I’m a huge DIY’er (or rather, my husband is), and I understand the value that comes from a job well done with your own hands and time. I am the first to admit, however, that there are some projects best left to a professional, especially when it involves quality and safety. Here are examples of projects that make more sense to be hired out, even it it means paying more for the privilege.
Repairs Subject to Intense Regulation
I recently watched an old episode of Little House on the Prairie. The story line involved Pa building a kitchen on to the old house. There was no contractor, no permit, and no HazMat professionals standing by to be on the lookout for lead paint chips. While I envy the freedom that Charles had in those days, I also understand that today’s zoning and safety laws (no matter how you feel about them) need to be obeyed. If you have any doubt as to whether your DIY goals will need the approval or oversight of a licensed professional, find out the details before you start. If it requires anything more than a piece of paper and a final inspection when you’re done, it may be less costly (and more stress-free) to just have an expert handle the entire job. And remember, in instances where the final product may affect insurance rates (like the installation of a fireplace, for example), you may need to get your insurance agent involved, as well.
Repairs that Require Expensive Tools
My husband replaced much of the old plumbing in our home with PEX tubing. The installation was easy, but the tools were priced out of our budget. As with mechanic’s tools and other items used to perform very specialized tasks, some DIY necessities will not be worth purchasing for a one or even two-time job. (We ended up splitting the cost of the crimping tool, ring remover, and other essentials with another family, who happened to be tackling the same DIY project.) See about renting items that you can’t afford to buy. Otherwise, hiring a professional may be the way to go.
Repairs that Require Extra Manpower or Machinery
Replacing a drain pipe, for example, may not be a big deal, but if it causes a homeowner to have to dig up the back yard, it may be the perfect candidate for outsourcing. Tasks like this may require more than just a few people to stand by with shovels, and in some instances, will also require heavy equipments (like a backhoe.) Sure, you can ask five of your buddies to take the day off work, or rent a $200 an hour piece of heavy equipment, but most likely, hiring out is the more practical option.
Repairs that Require Intensive Labor
In addition to the number of bodies (or horses) required to do a job right, there may also be an unusually large amount of labor involved with some DIY repairs. Mixing concrete, for example, is a tedious job, and it’s something that many people do not have the stamina to keep up with. Other tasks that fall into this category include laying bricks or sod. If you are in less-than-perfect physical condition, or just feel that the cost of hiring out is worth saving your back (or knees), go ahead and pull the trigger on paying an expert.
Repairs that Require Highly-Specialized Skills
Does the term “GFCI:” ring a bell? If not, it may be time to outsource. This particular gadget, for example, refers to Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, and in most cases, should be installed by a licensed electrician or a very knowledgeable enthusiast. (There are some portable versions, however, that can be used by even the most novice consumers.) Generally, if you aren’t too keen on the ins and outs of a particular area of DIY, like masonry, it may not be the best time to learn. (FYI: A great read for those who want to dip a toe into new waters, is Family HandyMan Magazine. If you see an article on your subject, it’s assumed that it is probably fair game for most reasonably-skilled enthusiasts to attempt.)
Repairs that are Dangerous
In the same vein as those that require skills are those that are just too darn risky to try at home. I wouldn’t recommend, for example, that anyone except the truly experienced try to fell a tree or upgrade their breaker/fuse box. If someone has died doing it, or you sweat at the prospect of going it alone, it’s generally not worth any dollar savings on the man hours. (Additionally, tasks that are dangerous to perform may have devastating consequences later on – if not done properly. You really don’t want a poorly installed breaker box causing a fire, do you?) Other “don’t try’s” include those that deal with hazardous materials, such as black mold, lead, or asbestos.
Repairs that are Reimbursable or Compensated
It is possible that you may someday end up in the very fortunate situation of being able to use someone else’s money to pay for your repairs. In that instance, it may be worth it to have someone else also do the work, as well. Examples of times where you may not have to foot the entire bill for your DIY include:
- Insurance payments for repairs from damages
- Reimbursements from community or government energy programs
Yes, you could pocket the entire amount of a compensated repair, but it might be worth the money to have it done by a professional, leaving you to sit back and enjoy the final result!
In today’s world, it’s pretty easy to find out how to do a repair yourself. Whether you’ll want to actually go through with it, however, will depend on your budget, values, and appetite for adventure! If in doubt, at least consult with an expert (even if you don’t end up purchasing their services.) A DIY with some assurance of being done right is worth twice the investment!