Angie's List: When to throw in the towel and call a pro

Is saving some money worth a trip to the ER?

TAMPA - Tackling a Do-It-Yourself project may seem like a great idea. Hey, you could potentially save money, right? Admittedly, that's why I tend to tackle them around my house. But you could - and I have - end up spending more money and needing more time on your DIY project that you expected.

Angie Hicks, founder of the consumer group Angie's List said she hears tales of DIY disasters all the time. "We hear many stories where consumers just don't know what they are getting into when they are doing a DIY project. Probably the most graphic one I've heard was a member who shot himself in the hand with a nail gun and he actually sent in the x-rays for us to see. It's very easy to get in over your head if you don't know what you are doing."

When should you think seriously about hiring an expert? Hicks advises, any time the safety of your home and family are in question. "When it comes to DIY, homeowners should avoid projects like plumbing, electrical and even doing work on their roof," she said. "When it comes to electrical, let's face it, you can burn your house down. Plumbing could lead to flooding, and unfortunately, we hear way to many stories of people falling off ladders when they try to get on the roof."

Here's a list of some of the most dangerous jobs that require the skill of a professional:

  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing repairs
  • Repairs that use potentially hazardous chemicals
  • Roof repairs and maintenance
  • Repairs that require ladders or scaffolding.
  • Repairs that require power tools.
  • Repairs that would void a warranty if you do them yourself
  • Work involving natural gas lines
  • Repairs that need a permit

Hicks said, "Before you tackle a DIY project, ask yourself; if you know what you are doing. Do you have the time and do you have the right tools to do the project? And be sure you know when you need to throw in the towel and call and expert."

Before taking on a challenge and getting in over your head, there are important questions to consider.

  • Do you have the right skills and experience? While there are several resources that tell and show you how to do almost everything, there is no substitute for the skills and experience needed to successfully fix the part of your home that needs repairs. For example, if a repair project involves replacing a wall and you've never done this before, consider calling an expert.
  • Do you have enough spare time? Some house repairs need immediate attention and complete follow-through, while others aren't urgent and/or can take weeks to complete. When the need to repair part of your home arises, consider your availability, the urgency of the repair and the amount of time it will take to complete the repair.
  • Do you have the right tools? Not everyone's toolkit has specialty items like a tile saw, air compressor or welder. If you think that you'll use a new tool several times after completing a repair, you may find the investment worthwhile. If not, your local hardware store may offer rental options.

Hicks suggests trying some smaller projects first; projects that don't need much experience or many tools:

  • Painting areas you can reach without tall ladder.
  • Tightening hardware on cabinetry.
  • Hanging picture frames or shelves.
  • Installing drapes or curtains.
  • Wall papering, some flooring projects.
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