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  • Writer's picturePacific Sun Technologies

8 Home Repairs You Can DIY—And 8 You Should Always Hire a Pro to Do

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

Saving money isn’t the only factor to consider when tackling a home improvement project. Know when it pays to call a professional.


When it comes to maintenance and repairs, professional labor can often be one of the more costly parts of a homeowner's budget. While many people will opt to save some cash by doing much of the handiwork themselves, not everyone possesses the skills necessary to fix their own homes—even with the help of instructional online videos.

Attempting a DIY project without careful preparation and a complete knowledge of the task at hand could actually result in expenses that far exceed the cost of a contractor. Even if you have the experience and know-how, it’s important to consider the time, materials, tools, and permits required for your home improvement project. So, how do you know which projects you can tackle yourself and which you should leave to the experts? We contacted a few professionals to find out.

Fixing a Leaky Kitchen or Bathroom Pipe

The verdict: Try to DIY it.

A DIY fix for a drain pipe may be simply tightening a slip-nut near the P-Trap. If the leak is directly from a hole in the drain pipe, a DIY fix would be a flexible coupling with hose clamps. If the leak is from a drain pipe inside the wall, consider calling a professional, says Don Glovan, a franchise consultant with Mr. Rooter Plumbing.

Hanging Wallpaper

The verdict: Hire a pro.

The challenge with hanging wallpaper is getting it straight on the wall and matching up the patterns correctly. It typically requires two people to do the job. Sometimes bubbling can happen, which means a strip of paper will need to be removed and a new strip reinstalled. This can result in not having enough wallpaper and needing to order more. While only you can decide whether the DIY savings outweigh potential risks, hiring a professional guarantees a smooth and predictable outcome, says Tina Nokes, owner of Five Star Painting of Loudoun, VA.

Painting the Exterior of Your Home

The verdict: Hire a pro.

Painting the exterior of a house is a big job. Most homes require all of the trim, soffits, and rake boards and, depending on the type of home, all of the siding as well. This requires extensive use of ladders at high levels and sometimes climbing up on the roof. Homeowners need to consider safety requirements before tackling an exterior job. Five Star Painting recommends hiring a professional with experience and the correct equipment.

Removing Popcorn Ceilings

The verdict: Hire a pro.

Removing popcorn ceilings is gaining in popularity lately, but is an extremely messy job. First, the popcorn must be sprayed and softened by a softening agent. Then, all of the surface area must be scraped with a blade. While scraping, it is impossible not to create divots and holes on the surface. Those divots and holes need repair with compound that will need to dry and then be sanded smooth. Finally, everything needs to be primed and then painted with two coats of paint. The work is overhead and requires ladders. For a job like this, hire a professional and save yourself the headache and probably less-than-desired results, Nokes recommends.

Fixing a Clogged Garbage Disposal

The verdict: Try to DIY it.

A clogged disposal may be cleared by using a small specialty wrench that fits into a hexagonal opening on the underside of the disposal while the disposal is turned off. You may want to call a professional if this method doesn’t clear the stoppage, suggests Glovan.

Replacing a Faucet

The verdict: Try to DIY it (if it's center-set).

A centerset type faucet is a good DIY job—just follow the faucet manufacturer's installation instructions. A more complicated, wide-spread type of faucet with various hose connections on the underside, however, would be best handled by a professional, recommends Glovan.

Fix a Running Toilet

The verdict: Try to DIY it.

A running toilet can be comfortably fixed by a DIY-er with a toilet rebuild kit (like this one from Home Depot) from any hardware or big box store. These kits typically contain straightforward and easy-to-follow instructions. If you have a one-piece or specialty toilet, these can be tricky and might need the professional touch.

Installing a Light Fixture

The verdict: Hire a pro (probably).

Electrical repairs and installations are at best expensive. Taking a little time to research and understand your electrical system can give you the necessary skills to take on some electrical projects yourself. When installing a light fixture, low voltage projects can be safely performed by a homeowner as they are less likely to cause structural or bodily harm. With that said, if you don’t feel confident in your knowledge or skill or if your project is over 50 volts, it’s best to call in a professional, says Steve Walgren, owner of Pacific Sun Technologies.

Installing a Ceiling Fan

The verdict: Hire a pro.

Installing a ceiling fan is not extremely difficult but may take a few hours depending on your home maintenance experience and the size of the fan. Save this project for a professional if you aren’t comfortable performing work on a ladder or if the task just isn’t working out, recommends Walgren.

Adding Chimes to Your Doorbell

The verdict: Try to DIY it.

If you are interested in changing the sound your doorbell makes, consider adding chimes to your existing doorbell system. It is a low-voltage project that doesn’t require the know-how of the pros, Walgren assures us.