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Home Maintenance

5 Home Maintenance Hacks You Can DIY—and 5 You Should Always Hire a Pro to Do

When it comes to maintenance and repairs, professional labor can be one of the more costly portions of a homeowner’s budget. While many people opt to save cash by doing work themselves, not everyone possesses the skills necessary to fix their own homes (even with the help of online instructional videos). Attempting a DIY project without careful preparation and a complete knowledge of the task could result in expenses that far exceed the cost of a contractor.

Even if you have the experience and know-how, it’s important to consider the time, materials, tools and permits required for your home improvement project. Here’s how to know which projects you can tackle yourself, and which you should probably leave to the experts.

 

1. Hanging wallpaper.

The verdict: Hire a pro.

The challenge of hanging wallpaper is keeping it straight and matching up the patterns correctly. Sometimes bubbling can occur, and that strip of paper will need to be removed and replaced. This can result in running out of wallpaper and needing to order more. Don’t want to risk it? Hire a professional.

 

2. Painting the exterior of your home.

The verdict: Hire a pro.

Painting the exterior of a house is a big job that requires extensive use of tall ladders (and sometimes climbing up on the roof). Homeowners should consider safety requirements before tackling an exterior job.

3. Fixing a clogged garbage disposal.

The verdict: Try to DIY it.

A clogged disposal may be cleared by using a small specialty wrench that fits into a hexagonal opening on the underside of the disposal while the disposal is turned off.

4. Fixing a running toilet.

The verdict: Try to DIY it.

A running toilet can be comfortably fixed by a DIY-er with a toilet rebuild kit from any hardware store. These kits typically contain straightforward and easy-to-follow instructions. On the other hand, one-piece or specialty toilets can be tricky and might need the professional touch.

 

5. Installing a light fixture.

The verdict: Hire a pro (probably).

Electrical repairs and installations are at best expensive. Taking a little time to research and understand your electrical system can give you the necessary skills to do some electrical projects yourself. When installing a light fixture, low-voltage projects can be safely performed by a homeowner, as these are less likely to cause structural or bodily harm. Stick with a professional for anything over 50 volts.

6. Patching a hole in drywall.

The Verdict: Try to DIY it.

Nearly any homeowner can patch nail holes. Using a spackle knife, fill in each hole with lightweight putty and scrape the excess off the walls. Wait for the putty to dry and sand down the spot until it’s smooth. Then, paint the repaired spots with primer. Larger holes in drywall require more steps to repair and may be best left to the professionals.

 

7. Cleaning gutters.

The verdict: Try to DIY it (if you’re comfortable on a ladder).

To prevent water damage from clogged gutters, leaves should be cleaned out of them every spring and fall. For single-story homes with level grounding around the foundation, go ahead and handle the task yourself (if you’re an experienced ladder-climber). Try to do this project when you have someone there to hold the ladder and help. If you aren’t up for the challenge of moving a ladder and steadily climbing up and down it to clear debris, hire someone else to complete this important task.

8. Re-grouting tile.

The verdict: Try to DIY it.

The surface of tile grout is porous, so dirt can get trapped in cracked grout, which leads to discoloration and further damage. The first step in repairing grout is to choose the right one. Grout choices consist of four different types: sanded, unsanded, acrylic latex or epoxy. Measure the space between your tiles to figure out which type of grout you should use. If the space between the tiles is less than 1/8 inch, use an unsanded acrylic or epoxy grout. If the space is larger than 1/8 inch, it is suggested that you use a sanded grout. Also, don’t forget to match the grout color before making your final purchase! The next step is to clean the grouted area. Then, use a grout saw to remove any damaged grout and then dampen the joints with a wet rag. Mix the grout according to the manufacturer’s directions and begin grouting the tile. It’s important to fill all the joints completely and smooth over the surface with a damp sponge to remove any excess. Allow the grout to set firmly and then clean with a damp rag.

 

9. Installing molding.

The verdict: Hire a pro.

Not all homeowners have a power saw or the skills to cut and safely install crown molding while on a ladder. The measurements must be accurate and the cuts must line up seamlessly. Unless you have experience, it’s best to leave this job to the professionals.

 

 

10. Fixing a sticking window.

The verdict: Hire a pro.

There are a number of reasons that a window might stick. It may be a buildup of dirt and debris in the window casing. Problems in the foundation of your home can cause windows to lose alignment and get stuck. Sometimes, a window is painted and shut before it completely dries, which glues the window closed. High humidity can cause doors and windows to swell and bind them in the jamb.

Fixing a stuck window may involve removing the window and could require using a belt sander or planer. If you don’t have the tools or the know-how to safely use the tools required, leave it to the professionals.