Making home improvements can boost your resale value and enhance your living space, especially if you choose the right upgrades to make. But home renovations can also be costly, with the average price for remodeling rooms ranging anywhere from a few thousand dollars to six figures and beyond.
Investing some “sweat equity” by doing some home renovations yourself is a great way to get more bang for your buck, and the home improvement shows make upgrading your home look pretty easy. The only problem is that some DIY projects aren’t as simple or worthwhile as they look on TV. In fact, some repairs and upgrades can be downright disastrous if you try to handle them on your own.
While your level of technical skill and your familiarity with power tools should help you determine exactly which home improvements to tackle yourself, here are a few key upgrades you should strongly consider leaving to someone with a license, a certification, and ample experience in a professional trade.
1. Renovations involving structural changes
You may want an open floor plan, but your walls could be doing something very important in your home — like keeping your roof from caving in or concealing plumbing and electrical wiring. Before you take a sledgehammer to that annoying wall dividing your kitchen from your family room, you’ll need an engineer to make sure you won’t compromise your home’s structural integrity. You’ll also need to know exactly what’s behind the wall that your eye can’t see. And even with all of this knowledge, taking down a wall can be much more complicated than it seems. Rather than risking major damage to your home’s structure, plumbing, or electricity, contact a skilled professional if you’d like to move or remove walls.
2. Electrical work
When I installed a new TV in my media room, I wanted an electrical outlet moved over by 12 inches. I figured it would be an easy 10-minute fix, but we’re not handy, so I called an electrician for help. It took two professional electricians six hours to move the wires safely. Moral of the story: Electrical work is more complicated than you think. In addition to not electrocuting yourself or burning your house down, you need to make sure that the wires are run in accordance with stringent electrical codes, that you have the right voltage going where you need it to go, and that you’re not overloading your circuits. All of these tasks are best handled by professionals.
3. Plumbing repairs or upgrades
So you want to take out that double tub no one uses and create an amazing master shower — or maybe you’re simply hoping to repair a leaky faucet. Whatever your plumbing issue, calling a professional can save you from a major catastrophe. It’s bad enough to have water cascading around you as you try to figure out what you did wrong, but that’s actually a best-case scenario. In a worst-case scenario, you could end up with a slow leak behind your walls or under your floorboards, which could cause serious damage — rotting boards, electrical damage, black mold, and so on — before you’re even aware of it. Don’t risk a plumbing disaster that necessitates costly fixes later on. Get help doing it right the first time.
4. Swimming pool repairs
If you’re lucky enough to have a swimming pool, you know that plenty of things can go wrong with it, from a tear in the vinyl lining (or a crack in the concrete) to a broken-down filter or heater. Unfortunately, most of these repairs require specialized knowledge and often equipment that you don’t have, because the work needs to be done in a way that will hold up to constant water exposure. Trying to handle repairs on your own might leave you with a pool that continually leaks, and if you drain it without taking the necessary precautions, your swimming pool could pop out of the ground due to hydrostatic pressure. And when you’re dealing with equipment repairs and water, there’s a risk of electrocution that is not worth taking.
On top of all that, swimming pools, much like your plumbing and wiring, are subject to strict building and safety codes. If anything is not up to snuff, then not only might you put people at risk, but you could leave yourself vulnerable to a devastating lawsuit in the event someone is harmed in your pool. If your home insurer discovers that your pool or its enclosure does not meet all the applicable standards, then you can expect your liability protection to go “poof.”
5. Installing a new roof
Having just had my house survive Hurricane Irma — and having friends whose roofs did not survive the hurricane — I can attest firsthand to the importance of a sturdy and properly installed roof. Your roof is your home’s primary source of protection from the elements, and it is much more complicated to install and repair than you might think. Repairs and replacement involve preparing the roof surface to make sure water doesn’t get underneath, installing ice and windshields, and much more. Do yourself a favor and call a roofer to make sure your roof will be installed correctly so it can protect your home from whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
6. Upgrading windows, doors or siding
Just as your roof is key to protecting your house, so are the materials that surround it. Poorly installed windows or doors could make your home harder to heat and cool and could be extremely dangerous in the event of a big storm. Siding, windows, and doors all need to keep water out of your home, keep conditioned air in, stay in place even during bad weather, and withstand the elements. All should be installed by professionals who know how to make these materials look nice and serve their essential functions.
7. Anything involving gas lines
As dangerous as electrical wires can be, gas could be even more of a risk if you don’t know what you’re doing. When you make a mistake with gas, breathing in the noxious fumes could be fatal — and you may not even be aware you have a gas leak until it’s too late. Leaking gas could also lead to an explosion, putting you, your family, your home, and your neighbors at risk. Before you decide to put that new gas fireplace in, replace your electric stove with a gas model, or upgrade your dryer to gas, you should make certain you have a trusted and reliable professional who can do the job right.