To DIY or not to DIY: How and when to hire a pro


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DIY-ing may save you cash and give you that glowing sense of accomplishment, but trust us, it’s not worth it if your roof comes caving in a few minutes later. Read on to know what to do on your own and how to hire a pro for any household task.

Home repairs Whether or not to rely on others for home repairs is a very personal decision — after all, you’re the one who has to live with the results. Before picking up that tool belt, ask yourself: Do I already have the skills to complete this project, or am I willing to learn them? More importantly, do I actually want to spend my time on the project?

The pro: If you don’t consider the time expenses of DIY-ing minor projects worthwhile, a handyman is your go-to for basic home repairs — from minor plumbing and electrical work to paint, caulk, tile, etc. You should list all the minor repairs your home needs and get them taken care of in one visit to get the most bang for your buck. Recommendations and experience are essential in hiring a handyman, as not all states require licensing.

Whether you want to DIY or not, bigger jobs that affect the structural integrity of your home require a permit. A contractor familiar with permitting and building codes will likely have an easier time understanding and applying for these permits and ensuring your alterations are up-to-code. If you’d rather hire a pro, ask for recommendations, look for a licensed contractor and get several price quotes before beginning, says This Old House.

Some people love swimming in paint chips and staring at textile samples. To others, that sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. Before hiring or DIY-ing, remember that you’re the one who needs to be happy with your house. If you don’t care about decor, skip the pro. But if you want beautiful results and you’re short on time, look for help. It’s also worth hiring an interior designer if you know you want access to designer-only collections, suggests Apartment Therapy, or if you just don’t have enough time to work on it.

The pro: In hiring an interior designer, the American Society of Interior Designers says to look for accreditation, experience in your particular project, communication skills and, of course, creativity and a design aesthetic you like. The process for hiring a professional home organizer is similar; check out the National Association of Professional Organizers for pointers.

Plumbing and electrical To the untrained eye, it can be hard to guess which types of plumbing and electrical jobs are easy to tackle and which could result in accidentally flooding or burning down your house.

The pro: Dummies.com suggests hiring a pro when you can’t pin down what the problem is, or there’s a high likelihood of causing damage. Real Simple adds that doing superficial tasks yourself, like replacing the ball cock in a toilet or using drain cleaner, will save you money over a pro. (Note: A handyman is cheaper than a plumber or electrician if you don’t want to do these tasks yourself.)

To hire a professional plumber, This Old House recommends looking for someone to do routine work when it’s not an emergency. This will allow you to establish a relationship with a reliable and honest plumber before your house is inexplicably flooding. Look for proof of license, and ask friends and family for recommendations.

The process for hiring an electrician is actually a bit easier. To get state licensing, a master electrician must pass a state exam and have a minimum amount of work experience, so there’s a guarantee of competence. Journeymen electricians are also state-licensed and are qualified to install wiring (though not to design it, as master electricians are). Whenever you’re adding wiring to your home, it’s wise to hire one of these two pros to prevent potential damage.

Pest control
Some pests, such as mice and bugs, can often be dealt with on your own first. The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends first identifying invading pests and exploring the extent of the problem. There are many homeowner-friendly solutions that don’t involve applying any pesticide at all, like moisture control, trapping, sanitation, etc.

The pro: If the offending critters are wild animals (e.g. squirrels, bats or just about anything that digs in gardens), the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management offers pointers for hiring someone qualified to safely remove the invaders. Aside from wild animals, there are some other types of pests that always merit professional attention.

To hire, look for licensing and references. You want a pest pro that practices Integrated Pest Management, meaning they’ll evaluate your unique situation and explore a variety of options before just dumping pesticide on the problem. Get three price quotes and consider the type of contract. The cost for return visits should be factored into your decision.