A guide for homeowners doing renovations.

Specifically - Hiring Contractors, How to Save Money and Disaster Prevention.


Big projects have big risks.  Think you can project manage your project by yourself?  Think again.  While you might think you can take on this task, it's true you can, but just how well do you think you can project manage and do you think you'll actually save money?

The answer is...no.  In fact, I'm so sure you will lose money that I'm afraid that we'll both lose money.  A good contractor will save you more money than you spend or at least break even.  It's pretty arrogant to think you can do someone's job better than they can.

Here's why:

  • What do you know about contingencies? How can you tell how much your contingency should be?
  • What do you look for in a plumber? An electrician? A carpenter?
  • How can you tell if something is taking too long?
  • How long do you think YOUR project will take?
  • Are you trained, educated and experienced in construction?  Can you tell if we need engineering or a crane?
  • Think you can improvise on a budget? 
  • Do you know what can be done in a practical sense?
  • Can you tell if you are being "smart quoted"?
  • Do you know what is considered sloppy?
I hate to break it to you, but if you think you can project manage yourself, you can, but brace yourself for a ton of stress.

I remember searching for a home to buy with my wife.  We booked a viewing and it was for an older house we heard had been fixed up. 

When we got there, we immediately realized that the renos were DIY.  The owner wanted to DIY for cheap and charge top dollar for their renovations but to us, we could tell the work was unprofessional and were immediately turned off since in our minds, the price wasn't even in the ballpark.  The homeowner had clearly put their heart and sould into the reno I'm sure, but since so much was re-done, we knew if we wanted these deficiencies gone, we'd have to redo everything the homeowner had done.  Heartbreaking for the seller and for us, an easy deal-breaker with sympathy for the homeowner.

Reality is you will pay more, get an inferior product, it will take longer AND you'll be LESS happy than if you made the right choice spending your time vetting and selecting a competent, experienced & skilled contractor.  And your house will be worth MORE.

Honestly, I tend now to either decline jobs that homeowners choose to project manage themselves or I charge an hourly rate because things will be so inefficient that I'll be working for pennies.  I'll also be in fear of not getting paid or paid on time.  Either way, I tend to lose.  Either I protect myself and the homeowner pays needlessly more for hard lessons and is unhappy OR we both lose money and are both unhappy.

That's a terrible outcome!
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  1. Decide on a project priority
  2. Find some features you like
  3. Research the kind of contractor you need
  4. Research the kind of plan maker you need
  5. Consider finding & including a contractor in the designs for big projects
  6. Develop a budget from the concept designs
  7. Tweak your concept and budget until it's affordable
  8. Continue saving for more contingency until the project is ready to start!

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