DIY vs. Hire: Tips for Home Improvement

Many home improvement and maintenance jobs are easy DIY projects; others, not so much. So which improvements can you handle yourself and which should you assign to a professional?
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For Women & Co., by Lisa Kaplan Gordon, As Seen on TV

Houses can take a beating with the heat and increased foot traffic of the summertime months. Once the weather starts to change and you take a look around, you may find walls need painting, tile needs grouting, and flagstone needs power-washing.

Many home improvement and maintenance jobs are easy DIY projects; others, not so much. So which improvements can you handle yourself and which should you assign to a professional? Here are some of my suggestions:

DYI: If you've got a stepladder and a steady hand, you can probably tackle most painting chores. Remember, good prep will guarantee good results, so don't skimp on filling nail holes with spackling paste. You should also blue-tape around baseboards, ceiling moldings, and window and door frames you don't want covered with paint.

Call a Pro: For extensive wall repairs caused by structural or water damage, call a pro. You may have to demolish the existing wall, replace or repair framing, then install new drywall. It's usually a two-person job, and not one for dabblers.

DIY: Clean and repair small nicks in floors yourself. A brown crayon can fill scratches in hardwood floors; adhesive and a heavy brick can repair vinyl seams that pop up.

Call a Pro: Consider hiring a professional to install and finish hardwood flooring; it's tedious and messy work. Pre-finished flooring doesn't require sanding and staining, but getting planks to line up with baseboards is a task best left to pros.

DIY: You should be able to wash windows, repair or replace wood sills, treat small rot spots on window frames, and -- though it's somewhat more difficult -- even replace individual glass panes.

Call a Pro: When replacing entire windows and rebuilding frames, call a professional.

DIY: Re-pointing brick or stone walls or walkways by removing and replacing old mortar are manageable tasks.

Call a Pro: Building a new stone wall or laying a stone walkway are jobs for true craftsmen.

Electrical Upgrades
DIY: You can easily replace outlet covers and switch plates on your own, and scrap energy-eating light bulbs in favor of energy-efficient CFLs or LEDs.

Call a Pro: For any job that requires direct contact with electricity -- such as rewiring, adding power to places where there was none, or installing chandeliers or other heavy fixtures -- call a pro. If you do decide to tackle these projects yourself, be sure to turn off power to your house before attempting any upgrade.

DIY: Simpler tasks include replacing a toilet flapper, fixing a drip by replacing a faucet washer (turn off water supply first), upgrading a showerhead, and unclogging a hair-plugged drain.

Call a Pro: Special skills and tools are required for moving or installing plumbing pipes and fixtures.

DIY: Install a simple backsplash and replace or repair old or gunky grout and cracked tile yourself.

Call a Pro: For big tiling jobs on the walls or floors, hire someone. Laying out, spacing and attaching tile to floors and walls is harder than it looks, especially when cutting tiles to fit small or unusual spaces.

DIY: Cleaning, sealing, and caulking stone countertops can be accomplished on your own. So can sanding a butcher block and fixing small imperfections in laminate counters.

Call a Pro: Hire a professional to fabricate and install stone, composite, stainless steel, and wood counters. This is exacting and heavy work: One slip-up can wreck the counter and cost you big bucks.

Women & Co., a service of Citi, is the go-to personal finance source for women. By providing financial content, commentary and community, Women & Co.'s mission is to get women thinking and talking about personal finance. Founded in 2000, Women & Co. is one of the longest running personal finance websites dedicated to helping women strengthen their financial futures.

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