When done right, do-it-yourself projects can provide significant cost savings, plus a well-earned sense of pride in a job well done, two goals sure to put a smile on every homeowner’s face. Some home repairs or improvements, however, may be better left to the pros. Underestimating a job’s complexity may wind up requiring a professional to patch up your mistakes and costing more in repairs than you bargained for. Your rep as a Mr. or Ms. Fix-It aside, there are some jobs that just make more sense to walk away from. Here are some projects it makes sense to tackle on your own and others that may require a call to the big guns.
Do – The heart of any home, your kitchen’s look can be easily updated with new countertops and lighting fixtures. If you choose the right materials, countertop installation can be relatively easy and inexpensive, yielding striking results in only a few hours’ time. Opt for easy-to-cut butcher block or pre-cut granite. From caulking and painting to securing your countertop down, this DIY project should take less than half a day’s time.
Don’t – A full-scale renovation of even the smallest kitchen will require a variety of skill sets and a team of seasoned professionals, typically including a plumber, electrician, designer, general contractor and cabinet installer. Demolition will be required first, making this project a long-term commitment of at least several weeks or longer, and will likely bring even the hardiest DIY’er to its knees.
Do – Green your bathroom and save money on your water bill by replacing an old toilet with a dual-flush, two-button unit. First you’ll have to disconnect your water lines and remove your old toilet, which may require two people to carry out. Prepping the floor and installing the new toilet is relatively easy and quick to do. This entire job can be done in a few hours, max.
Don’t – Installing a new bathtub can be fairly complicated, requiring expertise in tiling, plumbing and carpentry. Sometimes, a bathroom wall may need to be opened up to provide positioning access, adding hours to the project. If you’re dead set on taking this one on, make sure you have the proper tools on hand and don’t forget your safety googles.
Do – The outside of your home creates the tone for your entire living environment. A dingy exterior can be easily revamped by painting and is an easy, DIY project that can be accomplished in a weekend’s time or less. Make sure to choose a high-quality paint, able to withstand the rigors of inclement weather, and learn how to store what’s left over, so patch work can be done easily. Paint from the roof down, in order to prevent streaking, and place aluminum siding wedges underneath your house’s siding so as to eliminate moisture and avoid rotting.
Don’t – Unless you have the balance of an acrobat, leave roof repair jobs to the pros. It may look easy, but roof work can be dangerous, even if all that’s required is a simple shingle repair. It is easy to underestimate how hot a roof’s surface can get in the summer or how slippery it may be during cold weather, or in the early morning hours, before dew has had a chance to dry. Maintaining your roof’s health is critical, however, so get to know a pro you can count on, particularly if your roof is 20+ years old.
Do – Creating and maintaining a scenic front or back yard requires knowledge of the plants you are choosing as well as the environment you wish them to thrive in, but provides a satisfying do-it-yourself job the whole family can participate in. If you plan your garden carefully, taking stock of the amount of sun and shade it will get year-round, you may be rewarded with a tranquil and beautiful extension of your living space. Make sure to determine how much root space your plants and shrubs require and use a good quality landscaping mulch. It is vital to choose the right time of year for planting, based upon your own region and the types of foliage you will be working with.
Don’t – Tree stumps may be an eye sore, but they’re also a terrific headache to remove, particularly if they’re situated near concrete. Old tree stumps are also magnets for insects of the scary variety, like wasps and hornets, whose nests may be hidden from view. Unless you already own a stump grinder and a chain saw, hiring a professional may actually wind up costing you less in the long run than it would if you try to remove these monstrosities yourself.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.