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Completing a DIY project can be incredibly satisfying, but get in over your head and you could be looking at some major expenses to fix the damage. Before you grab your toolbox, ask yourself if you're really equipped to tackle that task.
In an increasingly do-it-yourself world, homeowners are now taking on more improvement jobs themselves. And while many projects are easy to pull off — even for the most novice DIYers — some are better left to a professional.
Here’s a guide to when it’s a good idea to DIY, and when it’s better to hire someone who’s got the tools, knowledge and skills to make your home the best it can be.
Tile and flooring
DIY: Laying down flooring or putting up a kitchen backsplash has become increasingly DIY-friendly as companies come up with easy-to-use products, such as snap-and-click floorboards and peel-and-stick tiles. Many online tutorials can show you how to properly grout bathroom tile, lay a subfloor, and more. If you feel confident installing a tiled backsplash or putting in some new floorboards — and have the time to commit to the project — go for it.
Hire a pro: Though these sorts of installations are becoming easier for the everyday homeowner, there still might be times when you want to invest in a pro. If you’re replacing the flooring in your entire house, have uneven flooring or lots of tricky corners, or simply don’t have the time for a project this involved, bring in a professional to make a quick job of it. With tile, if you want special accent features or are working with a difficult-to-use type of stone, then your local contractor will be able to help get it just right.
DIY: Electrical work can be very dangerous if not done correctly. If you just need to do simple jobs like changing out switch plates, hanging a new light fixture, or figuring out how to hide the cords for your TV, then generally you are safe to do it yourself. Resources online will show how to make simple electrical fixes. Whenever you are working with electricity, make sure to turn off the power to that area of the house, and only use tools and parts meant for electrical work.
Hire a pro: Basically, anything above the level of switching out a light fixture should be left to a pro. If you want to have outlets grounded, add lights where there were none previously, fix your electric fireplace or tackle anything that looks complicated or difficult, absolutely hire someone. Messing around with electricity is extremely dangerous and, unless you know what you’re doing, you could get seriously hurt.
DIY: Painting is usually fairly low-risk and easy for anyone of any skill level. It’s very simple to grab some painter’s tape, a roller or two, your favorite hue and paint away. Most interior painting is DIY-able, and it’s more cost-effective than hiring a pro. Make your project safe by securing ladders and keeping windows open to ventilate fumes. Before you open up that paint can, be sure to consider the amount of time, cost of materials, and the strain painting might take on your body.
Hire a pro: If you’re looking to paint the exterior of your house, it’s generally easier to let a professional company handle it so you don’t have to deal with tall ladders, working around foliage, or spending all your free time completing the project. Though it can be expensive, it’s still a good option, especially if you don’t feel able-bodied enough. The same goes for cathedral ceilings or lots of intricate work inside your home. And if your house is older and has any lead paint inside or out, call a professional and have them look at it or remove it for you — otherwise you risk exposure to health hazards.
DIY: Stick to simple fixes like switching out sink fixtures, unclogging drains, or making easy repairs to your toilet. When you go to pick out new hardware or sink fittings, ask an employee about the best method to install it. Most easy plumbing upgrades just involve switching off the water and using some elbow grease.
Hire a pro: If you are planning on changing out toilets or tubs, it’s generally best to call someone trained for the job. Porcelain gets heavy, and can be tricky to maneuver and hook up. This also goes for adding completely new piping where there was none previously, or putting in a hot tub or water feature. Never dig without having the proper permits and calling the county to see if your house is on top of important utilities.
Demolition and renovation
DIY: Simple demolitions or renovations are okay for some homeowners to handle — if you know your stuff. If you’re ripping out old kitchen cabinets or tearing out an island, it’s generally pretty safe to take them out yourself. As long as you wear protective gear and are sure that you aren’t going to hit any utilities, such as electrical wires or plumbing pipes, go for it. If you are building anything outside the home, like a deck or shed, make sure that you have the proper permits and build it properly so it doesn’t fall apart after a year.
Hire a pro: If you’re building an addition or are demoing walls or whole rooms, consider getting a professional on the scene. A lot of permits and specifications must be managed for an addition or big project, so using a contractor will guarantee that your renovations are legal and up-to-code. As for demolition, having a pro do it for you will ensure you don’t accidentally hit any electrical or plumbing lines, and that whatever is being demoed won’t affect the structural integrity of your home.
These are general suggestions and precautions — only you as the homeowner know what you are capable of. If you are a DIY pro, have extensive experience, or know friends that do, you may be able to take on some higher-level work and skip hiring a pro. On the other hand, if a project seems out of your scope of capabilities or too dangerous to take on, call in your local handyman or contractor.
Whether you take the DIY route or get help from a pro, renovating your home can be a rewarding and beneficial experience.