With the popularity of home improvement shows designed to enthrall viewers with stunning renovations, it’s easy to get swept up in the DIY craze. In the hopes of saving money and channeling their inner design diva, even not-so-handy homeowners may be tempted to pick up a hammer and give home repair a go. This may sound empowering, but there are several home repairs you should never do yourself.
While there are home repairs that can certainly be tackled by enthusiastic amateurs, taking on complicated tasks you’re not qualified to do can have costly consequences. Fact: There is such a thing as home repairs best left to professionals. Not only could faulty work lead to spending more money on repairs than you would have spent if you’d hired a pro from the start, they could result in your home not being up to code, serious injuries or even death.
Even if DIY is your life motto, there are certain cost-cutting measures you want to avoid when it comes to home maintenance. Here are some home repairs best left to professionals:
1. Electrical Repairs
“Number one on my list of jobs for homeowners not to do themselves would be electrical—it’s just too dangerous,” says Frank Cohn, owner of Cohn Construction Ltd. and host of the Home Improvement Show on Toronto’s NEWSTALK 1010 radio. “I’ve seen too many electrical jobs where people have done it themselves, or had a brother or an uncle do the wiring, and a lot of these people are lucky they’re alive to tell their tale because I find all sorts of buried wires or things wired improperly. It’s so dangerous. I just can’t stress that enough.”
While installing a basic light fixture may be a suitable task for an experienced DIYer, anything more complicated is a home repair you should never DIY and should be handled by a licensed electrician. There’s a reason electricians can be expensive: They spend many painstaking years training to work with electrical currents that can be deadly when handled improperly.
2. Major Basement Renos
Frequently DIYers will enthusiastically embrace doing their own basement renos because—to the untrained eye—it’s not a main part of the home and mistakes can be easier to hide. But it’s another on the list of home repairs you should never DIY, says licensed contractor Mark Clement of MyFixitUpLife.com. “Even if it seems simple, like studding out for basement walls, there are details for home safety that need to be added,” he says. “For example, details that can get overlooked in basement build-outs are fire-blocking and vapor barriers,” Clement adds.
Cohn agrees with Clement that basements should be left to the experts. Cohn says that underpinning (digging out the basement to make it lower) can be especially dangerous. “There’s been a few stories in the Toronto area over the last couple of years where people have even been killed doing underpinning because walls or even the entire house has collapsed.” Even if you are lucky enough not to be harmed by improper basement renos, the price to fix repairs can be in the tens of thousands of dollars because it’s such painstaking and extensive work that affects the entire structural integrity of the house.
Who isn’t guilty of ignoring a leaky faucet in the hopes that it will somehow stop on its own in an effort to avoid an expensive plumbing bill? Snaking a lightly clogged drain or replacing a worn faucet washer may be doable by some, but anything more extensive falls into the category of home repairs you should never do yourself. Instead: Be prepared to dial a plumber.
Unlike electrical repairs, improper plumbing fixes are unlikely to put your life in danger, but they can take a serious toll on your pocketbook. What started off as an annoying leak can quickly escalate to a flood and can easily add up to thousands of dollars. Plumbing work (especially if it involves your sewage system or hot water pipes) is a home repair best left to professionals.
4. Structural Work
When considering home repairs you should never do yourself, Cohn says the homeowner should generally not touch any sort of major structural work. Much like major basement repairs, if DIYers don’t know what they’re doing, faulty structural renovations can undermine the integrity of the entire home. “These days, everybody’s ripping their homes apart,” Cohn says, as open concept is all the rage. “Sometimes people take out a wall not understanding it’s load bearing, and the next thing you know, the house collapses or the floor upstairs starts to sag.”
Clement likewise feels structural alterations are home repairs you should never do yourself. “Removing walls that carry weight from above is a pro job. Understanding the safest ways to support the weight during the demolition process and determining how to transfer the load are serious business,” he adds.
5. Gas Appliances
Similar to electrical repairs, gas appliances can exact a high price when things go wrong. Home repairs you should never DIY include fixes to items like gas furnaces, ovens, water heaters or dryers. These repairs should only ever be handled by qualified experts. Even when a homeowner takes every precaution to turn off the gas and carefully manages a repair, it’s possible for a leak to develop if the appliance is not reinstalled perfectly. A gas leak can result in carbon monoxide poisoning, which can lead to severe illness and even death (every year in the U.S., about 20,000 people become ill with carbon monoxide poisoning, with approximately 400 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Any work involving gas is a home repair you should never DIY.
Whether we like to admit it or not, there are home repairs best left to professionals—no matter how many home renovation shows we watch. So grab your phone instead of a hammer the next time you’re faced with a large or potentially dangerous renovation.
To make sure your finances are always prepared for a home repair best left to professionals, open an online savings account for your emergency fund. If a costly or unexpected home repair does creep up, you’ll have the funds to quickly and safely address it. Don’t worry… you can satisfy your DIY craving with another task around the house.
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