With home improvement ideas popping up everywhere from social media sites to TV commercials and step-by-step video instructions available for any project you want to tackle, it would seem as if you’d be foolish not to do the work yourself, right?
Not so fast!
It’s tempting to try to save money with DIY home improvements but there are certain projects you definitely want to avoid. In some cases, you can end up spending more than if you hired a professional. Buying cheap or the wrong materials for the job can leave you with your home torn up and a project half done.
Other renos could be too dangerous if you’ve got a lot of enthusiasm but only a little experience. Some situations are unforgiving and you won’t get a second chance at a do-over. Don’t risk injury or worse with a DIY undertaking that exceeds your skill level.
Here are DIY home improvements you definitely want to avoid and should consider bringing in a specialist to do:
Window and Door Replacements
You’ve probably seen articles about replacing your old, worn-out windows and doors as a way to reduce your heating bill. And while improved door and window materials and energy-efficient features will help you improve comfort and save you money on utilities, removing and replacing them yourself can be both dangerous and challenging.
There are two methods of window replacement—retrofit and full-frame. Without the specialized tools and knowledge needed, you can risk improperly sealed units that can lead to air and water leaks as well as ice on windows. In most cases, you’ll need to reach windows from a ladder which could be very dangerous without the proper safety equipment. There are also a number of window styles and glazing options available that a professional window installer can recommend for your specific situation. Without expert advice, reviewing products in a window buying guide may lead to the wrong selections for your needs.
Exterior doors should also be replaced by a professional to ensure they meet local building codes for fire and safety. Reinforced jambs and frames will help keep your home secure and air tight. Leave this job to an expert for peace-of-mind and maximum efficiency.
Electrical work can be extremely dangerous, and in some cases, fatal. Whether you’re replacing a light fixture or doing a major wiring project, electrocution is a real concern. Touching the wrong wire or losing concentration for just a moment can cause a severe injury. The Electrical Safety Authority reports that 30-percent of electrical-related deaths in the home occur from DIY projects. Even if you escape injury, your inexperience may put your family at risk from a potential electrical fire. Don’t take a chance, contact a licensed electrician to handle any electrical projects.
Watching a “demo” on HGTV can be entertaining and seem like a great way to relieve some stress while opening up a floor plan. Before you pull out your sledgehammer, you need to understand just how much damage you can actually cause to your home’s structural integrity.
When your home was built, an engineer would have determined which walls were required as load-bearing to hold up your home, which were needed to house electrical wires, heating ducts and plumbing infrastructure, and which were primarily used for cosmetic reasons. While there are plenty of DIY tutorials available on how to determine which walls are load-bearing, is it really worth the worry and potential for catastrophe to bypass a professional?
Expanding your home with a room addition can be just as complicated. Structural drawings and building permits will be required to start. Once construction begins, regular inspections will be done by the local authorities to ensure any tie-ins to the existing building are completed safely. Unless you’re a general contractor, you’ll want to leave this work to a pro.
The same goes for doing your own foundation repairs or underpinning (reinforcing or lowering the basement.) The concrete walls provide the “foundation” of your entire home and alterations aren’t to be taken lightly. This home improvement is one you definitely want to avoid handling yourself.
Roof Repair or Replacement
Replacing a shingle or adding a little tar to a leaky spot may seem simple enough but when you realize that roofing is the fourth-deadliest job in America, you might want to reconsider. The big concern here is the height—navigating a ladder and then maneuvering your way to the area needing attention can seem more like an acrobatic feat than a home improvement project. Even if you’re able to erect scaffolding and use tie-in equipment to secure yourself properly, carrying heavy shingles, removing the existing roofing, and understanding how to do this complicated work is best left to the professionals.
Tree Trimming or Removal
No, no, no. Contrary to big box store commercials, you cannot and should not trim or remove large trees yourself. This is hazardous work for so many reasons.
- You’ll need to position a ladder properly against the tree (and tie it in) so you can reach the branches.
- Then you’ll need to carry a heavy-duty chain saw up those narrow ladder rungs, swiftly pull on the cord while you’re balanced in the tree to start it, and then cut off branches that may be keeping you in the tree.
- Assuming you’re able to cut the right branches, unless you’re well-educated about how to direct the fall, you can risk damaging your house, car, electrical wires (that’s a whole other problem), or people below.
- Even if you’re working from the ground, you’re at great risk of having the tree fall on you and causing catastrophic injury.
- If you need tree work done, contact a professional tree removal company. They’ll safely complete the work and will usually remove all the debris too.
Hot Water Heater Replacement
There’s nothing like the feel of a nice, hot shower to wake you up in the morning. Unfortunately, when your hot water heater stops working, it can be a major job to replace it. There are a ton of DIY videos with “simple” instructions on how to install a new appliance, but there’s nothing simple about it. In fact, there are serious risks associated with doing this job.
If you’re installing a gas-fired model, you risk exposure to carbon monoxide (a deadly, odourless gas.) Electric models use up to 240 volts of energy that can cause serious injury or death if you do something wrong. In addition, new energy-efficient water heaters require special plumbing work in order to work properly. Hire a certified plumber to do this job.
Major Plumbing Work
Once again, unclogging a drain or even replacing a bathroom faucet are plumbing projects you should be able to take care of yourself. If you’re considering a major kitchen or bathroom overhaul, you’ll want to call in the “experts.” Replacing bath fixtures, kitchen sinks, relocating pipes or even adding a posi-temp controller need to be done by a professional plumbing contractor. Major water damage can occur and lead to costly repairs if the job is done incorrectly. Protect your investment, skip the DIY major plumbing projects.
Exterior House Painting
With the many maintenance-free exterior products available today, fewer components require regular painting. Of course, older homes still have wood trim and siding, stucco and other areas that need attention to prevent peeling and rotting. Attempting to do the work yourself will require some level of expertise in pre-painting prep work. Without the proper removal of loose or chipped paint, the new coat will look uneven and bubble up quickly. Using a paint sprayer may seem like the way to a quick turnaround, but you’ll need some experience and a perfectly calm day or everything but the house will have paint on it. Once again, you’ll need to use a ladder to reach more than five-feet up which means an added risk of falls. Contact a painting contractor and you’ll be amazed at how fast the job is done and how great it looks.
Garage Door Repairs or Replacement
We take our garage doors and electric openers for granted. With the push of a button, your overhead garage door magically opens so you can pull your vehicle out of the elements. The most common problem is a broken garage door torsion spring, and this is definitely not a job you want to handle yourself. First of all, it requires special tools to remove and replace, and second, it holds thousands of pounds of pressure that may cause you to lose fingers, limbs, or your life if you don’t follow safe installation practices. Hire a professional garage door company to handle your repairs.
The Last Word
You may be tempted to do your own projects around the house, especially if you have the skills to do them. You can often save time and money with simple DIY jobs. Unfortunately, your cost-saving approach may not always be the best one if you’re taking on a job that’s beyond your capabilities.
Reno projects can often turn into disasters if you don’t have the right permits, materials or expertise. Protect your investment and your health by avoiding doing these home improvements yourself. You’ll be glad you did.