DIY or Hire a Pro? When To Spend Your Money vs. Elbow Grease

By Craig Donofrio

Posted on September 1st, 2022

painting a house

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Even if you’re handy and are not afraid to get your hands dirty, there are some home improvement projects that you shouldn’t tackle without the help of a professional. But how do you decide when to hire a pro and when you can do it yourself? Keep reading to find out.

Here are the four major categories of home improvement and renovation projects:

Design and Decor Projects

Projects like interior painting, replacing bath hardware and cabinet pulls, installing curtain rods and window blinds, hanging artwork, or even adding wall-hung shelving can usually be accomplished by a reasonably careful novice.

They require few tools, and there is plenty of online advice available. You can also reach out to your local hardware, paint or home improvement center with any questions you have.

DIY: Routine Maintenance and Upkeep

Much like a car, your home has a routine maintenance schedule that needs to be followed in order to keep it running smoothly. Most routine maintenance tasks can easily be handled by a handy homeowner, like:

  • checking your water heater status and re-lighting the pilot, if necessary
  • managing thermostat settings, cleaning your air conditioner unit and changing your air filters
  • identifying where your sewer and septic cleanouts are and learning when to use them
  • learning where your electrical box is and where your main water shutoff is located
  • keeping your gutters clean and free of debris
  • checking your home’s weather stripping to ensure that your home is energy efficient
  • making sure your home’s smoke alarms are all functional and have good batteries in them

If you're having difficulty with some routine maintenance work, it's best to hire someone to help.Not everyone has the time or physical ability to do everything that's needed to be done around the house.

Hire a Pro: Specialty Systems

However, if you have any specialty appliances or systems, you may want to bring in a professional to check them once a year or so and to perform any necessary tune-up maintenance. Examples are:

  • reverse osmosis water treatment systems
  • water softeners
  • pool filters and pumps

It’s also a good idea to visually survey the outside of your home once a month or so. Walk around and note any chips in the foundation or separation of the siding. Also, look up to visually inspect your roof. If you notice anything you can’t explain, call a professional.


DIY: Minor Improvements

Depending on your level of motivation and your skill set, you may also be comfortable doing minor improvements around the house. This includes things like:

  • installing new light fixtures
  • hanging a ceiling fan
  • installing window screens and storm doors
  • staining exterior concrete
  • re-tiling a bathroom shower
  • sanding and staining kitchen cupboards

A little motivation and some YouTube research can save you lots of money on these types of projects. Just make sure you’re comfortable troubleshooting any issues that may arise – and that you’re willing to call in help if needed. You may opt for a professional for some of these tasks - sanding repainting kitchen cabinets can be difficult!

Hire a Pro: Major Changes

Now we’ve made it to big renovations. This can include things like:

  • An extensive kitchen or bath redo
  • roof patching or an entirely new roof
  • demolition of walls
  • room additions

These types of projects almost always require professional assistance, because you want to make sure everything you’re doing is safe and up to code. Research your options and hire a licensed, bonded, insured contractor with good reviews.

Although the dollar cost may be higher, you will have the benefit of a contractor’s expertise, know that the renovation will conform to code requirements and, in most cases, have a warranty. If you’re working with a tight budget, ask your contractor if there’s anything you can do yourself to reduce labor costs.

The bottom line is, there are a lot of things you can do yourself to save money. Just make sure if you have any safety concerns or if you’re doing an overwhelming large-scale project, you enlist the help of qualified professionals.


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Posted in Homeowner Advice