Do It Yourself or Hire a Professional?

From Better Homes and Gardens

The trend of do-it-yourself projects has exploded, thanks to home-renovation TV shows and websites that have inspired a new generation of do-it-yourselfers. It’s not surprising; who doesn’t want to save money and end up with a project you’ve completed yourself? But the real question is: which tasks can homeowners do themselves, and which are best left to the professionals? Answers depend largely on each homeowner’s abilities, but consider these factors before you start your next project.

Cabinets

Anyone with minimal carpentry skills and tools should be able to put together ready-to-assemble cabinets. However, homes settle over time and walls can shift, becoming less stable. Hire a professional to ensure your cabinetry is properly aligned, steady, gap-free and good-looking.

Counters

From picking the materials to laying them out, tiling counters and backsplashes can be a rewarding do-it-yourself experience. This job requires a tile-cutting saw, which can be rented from a home improvement store for about $50 per day.

However, other materials, such as granite and quartz composites, require heavy-duty machinery to cut and edge. Some materials are sold only through certified installers, so you’ll need to hire out for these.

Flooring

Many new engineered flooring products are easy for a DIY-er to install. The hardest part is leveling the floor, laying out the material and cutting it to fit.

Wall-to-wall carpeting takes strength and tools to make it stretch tight across the room; it’s best left to professional carpet installers.

Windows

Setting a window into an opening isn’t hard, but getting the flashing to properly steer water away from the inside of the house is tricky, as is integrating the window into the existing exterior cladding. For the convenience and the window company’s guarantee, DIY-ers generally opt to pay professionals for window replacement.

Drywall

Installing sheets of drywall on flat walls can be easy. But applying the tape and joint compound takes some talent. Practice on scrap materials before you try it on the wall. If you mess up, simply wipe off the wet compound and apply again.

Plumbing

With the potential for plumbing to fail and cause water damage to floors and walls, this job is best left to homeowners with lots of experience—or professionals. And of course, many plumbing projects require permits from your local municipality.

Electrical

Poor electrical work risks harm to both you and your home. It’s not worth saving money to attempt to do it yourself—hire a professional!

Molding and trim

This job looks easy, but it’s challenging on bowed walls or in corners where molding meets. With a lot of practice (and wasted material), homeowners can develop the talent it takes to do trim work.

Painting

Painting is the project that homeowners are most likely to tackle with confidence. The key is preparation, which means spackling holes in the walls and sometimes smoothing out a rough wall with topping compound.

However, highly visible surfaces, such as glossy cabinet doors, show every flaw; save yourself the sweat and regret and leave those types of painting jobs to the professionals.

Stucco and siding

Applying stucco requires heavy-duty spray equipment. It’s messy, and achieving an even look requires artistry; subcontractors who deal with stucco daily have a nice touch that most homeowners won’t. Siding might be less artistic, but cutting, sealing and weatherproofing take skill and special tools. Such jobs are often “subbed out,” which means that specialized subcontractors are hired to handle them.

Roofing

Roofing isn’t difficult, but it is dangerous and labor-intensive. Just getting the materials onto the roof can be challenging, which is why professionals use forklifts and plenty of workers. Also, if the roof is incorrectly flashed around skylight openings and vents, leaks could occur and result in expensive water and mold damage.

How to find a professional

Visit the National Association of the Remodeling Industry website for information on planning your next remodeling project and selecting the right professional for the job.

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