Renos: When You Should DIY and When You Should Hire an Expert

Find out when it’s best to DIY and when it’s more cost-effective to hire a home renovation contractor.

You’ve seen every home reno show on HGTV and you’re ready to start making home improvements. You have a clear vision, a set budget and you find yourself continually repeating “you can do this” to motivate yourself for the onerous task ahead. 

But you’ve never done this before (or at least not to this scale).

Let us let you in on a little secret. Those TV hosts aren’t doing all the work themselves. They know when to DIY and when to call a home renovation contractor to help them manage and execute their project.

While we’re sharing trade secrets, let us spill another one: it’s not always cheaper to do it all yourself.

Let’s look at a few scenarios and find out when it’s best to DIY and when it’s more cost-effective to hire a home renovation contractor. Since you’re fairly new to home renovations, we’re going to outline our recommendations, however, if you are more experienced, there may be extra pieces you can take on yourself.


Who’s Who?

Before we talk about what you can do yourself, understand who we are talking about when we suggest reaching out for help.

Trades: workers who are skilled in their trade like electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc. They do the installation and they can work for a company or be independent contractors themselves.

Supplier: a store or warehouse that supplies trades and home renovators with construction materials like cabinets, flooring, lumber, etc. They will usually sell to the general public and often have their own tradespeople that can help you with the installation.

Home Renovation Contractor: that’s us, here at Melanson Homes! Renovator’s help you manage the project, including selecting and overseeing the trades and suppliers to ensure everyone is working together—on time and on budget.


Family Painting wall at home


If you’re doing a one-off update of your faucets, painting walls or even replacing doors, you can likely do this yourself. 

The risk of damaging anything is low and there are countless tutorials available on YouTube. 

(Now we’re repeating your mantra for you: “you can do this!”)

Depending on your skill and confidence level, you can tackle even bigger items like flooring or backsplashes. Just be aware that they require a steady hand and level eye, so make sure you feel comfortable before you dive in.

Here’s our safe-to-DIY task list: 

  • Paint walls, furniture or cabinets
  • Affix wallpaper
  • Attach wainscoting or beadboard to your walls
  • Change hardware like handles or doorknobs
  • Update faucets and nozzles on sinks
  • Install a bathtub liner (a tub over a tub)
  • Reseal tubs, showers and sinks
  • Update décor, curtains and furniture
  • Build your own built-in bookshelves and storage
  • Install pre-made shelving in the pantry or closets
  • Apply stick-on backsplashes
  • Install peel-and-stick, tongue-and-groove planks or floating vinyl sheet flooring


experienced trade laying tile


This approach is best for one project that you can neatly tie a bow around. For instance, a small kitchen update. If you want new countertops, backsplash and paint, there will be parts of the project you can do yourself and some that are best left to a professional.

To start, make your plans. If you want a simple facelift with painted cupboards and new light fixtures, you can tackle this yourself. Paint the cupboards and replace your current lights with new ones—and voilà!

If, however, your plan includes new pot lights or moving a dishwasher or an oven, it’s better to hire trades. When you move water lines or electrical receptacles, the work needs to follow code and pass an inspection so you don’t void your insurance. 

Similarly, if you want to install a new countertop or a new backsplash, we would recommend calling on the help of a trade. They can ensure you get a polished look that’s straight and level. 

To save money and do more of the management yourself, work directly with a supplier. They’ll help you source materials within your budget and often have tradespeople of their own that can help you with the installation. This doesn’t mean Home Depot or the guy working out of the back of his truck—you need to find a company with a good reputation. 

While we’re being transparent, when you have limited scopes of work (one or two) go directly to that trade or supplier. For something of this scale, a home contractor will only add an extra step and cost because there isn’t much to manage and there isn’t as much room to save on costs through their discounts.

Here’s where we would suggest hiring some help:

  • Replacing shower or tub nozzles
  • Installing carpet or tile
  • Installing flooring, especially across multiple rooms
  • Moving water or electrical lines 
  • Adding or moving appliances
  • Pot lights 
  • Adding receptacles or light switches
  • Adding or moving sinks, toilets, showers, tubs and laundry machines


amazing kitchen renovation


If your reno goes beyond paint or simple updates, there are three main reasons you should call in a home renovator to help. 

01: You don’t have time to organize all of the trades needed, even though you’re capable of tackling the job yourself.
02: There are pieces you’re not comfortable with and need help completing the work and coordinating multiple trades.
03: You are looking for fresh ideas from someone in the industry who has knowledge on resale value, current trends and timeless designs.


Won’t it Cost More to Hire a Home Renovation Company?

When you work with a company like us, we’ll only take projects of a certain scale. So, if you request a quote for a large renovation, like a full kitchen, bathroom, whole-floor or whole-home renovation, it isn’t likely to cost you much more than if you managed the project yourself. 

That’s because we SAVE you money in the following areas:

  • We can get better pricing through our builder account (even if you buy wholesale) and we’ll pass those savings on to you 
  • We work with the same trades project after project, so we get a preferred rate (plus they prioritize our jobs because we have a long-standing and trusting relationship)
  • Our trades show up on time and we hold them accountable, which means you won’t be delayed or have to push back other trades 
  • Everything is done right the first time, to code and according to warranty terms, so you don’t run into issues with passing inspection, voiding your insurance or resale value
  • If your renovation displaces you from your home, you’ll spend less time renting an Airbnb because we can move the project along faster than if you did a DIY
  • We are insured, bonded and licensed. As professionals, we know the value of your hard-earned money and will work with you to create the home of your dreams (check out our reviews). There are a lot of trades that do work “out of the back of their truck” and you won’t know their reputation until it’s too late


Your Time is Money

As cliché as it sounds, your time is worth money. Take your hourly rate at work and multiply that by how much time this project could take you. Chances are, it works out to more than the cost to hire us.

That is, essentially, what you’re paying us to do. We manage the project for you. We involve you at the beginning of the project to make your selections and then you get to walk away or stay involved as much as you would like to. Either way, we’ve got this! We’ll be on-site making sure everything is up to our standards (which are high) and update you as the project progresses.


It’s Our Day Job

It can be a full-time job managing a worksite, and that’s why we’re here to help! We have 15 years of experience in planning, sourcing materials and getting the trades working simultaneously to finish your project safely and on time. From start to finish, we know how to successfully complete a project in the fastest, most cost-effective way, while delivering a high-quality product.

The Cheat Sheet

To recap, not all scenarios require a home renovation contractor. There are many small updates that you can (and should) tackle yourself without the help of a professional. If you’re in need of a little bit of help, go straight to a supplier who can provide high-quality products at a good price—and even help with the installation. 

As soon as your project is big enough to involve multiple suppliers or trades, call a contractor to help. We’ll manage the project for you and use our connections to save you time and money on materials and trades.