Here’s a cautionary tale for those of us who like to take home improvement into our own hands.

Recently, a couple that lives around the corner from me decided to put an addition on their home. We’ve all met these people. The types who decide professional trades people are just too darn expensive. “I mean it’s just construction right? I spent six years in post-secondary, I’m a successful patent lawyer/drama teacher/marketing executive. I can do it and Home Depot can help!”

I’ve been walking by the home in question everyday to and from work. I watched as they painstakingly excavated the site with rented equipment. Sure, save some cash on digging. At this point I’m thinking, ‘I wonder who’s forming the new basement?’. The next day I see forming materials delivered and who is in the hole putting the forms together? The home-owners!

Two weeks go by. Each day I observe the homeowners meticulously measuring, cutting, levelling and forming. At a distance it actually looks like they’re doing a decent job! Sure, it took them over two weeks to accomplish what a professional forming crew could do in half a day, but hey – sometimes you get there faster when you take it slow; am I right?

Finally the day has come to pour concrete. Before I see the mixer truck I can hear the comforting rumble of it’s huge diesel engine and the hydraulic whine of the concrete pump. At this point, they’ve already been pouring for twenty minutes. As I round the corner I spot the happy, industrious home owners gazing triumphantly at their handy work. If Norman Rockwell painted for Home Depot this scene would be his muse.

Everyone is gathered at one end of the soon-to-be foundation. As I pass the opposite end, something in the hole catches my eye: a two-four sized at the base of one of the forms. All the concrete being dumped in is leaking into the excavation. In case you were wondering; that’s bad. All that work, all those materials and all that time, hardening into a formless, concrete boulder.

This is an extreme example, most of us wouldn’t be that ambitious. That said, having spent many years working in the trades, I can’t tell you how many weekend warrior projects I have had to fix or salvage.

My point: You get what you pay for. Spend the time to find a skilled and trustworthy general carpenter (and check references!). Though a carpenter can’t handle some of the mechanical aspects of home repair, a good one will have a stable of reliable trades people to call upon.

If you have to watch a YouTube video to figure something out, it’s likely your finished product won’t look very good.

By Boyce Collins