Quick question: how many fingers do you have?
Go ahead. Take a look. We’ll wait.
Okay, so if you answered any number less than ten, AND if the reason for that number is directly related to an incident involving power tools, YOU should always hire a contractor. Knocking down a wall? Hire a contractor. Laying tile? Hire a contractor. Changing a roll of toilet paper? HIRE A CONTRACTOR!
For those of you who have not accidentally chopped off any extremities with a circular saw, there may be instances in which doing home improvement projects yourself can be a great money saver if you have the right tools, the time and a little bit of know-how. And there are other instances where hiring a professional is always the right choice. Keep in mind that many of these projects will require building permits regardless of who does the work, so make sure you check with your city offices before beginning. And of course, check with your building to make sure you do not violate any of your building’s rules if you are in a co-op or condo.
Projects for a contractor:
Electrical – Becoming a licensed electrician requires four years of classes and apprenticeship. There is a reason for this (hint, it has to do with the ease of accidentally killing yourself by messing around with electrical wiring). Do yourself a favor and leave the electrical work to a licensed professional.
Plumbing - Did you know that you can flood your kitchen by “unclogging a drain” in the bathtub above it and accidentally breaking the pipe, sending water flooding through your bathroom floor? Take our word for it. You can. And it ends up costing A LOT of money to fix both the plumbing and the flooded kitchen. This is another skilled trade that requires a long apprenticeship for licensing. Whether it’s a stopped up drain or a bathroom remodel, let a licensed professional handle the plumbing.
Asbestos - Many older homes have pipes which are wrapped in asbestos insulation. Disturbing this insulation can release cancer causing asbestos fibers into the air. Safe removal and disposal of asbestos insulation requires proper equipment and techniques and should be left to a professional.
HVAC – Here’s a project which can involve electrical, plumbing, natural gas, oil, or various combinations thereof. You have the potential to catch yourself on fire, electrocute yourself, blow your house up, or just plain be without heat. Don’t risk it. Hire a licensed contractor.
Projects for a DIYer
Tile & flooring – With the proper tools and some time, installing tile or hardwood flooring is a totally manageable DIY project. The potential for maiming yourself is minimal (nothing worse than a few stitches), and if you screw up the flooring, nothing will explode. You’ll just have to rip it out and try again.
Drywall – Whether it’s converting a bedroom or just reconfiguring space, framing in a wall and hanging sheet rock can be done without a contractor. Just make sure you’re not removing a load bearing wall and you conform to all building and local requirements.
Paint - The perfect DIY project for even the home improvement novice. A fresh coat of paint on the walls can completely change the look of your space, requires minimal skill and poses almost no danger. If you make a mistake, you can easily paint over it. And even if you spill, no worries! Latex paint is washable (unless you spill on carpet). Put down a drop cloth, grab a roller, and add some color to your room.