With the weather warming up (and hopefully drying out… SOON), many Minnesota residents are gearing up to make improvements and repairs to their homes. Some will hire a professional, and some will do it themselves. When it comes to home repair, sometimes doing it yourself pays off - especially when trying to sell a home
. Other times, it doesn't.
The idea of doing it yourself sounds great, at first glance. It can save you money on both labor and materials, you can learn new skills, sharpen existing knowledge, and improve your home at the same time. But it isn’t without its risks.
The key to avoiding an expensive mistake is knowing when to pick up the hammer and when to pick up the phone. When it comes to home improvements, you must know you’re limits. If you start a project you are unable to finish, you'll simply spend more money getting it fixed.
Here are a few home improvement tasks you might want to consider leaving to the professionals:
Anything involving Wires.
In Minnesota, all electrical wiring work must be completed by an electrician licensed by the state. However, you can do electrical wiring in a home which you own and live in. All electrical wiring must
be inspected by the State Electrical Inspector. Beyond the legalities, consider that 95 percent of electrical fires are due to homeowners who installed wires improperly.
Anything involving Plumbing.
As with wiring, all plumbing work must be completed by a plumber licensed by the state, but a resident who owns a home and lives in it can apply for the proper permits to carry out the work. A plumbing permit is required to replace or install fixtures, replace or install water piping, replace or install a water heater, and to connect gas appliances to gas piping (stoves, dryers, or fireplaces). A mechanical permit and a licensed contractor are required when it comes connecting a furnace. A permit is not required to reset an existing fixture. One thing to think about when it comes to plumbing is if anything isn’t sealed correctly, the resulting water damage could be quite costly.
If you make a mistake and remove the wrong wall or beam, you could find yourself with an unstable home or roof problem. This should very strictly be left to the professionals. Only an engineer can properly determine what can be removed and if additional support is needed.
Installing windows and doors.
Changing doors and upgrading windows requires precise measurements. In many cases, it can be hard to understand the nuances involved with sizing and placement. What good is installing those brand new energy efficient windows if you have a 1/4 inch gap around the frame? If a larger window or door is installed (see previous statements about “wall demolishing), there's also a risk that a stud that supports the house's structure could be removed by mistake.
Some Roof repairs.
Obviously, repairing a roof high off of the ground is inherently dangerous for obvious reasons. People are injured and even killed every year performing their own roof repairs. However, a poorly installed roof can also lead to water damage inside your home as well. When it comes to fixing the roof, be sure you know what you’re doing.
Properly built decks have to be constructed to certain specifications. In Minnesota, building permits are required for all decks that are attached to the home or are 30 inches or more above grade. Decks and platforms not more than 30 inches above adjacent grade and not attached to a structure with frost footings, do not require a building permit and may require a zoning or land-use permit. Decks and platforms are required to meet the land-use requirements of the community’s zoning code.
Chemical or heat stripping of woodwork.
This job can be dangerous if what you're stripping contains lead. A certified lead carpenter or licensed lead abatement specialist should definitely be hired for this task.
If you're not particularly handy, but you want to expand your skills, you should start out relatively small. Try painting a room, hanging a medicine cabinet or shelves, perhaps even installing new moldings. These are some fairly simple tasks for a beginner do-it-yourselfer. By starting small, you can discover what you’re capable of and hopefully it will help you understand when you should call the professionals.