Homeowners love DIY projects. And why not? It’s a great way to save money, learn how to improve your home, and even save time by taking care of small problems before a repair man can even make it to your doorstep. But some DIY projects are simply too big, dangerous, or specialized for the average homeowner to handle, and are best left to a pro.
Take on a project you’re not prepared for, and you probably won’t save money or time. In fact, if you really go awry, you may end up paying much more to have a pro clean up your mess than you would if you’d just hired them for the original project in the first place. DIY projects may also be too dangerous for homeowners to take on alone, requiring special tools, equipment, knowledge, or extra hands that simply aren’t available to regular Joes.
Should You Hire a Pro?
Before diving in to any DIY project, ask yourself:
- What’s the potential for injury, death, or major home damage? No joke, your house can kill you. Mess with electrical lines, natural gas, or heights without the proper safety precautions, and you can injure yourself, maybe even damage your home. Know the limits of your knowledge and DIY skills, and defer the pros if you’re taking on a project that’s on the risky side.
- Would it be cheaper to hire a pro? Consider the time, effort, and cost of materials. As wholesale buyers, professionals tend to get better pricing on the cost of materials. And with years of experience, they can knock out projects in a fraction of the time it would take you as you learn your way. For projects like redoing a kitchen or bathroom, the cost of a DIY project can really add up if you’re forced to order food in or bathe away from home. Don’t forget, either, that you may need to add a new tool or two to your collection to do the job right. If they’re specialized tools you’ll only use for this project, the investment may not be worth it. If you’re not sure where you stand on the cost of DIY vs pro, HomeAdvisor’s home repair cost guide can help you estimate what you’d pay a pro for any given project.
- Does it require a permit or license? Municipalities have building codes created for safety purposes both during the job and after it’s done. If the project you’re looking at requires permits to be pulled, it’s a sure sign that you should call in a professional to make sure the job is done safely and up to code.
Don’t Try This at Home: Hands off Home Improvement Projects
For most projects, it’s a judgement call for each individual homeowner to decide whether a DIY project is within their reach, or best left to an experienced professional. But there are some projects where it’s not even a question. Don’t even think about trying to handle these home projects yourself:
- Major plumbing work: Clearing a clog or installing a new toilet is no sweat for most homeowners. But rerouting pipes, modifying your plumbing system, or working on water lines falls outside the skill set of the average homeowner. One mistake with your pipes, and you could end up with a wet house and watery walls to clean up.
- Electrical projects: Minor electrical repairs like a new ceiling fan or switch covers are easy DIY projects for homeowners. Anything more complicated than that typically requires professional help. Make a wrong move with your home’s electricity, and you could be fatally shocked or burn your house down. Often, electrical work requires a permit and building code standards, anyway, so you’ll have no choice but to hire a pro if you want your home to be up to code.
- Natural gas repairs: Like electricity, natural gas is something you just don’t want to take a risk with. Accidents or improper handling can result in deadly leaks or even explosions. Hire a plumber to move your stove or replace your hot water heater, and avoid accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Projects involving heights: Pruning small limbs can remove weak branches from your tree, keep branches off of your home, and make room for utility lines. Homeowners with the proper tools and a hard hat can handle minor tree trimming projects. Cutting down large limbs or an entire a tree is another story. This project will require climbing high up off the ground, often with sharp power tools. Heavy limbs compound the danger, adding the risk of injury or property damage from improperly falling limbs. Professional arborists know how to safely climb and cut down trees while avoiding power lines, injury, and damage to property. For this same reason, roofing repairs or replacement, especially after a major storm, is also dangerous for DIYers to take on. Roofing is best left to professional roofers with rigging equipment and experience working up high.
- Structural changes: Changes to your home’s structure often require permits and building codes, so you may not have a choice in whether or not to DIY your home addition. But if you need another reason, consider this: that wall you’re eager to knock down could have electrical wiring, gas, plumbing, or even asbestos behind it, which homeowners should never attempt to remove as a DIY project.
DIY projects are fun and frugal, but only if they’re also safe and cost-effective. While there are many projects that homeowners can confidently complete without major catastrophe, there are some that are simply hands off. Know your limits, and know when to call a professional to avoid excessive repair costs, injury, death, or property damage at the hands of a DIY project.