We get it - you are independent, competent, and a go-getter. But before you grab your hammer and get to work, you need to determine which jobs you can take on yourself and which will require an experienced professional. While taking on your own home renovations could save some money, it could also cost you more in the long run, with unforeseen complications that it takes a professional to fix.
We’ve compiled a list of home improvement and remodeling tasks that you can DIY, and tasks that you ABSOLUTELY should hire a contractor to execute. Of course, if you are currently a tradesperson yourself (electrician, plumber, mechanical engineer, etc.) these precautions may not apply to you.
The purpose of this article is to protect you from jobs that could prove tricky, frustrating, and even life threatening if handled incorrectly. That aside, oftentimes professional, certified contractors can spot issues that an inexperienced individual wouldn’t even know to look for, thus providing long term solutions rather than faulty band-aid fixes.
To get started, take a look at a few of the questions you should ask yourself before rushing into a home improvement project.
Questions to ask yourself before any big home improvement project:
- What trade-centric work needs to be done to complete this project?
- Have I ever done this type of project before and do I have the tools to do it well?
- What are the risks of me completing this project on my own?
- Do I have the skills and certifications I need to do the plumbing?
- Do I have the skills and certifications I need to wire my own electric outlets?
- Can I tell the difference between a load-bearing wall and a non-load bearing wall?
Home Improvements/Renovations You Can DIY
These are projects that you definitely can tackle if you'd like.
Painting: This step may require a little investment in the right equipment and a lot of elbow grease to get the job done properly, but at the end of the day anyone can paint. Painting can be a low-cost way to update your home and make it feel like a new space.
Replacing Lighting Fixtures: This task is a little more tricky because you will be dealing directly with electricity. If you are careful and do your due diligence (making sure the breaker switch is off for the area you are working), you can switch out or replace a lighting fixture with little difficulty.
Repairing Drywall: Removing the damaged drywall sections, patching holes or installing new panels, taping the seams and painting over it all do not require any permits to perform. You should definitely consider viewing a few tutorials if you have never performed the task.
Cleaning Your Gutters: You don’t need any special expertise to do this properly, just a ladder and a pair of gloves to get the job done. You might want to consider hiring out the work if you have a fear of heights, there are always neighborhood kids looking for extra cash, but no trade professional is required for this work.
Gardening and Light Landscaping: Gardening and light landscaping (no extreme land grading needed) does not require any special certifications or experience to perform. Keep in mind that not everyone has a green thumb, so entrust the gardening duties with care!
When to Call a Contractor
Electrical: Out of all tasks, this one is probably the most dangerous to perform. Accidents happen even with experienced professionals which is why it is vital to hire an electrician to do the task. It really is not worth the risk to try and tackle the project on your own. Electricians need certifications for a reason, working with high-voltage electricity can be deadly, and put your home at risk, if handled incorrectly or carelessly.
Plumbing: While it may seem like a money saving task to handle the plumbing work yourself, all it takes is a faulty pipe connector to flood your entire house and cause thousands of dollars in damage if not more. Also keep in mind that there are pipes everywhere throughout your house, it helps to be able to read a piping or plumbing diagram.
Moving Walls: There are two types of walls you need to be aware of in your home. A load bearing wall and a non-load bearing wall. Understanding the difference and how to differentiate is crucial to maintaining the structural integrity of your home. An inexperienced person could cause accidental damage to crucial structural beams on load bearing walls if they don’t know what to look for! You need an expert who can move the walls where they need to be without compromising the surrounding walls and the entire support system of your home.
Total Room Renovations: Thinking about renovating your basement into a living space, or adding a bathroom to your home? These are pretty big projects if you are trying to do them alone. Not to mention the same issues apply as listed above. Adding plumbing, applying temperature control to the room, rerouting electrical wiring and more are all common occurrences in the room renovation game and you need permits and experience for many of them.
Adding More Square Footage: This is an in-depth process and requires a lot of manpower. Enlarging your home and increasing the square footage involves expanding the footprint of the house. This includes:
- Land grading
- Digging and pouring foundation
- Insulation installation
- Drywall and trim work
- Window and door installation
Generally, the foundation is the task of an experienced mason. Framing requires finesse as this is a support system for the entire house, insulation, drywall, and painting can be handled by a DIYer.
Repurposing Existing Space: Finding a new purpose for existing space is a tricky endeavor. Think about the strategy involved with turning a bedroom into a kitchen, or adding a bathroom or a walk-in closet. You need to be able to read a blueprint or an electrical diagram to understand how everything is connected. One false step could result in a busted pipe, a damaged load-bearing wall, and much worse.
Anything Requiring a Permit: Adhering to local codes and acquiring all necessary building permits before tackling large home renovations is expensive and time consuming. The cost and requirements for earning any of the trade-specific permits may vary by state. Generally speaking, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing permits are required for large home improvement projects. Specifically,
- Electrical permits are required if you plan on changing a wiring system.
- Mechanical permits are required if you are planning to install an HVAC system or replace a furnace.
- Plumbing permits are required if you are planning on installing new plumbing and piping work or if you plan on replacing the water heater.
Determine the renovations you want in your home and make a plan. Knowing which tasks you should hire out for, and which ones you can take on yourself will be a great first step. Keep in mind that hiring experienced professionals will likely save you money in the long run, so don’t get too hung up on pricing if it is within your budget.
Let Us Help
Here at Tilghman Builders, we specialize in home remodeling and renovations, serving homes like yours in Bucks County and Montgomery County for over 35 years. We do it all and would be happy to take some of those daunting home renovation tasks of your hands. Schedule your complimentary consultation today!