, and if it’s a total home renovation, an extra budget for hotel accommodation, should you and your family need to stay elsewhere.

Get a Building Permit

Find out if you need any building permits. Permits can be costly and, if not requested on-time, can push back a project’s start date. Add-ons, foundation upgrades, and seasonal buildings are just a few examples of projects that require a building permit.

To find out if you need a permit, check at a municipal level. In Ontario, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing guides homeowners through the building permit requirements and the application and approval processes. The National Model Construction Codes is a useful resource for all Canadians, when determining procedures for renovations.

Calculate your Time

First, estimate how many hours, days, or weeks it will take you to complete the project and multiply that by your average hourly wage. Will you need to take time off work? If so, can you use paid vacation or will it be unpaid time off? Then, for interest’s sake, research what it would cost you to hire a contractor. If you honestly believe you can complete the project yourself, for less than it would cost you to hire someone, continue planning.

Create a Budget

Include all supplies, resources, permit fees, food and extra money. Add your time. When your budget is done, add at least 20% of the current cost to it, just to be safe.

Calculate the Return on your Investment

Once you have an estimate of how much the renovation will cost you, ask yourself if you will be able to maximize the return on your investment. Are you planning on selling your home soon? Will the renovation help lower utility costs? Or is the project purely cosmetic? Choose the most beneficial project to complete, based on your current situation and needs.

Decide how you’re going to Pay for the Project

Have you been saving up for home renovations or do you need to borrow? Would you consider a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or home equity loan? A HELOC is a unique line of credit secured by the equity in your home. Different from a home equity line, which gives you a lump sum of money upfront, a HELOC gives you an amount of credit that you can borrow from and payback as often as you need.

Both financing options have advantages, especially when comparing interest rates with personal loans, credit lines, and credit cards.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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