DIY offers big potential

I’m a big fan of do-it-yourself home improvements, and whenever I wonder about the wisdom of this strategy I talk to my non-DIY friends.

Do-it-yourself home improvements make more sense than ever. Given the improvements in tools and materials

Do-it-yourself home improvements make more sense than ever. Given the improvements in tools and materials

I’m a big fan of do-it-yourself home improvements, and whenever I wonder about the wisdom of this strategy I talk to my non-DIY friends.

One couple I know, for instance, hired out the construction of a new home, and it cost them $5,000 in labour for each 40-hour work week clocked in by the two carpenters and one labour that were on the job.

The crew did reasonable work, but figures like that keep home improvements out of reach for many Canadians.

But it doesn’t have to be this way for you.

If you’ve got more time than money, then let me show you three ways to leverage your enthusiasm, transforming it into handsome home improvement results.

The first piece of the puzzle is knowledge. You’ve got to know what you’re doing to succeed, but this is easier than ever to achieve.

For $20 to $50 you can gain years worth of hard-won wisdom from a professional tradesperson, condensed between book covers or on a video DVD.

That’s an amazingly good deal, and it’s why my bookshelves are lined with excellent titles I’ve learned from over the last 20 years.

Most come from The Taunton Press (; 800-477-8727).

No other publisher I’ve seen even comes close to the quality and scope of hands-on homebuilding knowledge that Taunton offers.

Building products are also easier to use than ever, requiring far less know-how and skill to install successfully.

Flooring, roofing, trim, engineered structural members, plumbing, deck building materials and outdoor paving products, to name a few, are more user-friendly than ever.

Time and finances are the second issue to understand.

If you’re healthy and don’t mind exchanging time spent watching home improvement TV for time spent actually doing home improvements, then DIY is probably more efficient than you realize — even if your progress as a beginner seems slow.

Every hour you work on your own home is an hour of benefit gained.

But an hour worked to earn money at your day job involves a lot of slippage.

Your income shrinks quite a bit after taxes are paid and deductions removed — all before that money turns into a bank balance that you can pay a professional with.

DIY gets even more financially attractive if you’d otherwise have to borrow money for hired-out home improvements.

Tools are the third reason DIY makes so much sense these days.

They’re better than ever and cheaper than ever, and something called a combo kit is a case in point. These prepackaged ensembles of cordless tools usually include a circular saw, a reciprocating saw, a drill and a flashlight, and they’re sold for much less money than individual tools.

In particular, lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are making cordless tools lighter in weight, more powerful and easier to use. Look for Li-ion when you’re gearing up for your home-based work campaigns. The best cordless tools in my personal collection all run on lithium-ion batteries.

Besides saving you money, doing-year-old home improvements offers both physical and psychological benefits, too.

It gets you active, makes you think and gives you an outlet for creative accomplishments that you can enjoy personally.

The world needs professionals in the building trades.

We’d never get by without them. That said, when finances force a choice between renovating on your own or not being able to pay someone else to do it for you at all, then why not take matters into your own hands?

You might be surprised what you can do with the right planning, philosophy, information and tools. Not to mention how much enjoyment you’ll have making good things happen under your own steam.

Steve Maxwell is Canada’s award-winning home improvement expert, and technical editor of Canadian Home Workshop magazine. Sign up for his free homeowner newsletter at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Don and Gloria Moore, of Red Deer, are set to celebrate their 70th anniversary later this month. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer couple to celebrate 70th anniversary

Red Deer couple Don and Gloria Moore are set to celebrate their… Continue reading

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour conducts drills during NHL hockey training camp in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold… Continue reading

Canada skip Kerri Einarson directs her teammates against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden’s Hasselborg

CALGARY — Canada’s Kerri Einarson was eliminated at the world women’s curling… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Most Read