Article from Kris Louis:


Home Improvement Care and Common Sense:

When to DIY and When to Call a Pro

When it comes to making home improvements, the cardinal rule is to get the most value for minimal investment. For many, that means a lot of do-it-yourself improvements and avoiding contractors and professionals. From a strictly financial standpoint, that might make sense. But it can be easy to overreach and get in over your head with projects that are better left to people who know what they’re doing. “If in doubt, hire it out” is a good rule of thumb when it comes to upgrading your home. People are often preoccupied with the money they’ll save, and overlook the time investment involved in taking on a DIY job. If your weeks and weekends are pretty much booked, think twice before committing to a major redo.

You don’t want to hurry things or cut corners, which can leave you in worse shape than when you started. If you’re a weekend renovator, make peace with the idea that you’ll have to live with a mess during the week until you’re finished with the job. Consider also the cost of materials and whether you have the right tools for the job. You might be better off hiring a contractor who has the proper tools and can get materials at a better price.

Risk factors

One thing you should always assess is the risk level involved in whatever you’re planning. If you’re looking at a lot of time rewiring and working around your electrical system, you’re probably in better hands if you hire a professional unless you’re experienced with this kind of work and certified on electrical codes. If your city has building codes that require a permit, you’ll need a professional. Same goes for natural gas pipes and plumbing, two areas that are fraught with danger and the potential for damage that’ll force you to hire a pro to fix whatever damage you do. For example, trying to extend hot water lines or rerouting a sewer line is asking for trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing.


Best return on DIY

Some of the best DIY projects are the simplest. Painting things such as walls and cabinets can add substantial value to your home without requiring mega-hours or dollars. Freshening up your home’s exterior by painting the trim and front door can drive up value and boost curb appeal. You can also increase value significantly by making bathroom upgrades that are affordable and doable, like putting in a new vanity or medicine chest, new light fixtures, or faucets. If your stucco or brick walls are looking worn and gray, try brightening things up considerably by adding a coat of whitewash. You can also add some masonry dye to make it really pop.

DIY safety

No DIY project is worth suffering a serious injury. Observe tool safety by keeping tools unplugged until you’re ready to use them, and wear appropriate clothing when you’re working. Don’t wear lengthy clothing or jewelry that could get caught in a power tool and don’t neglect eye goggles and earplugs or forget to keep your first aid kit handy. If your DIY project requires you to be on a ladder, be sure to keep it one foot away from the wall for every four feet of ladder height.

For pros only

If your HVAC system isn’t operating at peak efficiency, don’t be tempted to start taking it apart. That’s a job for the pros, who have the technology necessary to diagnose the problem and address it head-on.

As for plumbing, unless you’re putting in a new toilet or replacing a sink, you’re probably better off calling the plumber. While hiring a plumber isn’t cheap, you may end up paying a lot more if you have to fix the damage from making repairs on your own.

Also, remember that foundation repair isn’t something to monkey around with; if you see evidence of a problem, don’t try and wing it. Your best bet is to keep a close eye on things and call in a pro if something looks out of whack.

Exercise care and common sense when contemplating a home improvement project. Remember that you can easily do more harm than good by assuming you can handle a job that’s too risky and too dangerous. Sometimes, paying for a professional or contractor is the best investment you can make.