11 DIY Projects You Should Definitely Leave to the Professionals
You have to respect a self-reliant homeowner who takes on problems as they arise without calling for help. Some DIY projects can pay off, but others are better left to the pros. They're either too dangerous, too difficult, or simply too easy to mess up -- even for the handiest homeowner.
According to CNBC, roofing is America's fourth-deadliest job. Dozens of professionals die in roof-related accidents every year, and you're probably not a professional. Falls are by far the deadliest of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's "fatal four" leading causes of construction deaths. Even if you manage not to kill yourself, roofing is complicated, difficult work. It's almost certain you don't have the tools or the know-how to do it right, and attempting a DIY roof project could void your warranty and homeowners insurance.
Few household projects have margins for error that are less forgiving than electrical work. Like roof repair, a single wrong move or momentary lapse in concentration can be fatal. Dozens of people die from household electrocution every year, and tens of thousands more suffer non-fatal shocks. There's another danger with amateur electrical work. If you mess it up, you might not find out until your home becomes one of America's 51,000 annual electrical fires.
When you see cracks in your home's foundation, walls or floors, or if doors and windows start sticking, it's likely you have foundation issues. It's also likely that you'll flirt with the idea of shoring up joists or load-bearing joints yourself. Don't. It's almost impossible for average homeowners to know what's behind their walls, and mistakes can affect plumbing, electrical work, and other major systems.
If you're thinking of cutting down a bothersome tree in your yard by yourself, first go to YouTube and search "tree felling gone wrong." First of all, the tools themselves required to remove trees are dangerous, including the most dangerous tool in America: the ladder. If the tree doesn't fall where you intend, which is highly likely, you might wind up with a few tons of wood through your roof, on your car, or on your head. Also, hidden hazards like rotten branches are, well, hidden and hazardous.
If you watch any house-flipper show for more than a few minutes, you'll eventually get to the scene where they break out the sledgehammers and smash a wall to smithereens. It looks like so much fun, and it is -- for them. That's because off the air, structural engineers determined whether the wall was cosmetic or load bearing, and professionals have examined the wall for asbestos and other hazards. Another thing they don't show on TV: the cost and hassle associated with debris removal.
Mistakes made during the installation of gas appliances come with two fairly significant hazards. First, gas is combustible, which means it can blow up you and your house. Second, gas is a deadly poison. Improper venting can kill you and your family while you sleep. The Citizens Gas Utility District in Tennessee advises: "Don't install a gas appliance yourself, unless you area a qualified contractor. Instead, you should always seek professional assistance." Please do everyone a favor and heed their advice.
There are countless videos on YouTube detailing how to install a hot-water heater. Please ignore all of them. Hot water heater installation can expose you to carbon monoxide for gas-fired models, and electric models carry a lethal 240 volts. With intricate plumbing work required, chances are good you'll mess it up. One plumber wrote on Angie's list that "we encounter improperly installed water heaters on a daily basis."
You don't need to call a plumber for a clogged drain. But performing legitimate plumbing work is a complex job that's loaded with landmines, many of which can lead to costly repairs and potential water damage. Most people can locate their shut-off valves, but are you really ready to sweat copper pipes, which Popular Mechanics calls "the cornerstone of modern plumbing"? Not sure what that is? It involves soldering copper pipes with a blowtorch.
Everyone knows that a fresh coat of paint is one of the cheapest and simplest ways to radically overhaul your house -- on the inside, that is. For the part of your house that stands between you and the elements, however, things get tricky, complicated, and dangerous. Exterior painting requires critical and complicated pre-painting prep work, which, with stucco, can take the better part of a month. If you don't want a peely, bubbly, ugly looking house, precision spraying and backrolling is required, but that kind of precision comes with experience, which you likely don't have.
This one falls into the looks-easy-but-is-actually-not category. A skilled, experienced crew can pave a driveway in a single day. You cannot. It is a time-consuming, labor-intensive affair that is likely to crack, shift, crumble or come out uneven unless it's left to a pro. If it rains overnight while you're half-done, you -- and your partial driveway -- are in trouble.