9 Most Common DIY Home Projects - Plus Tips for When to Hire a Pro...
Updated: May 19
Saving money isn't the only factor to consider when tackling a home improvement project. Know when it pays to call a professional.
When it comes to home maintenance and repairs, professional labor can often be one of the more costly parts of a homeowner's budget. While many people will opt to save some cash by doing much of the handiwork themselves, not everyone possesses the skills necessary to fix their own homes—even with the help of instructional online videos. Attempting a DIY project without careful preparation and complete knowledge of the task at hand could actually result in expenses that far exceed the cost of a contractor. Even if you have the experience and know-how, it’s important to consider the time, materials, tools, and permits required for your home improvement project. So, how do you know which projects you can tackle yourself and which you should leave to the experts? 1 Fixing a Leaky Kitchen or Bathroom Pipe The verdict: Try to DIY 1st A DIY fix for a drain pipe may be simply tightening a slip-nut near the P-Trap. If the leak is directly from a hole in the drainpipe, a DIY fix would be a flexible coupling with hose clamps. If the leak is from a drainpipe inside the wall, consider calling a professional.
2 Painting Your Home The verdict: Interiors DIY, Exteriors Hire a pro. Painting the exterior of a house is a big job. Most homes require all of the trim, soffits, and rake boards and, depending on the type of home, all of the sidings as well. This requires extensive use of ladders at high levels and sometimes climbing up on the roof. Homeowners need to consider safety requirements before tackling an exterior job. We recommend hiring a professional with experience and the correct equipment. Most homeowners can spruce up their interiors themselves, just make sure you don't skimp on supplies, like painter's tape. 3 Removing Popcorn Ceilings The verdict: Hire a pro. Removing popcorn ceilings is gaining in popularity lately, but is an extremely messy job. First, the popcorn must be sprayed and softened by a softening agent. Then, all of the surface areas must be scraped with a blade. While scraping, it is impossible not to create divots and holes on the surface. Those divots and holes need repair with a compound that will need to dry and then be sanded smooth. Finally, everything needs to be primed and then painted with two coats of paint. The work is overhead and requires ladders. For a job like this, hire a professional and save yourself the headache and probably less-than-desir results. For messy Jobs like this one, make sure you have an on-site disposal option for the crew you hire. Renting a roll-off dumpster is your best bet. 4 Fixing a Clogged Garbage Disposal The verdict: DIY Clogged disposal may be cleared by using a small specialty wrench that fits into a hexagonal opening on the underside of the disposal while the disposal is turned off. You may want to call a professional if this method doesn’t clear the stoppage
. 5 Replacing a Faucet The verdict: Try to DIY 1st, Hire a Pro for more complicated installs. A centerset type faucet is a good DIY job—just follow the faucet manufacturer's installation instructions. A more complicated, wide-spread type of faucet with various hose connections on the underside, however, would be best handled by a professional
. 6 Fix a Running Toilet The verdict: DIY A running toilet can be comfortably fixed by a DIY-er with a toilet rebuild kit from any hardware or big box store. These kits typically contain straightforward and easy-to-follow instructions. If you have a one-piece or specialty toilet, these can be tricky and might need a professional touch. 7 Installing a Light Fixture The verdict: Hire a pro (probably). Electrical repairs and installations are at best expensive. Taking a little time to research and understand your electrical system can give you the necessary skills to take on some electrical projects yourself. When installing a light fixture, low-voltage projects can be safely performed by a homeowner as they are less likely to cause structural or bodily harm. With that said, if you don’t feel confident in your knowledge or skill or if your project is over 50 volts, it’s best to call in a professional. 8 Installing a Ceiling Fan The verdict: Hire a pro. Installing a ceiling fan is not extremely difficult but may take a few hours depending on your home maintenance experience and the size of the fan. Save this project for a professional if you aren’t comfortable performing work on a ladder or if the task just isn’t working out. 9 Cleaning Gutters The verdict: Try to DIY it (if you're comfortable on a ladder). Clogged gutters can cause water to pool around the house, leak into the basement, and seep under siding causing some major mold and rot issues, warns Sassano. To prevent this kind of water damage, leaves should be cleaned out of gutters every spring and fall. For single-story homes with level grounding around the foundation and an experienced ladder climber—go ahead and handle the task yourself. We recommend doing this project when someone else is there to hold the ladder still and help. If you aren’t up for the challenge of moving or steadily climbing up and down a ladder and clearing debris, then hire someone to complete this important task. If you have a lot of yard waste, consider renting a dumpster to deal with the mess and let a professional haul it to the dump for you.
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