I remember watching This Old House with my dad when I was a kid. The show is still on, of course. Only these days This Old House dwarfed by never-ending house flippers on HGTV and DIY networks. The spirit of do-it-yourself is certainly alive and well today. The problem is that sometimes those DIY shows make things look a little too easy.
On This Old House, the hosts all have tens of thousands of dollars worth of tools. And they’re professionals. But the current DIY trend type of television show makes it almost seem as if anybody can do anything. That is not the case. And in that spirit, I’d like to offer a few projects that you should let professionals handle.
Believe me, as a homeowner, I understand the temptation to handle a project by yourself. It saves money. It makes you feel good. But you should avoid DIY on these projects or you risk costing yourself a ton of money in the long run.
It takes a while to become a licensed electrician. You have to work for several years as an apprentice. You usually have to be in a union. You have to be certified and keep up that certification. That’s because electricity is complicated and dangerous.
In other words: if you don’t know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing anything. It’s true that there are some “easier” projects around the house you could probably accomplish, such as:
- Changing a light switch
- Changing a light bulb (ha!)
- Installing or replacing a garbage disposal
But these project can become complicated quickly. For example, when installing a dimmer switch or when dealing with a light that is controlled by multiple switches, things can get complicated. This is to say nothing about installing a new outlet or wiring new appliances into your fuse box.
It’s not just the complications that should keep electrical work off limits, it’s the consequences. If you screw up, you could burn your house down. We tend to think it’s best not to take chances with those kind of stakes. Call a professional—at least to double check your own work.
Stay Off the Roof
Every year, something like 6,000 Americans die falling from rooftops. It’s a dangerous place to be, especially if you’re not used to the conditions or to the work. Essentially, the roof is not a place for amateurs. But there are plenty of reasons why you might want to go up to your roof:
- To replace some shingles
- To inspect storm damage
- To inspect waterproofing
- Inspecting your satellite dish
- Various repairs
The appeal of the DIY approach to roofing is pretty clear: getting your roof replaced (even when insurance pays for it) can be incredibly expensive. And the bigger your home is, the more expensive your roof replacement work will be. But there can be dire consequences to DIY roof work (even if you survive) including the following:
- If shingles are not properly installed, the could come off during a storm, or a hind wind event. Once your shingles begin peeling, you could open yourself up to other damages as well.
- The waterproofing of your roof could be compromised. Once your roof is no longer waterproof, you could cause severe damage to the structures of your home. The inside of your house isn’t supposed to get wet. Any moisture that gets in could weaken your home and introduce mold.
- You could devalue your home. When you try to sell your house, prospective buyers are going to notice everything that doesn’t quite look right. And one of those places that gets the most inspection is the roof (inspected by a professional, of course). Anything that is done DIY and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the work is going to be a red flag. And red flags scare buyers.
If You Need a Permit, Leave it to Pros
Of course, roofing and electrical work do not comprise the entire list of what you should leave to a professional. And yeah, yeah, if you have tons of experience, maybe you can tackle these projects. What I’m really saying is don’t be fooled by the DIY shows—don’t mistake watching TV for experience.
So the rule of thumb is that if you don’t have a lot of construction experience, do not require any work to your home that requires a permit. If something needs a permit, leave it to a professional (this will probably save you money in the long run, especially since many of those who do DIY projects don’t go through the process of actually getting a permit—another no-no).
And if you want to take on smaller DIY projects, that’s great. Start small. Build up. Just understand one thing: any DIY project you take on is going to be more complicated and take longer than you thought it was going to. One thing they never show you on any of those DIY shows—even This Old House–is all the headaches that come with these projects.
Hopefully I’ve saved you a few of those headaches. You can do the same by getting help from a professional.