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Should You DIY or Hire A Pro For Your Bathroom Renovation?

When it comes to home renovations, there are a few projects that you can easily do-it-yourself. Painting a room, adding trim and moulding, and changing out an existing light fixture are tasks I would say are doable for a beginner DIYer. But should you try and renovate a bathroom yourself? #ProjectFrenchBistroBathroom was the first bathroom we've renovated almost entirely from start to finish and we learned a few things.

Here's 3 things to consider when deciding if you should DIY or bring in the professionals for your next home renovation project.

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1. Timing

Given enough time and practice, I think almost any skill can be learned. Sure, if you're patient, you can learn to lay tile and do all of the bathroom shower walls and flooring yourself - but can you afford to wait that long? Bathrooms perform a critical function in the home and likely you'll want that room back in working condition as soon as possible.

Timing is not just about the time required to pick up a new skill. When you DIY a home renovation, you're probably completing the work on weeknight evenings or weekends. Having such a limited schedule means the timeline will be much longer, whereas a professional can have the same job done in a few days. If you don't have time to invest in learning a new skill and doing the work, bring in the professionals.

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2. Ability

I truly believe that bathrooms are the hardest rooms to renovate. Though kitchens might be more costly, bathrooms present more constraints, obstacles, and room for error. First, there's the size of the space you're working in. It's much more difficult to manoeuvre in a small 5'x8' bathroom than a 10'x10' open concept kitchen space. With a bathroom, you're dealing in the smallest of fractions - every inch matters.

Compounding the small space issues are the myriad systems, surfaces, and materials you're dealing with. There's so many steps to renovating a bathroom. Basic room renovations involve flooring, wall covering, and decor but bathrooms are much more complex. Bathroom renovations are rarely cosmetic makeovers; they often require the removal and replacement of all existing surfaces and fixtures.

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From demolition, framing, and drywall, to plumbing and electrical, tile and paint, there's a different skill required every step of the bathroom renovation process. You can save on the budget by DIYing even one or two tasks yourself. However, certain tasks like electrical work should be left to the pros. Not only may there be legal requirements and building code considerations, but doing this work incorrectly can lead to a disaster down the road.

In our bathroom renovation, we DIY'd everything except installation of the tub and plumbing rough-in, and the electrical work. None of the tasks was exceptionally difficult (we've done flooring, tile, trim, installing toilets and fixtures before) but we did have several challenges. The most disheartening was having to remove half a wall of newly-laid subway tile and sister the joists when we discovered the wall behind the vanity wasn't level. Consider your desire to take on tasks and ability to deal with issues before you embark on doing it yourself.

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3. Cost

What drives most people towards Do It Yourself renovations vs. hiring professionals? Cost. Generally, hiring a general contractor to do the job will cost about double what it would cost to do it yourself. You can save some money by acting as your own general contractor and hiring and managing the subcontractors yourself.

How much does it cost to renovate a bathroom? 

For a completely do-it-yourself renovation using basic materials, estimate at about $75 per square foot. If you're reusing materials and keeping the existing footprint, you can squeeze that budget even further (here's a video of a $500 DIY bathroom remodel). At the opposite end, for a high quality contractor and luxury materials, that estimate can go up to $250 per square foot. 

Taking on more of the process and DIYing your renovation can free up those funds for other elements. You can put your DIY savings towards better quality materials or upgrading fixtures and decor.

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But don't think of "renovation cost" just in terms of dollar figures. Renovations, whether big or small, require time spent on sourcing and gathering materials, deciding on the design, planning and sequencing materials and labour, as well as the actual execution of the work. Is it worth the extra cost to have a professional plumber deal with having to get a 200 lb vanity up the stairs and ensuring the plumbing hook ups are in the right spot? Do you find having to determine tile pattern, grout colour, paint sheen, and lighting placement stressful and feel more at ease with a designer and contractor involved in those decisions? Would a DIY renovation cause unnecessary stress with your family or your mental health?

There's costs and benefits to taking on a DIY bathroom renovation. For us, doing it (mostly) ourselves was worth it. It was a longer than expected, frustrating project but we came out with our marriage intact and with a beautiful bathroom to show for our efforts. Just don't ask me to renovate another bathroom anytime soon! ;)

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Interested in more DIY lessons? Check out these posts:

Laundry Room Renovation Tips

Kitchen Renovation Lessons

What You Need To Know About DIY Shiplap

Our Worst Home Renovation Decisions

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