It's great to be handy but sometimes it's OK to call for help

As a homeowner, it's often tempting to bite off more than you can chew. Particularly, that DIY bathroom redo that you were hoping to save money on, that sagging garage roof crying out for your magic touch or that new foyer light fixture waiting to be hung.

Fact is, savvy and skilled weekend warriors can march into the home improvement battle with confidence.

But the rest of us are usually better off enlisting experts for a fix-it or remodeling project.

“DIY-ERs should probably only handle nonhazardous, straightforward jobs, like painting a bedroom, where you're not likely to get into trouble if you do it wrong,” says Tom Larsen, owner of House Doctors of Manassas in Manassas, Virginia.

“Many believe that doing it yourself will always save money. But it can cost more for the needed parts and tools than you think,” he said. “For example, if you want to install trim, a good miter saw can cost $500.”

Plus, if something goes wrong, “you'll have to hire a professional to fix it anyway, which is collectively more expensive than if you had just hired an expert from the start,” he adds.

“Anything structural should be handled by an experienced professional,” says Mark Sexauer, lead estimator for Seattle-headquartered STS Construction.

“I've walked onto projects where the homeowner has done what seems like a simple thing — like add a door or window where there was none before — but they forgot that the weight of the home is distributed in certain areas and they've caused major damage that's expensive to repair.”

Many homeowners also forget that there's a cost to their own time.

“It can take you a lot longer to complete a project — spending weeks doing something that can take a professional merely days, like installing tile correctly, refinishing flooring or putting up drywall,” says Sexauer .

Some jobs are, in fact, downright dangerous for even the handiest nonprofessionals to tackle. These can include electrical wiring projects and HVAC repairs and maintenance.

“While any homeowner can change their furnace filter and keep the areas around their furnace and air conditioner clean of dirt and debris, yearly maintenance should be left to a trained and certified HVAC technician,” cautions Jeff Trucksa, co-founder of K & J Heating and Cooling, Inc., in Villa Park.

“The risks of doing any intensive maintenance or repairs on your HVAC system as a DIY project can be very dangerous, since there are gas lines, electrical and refrigerant that can be harmful to someone not professionally trained.”

Anything involving steep ladder climbing and roofing work is also wisely left to a skilled specialist.

“When it comes to your roof, you don't want to take a chance on leaks or damages, and there are always hazards when it comes to climbing up on top of your house,” says Erin Gilbert, chief marketing technologist for Ferguson Roofing in St. Louis.. “You could also make the mistake of not selecting the right materials, not knowing the correct sequence of application or failing to understand the details involved with flashing — costing you more in the long run.”

“My belief is that anything that can burn, flood, or damage your home permanently should be done by a licensed and insured professional,” says Robin Wilson, New York City interior designer and homeowner, who recently hired an electrician, plumber, roofer, flooring expert and kitchen remodeler to renovate her home. “If you are going to do it yourself, it should be within your capability level and not potentially affect your ability to maintain insurance.”

To find the right expert for your needs, ask friends and family for a referral to someone they've used with confidence. You can also, research the professional online, read reviews and check to see if they are an accredited business with a good rating on the Better Business Bureau's website.

Homeowners should be aware of their own limitations when tackling home repair and improvement projects. It can end up costing more in the long run if a project goes wrong and a professional is brought in mid-project.
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