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Knowing when to DIY and when to call in the experts

·4 min read

Paid for by SimpliSafe

Knowing when to DIY and when to call in the experts
Knowing when to DIY and when to call in the experts


Everyone likes saving money and the satisfaction of a job well done. But when it comes to home improvement projects, it's good to assess your skill level first.

First, a few caveats: things like plumbing, electrical wiring work or major structural work should be left to license and insured professionals. The dangers and costs of potential water damage, incorrect electrical wiring or structural damage outweigh any potential savings from doing the labor yourself. But for most other projects, the sky's the limit.

"I'm all for DIY. When it's right, it connects you to your home. You should be involved in as much of the maintenance as possible to understand the system. With the right DIY projects, every time you do one brings you closer to that level of understanding," says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor.

So how do you know if your handyman abilities are up to snuff? We’ve partnered with SimpliSafe to bring you expert advice to help assess when you need to hire a professional — or when you can take matters into your own hands.

The 3 Ts

DiClerico says he looks for three factors when it comes to figuring out whether or not a project is feasible. "We always throw out the three Ts: time, tools and talent. You really need all three of those," he says.

To gauge how much time something will take, do your research and, then, figure it will take you much longer than average if it’s something you haven’t done before. You might need to weigh whether or not you actually have the extra time to spare.

Having the right equipment is also crucial. The costs of buying or renting tools — particularly specialized items like a drum sander or a contour saw — can add up. If you’re only intending to use an expensive tool for a single project, it might cost nearly the same to hire someone who already has the tools.

Finally, try to be realistic about your skills and your level of interest. If you're a beginner and contemplating a project with medium difficulty, the project might be within reach so long as you are willing to put in the time to research and learn some new skills.

An honest assessment

When gauging your skills and interest in a project, it's also wise to assess the risk of messing up. Some mistakes, like installing a faucet or hanging a door, are easy to fix. Others fixes – like uneven floor tiles – are more involved.

"Cost is a big thing but if you screw up you will pay more because you have to bring in someone to redo the whole thing," says Christina Hoffmann, content manager at HouseLogic. That can end up costing more than just going with a professional in the first place.

Complicated projects, like refinishing floors or installing tiles, will take more time and skill than other endeavors, like painting. Some improvements, like installing a home security system, which used to require professional services, have become infinitely easier in recent years. A SimpliSafe home security system, for example, can be personally installed in well under an hour and is rated as one of the top security systems on the market.

But for more challenging tasks, you might want to consider a professional. According to a survey by Improvenet, some of the most regretted home projects include: installing floor tiles, replacing the ceiling, refinishing hardwood floors and installing carpet. Doing-your-own ceramic floor tiles, for instance, can be more complicated than expected because there's a lot of cutting and tweaking to make things look even.

"A classic scenario we hear: service requests to come in and fix my mistake," says DiClerico.

Popular DIY projects

On the flip side, there are plenty of DIY projects that even novices can do. Some of the least regretted projects, Improvenet found, include light installs, adding trees or shrubs, and installing countertops or doors. Painting a room is another relatively easy project with a big impact, says Hoffmann.

Just like with cooking, you don't have to do everything from scratch these days. There are plenty of hacks and new products on the market that save time and make it easier to DIY. Adhesive-backed, removable wallpaper, for example, is a lot easier to handle than traditional wallpaper and easy to remove and change. DIY has the ability to to make even unexpected areas, such as home security, more personalized.

"You can look at DIY on a spectrum," says Hoffmann. Those with more advanced carpentry skills could build a window seat from scratch, whereas those who are less experienced can create one using existing storage systems and preformed molding.

So long as you have the interest, some skills, and tools, DIY is within your reach. The results can be rewarding.

"It's such a wonderful feeling if you do something,” says Hoffmann. “There's a sense of accomplishment — and bragging rights!"

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From SimpliSafe:

For “whole home security,” SimpliSafe provides protection for every window, room and door against intruders, fires, water damage, medical emergencies and more. Easy to install yourself, Simplisafe helps you to customize your security package to meet your unique and personal needs.

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