13 Home Improvements That Are Illegal to DIY

Just because you can do it yourself doesn’t mean you should. Some jobs call for a licensed professional, especially jobs that involve plumbing, electric, and HVAC installations and repairs. Improperly performed home improvements may cause injury, void warranties, compromise insurance claims, and complicate resales—and some are just outright illegal to do yourself. Here are 13 home improvement projects where calling a pro is a better alternative than risking it DIY-style.

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  1. Switch Up a Cooktop


    Are you thinking of switching from an electric range to a gas stove and installing the appliance yourself? Think again. This is a project for not just one, but two professionals that have to meet codes and inspect the finished product. A gas stove requires both electricity and gas to function properly, so hire a plumber to install the gas line and an electrician to modify the electrical circuit. Otherwise, this fairly easy conversion could have explosive consequences.

    Related: 16 New Ways to Store Kitchen Necessities


  2. Disturb Old Insulation


    If you own an older home, the attic insulation could be contaminated with the toxic substance asbestos. While it’s possible to do a DIY asbestos removal, it’s not recommended. There are numerous laws in place to regulate the removal of asbestos because of the dangers it poses to those in close proximity, including you, your family, and your neighbors. So, what’s the solution? Hire an asbestos abatement team. 

    Related: 8 Home Hazards - and How to Mitigate Them

    flickr.com via Mark Doliner

  3. Repair Your HVAC System


    Repairing or replacing an HVAC system is risky. While it may be tempting to fix it yourself, it’s probably best if you don’t. Freon leaks are dangerous, causing dizziness, asphyxia, and other respiratory problems. Air conditioning and heating maintenance calls for a licensed professional who has undergone a rigorous training and certification process. Plus, a manufacturer may void your warranty if you, a homeowner without appropriate licensing, were to work on the system. 

    Related: 6 Mistakes Homeowners Make Every Summer


  4. Replace a Hot Water Tank


    While installing or replacing a water heater may seem like a DIY suited for the weekend warrior, grappling with 240 volts of electricity or fussing with gas lines, which could result in an explosive leak, is not a job for the inexperienced. Because of the permits, code adherences, safety regulations, and risks—like possible carbon monoxide emissions—a licensed plumber is required to take on this home task.

    Related: 10 Fast Fixes for Annoying House Noises


  5. Pump the Septic System


    Let’s be honest: Of all the home chores, this is one of the more unpleasant. But in addition to being unenjoyable, working with the septic tank also requires specific equipment as well as permits to dispose of the waste properly. The only do-it-yourself step you need to take with this task is to pick up the phone and call a professional.

    Related: 8 Unusual Tips for Your Cleanest Bathroom Ever


  6. Interact with Wildlife


    Has a rodent taken up residence in your rafters? Before wrangling the menace yourself, realize this: Some species, such as raccoons, skunks, and bats, are prone to carry rabies and have legal consequences if they are harmed or trapped and relocated without the help of a pro. Don’t risk infection; contact a wildlife-control company instead. These licensed professionals will remove the animals, secure the openings, clean out nests, and eliminate waste. Don’t be your own critter ridder. It’s simply not worth risking your safety. 

    Related: 7 House Sounds You Never Want to Ignore


  7. Knock Out a Wall


    If you're hoping to transform your layout to an open floor plan, or just want a little extra room, removing a wall may be on your list of things to do. But think twice before swinging that sledgehammer. Some cities require permits if the wall in question is structural, and if you don't call in a specialist for a consultation beforehand, you could be doing major damage to the integrity of your house. 

    Related: Don't Try This at Home - The 7 Most Dangerous DIYs

    flickr.com via mgifford

  8. Tinker with Light Fixtures


    If you're looking to replace or add light fixtures that will affect the electrical wiring, it's better to call in an electrician than have a go at it yourself. If you don't obtain the proper permits or have it installed by a professional, the insurance company has grounds to deny your claim in the chance of a house fire—and faulty wiring is one of the leading causes of residential fires.  

    Related: Hanging by a Thread - 9 Inventive Ways to Hang Pendant Lights


  9. Install a Skylight


    Skylights require cutting a hole, installing a frame, and fitting a window into the roof. The installation oftentimes must be done by a pro, or must follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter, otherwise the warranty may be voided. Plus with the steep slope and the extreme height, it’s vital to hire a professional—two, actually. You’ll need a roofer’s experience and a window company’s specialized tools and expertise to get the job done safely and effectively. 

    Related: 8 Bright Ideas to Boost Natural Light


  10. Remove Lead-Based Paint


    Owning an antique farmhouse may seem like a dream, but removing the lead paint could be a nightmare. Seventy-five percent of homes built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint, which is a serious problem for even the most experienced of professionals. Lead is deadly, which is why you should never, under any circumstances, try to remove it yourself. It's better to call a qualified specialist than to risk your life to save a few bucks. 

    Related: 11 Home Hazards to Know and Avoid


  11. Cut Down a Large Tree


    When a large tree needs to be cut down, it’s better to avoid channeling your inner lumberjack. Instead, leave large tree removal to a certified arborist that's familiar with city ordinances and carries loads of liability insurance that can handle hazards or accidents you may not be equipped to deal with—for example, if the tree falls in an unpredicted manner.

    Related: 10 Things to Do with... Cross-Cut Trees


  12. Replace a Garage Door Spring


    Over time, garage door springs lose their tension and need to be replaced, but the first and final steps require releasing and returning the tension to the spring. One wrong move and that spring could go hurtling toward your body, resulting in serious, even fatal injury. To avoid such potentially hazardous accidents, call a garage door installation specialist. 

    Related: Product Showcase - Garage Doors


  13. Take Out Termites


    Termite problems cost property owners more than $5 billion a year. Sometimes this damage may not be covered by your insurance company and, unfortunately, a widespread infestation cannot be fought with store-bought solutions. Instead, act fast and call an exterminator who has access to the most potent products, which are available only to professionals.

    Related: Pests, Be Gone! 10 Natural Ways to Make Your Home Critter-Free


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