There’s nothing quite like the feeling of owning your own home. But being a homeowner also means you’re responsible for managing and financing all repairs and upgrades. And sometimes it can be hard to determine when it’s a good idea to DIY a home repair project or call in an expert.
Read on to learn which common home improvement projects are great for DIYers and which ones typically call for a professional.
You don’t have to be the next Bob Vila to take on many basic home repairs. With a little planning and a lot of elbow grease, you might be surprised at what you can manage by yourself. Just make sure to consider the time, materials, and tools you’ll need to ensure success and keep your costs from skyrocketing.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), household leaks account for nearly 900 billion gallons of wasted water each year nationwide. The good news? The culprits are often worn-out washers, bathroom faucets, and gaskets, which are relatively easy to replace with the right tools. If you have an Allen wrench, pliers, and a Phillips-head screwdriver, you’re already halfway there.
If you’re comfortable climbing a ladder, you can clean the gunk out of your gutters without calling in the cavalry. Don’t forget to check the downspout, which can get clogged with leaves and other debris.
Try this hack: Instead of painting over the stain, spray it with a bleach and water solution (10 percent bleach) and wait a couple of days. If it’s an older stain, try a mildew remover.
Save up to 10% on your annual energy bills by replacing old caulking with a fresh application. This seals air and helps prevent water leaks and damage. And luckily, it’s not a difficult task. With a quick internet search, you can find an array of tutorials with step-by-step instructions on how to caulk like a professional.
If your toilet won’t flush or stops running, you can often fix the problem by replacing or repairing the chain and flapper in the tank. Got a stubborn clog? Loosen it up by pouring in some dish soap and letting it soak before calling your plunger.
We all know that nails-on-a-chalkboard sound of a fork rattling around in a garbage disposal. But when we can’t catch it fast enough and it gets stuck in the impeller blades, it can cause a serious jam. One simple way to clear an obstruction is with a 1/4-inch hex wrench. Insert it into the hex-shaped hole on the underside of the disposal and crank it a few times in both directions to free up the blades. Just make sure to disconnect your disposal first.
Weatherstripping drafty doors and windows is an easy and cost-efficient way to save energy and make your home more comfortable. And in most cases it doesn’t take a professional. Online tutorials show just how easy this is to DIY without employing help.
Repairing nail holes and other minor orifices in drywall is another project that virtually anyone can do. Use a spackle knife to cover the hole with drywall mud, sandpaper over the mud to smooth it out, and then add a fresh coat of paint.
A DIY paint job doesn’t take special skills or know-how, but it does take patience and preparation. Before tackling any paint project, make sure to cover all furniture with a drop cloth and arm yourself with plenty of painter’s tape.
Spray-on paint like Rust-Oleum for small items that don’t generate heat can give your appliances the renovation they need without a full refurbishing. For larger or heat-producing appliances, try liquid stainless steel paint.
Most people reupholstering furniture couldn’t possibly be a do-it-yourself project. But Ana Verdi, a designer at Thompson Fine Home Renovation, says “anything with straight lines” can be easily reupholstered without professional help. In fact, the fanciest tool you’ll need is a staple gun, and there are tons of tutorials to get you started.
Don’t be tempted to grab WD-40. Although WD-40 is a great lubricant for many purposes, when used on a door hinge it can attract dirt and even turn the hinge pin black. The better way to un-squeak a door is with petroleum jelly or even regular bar soap.
Spruce up your neglected deck for summer by slathering it with a fresh new stain. For basic repairs, check out tutorials online to see if you can tackle them by yourself before calling in a pro.
We love the DIY spirit, but some home repair projects call for more than an online tutorial and a trip to the hardware store. And knowing when to do it yourself and when to call a pro is an essential part of homeownership. The last thing you want is to find yourself out of money and in over your head.
Unless you’re a structural engineer, you’ll have no way of really knowing how deep your foundation problems go. DIY fixes like adding more concrete or replacing old floor boards may help in the short term, but in many cases you’ll be treating a symptom, not the cause. Your foundation is the most important part of your home, so call in an expert to make sure the job is done right.
Installing a dimmer switch is one thing—handling faulty electrical wiring is another. And the danger isn’t in getting an unpleasant shock. In the US, there are 51,000 home electrical fires every year. That’s more than enough reason to play it safe and call in an electrician.
If you notice a leak in your gas line, call the gas company right away and don’t attempt to seal it yourself. Carbon monoxide poisoning is typically caused by incorrectly installed gas lines or appliances, so attempting a DIY fix isn’t worth the risk. Plus, most gas providers will send someone to diagnose and fix the issue for free.
Air conditioners and furnaces are complex instruments made of gears, gasses, chemicals, and electricity. Even one small error could throw the whole system off and leave you with a hazardous mess. Contact a certified HVAC specialist to take care of any necessary replacements, upgrades, or repairs.
Though many plumbing repairs can be done yourself, it’s best to call in a professional for bigger jobs like replacing old underground piping or making major sewer repairs. Otherwise you may find yourself with a much bigger problem on your hands, like mold damage or flooding.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, the best thing to do with asbestos material that’s in good condition is to leave it alone. If the material is intact and undisturbed, you won’t need to worry about harmful asbestos fibers getting released. If the asbestos is damaged or needs to be moved for an upcoming home repair, call in an expert who can safely remove it.
It’s not surprising that extreme heights and chainsaws can be a lethal combination in the wrong hands. If you don’t have proper safety gear or a working knowledge of tree physics (yes, that’s a thing), leave the tree cutting to the pros.
Adding a fresh coat of paint to your home’s exterior is a great way to increase your curb appeal. But it’s not the same as painting the walls. Exterior home painting means also dealing with trim, soffits, rake boards, and sometimes siding. “Don’t paint your house yourself unless you have the time, tools, skills, and stamina to do the work,” says home improvement expert Don Vanderhort. “Depending on the size and height of your house and the condition of the existing siding, preparing and painting a house on your own can be a tedious, difficult job.”
Is the wall load-bearing? If you don’t know, don’t attempt to remove it on your own. You don’t want to wake up to a caved-in ceiling, or worse.
On paper, replacing old windows sounds fairly straightforward. But a poorly executed window installation could lead to higher energy bills, not to mention water leaks and mold damage. Call in an expert and call it a day.
Many manufactures have strict warranty guidelines, so make sure to do your research before embarking on a new DIY home improvement job. Manufacturers of HVAC systems, roofing supplies, paint, refrigerators, and concrete may be able to void your warranty if you don’t follow their repair guidelines.
According to Ann O’Connell, attorney and legal editor at Nolo.com, “Under most state and local laws, landlords must offer and maintain housing that satisfies basic habitability requirements.” Heat, water, electricity, adequate sanitation, and a safe living environment are all things your landlord is required to maintain. In exchange, it’s your responsibility as a renter to take good care of your unit.
Simple fixes like unclogging a drain pipe, silencing a squeaky hinge, or steam cleaning a dirty carpet are projects you can safely DIY. Just make sure to check with your landlord or property manager first. Without approval, you run the risk of losing your security deposit.
Got a serious or emergency repair that your landlord is refusing to cover? You may be protected under your state’s “repair and deduct” laws. Consult a landlord-tenant attorney if you think you may be eligible.
Whether you’re ready to try DIY or calling in a pro, you’ll need to decide how you want to pay for your project. You may have the cash flow to pay for smaller projects out of pocket, but if you’re making major repairs or significant upgrades, a home improvement loan could be a smart financial decision. LendingClub Bank, for example, offers fixed rates that are lower than credit cards on average, which can save you money in the long term.1 Plus, you can check your rate for free and see your potential loan offers in seconds without impacting your credit score.
Fixing squeaky doors and windows, patching drywall, unclogging toilets, and painting interior walls are all popular projects that can be safely undertaken by DIYers. Make sure you have the proper tools and enough time to do the job well, and remember, there’s no shame in calling a pro if you get stuck.
First, you’ll need to determine whether the job calls for a licensed contractor or a handyman. You’ll also want to research whether permits are required and if the project involves an existing warranty.
Once you’ve decided on what you need, there are a number of avenues to explore. One of the best ways to find the right person for the job is to ask trusted friends and family members for a reference. You can also explore free services like HomeAdvisor or Thumbtack, both of which offer reviews and free cost estimates.
You can get a home improvement loan for anything from energy-efficient upgrades, to kitchen remodels, to landscaping. These are unsecured loans, which means you don’t have to offer collateral. And unlike a credit card, they offer fixed rates that are repaid over a set length of time, so you’ll know exactly how much you’ll pay each month and for how long. This transparency can give you more control over your budget and even save you money.1
The turnaround time can be fairly quick, too. At LendingClub Bank,, most members are approved within 24 hours of application and receive their money in as little as a few days.2,3
1 Savings are not guaranteed and depend upon various factors, including but not limited to interest rates, fees, and loan term length
2 Of all personal loans approved between 10/1/20 – 12/31/20, 69% were approved within 24 hours.
3 The time it takes for a loan to be funded is not guaranteed and individual results vary based on multiple factors, including but not limited to investor demand.