Home Services: Which to Spend Money on, Which to Add to Your DIY List

Guest post by Teri Silver, Featured Image source.

Deciding which home services you can do yourself and when to hire a professional will save you a lot of grief (and some money) in the long run. Make a list of the improvements, maintenance, and upgrades your home needs and whether you can realistically DIY any of them.

When to Hire a Professional

The rule of thumb is measure twice, cut once, then call in a professional. When it comes to dangerous tasks, you may want to skip the first two steps.

Electrical Needs

Circuitry is technical, confusing, and potentially dangerous work if you don’t know what you’re doing. High and low-voltage systems are nothing to fool with, especially in older homes. Before signing a contract for electrical services, get cost estimates in writing. The actual costs may be higher or lower, depending on the “official” diagnosis.

Write down the specific problems before calling the technician. You can sometimes lower the cost by making things easy on your service professional.

  • Provide easy access to the electrical panel box
  • Be ready to pay the bill at the time of service
  • Get the final bill in writing.

Heating and Air Conditioning

Unless you have professional training and certification, heating and air conditioning are not something to DIY. Sure, it’s OK to change a filter in your system, but furnace flue pipes that transfer toxic gases may become corroded and leak. Combustion chambers can shut down.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, the cost of fixing your mistakes can be much higher than if you hired someone in the first place.

Central air conditioning systems are made up of coils, fins, filters, and other components that can drive a novice crazy. Maintaining window air conditioners is easier for DIYers, but it’s best to hire an HVAC company that will: 

  • Clean and tighten terminals and connections
  • Add refrigerant
  • Inspect for leakage and dried seal ducts
  • Measure airflow
  • Adjust the thermostat
  • Grease up motors
  • Replace cracked belts.

It may seem strange to fuss with the AC during a cold and snowy Colorado winter. Calling a technician sooner than later — when they’re not so busy — can save you money and have your system ready for the summer.  

Plumbing

Changing a toilet seat or tweaking the flusher is easy, but messing with heavy clogs, broken pipes, sewer odor, water leaks, and the lack of hot water is a job for a professional. Frozen pipes can lead to serious damage. Be ready to hire a plumber when you hear loud noises in the pipes.  

Gutters and Roofing

Is your life insurance policy paid up? Because climbing a ladder to clean out the gutters is a safety risk. Consider purchasing a protective system to keep fallen leaves and debris out of gutter lanes. If that’s not in the cards, hire a handyman (who’s  bonded and insured) to do the job.     

Roof surfaces are angled; even the slightest tasks are dangerous. Roofing inspectors will check on and repair loose rubber, damaged flashing, shingles, and missing mortar.

Do It Yourself?

Inside Cleaning

Deep indoor cleaning is something most people can do themselves. Washing windows, scrubbing bathrooms, and polishing appliances is something you can accomplish in an afternoon.

But when it comes to getting your home ready to sell, having the carpet or hard floor surfaces professionally cleaned lets your buyers see themselves in a more pristine environment. Besides, it’s easier than renting one of those heavy machines you don’t know how to use. Those machines often leave a film on your carpet that attracts more dirt.   

Lawn care

Hiring a company to treat your sod for weeds is cost-effective, especially if you have more than an acre of grass to cover. And lawn care mistakes like applying too much fertilizer can be expensive to fix. 

You can save more than a few bucks by weeding flower beds, pruning bushes, and mowing your lawn before bringing in a pro to take care of the edging, aerating, and fertilizing.

Doing small household chores yourself (or getting your kids motivated to earn a few bucks) is a way to save money. But sometimes, it’s better — and safer — to let the pros handle the big stuff. 

Teri Silver is a journalist and outdoor enthusiast who spends her weekends mowing her 5-acre lawn. She’s an avid do-it-yourselfer who refurbishes anything she can get her hands on. 

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