Home Improvement Services: Hire or Do-It-Yourself?

When it comes to home improvement, should you hire a professional, or should you put on the toolbelt? Here are some ways to draw your own conclusions.

The range of home improvement and remodeling projects that homeowners will undertake during the course of their lives is varied and unpredictable.

Depending on the age of your home, the quality of the original work, and countless other variables, you may be called upon to handle anything from simple aesthetic upgrades all the way to catastrophic foundation recovery. The first question many of us ask is who to call for home improvement projects: is it a local professional or the person in the mirror? Here are some points to consider when deciding who should handle your home improvement projects.

Risk vs. Danger

Nearly all home improvement projects have a built-in element of risk, but some are flat-out dangerous, and you must consider these when making the decision to hire or DIY. Risk elements can range from trivial (the project turned out ugly!) to dangerous, such as the unintentional removal of a wall that was important to the home's structural integrity. Here’s an example of risk vs. danger thinking: If you are attempting a countertop installation for the first time, depending on the material there is likely very little danger involved. There is, however, a decent risk that your lack of expertise will cause a less-than-desirable result such as edges not aligning properly or cupboards no longer functioning correctly.

The potential for danger in a remodeling project, on the other hand, is a matter to be taken very seriously. Three key areas of potential danger in home improvement are:

  • Gas/Oil - A mistake made during the fitting of new gas or oil-fueled equipment in the home has the potential for consequences that range from purely environmental, such as a leak of furnace oil into the foundation and earth, to catastrophic, such as an explosion triggered by poor gas-fitting practices.
  • Plumbing/Water - A dry house is a comfortable house. A damp house, on the other hand, has the potential to cause long-term harm to the health of its occupants in the form of creeping black mold. Bad plumbing can cause problems that range from lingering dampness to floods that destroy much of the house and its contents.
  • Electrical - Like gas-fitting, electrical work is another realm that can have sudden dire consequences for the novice do-it-yourselfer. Bad wiring can cause house fires (an estimated 51,000/year in the US alone), but novice electricians can find themselves suddenly killed by their lack of knowledge and experience.

Consider the risks and potential dangers of any home improvement project when making the decision whether to DIY or shop for home improvement services.

Legal Requirements

Here’s an important consideration: does the project require a building permit or inspection by a governing authority? This question is crucial because it can have downstream consequences, even after you’ve sold the home. The fact that you or a friend or relative may have the skills to complete a task does not necessarily mean that the work would meet the legal requirements of your jurisdiction. Here’s an example:

Tony is an electrical engineer with a management job at an electrical utility company. His rental property needs an upgrade to the electrical panel and Tony has the knowledge and skills required to make the change himself. Even so, the laws governing the jurisdiction in which the rental property sits dictate that all electrical work of this nature needs to be performed by a licensed electrician and inspected by a government-certified inspector. Tony, who despite his education is not a licensed electrician, proceeds with the repair, confident that the governing laws exist to ensure the safety and quality of the work being done, and that he can deliver those elements himself.

In this case, the risk never goes away for the rest of Tony’s lifetime. For example, in the event of a fire where the integrity of the home wiring is called into question, insurance may deny Tony’s claim if the truth about the work comes to light. Equally, similar problems may arise in the event that Tony attempts to sell the home, or even downstream if the new owner experiences trouble.

The point here is simple: be aware of the applicable laws and regulations surrounding the work you need to do and govern yourself accordingly.

Skills vs. Bills

From our perspective, the considerations above are the simplest way for you to make the hire vs. DIY decision for yourself. You want to make sure that if you take a project on yourself that you have the knowledge and skills to see it through to completion with a result that protects the safety and health of your family. You also want a result that is pleasing to the eye, to your budget, and to the long-term goal of building value in your home as an investment. Having said that, skills and knowledge are only part of the equation and there are many cases where hiring a licensed professional is going to be the safest choice, as well as the legally sound choice.

How you proceed from here is up to you. We wish you all the best for a successful and beautiful home improvement project and many years of continued enjoyment of your investment. If you’d like to book a consultation to have one of our licensed professionals take a look at your project, we’d be happy to help.

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