By Gene and Katie Hamilton
Here's a look at which home improvement projects you should do yourself and which ones are best left to a pro.
Do It Yourself
The best projects to do yourself fall into four categories: improvements that involve using inexpensive materials, grunt work that is repetitive and time-consuming, clean up projects and small jobs.
Painting is the most popular homeowner project because you'll save more than half of what a contractor will charge and the paint and tools are inexpensive. Compared with $35 a roll wallpaper or pricey ceramic tile a gallon of paint costs $35. Painting lets you learn and practice on the job and if you make a mistake you can paint over it. Miscut wallpaper or tile isn't so forgiving and it costs a lot more.
A project like removing wallpaper is a no brainer and will save you a whopping 84 percent of what a contractor will charge. Another tedious but doable job is stripping varnish off dark paneling and you'll pocket a 75 percent savings. These are good examples of projects a homeowner can tackle because they involve more time than talent and a low investment in tools.
Jobs like power washing a deck will save you almost half of what a cleaning service will charge because your only cost is renting a power washer, the same is true for cleaning carpeting. Outside yard maintenance - mowing, landscaping, overall cleanup work - is another example of you providing the labor, otherwise known as sweat equity.
You may have no choice but to do a small jobs like repairing a torn window screen or installing a mini-blind because they're considered a nuisance job to a contractor who can spend more time traveling to your house than actually doing the job.
Don't Do It Projects
Here's some of the home improvement projects that are best left to a contractor despite how much you can save by tackling them. The projects fall into three categories: messy and disruptive, dangerous and license required.
Messy and Disruptive
If you're a handy homeowner you'll be tempted to tackle improvement projects that save you a lot of money, but here's a word of caution. While you can save 76 percent by hanging wallboard, don't. It's a multi-step process you want to get done as quickly as possible to shorten the time your household is in disarray. And the drywall dust from sanding seems to permeate the entire house, it's not pleasant. Thinking of refinishing your floors? Don't be lured by saving 64 percent of what a floor refinisher will charge to sand and finish the floor either. The savings are not worth the inconvenience of emptying and storing all the furnishings of a room and the possibility of damaging the floor with the sander. Time is money and the faster these jobs are done, the better.
Roofing is definitely a job for a pro because it's dangerous, difficult work. Just hauling heavy shingles up a ladder is strenuous even for the most physically fit. Despite the 45 percent saving use your talents and time to tackle projects closer to the ground.
Building Inspector Approval
Hire a licensed electrician or plumber for any work that your local building codes requires an inspection. A pro knows the requirements and has the skill, tools and experience to do the job. Even though you can save 44 percent by installing a surge protection device in your main circuit breaker, you're better off hiring an electrician. Same is true of plumbing work. You may be able to save money and install a backup sump pump, but you probably don't have the know-how. Any job that requires approval by a building inspector is best left to a pro.
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