Household Repairs: DIY or Hire a Pro?
The first rule of home ownership: Home repairs are unavoidable.
Be prepared to spend time and money on them. Just how much time and money you’ll have to spend depends on the age and condition of your home, your commitment to maintenance and, honestly, a bit of luck. It also depends on your willingness to do some of those repairs yourself. If you’re not an expert DIY’er, though, it’s hard to know just which jobs to tackle yourself and which ones require a professional. Here’s a look at some of the most common repairs you can probably handle on your own and some you should always leave to the experts.
DIY Home Repairs
It’s messy, time consuming and there’s always a bunch of better ways to spend your weekend. But doing your own interior painting – walls, ceilings, doors and cabinets – can save you a ton of cash. And mistakes rarely lead to damages that you would have to pay an expert to fix.
Tile Repair and Grouting
If you don’t know, grout is that (usually white) stuff between tiles that keeps out moisture to protect from water damage. Grout discolors and wears out over time, however, and will have to be replaced. You’ll need some grout, powdered or premixed, and a few inexpensive tools and supplies. Grouting is simple, if you know what you’re doing. Check online to learn how.
Replacing an Electrical Switch or Outlet
Normally, we would never recommend any do-it-yourself electrical work (see below). The one exception is replacing a light switch or electrical outlet. It’s simple to do, but you must remember to always turn off your circuit breaker before beginning any electrical work, and that includes switches and outlets.
Leaky Faucets, Clogged Drains and Toilets that Won’t Stop Running
Like electrical problems, it’s almost never a good idea to handle plumbing problems on your own. It’s just too easy to bust a water pipe in a wall leading to expensive – and embarrassing – water damage. As with electrical work, there are a few exceptions, and those include leaky faucets, clogged drains (those under your kitchen and bathroom sinks) and constantly running toilets. You can learn how to fix all of them with a simple online search.
Whether it’s little holes caused by nails or screws, bigger holes from runaway door knobs, or those annoying cracks near doors and windows, drywall damage is inevitable. You’ll likely only need some spackle and a putty knife for the little holes. Bigger ones may require a few more tools – like a screwdriver or small saw – and supplies, like sandpaper or a fiberglass mesh patch. You’ll also likely have to do a little painting to conceal your work. All well worth saving the cost of a repairman.
Home Repairs for Professionals Only
As mentioned above, you can handle a light switch or outlet replacement on your own. Anything else to do with your home’s electrical system is best left to an expert. There are just too many dangerous things that could go very wrong, including fire and electric shock. Not to mention that most jurisdictions require by law the use of a licensed electrician for bigger jobs anyway.
Plumbers are expensive, and plumbing repairs often appear to be entirely doable by new DIY’ers. How much harm could you really do? The answer is plenty. And if you think a plumber is expensive, wait until you add the costs of water damages to the bill. As we said above, you can handle a leaky faucet or running toilet on your own. Maybe replacing a shower head. Beyond that, bite the bullet and call a licensed plumber.
Whether replacing an entire roof or repairing a roof leak, do-it-yourselfers are typically unaware of one very important issue – the possibility of falling off. The roof, that is. Falling from a roof can cause serious, even fatal injuries. And emergency room doctors throughout the nation will vouch for the frequency of its occurrence. DIY’ers beware.
It’s almost always a bad idea to attempt fixing or replacing electric or gas appliances on your own, particularly gas appliances. It’s way too easy to miss a gas leak – and a missed leak, even a tiny one, can have catastrophic consequences. Plus, a poor repair job on either a gas or electric appliance can easily cause a fire. Not worth the chance. Call an expert.
Asbestos used to be a very popular product for home insulation. It turned out, however, to also be extremely dangerous when inhaled. So dangerous, in fact, that most uses were banned by the EPA in the late-80’s. Older homes may still have insulation, normally in an attic, containing asbestos. The physical job of removing insulation isn’t in itself hard to do. But doing it safely is a whole other question. If you need to remove any product containing asbestos, call an asbestos abatement professional.
When it comes to any home repair job – aside from the above advice – a good way to determine whether doing the repair yourself is to ask these three questions: Is the job dangerous? Do I know how to do the repair? Is doing it myself worth the time and expense? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, it’s time to put away your toolbox and call a pro.