Hire a Professional Instead: 8 Projects DIYers Should Avoid
If you're just beginning your DIY journey, learn which projects to avoid until you develop the necessary know-how.
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Removing a Wall
Removing a wall might sound like a simple demolition project, but doing so without sufficient experience and skill can result in significant damage to your home.
“There may be plumbing pipes and electrical wires behind the wall that can totally destroy your home if damaged,” says experienced house flipper and Uphomes Owner Ryan Fitzgerald. And if it happens to be a load-bearing wall, you could ruin your home’s foundation.
Instead of performing your first wall removal yourself, consider asking an experienced, patient carpenter or contractor for help. They can show you how to identify a load-bearing wall, identify and mark studs and remove drywall without damaging anything behind the wall. They can also teach you how to safely and effectively use the tools required for the job.
Tiling a Shower
Tile showers are beautiful — no wonder you want one in your bathroom design. But if you’re a beginner, it’s too easy to introduce leaks during installation, leading to water damage and a costly re-do.
Instead, gain experience with smaller tiling projects that don’t involve so much water. Start with tiling a floor, a kitchen backsplash or a kitchen countertop, says DIY Tile Guy Owner James Upton. After you have a couple of projects under your belt, then you can start exploring what it takes to tile a shower.
Repairing the Roof
Roof damage is incredibly common and expensive, which can tempt many homeowners to attempt roof repairs themselves. That can be costly and dangerous.
“Even a relatively low-pitched roof can feel slightly terrifying once you’re up there,” says Family Handyman Senior Editor Brad Holden. “And if you’re up there to, say, replace a missing shingle, there may be other loose shingles. If one slides from under your foot, you could find yourself back on the ground in a hurry.”
You also risk burns from contacting volatile tars and chemicals, as well creating further damage, according to Homeowner Costs Founder and CEO Andrew Barker. “If you choose the wrong materials, [you could] end up with a leaky ceiling, broken pipes or cracked walls,” Barker warns.
If you do decide to tackle a roof repair, Holden says, enlist a helper with roofing experience and use a sturdy ladder with firm footing. Also be sure to use a safety harness, rope or other means of keeping yourself on the roof. If your work requires a permit, get one. An expert will inspect your work when you finish.
Pouring Concrete (and the Like)
Attempting anything larger than about 10 feet x 10 feet that involves building concrete forms or finishing concrete, such as pouring concrete slabs or sidewalks, can result in wasted time and money. These projects require considerable skill, timing and specialty tools, including floats, trowels and edgers.
You’ll also need to cut and tie rebar. Just hauling the lengths of rebar for a big pour requires a truck.
“If you’re not fully prepared, a large pour can get out of hand fast if the concrete starts to set before you’re done floating and finishing,” says Holden. “Even a pro needs skilled helpers to make a big pour finish up nicely.”
Develop the necessary skills on small, relatively forgiving concrete projects, such as putting in fence posts or replacing a cracked section of sidewalk.
Tackling Electrical Projects
Electrical projects can range from simple and relatively safe to complex and incredibly dangerous. While we certainly encourage DIYers interested in tackling electrical projects to start small and be safe, remember it’s all too easy for the inexperienced to unwittingly bite off more than they can chew. A seemingly simple electrical project can go sideways fast.
The dangers include electrocution, electrical fires, building code violations and expensive repairs. “There’s a reason that electricians must be certified, permits are required and inspections are mandated,” says International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI) Chairman of the Board Michael Hoftkin.
Of course, you have to start somewhere. Performing basic electrical work yourself can save you money and make you a more capable homeowner. It also doesn’t require many tools. Once you verify a circuit is turned off at the breaker, even beginners can replace a single-pole light switch or electrical outlet.
For bigger projects, it’s best to loop in a helper with electrical experience. Get a permit, too. “This guarantees an expert will look at what you’re planning and likely answer any questions you have, as well as check your work when you’re done,” says Holden.
Removing Large Trees and Branches
Large-scale arboriculture tasks can be expensive, tempting homeowners to try the DIY approach. But there’s a reason why tree work is considered one of the most dangerous jobs. Without the proper skill and experience, you may be putting your home and life at risk.
Don’t attempt to drop large limbs, fell an entire tree, or perform aerial and technical cuts of overhanging limbs without training, says Urban Forest Pro ISA-Certified Arborist Lisa Tadewaldt. Play it safe by progressively developing your trimming and removal skills.
Begin with trees no larger than about 15 feet tall that won’t hit structures in any direction when they fall. Cut branches no larger than two inches in diameter that are far from structures and power lines. And be sure you have a clear “escape route.” Even small trees can cause injury or death if they come down on your head.
Doing Complete Bathroom Remodels
Many home improvement shows make bathroom remodels appear deceptively simple. In reality, they’re complex projects that require considerable expertise spanning several trades.
“Even moving a bathtub from one side of the bathroom to the other can require cutting concrete, installing a new shower pan, tile work, plumbing and possibly electrical work,” says experienced remodeler and Phoenix Mobile Home Owner Matthew Bonestroo. “One small mistake can leave a homeowner with future problems resulting from leaking components.”
Bonestroo recommends beginners build their skills with smaller bathroom projects before attempting an entire remodel. These include replacing a toilet or sink faucet, painting bathroom walls and painting cabinets. It can also be helpful to work with a contractor who will allow you to perform parts of the remodel yourself. Whatever you do, get a permit.
Mold is unsightly, hazardous to your health and destructive. While it’s possible for homeowners to remove some mold in their homes, it’s important to know when to call a pro. “If the mold is already widespread, you may need to remove furniture, remove carpets and even open walls up,” Barker says.
However, it’s not just about project difficulty. DIY removal may expose you to health-damaging mold spores and harmful compounds, either from cleaning products or asbestos in older homes. You can also easily make the mold problem worse.
Play it safe and stick with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recommendation of only handling moldy areas that are 10 sq. ft. or smaller. If the area is larger, if the mold has created structural damage, or if other hazardous materials such as asbestos are present, hire a contractor licensed to perform the removal.