Home Repair: When to DIY and When to Call a Pro

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I have been on my own for a while now, and I pride myself on being able to do the dirty work when it comes to home repair and maintenance. Do-it-yourself, or DIY, home improvement projects can seem overwhelming but there’s nothing you can’t learn by watching a YouTube video these days! However, before you start envisioning yourself as the star of your own HGTV series, there are some home repairs that do require a professional’s touch.

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Even though I am an independent woman, I’m not ashamed to admit I still call my dad frequently to get his advice when it comes to home maintenance and repairs – after all, he’s been in the construction business for thirty years and is a licensed building inspector.

Blogger and DIY-er Ellen Chistian of Confessions of an Overworked Mom has a similar take when it comes to home improvement projects. When she renovated her 1865 farmhouse, she completed many of the upgrades herself. Still, she wasn’t afraid to have her father (who had electrical experience) supervise her as she installed a motion activated light switch.

Her biggest advice when it comes to DIY? “Know your limits”. For larger projects, like installing the gas stove in her kitchen, Ellen made the wise choice to call professional, as “some things are just worth spending the money on!”—and I couldn’t agree more.

So without further adieu, I’ve compiled a list of common home improvement tasks to give you a better idea of what repairs to manage yourself, and when it’s best to call in a pro.

DIY Home Repair: Windows

So the pesky neighbor kid knocked a baseball through your window again (or does that only happen in the movies?). While window repair is more elaborate than most DIY home improvement projects, it can be done.  You’ll first want to safely remove the broken glass and putty from the window frame. Use a heat source, like a blow dryer to warm up the putty in the frame for easier removal. Once you have a clean pane, you can add a new layer of putty, and gently insert the new pane of glass.

If you need to weatherproof or work on your windows’ energy efficiency then consider inexpensive storm windows, or even simply recaulking the window frame to stop air leaks. You’ll notice an immediate difference in your heating bill when the weather dips. Want more ways to save energy with your windows? Check out this resource on energy-efficient windows from Energy.gov  to find out more!

When to Call a Pro: If your windows are a couple stories up, or there appears to be major deterioration, always call in a professional – even a broken window is not worth six weeks in a body cast!

DIY Home Repair: Walls

Wallpaper removal is messy and time-consuming, but can be one of the best money-saving home repair options you can do yourself. All you need is a spray bottle, water, a putty scraper and a can-do attitude. HGTV has a great tutorial on wallpaper removal.

Likewise, if you have to remove that heinous lime green paint in the foyer previous homeowners left behind, you can often prep, prime and repaint a room yourself.  Make sure to fill in any holes left by nails/screws and use painter’s tape to cover anything you don’t want paint on (like baseboards, window frames and electrical outlets) and get started!

When to Call a Pro: Anytime there is extensive structural damage to a wall (due to a pipe leak, for example), it’s best to call in a professional to assess the damage first.

DIY Home Repair: Lights

There are lots of easy ways to DIY small electrical projects, especially when you’re trying to save on electricity:

  • Replacing old outlet covers is an easy instant-update for the home. All you need is a screw driver!
  • Replacing old fuses/resetting breakers seems like it might be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Make sure the main power source is turned off before replacing any fuses, and follow these tips for replacing fuses safely.

When to Call a Pro: Dealing directly with electricity is serious – and requires someone that knows what they’re doing to fix the problem. It’s better to spend a few extra bucks hiring someone to figure out why that circuit is always tripping than to permanently look like the Doc in Back to the Future.

DIY Home Repair: Plumbing

Plumbing issues are, to me, the grossest home repair projects. This is usually because I’ve stopped up the tub drain after giving my dog a bath, or because my nephew stuffed several pairs of socks in the toilet. The good news is that these are among the easiest DIY repair projects you can do yourself.

I learned this trick for unsticking tough clogs and my life has never been the same! I mean, it’s a legitimate miracle, and I am going to share it with you now – you’ll never need a plunger again. For tough clogs, pour a cup of dish soap directly into the sink/tub drain or toilet, followed by a gallon of very hot (not boiling) water. Let it sit fifteen minutes and you should visibly see the water start reducing as the drain becomes unclogged. You may have to flush with hot water a few more times depending on the size of the clog. For tougher cases, you can purchase a snake (a bendy tool that can navigate pipes to literally break up the clog and send it on its way).

When to Call a Pro: Installing or replacing plumbing fixtures, when done incorrectly, can cause an even bigger mess. Make sure to call a professional plumber for these bigger projects.

Bonus Tip: If you have a handyman you use regularly, you can call with minor questions about a DIY project you’re tackling. Often, they’re a wealth of information, and happy to help, since you call them for projects beyond your expertise.

You don’t have to be Tim “The Toolman” Taylor to succeed at DIY home improvement projects. By following these tips, you’ll know when you can DIY and when to call the professionals – so make a list, check out these four must-see home improvement infographics for homeowners, fill your toolbox with home improvement essentials, and get cracking on that to-do list you’ve been putting off!

Author: Katie

A Tar Heel born and bred, Katie hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. When she isn’t writing or shopping online, you can find her hiking a mountain trail, perfecting her no-bake cookie recipe, or secretly reading romance novels on her Kindle.

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