Home Improvement Projects: When to DIY or Hire a Professional

Should You Hire a Contractor for Your Next Home Improvement?Home improvements can be expensive. In fact, many homeowners should set aside about 1% of their home's value every year to make home improvements. If you're on a budget, you may be able to save money on home improvements by doing some work yourself. However, some home improvement projects are best left to the pros. If you're a homeowner who would like to fix your house and maintain its value, here's what you need to know about hiring a contractor versus doing the work yourself.

Best DIY Projects

Most homeowners have limited tools and limited knowledge about the various systems in the house. For these homeowners, the best home improvement projects require little or no specialized knowledge and only basic tools. Examples of these home improvement projects include:

  • Installation of blinds, shelves, and curtains
  • Drywall repair
  • Painting
  • Some basic flooring installation
  • Basic landscaping
  • Drain cleaning
  • Toilet tank repair

All of these upgrades are good DIY projects because they don't require a lot of specialized knowledge; if they're done incorrectly, the repairs would be relatively inexpensive. These are also good DIY projects because they involve little hazard to the homeowner. Before getting started with a home improvement project, even the basic ideas above, homeowners should engage in the following steps:

  1. Watch or read any tutorials that can make the project easier overall.
  2. Take an inventory of tools and decide which tools need to be purchased or borrowed in order to get through the project.
  3. Find someone who would be available to help if help is needed.
  4. Assemble any parts needed to complete the project.
  5. Set aside the appropriate amount of time.

Best Contractor Projects

The best projects for professional contractors are those projects that are complicated, require specialized tools, would be just as expensive to finish as a DIY project, or are hazardous. Some examples of projects that are best completed by contractors include:

  • Roofing projects. Roofing projects are easy to do incorrectly and involve being on the roof, which can ultimately lead to accidents. However, if you have a flat roof that ponds, there are easy ways to fix it.
  • Sewer and septic tank repair. Sewers and septic tank repair can be challenging for homeowners, who usually do not have the proper tools to get the job done correctly.
  • Foundation repair. Foundations require specialized equipment, and to be done right, they should be completed with the help of a structural engineer.
  • Replacing windows. Windows get damaged from debris, splitting wood, and other damaging factors, which require a complete window replacement. However, installing windows is not an easy task, and it is best to have a contractor take care of this project for you.
  • Removing Walls. Hiring a contractor is always best when removing walls or redesigning a room’s floor plan. There can be several unseen items behind plaster and drywall, such as electrical cables, air ducts, plumbing lines, and other construction items. Additionally, removing a wall could negatively affect the home's structural integrity, especially if it is a supporting wall.

Homeowners trying to decide whether to hire a contractor to get the work done should start by interviewing contractors in the area. Asking questions of the pros can help determine whether a job is appropriate for a homeowner. Find out information such as:

  • How long would this project take?
  • Does this job require more than one person to finish?
  • Does this job require special permitting?
  • How would you do this job?
  • What are the hazards of completing a job like this?

Most contractors will give this information readily, which can help homeowners decide whether they would like to complete the work themselves.

Final Considerations

Choosing between a DIY project and hiring a contractor depends on the homeowner's knowledge and available tools. Consulting with a contractor can help homeowners decide if they are ready to take on the project on their own or require a professional's help.

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