Don’t Try This at Home
From painting to adding crown molding, there are plenty of tasks that handy DIYers can accomplish themselves. Some projects, however, call for a licensed professional—especially those that involve plumbing, electric, and HVAC installations and repairs.
Improperly performed home improvements may cause injury, void warranties, compromise insurance claims, and complicate resales. They may even be building code violations. For these 16 home improvement projects, calling a pro is a better alternative to risking life, limb, fines, or insurance issues.
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 who have to meet codes and inspect the finished product. A gas stove requires both electricity and gas to function properly, so you'll have to 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.
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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.
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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 an unlicensed homeowner works on the system.
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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—it's best that a licensed plumber take on this home task.
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Pump the Septic System
Let’s be honest: Of all home chores, this is one of the more unpleasant. In addition to being pretty gross, working with the septic tank also requires specific equipment and 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.
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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 there may be 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.
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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: Never take out a load-bearing wall on your own, because doing so may be a building code violation—not to mention a safety issue. Some cities require permits to take down a wall if the wall in question is structural. If you don't call in a specialist for a consultation beforehand, you could be doing major damage to the integrity of your house.
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flickr.com via mgifford
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 to have a go at it yourself. If you don't obtain the proper permits or don’t have the fixture installed by a professional, the insurance company has grounds to deny your claim in the event of a house fire—and faulty wiring is one of the leading causes of residential fires.
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Install a Skylight
Skylights require cutting a hole, installing a frame, and fitting a window into the roof. Skylight installation is best done by a pro who will follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter, otherwise the warranty may be voided. Plus, given a roof’s steep slope and height, do you really want to be up there anyway? You’ll need a skylight installer’s experience and a window company’s specialized tools and expertise to get the job done safely and effectively.
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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 lead paint yourself. It's better to call a qualified specialist than to risk your life to save a few bucks.
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Cut Down a Large Tree
When a large tree needs to be cut down, it’s better to avoid channeling your budding inner lumberjack. Instead, leave large tree removal to a certified arborist who is familiar with city ordinances and carries loads of liability insurance that can handle hazards or accidents. For example, without an experienced professional handling the job, a tree could fall in an unpredicted manner and cause damage to property or serious injury.
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Replace a Garage Door Spring
Over time, garage door springs lose their tension and need to be replaced. Since the first and final steps require releasing and returning the tension to the spring, and one wrong move could cause the spring to go hurtling toward your body, resulting in serious, even fatal injury, it’s best to hire a pro. Call a garage door installation specialist to take care of the spring replacement.
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Take Out Termites
Termite problems cost property owners more than $5 billion a year. 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.
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Alter Bathroom Plumbing
While replacing a toilet or sink is something most experienced DIYers can successfully take on, if the installation requires any changes to the plumbing lines, it’s best to hire a plumber. Permits are usually required to make changes to the layout of the fixtures in a bathroom, and it’s important to make sure the new plumbing connections are done right. Not only can an altered bathroom become a problem for a future house sale, but toxic odors and drainage issues triggered by a botched job could make the bathroom unsafe to use.
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Demo a Shed
Owning a property doesn’t automatically mean you are legally allowed to demolish any structures on it. Before taking down a detached structure like a shed, check with the local building code official to find out if a demolition permit is required. For larger sheds that have plumbing and electrical running to them, even more steps are required to safely demo them.
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Build a Deck
Building a deck sounds like a project many handy homeowners could DIY, but not without a lot of structural planning, a permit, and inspections. The local building code office will review the deck plans, visit the site to inspect the footings and framing, and then return to inspect the completed deck. Keep in mind that any structure that will be attached to a home or is more than 30 inches tall needs a permit.
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If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household woe, go ahead. But if you want to hang on to your cash and exercise some self-sufficiency, check out these clever products that solve a million and one little problems around the house. Go now!