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Are your DIY renovations breaking the law?

Last modified: 2021-06-23 | Approximate reading time 6 mins

Regardless of the scale or size of a home renovation project, before getting started, it’s common to ask yourself how much you’re actually capable of doing. Of course, you’re going to come with your own set of skills and previous renovation experience and thus, you’ll know how much you can do. But have you ever thought about the legal repercussions of renovation projects?

When it comes to specific types of renovations, they will need to be completed by a professional in order for you to remain out of legal trouble. Not only do you have to make sure that the project you’re working on is safe to complete but checking the specific rules and regulations of your municipality is crucial!

Of course, this article won’t cover every single area in North America, but will instead offer a general guideline of projects that will definitely need to be completed by a professional.

Here’s how to know if your DIY renovations are breaking the law? 

Getting started

As with all renovations, your project should start with a plan. Don’t rush into anything until you’ve taken care of some of the more serious measures. As mentioned in our introduction, the rules for different cities as well as municipalities will likely dictate the renovations you’re allowed to undertake on your own. Make sure to carefully research the rules and regulations regarding the various types of home renovations and whether you need to apply for a permit or work with a professional.

Another important step to take is allocating a thorough budget for the project itself as well as considering the time it will take. If the project does end up requiring a professional, you’ll need to consider not only costs of materials but labour costs as well.

Timeline plays into cost factors too, as the longer the job, the more money the contractor will charge. Therefore, we’d recommend mapping out a clear picture of the size and scale of your project, including a breakdown of phases that will take place as well as possible strategies for getting it completed.

Lastly, for very large scale renovations, you’ll likely need an inspector to check major systems within your home as well as any structural damage. If you’re taking on an addition, it might be your best bet to work with an architect. Remember, although taking on renovations yourself might save you money upfront, you want your home to maintain longevity as well as being safe and comfortable for family and loved ones.

We’re going to cover some of the jobs you can definitely perform on your own and following, will offer a list of jobs that should definitely be left for the professionals.

Renovation projects that are safe as DIY

Material and appliance preparation

If you’re looking for a place to cut corners on budget and a job that is always DIY, purchasing materials, appliances or anything you might need for your renovation project won’t involve applying for a permit or checking in with a professional. Depending on the job, you might even consider gathering some of these materials from a thrift or antique store, adding an element of individuality to your home decor.  

Further, there is the option of working with recycled materials, such as tile, wood or glass. If in Canada, you might check out your local Habitat for Humanity for both recycled building as well as painting materials.

Of course, it’s still important to check in with an architect or contractor regarding the number of materials you’ll need, which includes both the size of things and quantity. For a novice, these details can often be overlooked and mistakes are common. As a result, you may end up prolonging the renovation process and adding some additional dollars to your budget as well.

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Cosmetic renovations

source: unsplash

This is a fairly flexible area of home renovations, and when it comes to painting, staining, patching or other small jobs, you should probably look to complete them on your own. The majority of cosmetic changes will not require a permit or pend approval from an alternative source, and thus you can choose when and how they happen.

Even if you’ve never painted a wall or used a hammer, there are plenty of resources both online and off for you to consult. Applying plasterwork, patching tiles to a floor or backsplash, fixing trim and moulding or replacing knobs and handles on doors are small jobs that make a big impact. These projects are fairly simple to complete over a weekend or within a few days.

If you’re not interested in working alone, consider asking a friend or family member to get involved. Small cosmetic fixes won’t take care of larger, more pressing home renovations and shouldn’t be used in place of them. However, if you’re looking to simply spruce up your interior or exterior or breathe some new life into a space, then roll up your sleeves and get started!

Light demolition jobs

Now, demolition can be tricky, especially when it comes to the load bearing walls that hold up the structure of your house. However, lighter demolition jobs can be completed by yourself or with the help of a loved one. These jobs might include removing old cabinets and installing new ones, replacing appliances, pulling up old carpeting or flooring and so forth.

Although most light demolition projects are pretty straightforward, they can be time-consuming. Make a day of it and invite some friends over to help with the project. If the job crosses into a territory where you’re dealing with structural elements, this is where it needs to stop. Large-scale demolitions should always be left to the professionals, as there is too much risk involved for these jobs to be completed by a novice.

Renovation projects that always require a professional

Gas, electricity, and plumbing

source: unsplash

We can almost guarantee that any jobs involving gas, electricity or plumbing will need to be completed by a professional. Most cities and municipalities are incredibly strict about the dangers of gas, plumbing and electrical work and these jobs almost always require a permit as well as the promise of a professional working in one of these fields.

Do bear in mind that being granted a permit for these jobs can be a time-consuming process. In most cases, these jobs require approval as well as detailed plans regarding the nature of the work. In some cases, this means working with an architect for professional drawings. Do not cut corners when it comes to a project in any of these fields, as there could be serious repercussions from your city or municipality. Further, if gas, plumbing or electrical work is installed or repaired incorrectly, there could be a serious risk involved for yourself and your family. 

Asbestos removal

Of course, asbestos is something that no homeowner wants to come across during a renovation. If this happens to be your case, call a professional as soon as possible. Asbestos must always, under every circumstance, be dealt with by someone who has experience in the field of removal. Avoid hiring someone off of Craigslist or a similar website, and make sure the person you do hire has a license as well as a record of dealing with this substance.

Asbestos is no joke and can lead to a slew of health problems if left alone or dealt with incorrectly. Removing it as a DIY job could severely affect your friends and family, with the potential to also affect your neighbours and leave you in hot water. 

Structural repairs

As we’ve mentioned, it’s important that you avoid making any changes to the structural elements of your home. This includes moving walls, installing a home addition, building a deck or patio on your property and so forth. This is especially true if you are living in an older home, as these may have structural wear that may need to eventually be upgraded by an architect or contractor.

Not only this, but some hidden issues or surprises may be in store when working with an old home. For this reason, we’d recommend having a thorough structural inspection done before begging an actual renovation. This will give you a better idea of whether or not the renovation is possible, as well as any initial steps you might need to take before you can get where you want to be!

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