When to skip DIY and hire a pro instead.


Whether it’s fixing a plumbing issue or tackling a remodeling project, as a homeowner, you’ve probably wondered at some point, Should I hire a pro or just do it myself?

Although embarking on the do-it-yourself route could reap the rewards in terms of cost savings, there’s always a chance that things could go wrong if you don’t have the proper skills, experience and tools to take on the project. In some cases, choosing DIY could set you back a pretty penny and be a complete waste of time. 

That said, it’s not always easy to decide if a project is meant for a professional or if it’s worth attempting on your own. That’s why we put together this guide to help homeowners decide which option is right for them: DIY or hire a pro?

DIY vs. professional chart for home projects.

The table below can help you quickly decide between hiring a pro vs. taking the DIY route. Many of the home projects that you can DIY or hand off to a professional involve cleaning, painting and maintaining the project. Meanwhile, home projects that involve installation, construction, major repairs, gas, electricity, wiring and plumbing are better left to a pro. 

Project Pro Pro or DIY Who to hire
Major appliances (install, repair, maintenance) X   Appliance services
Small appliances (install, repair, maintenance)   X Appliance services
Bathroom remodel X   Bathroom remodelersgeneral contractors
Cabinets (install, refinish, reface) X   Cabinet builders, refinishers, refacing services
Cabinets (paint)   X Cabinet painters
Carpets (install, removal) X   Carpet installersremoval companies
Carpets (clean)   X Carpet cleanershouse cleaners
Chimney (inspect, clean, repair) X   Chimney cleaners, inspectors, repair services
Concrete (install, seal, repair) X   Concrete contractors
Counters (install, seal, repair, refinish, resurface) X   Countertop professionals
Decks (install) X   Deck contractors
Decks (seal, paint, repair)   X Deck contractors, painters, sealers
Duct and vent cleaning X   Duct cleaners
Exterior painting (siding, doors, window frames, etc.)   X Exterior painters
Fences (install, repair)   X Fence professionals
Fences (paint, stain, seal)   X Fence paintersstaining professionals
Fireplace (install, inspect, clean, repair) X   Fireplace contractors, inspectors, cleaners
Foundation (pour, repair, seal) X   Foundation contractors
Furnace (install, repair, maintenance) X   Furnace installation, maintenance, repair services
Gas line (install, repair) X   Gas pipe contractorsplumbers
Gutters (install, repair) X   Gutter professionals
Gutters (clean)   X Gutter cleaners
Hardwood (install, refinish, repair) X   Hardwood companies & contractors
Hardwood (clean)   X Hardwood floor cleanershouse cleaners
Home security system (install, monitoring)   X Home security specialists
HVAC (install, maintenance) X   HVAC technicians
Insulation (install) X   Insulation contractor
Interior painting (walls, ceiling, etc.)   X Interior painters
Kitchen remodel X   Kitchen designers, remodelers, general contractors, architects
Laminate floors (install, repair) X   Laminate flooring professionals
Laminate floors (clean)   X Laminate floor cleanershouse cleaners
Landscaping (construction) X   Landscaperslandscape architectsgeneral contractors
Landscaping (maintenance)   X Landscapers
Lawn care   X Lawn care services, landscapers, gardeners
Light installation X   Lighting companieselectricians
Mold (inspect, remediation) X   Mold remediation servicesinspectors
Patio (install, repair) X   Patio professionals
Pest control X   Exterminators
Pipe (repair burst or frozen pipes) X   Plumbers
Pipe (repair leaky pipes)   X Plumbers
Pressure washing (deck, driveway, fence, patio, etc.)   X Pressure washing services
Roofing (clean, install, repair, inspect) X   Roofing contractors, inspectors, cleaners
Room addition X   General contractors
Siding (install, repair) X   Siding contractors & companies
Siding (remove, paint)   X Siding contractors & companiesexterior painters
Snowplowing   X Snowplow services
Switch & outlets (install, repair) X   Electricians
Termite control X   Termite exterminators
Tile floors (install, repair, seal) X   Tile contractors & companies
Tile floors (clean)   X Tile floor cleanershouse cleaners
Tree trimming   X Tree trimmerslandscapers
Tree removal X   Tree removal services
Trim installation X   Trim carpenterscontractors
Vinyl floors (install, repair, seal) X   Vinyl flooring companies
Vinyl floors (clean)   X Vinyl floor cleanershouse cleaners
Water heater (install, maintenance, repair) X   Water heater services, plumbers
Waterproofing basement X   Waterproofing professionals
Windows (install, repair, clean)   X Window professionals
Get a free estimate from a great general contractor near you.

Why these home projects always require a pro.

professional electrician

You might think you could DIY most of your home improvement endeavors, but there are some projects that you simply cannot DIY. You might not be allowed to DIY the project without the proper permit or license. Or, it may be too dangerous for the average homeowner. The following is a list of projects that almost always require a pro.

Bathroom remodeling is definitely work cut out for the pros — specifically, a bathroom remodeler or a general contractor. When a professional handles your bathroom remodel, they can help ensure the project is completed on time, stays on budget and is being handled by the best contractors, painters, plumbers, etc. A professional can also give you a timeframe in which to expect the job to be completed.

Related content: Here’s where bathroom DIY goes wrong.

Duct and vent cleaning is ideal work for a professional duct cleaner. A pro will not only cleans your ducts and vents but will also inspect your system for potential issues. They’ll also take the necessary steps to protect your carpets and furnishing as they’re cleaning.

All of your electrical and lighting work should be handled by a licensed electrician. That way, you can avoid potential fires, shocks and other home safety hazards caused by DIY repairs or outlet installations done wrong. 

Floor installation, especially hardwood floor installation, is a project for a flooring professional. Some floor designs are complex, and the installer would need to follow specific patterns to attain a certain look or shape. Incorrect DIY floor installation could also damage your flooring, which could mean more expenses for you.

Installing gas lines can only be conducted by a qualified professional, such as a licensed plumber or gas pipe contractor. Improperly installed pipes could lead to gas leaks and explosions, so DIY is out of the question here.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) work should always be done by HVAC contractors, companies and technicians. These professionals are equipped to safely clean, service and repair your system. They can also get the job done faster, and they know how to improve your HVAC’s efficiency.

Kitchen remodeling should be strictly handled by a few pros, as they can give you high-quality results. Kitchen designers and general contractors know how to reconfigure your kitchen’s layout with ease. They’re your best bet for accurately measuring your space, ordering the materials and installing new countertops, cabinets, flooring and other furnishings.

Related content: How to design a kitchen.

Mold remediation is best done by a mold remediation professional. These experts have the proper equipment, such as air scrubbers and dehumidifiers, to detect and eradicate mold. These pros know where to inspect your home for mold, and they can detect moisture that could promote mold growth.

Pest control and removal jobs are best done by professional exterminators. Exterminators are qualified to ascertain the source of the infestation, provide the ideal treatment plan and help prevent future infestations. Exterminators also need to be licensed or certified.

Although you might be able to fix a leaky pipe on your own, pipe installation and major plumbing issues should be left to professional plumbers. Plumbers are trained and equipped to install water and gas pipes, as well as repair leaks and other issues. With the proper tools to execute these tasks, they can quickly get the job done and detect hard-to-identify problems within your plumbing system. Unresolved plumbing problems can also lead to water damage, so a plumber protects your home from that potential damage too.

Roofing tasks (repairing, replacing and inspecting) are best handled by licensed roofers. Roofers know where to attain quality, durable materials for the job, and they can help you choose the best materials for your roof type. They have the know-how and correct tools to repair your roof, and they can inspect your roof for potential problems.

Room additions should be completed by a licensed general contractorinterior designer and/or architect. You will also likely need to work with an electrician, plumber and other contractors — and your general contractor can assemble the team of contractors you need. 

Contractors, designers and architects can help you stay on budget with your room addition, and they can provide design concepts and plans. These professionals are also privy to the building inspects and permits required for the job. And, they’ll also know if the site needs to be prepared, which could involve excavation and demolition. 

Spray foam insulation is best done by an insulation pro because it’s safer to do so. Spray foam contains potentially harmful chemicals. It’s also best for a professional to remove any existing insulation from your home and check to see if there are any areas in your home that need to be insulated.

Compare prices from general contractors near you.

How to decide between DIY vs. hiring a pro.

The next time you’re having trouble deciding whether to choose DIY or a professional service for your home project, follow these steps to make an informed decision:

Step 1: Research the project’s scope and complexity.

Look for guides on how to complete your project, figure out what the process involves and find out how long it takes to complete the project. Read a few articles and watch some tutorial videos to get a feel for the project’s scope and complexity.

Step 2: Understand the skills needed to do it well (and safely).

Next, find out if the job requires certain skills or experience level. For example, does the job require:

  • Electrical, wiring or plumbing expertise?
  • Sawing, drilling or cutting skills?
  • Comfortability with large, heavy or complex machinery ?

Also, find out if the project legally requires someone who is certified or licensed to complete it.

drill in wallStep 3: Figure out if you have the right tools and equipment.

For any DIY project, you need to figure out if you have all of the needed tools. If the project requires special equipment you don’t have (and have no interest in buying or renting), it’s best to hire a pro. Even if you do own the proper equipment and tools, you shouldn’t operate them unless you know how to do so safely.

Step 4: Look up whether DIY-ing the project is legal.

In some cities and states, it’s illegal to DIY certain projects if you don’t have the proper credentials or approval. The following projects are typically illegal to do on your own without a license, permit and/or other credentials or approval from your local government:

  • Adding electrical outlets, wiring or lights
  • Switching from an electric range to gas stove
  • Installing, replacing and rerouting gas pipes
  • Removing old insulation
  • Repairing or replacing HVAC system
  • Installing or replacing water heater
  • Pumping your septic tank
  • Dismantling or moving a load-bearing or structural wall

Step 5: Weigh the costs of hiring a pro vs. DIY.

It’s best to get price quotes from various pros for your project, and then compare the costs. You should also see if Thumbtack has a cost guide for your project so you can get an idea of what to expect and understand how professionals set their prices. 

Once you get at least three cost estimates from professionals near you, weigh those costs against:

  • The time it will take to thoroughly understand the steps to complete the project.
  • The time it will take you to actually complete the project.
  • The cost to buy any tools or equipment you need but don’t have.
  • The physical labor you’ll need to devote to the project if you choose the DIY route.

Also, ask yourself if you can provide the same level of quality as a trained professional. If not, decide if you’re willing to sacrifice quality to save money with a DIY approach.

However, if you value quality over anything else, hire a pro instead. And don’t hesitate to negotiate the cost of their services. For example, they may be willing to give you a discount or set up a payment plan if you’re on a tight budget.

Find the right general contractor for your project.

Also read: 8 questions to ask yourself before you DIY a home improvement project.

Find your pro on Thumbtack.

Every home needs a bit of TLC in the form of routine maintenance, repair and improvement tasks. If you’ve decided that hiring a pro is better than DIY-ing your project, use Thumbtack to find the best home maintenance and remodeling professionals near you.

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