Home Improvement Projects Best Left to Professionals

by Emily Guy Birken

Over the past five years, my husband and I renovated a 1921 Craftsman style bungalow. We learned several things along this journey, including the fastest route to a marital argument. (It’s through insulation—at least in our case). Because my husband is a mechanical engineer, he is often willing to personally tackle home improvement projects that I would regard as the perfect opportunity to break out the checkbook. However, even my dyed-in-the-wool DIYer has some projects that he’d prefer to leave to the professionals. And there are some reasons you might want to call a contractor rather than wield the hammer yourself. Here are the most common occasions when it’s better to call in the pros:

Home Additons - avoid cheap home repairs

Some things are best left to professionals!

1. Safety concerns. My husband and I are in agreement that an electrician should handle any major jobs in our house. We both feel like we don’t have the necessary knowledge to safely handle any electric jobs. I would add to that plumbing, because so many things can go so very wrong with gushing water. In any case, if you are a DIYer who is nervous about your ability to do something safely and without damage to your home, go ahead and call in a professional. You can always watch them at work and try to learn about what they do. But in the meantime, it’s worth the extra money to know that no one will get hurt and your house will still be standing at the end of the project.

2. Expensive materials. If you have just dropped a fortune in tiling, flooring, carpeting, or any other home improvement product, now is not necessarily the time to save money by doing your own installation. Granted, if you know you can install the new stuff as quickly, efficiently and attractively as a pro, go for it. But if this is your first installation project, you may end up throwing good money after bad if you do it. Making a mistake in tiling a backsplash means that you have to tear out the entire job and start over. Cutting a carpet to the wrong size means that you have wasted the material. It really does make sense to let the workers who do this every day make sure your house looks its best.

3. The cost of tools. Many projects would certainly be within the abilities of your average homeowner—if he owns the right tools. For example, if you are adding crown or foot molding to your home, you would need a miter saw and a pneumatic nail gun to do the job right. Yes, you could buy the tools, but there goes your savings by doing it yourself. (In the midst of a project, when my husband is gripped by tool-lust, he will often try to convince me that we need these tools for future projects.) If it’s possible to do your project with rented or borrowed tools, it can still be worth it to DIY, but if you have to buy a tool you’ll only use once (or once a decade), it’s worth it to call in a contractor.

Each DIY homeowner has different skills, abilities, tools, patience and readiness for different kinds of projects. The important thing is to know your own limits and do your money planning ahead of time. That way you’ll know if doing it yourself really is cheaper, or if it will just be an expensive headache.

Photo credit: haglundc.

Published or updated January 16, 2013.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 krantcents

I learned a long time ago, I have very little DIY skills. I am much better off calling a professional. I have a cadre of reasonable people for those kinds of things.


2 Hunter

This article has made me smile. My wife and I love watching HGTV and seeing all the home renovation projects, from start to finish. We have done a lot of renovating ourselves. But, our latest project has been running for over a year…the kitchen. We’re almost done, but half the kitchen cabinets still need to be painted….it’s complicated. We’ll get there, I hope.


3 Jessica07

Great article. My husband and I are having a basement and addition put on (we want the basement, but don’t want it to look like a hole in the ground beside the house–haha!). Right now we’re crunching the numbers to see if finishing it ourselves, after they get the basic frame up would really save us money. The main thing is that we both work from home, so the hours we spend doing it ourselves are also going to eat into the hours we could be working (thus making money). On the other hand, we’re both very hands-on and DIY-inclined… We have the tools, the safety backgrounds for using them, and the materials we can get for less than the contractor would bill for. So, it’s all a matter of the time value of money at this point.

Sorry, I’m rambling. LOL. Great post… apparently you got me thinking once again. 🙂


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