6 Home Improvement Projects You Shouldn’t Do Yourself
Whether you’re addicted to watching HGTV or “This Old House,” home improvement shows always make everything look so easy. But before you pick up the drill and sledgehammer, please pause for this public service announcement. “Those TV shows don’t show about 90% of what happens to complete a project,” says Arthur Sadura, owner of T&A Carpentry and Home Renovations. Here’s a few hints to help you avoid a ton of headaches or worse, misfiring nail gun.
My spouse is actually quite handy. After watching electricians install dimmer switches in our old apartment, he was able to do it in subsequent homes—but it turns out he was lucky he didn’t blow up the place or electrocute himself. Sadura urges homeowners to steer clear of all electric except changing a light bulb. “You shouldn’t fool around with electric,” says Sadura. If you do want to DIY a dimmer switch, “YouTube is a good source of electrical tutorials,” he admits. “But a good rule of thumb is if your wires look different from what you are watching, abandon the project to avoid having to guess.”
With more than 400 deaths per year resulting from faulty electricity, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation, this isn’t worth the risk.
This one is not an absolute don’t, but a great-looking tile job does require a lot more planning than just slapping squares on the floor or wall, then admiring your work. Even if you lay out the tile, measure and measure again, you will need to cut edges and around things such as faucets—and prepare to scale a steep learning curve cutting tile. Glass mosaic tiles are among the toughest to cut. You’re probably thinking, I’ll get big tiles so there are fewer to install. Not so fast: Large format tiles are even harder to cut than tiny glass mosaic ones, according to Sadura, and there’s lots of waste. Which is why it pays to save yourself the trouble and hire a professional already.
Both Clement and Sadura agree: Steer clear of the roof. Did you get that? “It’s not that roofing is too hard,”explains Clement. “Often it’s just a matter of scale.” And something else: danger. In fact, Sadura goes further, recommending that regular folk avoid any exterior projects that involve scaffolding “for obvious reasons.”According to the National Safety Council, more than 6,000 Americans die each year from falls, mostly from roofs or ladders while cleaning gutters or fixing roofing.
If you don’t really understand how to get the permit—or if or why you need one in the first place—avoid the project. You need to fully understand what’s entailed in a DIY that requires getting a permit in the first place. Many DIYers skip permits altogether, but they risk being shut down if spotted by an inspector or if a neighbor seeking revenge narcs on them.
“But you also risk something worse than inconvenience,” says Clement. “Namely, problems selling the house.” Why? Because you must disclose unpermitted work when selling. This causes a chain reaction, because buyers might be unwilling to take on a home rife with potentially dangerous work. And they might have trouble financing due to the unlawful alterations to the home.
You want a general rule of thumb? Typically, painting, built-ins, or simple projects such as adding a chandelier don’t require permits. Once your’e changing the footprint of a house, updating wiring, and adding fences (because municipalities usually have height restrictions), you need a permit—which mans you should probably call a contractor pronto.