6 Signs You Should Hire a Pro for a Home Improvement Project

Deciding to go DIY can be costly — or disastrous — in some cases. Learn when to put down the tools and call in a pro.

HGTV makes everyone feel as if they’re only a couple of power tools away from being home renovation masters. But don’t be fooled. There’s a reason building and construction trades are considered skilled jobs.

Tackling a home renovation project requires more than an eye for design and the ability to match colors. You also need to understand how the various parts of a structure fit together, and you may even have to (gasp) do some math.

What’s more, a home improvement project done wrong can be expensive to fix, or even dangerous. Before you end up with a DIY disaster, here are six times when you should probably call in a pro.

1. You don’t understand what you’re doing

Confused manTunedIn by Westend61 / Shutterstock.com

Yes, this seems so obvious, doesn’t it? And yet, some people try to do projects when they really don’t understand the mechanics of what they’re trying to do. Perhaps they mistakenly think it will all simply fall into place once they get a bit further into the project.

Don’t assume project instructions will make sense later. You need to know what you’re doing right from the start. Otherwise, you won’t be able to identify potential problems as they arise. Or worse, you could get halfway through and find you can’t figure out how to finish.

The same thing goes for tools, especially power tools. If you don’t know how to use something, maybe you shouldn’t be using it.

Failing to heed this advice could result in shoddy work or personal injury. Neither is a good outcome for a DIY project.

2. Someone knowledgeable advises you to get a pro

Woman looking skepticalpathdoc / Shutterstock.com

Maybe you go to the hardware store, explain the project, and the workers raise their eyebrows and say, “Really?”

When someone familiar with the project says you’re crazy for attempting it, that should be a cue to reconsider. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Has this person done such a project themselves?
  • Have they heard from multiple people who have tried such a project? (This may be your local hardware store employee.)
  • Do they have a vested interest in discouraging you from doing the project?

Contractors may play Negative Nellies because they want your business, so you may not want to rely on their advice alone. However, if your best friend who is handy says the project is a nightmare, you might want to give some thought to his or her words.

3. Your time is limited

New appliancesRashevskyi Viacheslav / Shutterstock.com

Sometimes, you might be completely capable of finishing a home renovation on your own, but that doesn’t mean you should still attempt the project.

If you already have a full schedule of work and family obligations, how much time are you really going to be able to devote to the renovation? And will you really want to live with your kitchen being a construction site for months on end? If your answers are “not much” and “no,” then you should call a pro.

4. It will be obvious you did it yourself

poor workkay roxby / Shutterstock.com

It might not matter if the shelves in your closet are crooked or the paint in your bedroom is uneven. No one except you and your immediate family will probably see those anyway.

However, if your kitchen cabinets are misaligned, it may be obvious to everyone who walks into your house. Consider who will see the project, the likelihood you’ll mess it up and how embarrassed you’ll be when a visitor notices your mistakes. Consider, too, that a visibly botched job — done badly or not to code — can affect the value of your home if you decide to sell it. Then, decide whether it’s worth continuing on your own.

5. Major electrical or plumbing work is involved

Men looking at electrical panelSyda Productions / Shutterstock.com

There’s really no question that anything involving major electrical or plumbing work needs to be left to the pros.

Poor plumbing could lead to a messy situation and water damage that will end up costing more than what you would have paid to have the job done right in the first place. As for electrical, we’re talking possible house fires and putting your family’s safety in jeopardy if you do it wrong. In my book, that sort of risk isn’t worth saving a few bucks to do it yourself.

6. Serious injury is possibile if something goes wrong

Patient on stretcherJaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock.com

Along the same lines, you should think twice about any project that could result in serious injury.

Re-shingling a house with a steeply sloped roof comes to mind. According to an article by DoItYourself.com, about 170,000 people go to the hospital each year because of injuries related to ladders alone.

Another peril is knocking down walls when you’re not sure which beams are supporting the roof.

Cable TV makes us all think we can be DIY superstars, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the cameras. By all means, undertake small projects or ones that are strictly cosmetic. But tread carefully if the renovation project affects the structure of your home or could put your safety in jeopardy.

What home improvement projects have you completed on your own? Would you recommend them to others? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Maryalene LaPonsie
Maryalene LaPonsie
After 13 years as a staffer for a Michigan legislator, I decided it was time to quit the commute and work from home instead. For the past three years, I’ve been penning ... More


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