DIY? Better Think Twice

As a professional design build remodeler, I have seen a lot of do-it-yourselfers (DIY) over the years. In fact, when I was a little girl, I helped my dad, who was a handy home repair guy. He couldn’t keep fresh oil in or useful tires on his cars, but he could tile, paint, renovate a bathroom, and do plumbing work. I remember when he and my grandfather had me on the peak of the roof when I was 8 years old. I was literally scared stiff when my grandfather, a member in the German carpenters’ guild, saw my pale face and suggested my dad get me off the roof “aber schnell” (but fast)!

In the case of my dad, everything except serious plumbing, any electrical work, or anything automotive was approachable, especially when he had help from my grandfather and me. So what projects are OK for a handy homeowner like my dad, and which are not? The answer is, “it depends.” We find that most of our customers can hang a shelf or a door, but they usually need us for everything else. And we are only too happy to help them.

Here are some guidelines when it comes to DIY:

– Unless you are a licensed and insured electrical, roofing or plumbing professional, you should not touch these areas of your home. And “Uncle Joe,” who used to pull wires for another electrician, doesn’t count. If the work isn’t inspected and permitted, it may not be safe, and no one buying your house should pay for it.

– Likewise for structural work like removing load-bearing walls, foundations, and altering trusses. This is not for the casual observer or handy person.

– Any home built before 1978 falls under the EPA guidelines for lead safe remodeling work. You don’t want to poison — or, as we say in the biz, “pickle” — your kids with lead. Other hazards include mold, mildew, asbestos. These are all cases in which you should pay a professional to do it right. In fact, we had a customer whose kids were pickled by the people who owned their house before them. They’d stripped the paint from all the woodwork and left the lead dust in the floorboards, where our customer’s kids were crawling around.

– Design and decorating are two biggies most people don’t consider hiring a pro for, but they should. Many homeowners think they have a great sense of color or decorating. The fact is, most of us are not very good at it. We select things that are utterly dated or do not marry with the style of the home. We clutter. We choose furniture that doesn’t even fit inside the doorway, let alone complement the proportions of a room. Color selection is a subtle endeavor usually best left to the professional.

So the answer, again, is “it depends” and “be honest.” Know your limits. Pay for professional help when you should. And, remember, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.