To DIY or Not to DIY?: When to Attempt Home Repairs Yourself and When to Leave it to the Pros

There are some projects out there that, despite our hesitation at times, are totally doable for the average person. And then there are projects that you’d be crazy to attempt on your own. Projects that could actually cost more money to DIY (not to mention compromise your safety or take months and months to complete).

Let’s take a general look at some of the most common home repairs. Firstly, how can you determine whether or not you need professional help when it comes to a certain job? How do you figure out if it is cost effective to do a repair on your own? Here are some questions you should first ask yourself before you DIY:

  • Can I do it safely? there is no use in doing something yourself only to get drastically injured and have to deal with the medical expenses. Safety should be your first concern, even before thinking about how much money you’ll save by doing it yourself. Here’s some advice from Lifehacker for determining whether you can complete a job safely:

    The best rule of thumb for determining if you can do something safely, besides being honest about your own skill level, is to answer the question “What happens if I screw this up?” If death is the worst case scenario – as it well could be with things like roofing and electrical work when undertaken by the inexperienced – it’s perfectly reasonable to opt to outsource.

    If you do plan on doing a project yourself, take a look at some of these great safety tips from This Old House.

  • Do I have the time? as we all know, time is money. And if a project takes up too much of your precious time, doing it yourself is not likely to be cost effective.

    Overall, if a project is going to take you a ton of time, and other things will suffer because of it, you should probably look into having a professional take care of business.

  • Do I have the tools I need? you may have the skills to complete a project, but if you don’t have the tools, you won’t get very far. There are certain situations where it could be cheaper to hire a professional than to acquire the tools you need. If you can’t rent or borrow, consider the cost of buying the tools you need before you DIY.

Things You Should Never DIY

Here are a few projects that many experts agree that the average person should not attempt on their own:

  • Roof Repair: no matter your skill level when it comes to home maintenance, roof repair is tricky and seriously dangerous. Roofs in general last for a long while too (DIY Life says that should last up to 20 years), it should’t be too painful to call in the pros when you need them for this kind of job.
  • Window Replacement: by installing energy efficient windows, you could easily lower you monthly energy bill. However, you’ll only save money if those windows are installed correctly. According to DIY Life:

    [F]rom the specialized tools required to form exterior cladding, removal of lead-based paint, and the time it takes to master the art of working with aluminum, there are several elements of this project that make it best left to a pro. While new windows can be pricey, by having them properly installed you’ll save that money (and likely more) in the long run on energy bills and tax credits.

  • Electrical Repairs: you may be able to pull off small repairs like installing a ceiling fan, but any electrical projects should be handled with extreme caution. The worst case scenario when it comes to electrical repairs could be burning down your house, severe injury or even death. If you really don’t know what you’re doing, it’s best to call in a professional. How-to videos just won’t cut it when it comes to tricky electrical repairs.
  • Gas Appliance Repairs: according to How Stuff Works, it isn’t just repairs that get people in trouble when it comes to gas-related appliance repairs:

    Sometimes, it may just be necessary to move the stove because of a floor tiling project or to move a dryer away from a wall that needs painting. Some homeowners feel like a hot water heater replacement is within the realm of their capabilities, and this is when accidents happen. Like water, gas will always find a leak. So while you may have done a good job in cutting off the gas supply line and moving the stove, you may not have been as careful when hooking it back up. The end result of what you thought was a simple fix could lead to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning – something that kills more than 400 people per year in the United States alone.

    Doesn’t sound worth the risk to me! It may be best to call in the pros in these situations.

These are certainly not all of the home repairs you shouldn’t attempt. What do you have to add to this list?

How to Find Reliable Pros on a Budget

When it becomes clear that calling in a professional is the best or cheapest option you have, you can still be sure that you get the best price around. Here are some tips for finding a pro (on a budget) that will also be worth the money:

  • Shop Around: you could easily get taken for a ride when it comes to being quoted a price for home maintenance (or any kind of repair for that matter). Don’t just go for the first handyman that quotes you a price. Get a few estimates together before you bite the bullet.
  • Do Your Research: a cheap handyman could end up costing you a whole lot more if he does a mediocre job. Be sure to check out reviews and do your research to make sure your handyman and reputable.
  • One Handyman, Several Jobs: if you have a few jobs or repairs that need to be done around the home, it might be cheaper to have one person do them all. Ask your handyman if they will give you a discount for having them do a few jobs in one visit.
  • Contact Your Local Better Business Bureau: one simple call will tell you whether there have been any complaints or unfavorable reports about the company in question.
  • Ask Around: get out there and ask any neighbors and friends who have had home repairs done recently if they have any great recommendations for you.
  • Check For Liability Insurance: if your handyman brings a crew with him to complete a job, you want to make sure that he carries workmen’s compensation insurance before you allow him to do the work.

Things You Can Definitely DIY

OK, now onto the projects that are relatively safe, inexpensive and worth the time to DIY for your average DIYer:

  • Painting: there’s not much that can go wrong when it comes to painting (ladder danger excluded). If you mess up, you can always just redo the job. Here are some tips that could help you out with interior paint jobs:

    Cheap and Easy Paint Primer

    How to Save When Buying Paint

    Cheap Paint Supplies

  • Tiling: this can be a time consuming project, but if you just want to cover an entire area with tile, you should be able to do so and save some money.

    Check out this video from Lowe’s that shows you how to install your own ceramic tile floor:

    For more strategies, tips and advice when it comes to tiling, DIY Network is the place to be.

  • Clean Your Gutters: if you’re not afraid to get on a ladder, this job is pretty simple and can save you $50 to $250 if you don’t hire a professional to do it. To clean your rain gutters, all you really need is some kind of scoop (like a kid’s sand shovel) and a few other simple items you probably have lying around.
  • Weather-Strip Your Windows: this project is totally doable on your own. All you need is some insulation and you can save yourself a good chunk of change on your energy bill in the long run.
  • Insulate Your Pipes: insulating your cold water pipes will prevent dripping and insulating your hot water pipes will save you money on your energy bill:

  • Unclog a Toilet: clogged toilets – they happen to the best of us. You don’t need a pro to fix this pesky problem. Here’s how you go about fixing the problem.
  • Dents/Cracks in Walls: this project can be completed in a day with a few simple items that can be found around your home or at your local hardware store on the cheap.
  • 5 More Easy Fixes:

What are your thoughts about DIY home repairs? Are there certain projects that you feel are easy and more cost effective to DIY? Have you ever tried to DIY with disastrous results? We’d love to hear about your experiences, thoughts, and advice in the comments section below. Thanks for being a Tip Hero!

Sources: Billeater, Lifehacker, Budget Decorating, DIY Life, How Stuff Works, eHow

Photo credit: PaulHP, KevinStandlee, Drain Resuce