When to DIY and When to Buy: 5 Things You Should Leave to the Experts

Be ambitious when tackling home renovation projects yourself, but not so ambitious that you burn your house down.

Taking on home renovation projects yourself is both cost-effective and rewarding, though it is important for homeowners to grasp that hours dedicated to their favorite home improvement show doesn’t translate to applicable knowledge. Understanding that most of the work involved didn’t make the cut will save you from a recklessness that can prove quite dangerous and costly.

This isn’t to say homeowners should avoid the DIY route, it’s just especially important to understand the extent of a given project and the risks involved in taking it on without the proper training and knowledge. “The easiest traps for DIYers are shortcuts that either save money or speed a job along,” said Kathleen Corlett of Bob Vila, a home improvement, renovation and repair site.

No matter how simple a project appears, seeking professional input can help you avoid mistakes and gain valuable understanding. “It’s always wise to consult the experts about things like what local permits are needed before you accidentally tear down a load-bearing wall, or product selection before a big install,” Corlett said.

“With flooring, for example, an expert can offer insight as to how long certain carpets hold up in the prime traffic zone that is your entryway staircase, or guide you to a type of unglazed tile that's better for avoiding slips in the bathroom when wet,” Corlett said.

In short, anything that feels too far outside of your comfort zone or skill level and potentially poses a safety risk should be handled by a professional. Here are ESTATENVY’s suggestions on 5 projects to outsource to the experts.

Electrical work
If you've never replaced a light fixture or rewired an outlet, delegate that to a professional electrician,” Corlett cautioned. “Otherwise, you're risking an improper wiring job, which could, in turn, lead to an electrical fire.”

Plumbing is another aspect of renovation that might be best left to the professionals if homeowners are inexperienced in the craft. “A wrong move made when moving a sink in the kitchen or changing the layout of the master bathroom could lead to water damage and the cost to repair it might negate the savings from your DIY job,” Corlett warned.

DIY blogger Austin Alvarez did extensive research and shadowed a few professionals prior to renovating the master bath in his first home, successfully doing his own plumbing and electrical work with only a minor flooding incident. That being said, all it took was attempting to hang one sheet of drywall to understand the job called for an expert. “It was incredibly difficult to hide the seams when taping. It’s really an art and an underappreciated trade,” Alvarez said.

Glass cutting
During the same bathroom renovation, Alvarez also enlisted a professional to install and seal the waterproof window in the shower and cut the glass for the shower door. “Taking on the glass cutting ourselves without the proper know-how could have led to a costly misstep. Know your limits and when to outsource the tough stuff,” Alvarez advised.

Corlett acknowledged how tempting DIY roof installation and repair may be due to the low cost of materials, but advised against taking on the project nonetheless. “While shingles may be somewhat easier to work with, roofing just isn’t worth the risk,” she said. “A fall from those heights can lead to serious injury.”