With so much information at your fingertips, it’s almost unfathomable how many things you can teach yourself. Home improvement shows are constantly showcasing ways to fix up aspects of your home to better fit your tastes. They make it look so easy! (#demoday) While I’m not saying that you can’t do many household renovation projects yourself, unless you’re a professional, there are some things you just shouldn’t try.
Strictly speaking, in terms of money, professionals have the liability insurance to cover any damage that they might accidentally do to your home. You, on the other hand, probably don’t. They also generally have higher-end, more expensive tools than you do, so their work is often nicer and cleaner.
In terms of end result, some jobs just need a professional’s expertise to achieve a high-quality product. If you’re refinishing your driveway, for instance, a concrete finisher can probably make a smooth driveway in his sleep. You, on the other hand, might not have the right tools or know the correct ratios for concrete mixing to get the same quality.
For their insurance, quality, and expertise, professionals often charge a pretty penny for the work that they do, which might make you want to do it on your own, but exercise caution here. Many projects can be so dangerous, costly, or damaging if you do them the wrong way that you can’t afford not to use a professional. Spending the extra money not only gives you a better product, but it also gives you peace of mind that you and your loved ones will be safe in your own home.
Here’s a quick run-down of projects that may be best handled by seasoned professionals:
1. Tree Trimming/Removal: Chances are pretty good that you didn’t see a tree trimming or removal service at your high school’s career day, but there is a lot of math, science, and experience that a professional tree trimmer draws upon in order to stay safe. If you don’t understand the math behind it, you could end up cutting a tree down on top of yourself or your garage. Smaller trees should be fine to trim up yourself, but you should absolutely avoid anything that requires you to use a chainsaw while standing on a ladder. Trimming or removing trees that are near power lines – no matter how small they are – should also be hired out.
2. Electrical: Rule number one: Never underestimate the power of electricity! If you’ve never wired up a house or looked in your walls before, you might not know that electricians use a whole mess of colored wires to make sure that they connect everything the right way. Black, white, red, yellow and blue stripe, orange, green, green and yellow stripe, gray, and brown – even if you aren’t colorblind, the sheer number of possible color combinations can be confusing and dangerous if wired incorrectly. Not only that, but electrical codes for housing can be a real doozy, and making repairs the wrong way can create a heap of problems in the future when you try to sell your home. That’s not to say that you can’t replace a light switch or ceiling fan, but anything more than that should be left to the experts.
3. Plumbing: Plumbing errors can’t burn your house down the way electrical errors can, but they can certainly do as much damage. The thing about water is that it will find a way out if there’s one available. You can probably successfully change out a faucet or toilet, but for anything beyond that, consider calling a plumber.
4. House Leveling/Foundation Repair: This one should be self-explanatory, but it’s worth mentioning. If you notice cracks in your ceilings, sagging walls, or doors that won’t close correctly, you probably have something wrong with your foundation. Since you can’t just pick up the low corner of your house and stick a few books underneath it to even things out, you should definitely call a professional. They will know how to lift and lower the parts of your home that need straightening without doing any additional damage to your house.
5. Roofing: Roofs are exceptionally tricky to DIY because they aren’t a flat work surface. If your house’s roof is more than a 20-degree angle, you should definitely hire a professional. They will have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and know-how to keep them safely working on your roof, no matter what the angle. They also have the experience to completely patch or replace parts of your roof so that you don’t run the risk of water damage in the future.
6. Removing Walls: You probably see this scenario played out all the time on those home renovation shows: the homeowners don’t like the wall dividing their kitchen and dining room, so they knock it down using rudimentary tools and sledgehammers without any repercussions. In reality, you are putting yourself and your home at risk if you attempt to do this yourself. Some walls are called “load-bearing walls,” which means that they distribute the weight of the house, ceiling, and roof across more surface area. If you unintentionally knock out a load-bearing wall, you could face some serious structural disasters down the line – not to mention the possibility of running into or damaging unforeseen electrical, plumbing, or HVAC materials that are nestled in the walls.
7. Natural Gas: Natural gas is another home feature that you just shouldn’t mess with. The possibility of making a mistake and exposing your family to deadly carbon monoxide gas is too high to warrant saving a little money by doing the work yourself.
If you choose to DIY some of the above projects, I’m not saying that you’re doomed to failure. All I’m saying is that the seven areas of home improvement listed above are notoriously tricky to do well and often have catastrophic effects if done incorrectly. If you need significant work in any of those areas, it’s usually a better idea to call in the experts.