After a year of quarantine or modified quarantine, suddenly you’ve begun to notice some of your home’s little imperfections. Perhaps the paint is peeling on the bedroom wall, or there’s a water spot on the kitchen ceiling, or you’ve decided to build an office in the basement because—let’s face it—you still might be working from home for a good portion of 2021.
So you decide to tackle the project yourself. After all, you have the time, and it could save you all kinds of money! And who needs the professionals when there’s YouTube to show you everything you need to know?
Not so fast.
While some naturally handy folks might have no problem taking on certain around-the-house repairs or larger projects, not every enterprise is DIY-worthy.
One that stands out to Jack Giacobbi, owner of Scopewell, a kitchen, bathroom and basement remodeling company based in Valencia, is basement refinishing. This is a common DIY fail. One major problem with this project is that people are unaware of the stack effect—movement of air into and out of buildings.
“We all know that heat rises and escapes through the attic, but we don’t think about the fact that air needs to be replaced. Due to the stack effect, which causes heat to rise in the first place, replacement air typically enters through the basement,” he explained. “With basements being cooler, the relative humidity is higher, which causes basements to feel damp and dank. If it smells musty, it’s mold, and that is a huge issue if you have allergies or you’re selling your house.”
Alan Stauber, owner of Quality Carpentry, based in Portersville, agreed. “A typical example of where we’ve seen homeowners fail miserably is in the finishing of basements. They don’t know that they’re supposed to insulate the outside walls; there’s bad electrical work, terrible drywall, etc.,” he said. Stauber’s business runs the gamut from building cabinets to staircase work, kitchen and bathroom renovations and more.
Though he wouldn’t entirely discourage homeowners from trying to do a few things on their own, Stauber said that for him, it is 10 times harder to come into a project in the middle and try to rescue it, than to start it from the beginning.
While DIYers do not necessarily need any special skills to take on certain projects, it does help to arm yourself with as much information as possible. To this end, the university of YouTube can be immensely helpful.
“YouTube is undeniably a huge help nowadays,” said Giacobbi. “You learn how to do it by doing it.”
“I see people watch YouTube and do fairly well; it depends on the individual,” said Stauber, adding that he sometimes watches YouTube videos himself to garner further knowledge.
But having the know-how is just part of the equation. “What nonprofessionals are lacking are first, the quality of tools, and second, the fact that they don’t have adequate tools to perform as professionally as they could,” said Stauber.
Safety is another reason to not engage in a DIY project that is beyond a person’s capability. Injuries can occur with the wrong tools or even if you have the right tools, according to Stauber, who says that he has seen people shoot themselves with air nailers, drill themselves with cordless drills, and cut themselves with power saws.
Besides basements, which need to be built properly to truly add value to a home, Giacobbi said that plumbing and electrical are the other main areas in which people should call in the professionals. “Electrical and plumbing work needs to be inspected for a reason. If you don’t employ safe work practices, you can fall off a roof or electrocute yourself,” he said.
Stauber agreed that electrical wiring is the most frequent and dangerous hazard for DIYers. “Without a doubt, the one thing that nonprofessionals should not attempt is electrical work,” he said. “If the plumbing leaks, it won’t kill you, but loose wires start fires.”
Conversely, there are some less complicated projects that people often choose to take on alone. “Painting is an obvious one. And drywall can be done by a homeowner successfully,” said Giacobbi.
While a common belief is that doing it yourself will save you money, this is not necessarily the case. In some instances, DIYers may have to call in a professional to rescue the project, so in addition to the money already spent on supplies, plus the value of their time, it could end up costing more in the long run.
When deciding if you can handle a potential DIY project, Giacobbi advises, “Trust your instincts. Do your research, and practice on something smaller first.”
Stauber said to ask yourself what you want the project to be worth.
“What are you expecting the perceived value to be and how long are you wanting it to last?” he asked. “I have seen homeowners do some updates, and by not pulling permits, it came back to haunt them when they went to sell the house.
“A professional will know when it is in your benefit to pull a permit and to get the right inspections done,” he added. “If you are doing this work for the foreseeable sale of your home, then call a professional.”