10 of the Toughest Home Improvement Jobs

Updated: Mar. 10, 2024

Some home improvement projects may look easy, but once you get going, you quickly realize things can be tougher than they look. Whether the job is physically demanding, dangerous or just complicated, we scoured surveys and testimonials to determine that these are 10 of the toughest home improvement jobs, according to both contractors and homeowners.

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Demo day looks fun on popular home improvement TV shows, but demolition is physically demanding. Plus, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you may even cause harm (think: disrupting electrical, HVAC and plumbing lines). CraftJack, a company that connects homeowners with trade professionals, notes in its recent survey that both consumers and contractors agree that demolition is one of the most physically demanding jobs. The survey found 15 percent of consumers said demolition is one of the toughest and 11 percent of contractors said it is one of the most physically demanding of all home improvement jobs.

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Sure, you’ve mastered installing a new thermostat and changing your furnace filter, but repairing or replacing an HVAC system is no easy task. Repairs gone wrong can lead to Freon leaks and other serious damage to your system. The CraftJack survey shows both contractors and homeowners say HVAC is one of the most difficult home improvement jobs to master.

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Masonry and Bricklaying

Masons and bricklayers are responsible for creating aesthetically pleasing facades with bricks and structural stone blocks. Imagine handling thousands of pounds of brick or concrete and performing more than hundreds of forward-bending tasks each day. “Masons must be able to follow detailed building instructions, break or cut brick and stone to the proper sizes, mix and apply mortar and grout, assemble and finish the required structures,” notes U.S. News and World Report. Masons themselves note, “The work is physically laborious, usually performed on scaffolding and requires manual finesse, attention to design detail and endurance. Working outdoors with heavy and sharp-edged stone and brick, masons suffer higher injury and illness rates than industry averages, with muscle strains being a common ailment.”

Here’s how to repair mortar joints.

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Asbestos Removal

If you’re planning a remodel in an older home, there’s a good chance you may run into asbestos, which can be found in floor tiles, siding, insulation or pipe wrap. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that asbestos-containing materials that aren’t damaged or disturbed aren’t likely to pose a health risk, however, the agency strongly suggests hiring an asbestos-abatement specialist to take care of any asbestos removal or repairs. These specialists have the right tools and ventilation equipment to take on asbestos jobs safely.

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When it comes to physically demanding jobs, both contractors and homeowners say that roofing is the most difficult. The CraftJack survey put roofing at the top of the list, out of 32 types of home improvement jobs. Not only do roofers have to deal with rough weather conditions that range from downright steamy to frigid and snowy, but falls can be deadly. A CBS News Report says that roofers perform the fourth deadliest job in America (behind pilots, fisherman and loggers), with 39.7 deaths per 100,000.

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While plumbing may not be as physically dangerous as roofing or bricklaying, plumbing jobs aren’t a walk in the park. Plumbing is one of the hardest home improvement jobs to master, according to the CraftJack survey that asked both contractors and homeowners about the most demanding jobs. Plumbers not only have to deal with heavy pipes and supply lines, but they often find themselves working in the bitter cold to fix burst pipes and at odd hours during emergencies. On top of that, work locations can be pretty nasty.

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Basement Waterproofing

When it comes to basements, water isn’t your friend. If you experience leaking walls, floors or cracks in your home’s basement, most DIY basement waterproofing fixes are for experienced DIYers only. Angie’s List notes that you’ll likely need the help of an experienced basement waterproofing contractor to devise a more permanent basement solution.

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Electrical is the most difficult trade to master according to both contractors and consumers, according to the CraftJack survey. I-TAP, an electrical training program, reports that the most physically involved parts of the job are lifting sections of electrical conduit and pulling lots of cable. “Another common complaint is having to work in attics, crawl spaces and other areas that can be uncomfortable, especially in hot or wet weather,” according to I-TAP.

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Tree Removal

If you need a tree removed from your property, think twice before trying to tackle the job yourself. Arborists—including tree removal specialists—have a dangerous job. Not only is there the potential to damage property, they must also deal with nearby power lines and possible falling debris from dying trees. Plus, each year in the U.S., more than 500,000 people are treated and about 300 people die from ladder-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here a list of 16 things NOT to do when you cut down a tree.

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It may not be one of the most physically demanding home improvement jobs, but carpentry can be a tough skill to master. The CraftJack survey noted that while contractors voted carpentry as the third-most physically demanding trade, consumers ranked it ninth. When it comes to most difficult skills to master, both contractors and consumers had it in their top three.

Professional carpenters shared their best tips and tricks with us. Check them out here.