4 Home Improvement Projects to DIY (or Not DIY)

We live in a time when do-it-yourselfers are celebrated. Everybody’s online trying to figure out how to save a buck, by putting in some elbow grease rather than hiring the pros. But this is not the best strategy to take up. Without the necessary skills of personal capacity for mastery, you can leave your nice little house in worse shape than you found it. While I’m an advocate for DIY, I know when to step away and hire a contractor. Here are two times I might roll up my sleeve, and two times I definitely won’t.


  1. Home Inspection. This is perhaps the most important addition to this list. If you are in the process of buying a home, especially a first home, you likely want the journey to come to an end. By the time you roll around the inspection time, you’re already pretty invested in the idea of buying this house. You want it to work out. The house probably looks pretty good to you. Even if it’s a fixer upper, you might feel like you’ve looked in every nook and cranny. This is a big place where people trip themselves up. In a desire to save a few hundred dollars they forego an inspection only to discover months later that there’s a big problem lurking behind the walls. Leave the inspection to an independent, professional third part. You’ll be glad you did.

  2. Electrical. Unless you are a licensed electrician, don’t mess with your home’s electrical system. There may be small jobs you can pull off. But if we’re talking real systemic work, it’s much better to trust someone who does this professionally. A bad electrical job might not manifest itself for months or more. But due to the risk of fire and electrocution, you want to make sure that your electrical work is done right, no question. The extra money is worth the peace of mind in this case.


  1. Demolition. Demo work is easy. Most of the time it’s just ripping down cabinets, tearing up floors, pulling down drywall. You can handle this job, trust me. And it’s not work that requires precision. So if you’ve hired a contractor to do some major upgrades to a room or two, save yourself a lot of money and to the preparatory demolition work yourself. Grab some friends. Buy some beer and pizza. You’ll have it done in no time, and you won’t have to charge a pro for two days to do something that’s really quite easy.

  2. Surface Work. I’m talking about refinishing floors, patching drywall, repointing brick, and any other surface that needs repaired or replaced. In most cases, I find I can do these jobs more than passably well. If you don’t think you can, or if you need to be sure that it’s done 100% perfect, then hire someone who can do it for you. But otherwise, roll up your sleeves and make it happen.

There are plenty of other things I could add to this list. But these are good starting points. Just think about what you need nice, and what you simply need done. Then try to do it all nice.

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