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March 25, 2014

I love the DIY movement that is seemly permeating just about every aspect of our lives. Thanks to the internet, anytime I have a small problem that needs fixing, I can usually find a blog or a youtube video with instructions on how to tackle it, usually saving myself a bit of money. In my own life, a lot of the DIY stuff that comes up usually has to do with small maintenance items on my aging jeep or easier ways to sharpen blades on my work or yard maintenance tools (by the way, sharpening chisels using sandpaper is one way to do it, if you like making a mess and going through a lot of sand paper). But for certain things, I still feel that leaving it to the ‘experts’ is a better option, simply because doing it myself actually costs me a lot more than if I hired a professional.

Since this is a renovation blog, let’s talk about renovation DIY projects. Now, you may think that I’m going to discourage you from attempting to renovate your own home as it may lead to you giving me a call to do the work, but truthfully, a lot of smaller DIY projects are things don’t make sense for my company to do. A lot of our work is project work, and from time to time we’ll hang a door here, or paint a room there, but there are handymen that specialize in this kind of work. Instead, I’m trying to put a DIY renovation into a little bit of perspective here.

Let’s start by doing a comparison of DIY vs hiring a professional of a simple project, say, painting a bedroom. Let’s assume that, in both cases, you’d be clearing the room out before painting got started, and let’s assume that our professional is charging $500 to paint the room, including GST. Now, let’s go shopping for painting supplies. I’ll use home depot’s online site for pricing and I’ll try to choose some average priced products to make sure I have materials capable of doing a good job. Sure, you could find some deals, but for argument’s sake, let’s go with regular priced items

Drop sheets to cover the floor so you don’t splatter paint on it – $6

Wall sander with medium grit sponge to sand walls before painting – $11

Wall filler for patching the wall – $12

Flexible Scraper for applying wall filler – $5

6’ step ladder $68

1 can of primer – approx $20 (Sure, in many cases you wouldn’t need primer, but if your walls were a dark colour, you’d need to pick some up)

2 can of paint for walls – $96 (There are other options at other price points but, hey, I’m doing the shopping here)

1 can of paint for ceiling – $23

1 can of paint for trim and door- $23

Roller and Tray combo kit – $20

Assorted brushes – $20

Roll of Painter’s tape – $5

The total comes to $309. Add the GST and you’re looking at another $15 for a rough total of $325. Congratulations, you’ve saved yourself $175. Sure, you may already own a ladder and you may have some painting supplies around the house, which would mean saving a few extra dollars.

If we were only looking at the money you had to spend directly, then hey, pat yourself on the back and consider it a victory. The math is not that simple, however. Your time spent on the project has some value as well. You could be using that time to earn money. Sure, you could argue that you have lots of free time on the weekends and your DIY project doesn’t affect how much you could be earning because you wouldn’t be working anyways. True, but you could be doing something else. You could be playing golf, or you could be spending time with your kids. Even free time has value. Let’s say that your painting project takes a total of eight hours. This eight hours includes your time spent buying materials, prep work, painting a couple of coats, and clean up. Suddenly, that $175 savings doesn’t seem like a lot. If you’ve taken the day off to do some painting, I hope that you really like painting. You might have been better off to hire someone.

On top of that, I can say without a doubt that I’ve spent a fair amount of time painting and every time I compare my work with the painter that we use for our projects, his always looks better. I’m not that bad of a painter, but the painters we work with do it day in and day out. Their work is just that much better than someone who only paints occasionally If this is your first crack at painting, you should have some reasonable expectations before thinking of doing it yourself.

And finally, it’s worth noting that DIY projects never take into consideration the costs of injury. According to the Canadian Institute for health information, hundreds of falls each year off of ladders result in major injuries. Tens of thousands result in trips to the hospital. Remember that we’re painting here. No power tools necessary. Take on a project involving a couple of power tools and your inexperience with them could lead to injury.

If DIY gives you a great sense of accomplishment, then great. By all means, get out there and start learning to build fences, fix toilets, and repair cabinets. If you’re looking to do it to save a couple of bucks, make sure you do a little research first. My painting example is a simple one, and yes, perhaps certain other DIY projects could save you some money, but don’t rush in to them blindly. You might end up spending as much as or more than you would have if you hired a professional.  

If you want to view other blog posts from Robert & Michael at Nord Alta Construction, visit our blog on our site by clicking here.

If you’re in Edmonton, St. Albert, Sherwood Park, or the surrounding area and are looking for a contractor for you renovation project, visit our website at to find information on how to contact us. We’d be happy to speak to you about what we can do to get the ball rolling on your next home or office project. You can also leave comments with us at

Michael Breault is a project coordinator for Nord Alta Construction. You can find the company website at You can also find Michael and Nord Atla Construction on facebook at, on twitter at, and on LinkedIn.

Robert Breault is the president and owner of Nord Alta Construction. You can find the company website at You can also find Robert and Nord Alta Construction on facebook at and on LinkedIn.