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 Bruce Grant   CMI ®     

 Certified Master Inspector

Providing Residential and Commercial Property Inspections for Muskoka
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The Home Inspectors View Of DIY Home Repairs

The Home Inspectors View Of  DIY Home Repairs.

We all watch the home repair tv shows, you know the ones,  a new home owner takes on the challenges of transforming  the old blue or avocado 60’s bathroom into a sleek tile covered modern bathroom or the kitchen goes from utter 1940’s disaster into becoming the family gathering  space  everyone wants.  All the work and renovation takes place in an hour or less they are all seemingly successful at it despite having no or little experience, it can’t be that hard can it?

  Since the diy renovation craze really took off over the past fifteen years what does the home inspector see when these homes come up for sale and require inspections.  Well, as a home and commercial property inspector I have had the opportunity to inspect large numbers of homes throughout Orillia and Muskoka where every kind of repair and renovation had been undertaken at some time, both DIY and those contracted out. Here is what I see in the home inspections after the renovations and repairs.
Remember now, as a home inspector I can only see what is not covered up by drywall or under carpets or concealed by siding and roofing etc.  Like myself, In many cases home inspectors are experienced in construction and renovation and have specialized education behind them that allows them to understand and deduce the cause of what they see on the surface.  To a home inspector with education and experience cracks in drywall can tell a story. Was it a poorly done repair? Was it an unfinished job? Is the drywall not secured properly or is something more important like structural movement?  If the cracks are freshly painted, many cracks will still show up when a flashlight is used flat against the wall, does it look like an attempt to cover up an area or is it just part of a complete new paint job. When I see a damp spot in a basement I look for any place I can access the wall to look at framing, vapour barrier, insulation and the structure of the walls themselves. I might also go back outside to look at lot grade, windows, nearby trees etc. any item or structure that is in the vicinity and might affect the foundations ability to shed water.  I usually find clues to the causes of faults I see on the surface.

Even though many of the issues I find I can’t really see, I do find the warning signs of trouble. All too often when there have been renovations and I find issues with the home in the structure: the parts that support  loads.  I see faulty work, missing or improper material being used , and an awful lot of cutting corners by diy renovators. Many of those renovations are done without permits as well.

That is not to say that contractors do it right all the time, only that in these areas, the structural stuff normally not seen, it has been my experience contractors in general will have a better grasp of what is required to do it right and safely. From the home inspectors view, In large scale renovations involving structural work where framing,  beams, foundations,  chimneys  or retaining walls are involved, if the job was contracted out, there are usually far fewer deficiencies  and the workmanship is usually of a higher quality.

Conversely, when it comes to the finish work I have seen some simply outstanding and creative work from diy’ers. I would have to say on average, workmanship by both contractors and diy,ers is comparable to a point. But, that said, when I see finish work with flaws in a kitchen install or finish work flaws by tile setters in a bathroom it is usually minor in nature and often would only require a touch up or a short revisit by the contractor to fix. When I see poor finish work by a diy’er it is often a disaster that would require redoing most or even the entire job to fix.

The good news for diy’ers is that in going through thousands of homes I have found the two key things that successful diy’ers have in common. The first thing I notice is that the project always seems to be part of the whole. That is even if it is just one room it is completed within that room. The floors, the ceiling the wall surfaces the whole room blends even if the project was only installing trim. The person undertaking the project completed it as part of an overall plan.

In renovations that are poorly done it is appearent that no thought of a plan to complete a project was in place and often the skill set required to do the work itself was missing. Too often I have seen new crown moulding badly installed in the living room of a home with all the rest of the trim in the room left with its original paint.  There might also be a new window in another room with new painted trim.  That’s like painting the hood and trunk of your ten year old car and leaving the rest.  When putting in new trim and painting it your plan for best results is to paint at least the rest of the trim as well. The finished work should not look out of place.  Any renovation should start with a vision of what you want to finish with, and a plan to get there. Carpenters , painters, drywallers and window installers did not learn thier skills overnight, you won't either. By having a plan, taking your time and taking the project one step at a time including practicing your cutting skill on scrap first, projects that are complete , sound, and look great can be done.

The second key to producing good work in a diy project is commitment. When I say that I mean the successful diy’ers  seem committed to learning about the steps in the project that will get them to the finished project. They commit themselves to doing it right and not taking shortcuts and they are not afraid to ask questions when they are not sure.  When inspecting a home where a diy’er undertook a renovation project they are often proud of their work and they will tell me about it. One very common statement from them is that they had to learn to do x first before they could do the next thing. The other common statement is, there’s a lot more involved and it’s a lot more work than they thought it would be “it’s not like the tv shows show it”  As a builder and renovator for over forty years  I know that’s true.

 Now as a home inspector, I have come to see that some diy’ers who take the time to plan out the project, commit themselves to doing it right, learn the steps involved in getting each part done right, (Yes guys that means reading the  product instructions) can and do produce good and even outstanding finish work.  For everybody’s peace of mind though, unless you are in the trade leave the structural work to experts.   And don’t forget to get the permits.