Buyer Guides

How to decide to do a DIY home project

Some DIY home projects are easy. Others? Not so much.

Doing a DIY home project can be a smart, affordable way to add value to your property after home buying—and to make it even more your own. But unless you’re a professional handyperson, some projects are going to more than you can handle. How can you decide if a particular renovation is a good DIY home project or if you should call in a pro?

Just ask yourself these questions:

  1. 1. Do I have the skills for this DIY home project?

    Start with a little research. The internet is full of how-to articles for every DIY home project you can imagine. Read a few and think carefully about all the steps—and then make an honest assessment of your skills and abilities. Can you do everything needed to pull off the project? If you don’t have the talent or training to do it, it’s not worth the risk to your biggest asset.

  2. 2. Do I have the time for a DIY home project?

    One thing those DIY home project blogs tend to leave out is the number of times the homeowner has to stop everything and run to the hardware store, when they knock out too much drywall and have to repair it, or any other delays that come up. Consider how much free time you have, and then think about how long you think the project will take—and then double it. After the usual delays and issues arise, it’ll probably take that long.

  3. 3. Do I have the tools and materials for this DIY home project?

    A DIY home project can save you lots of money you’d otherwise spend on a contractor—unless you have to buy a $2,000 tool to do it. Check the list of tools you’d need to pull off the project and compare it to what you have. If you don’t have something, see if your local hardware store rents them out (many do), or if you have a friend with one you can borrow.

  4. 4. Are there safety risks involved?

    Many home projects have a low safety risk. You (probably) won’t end up in the hospital installing a new floating shelf. But installing a new light fixture is a different story. Anything related to electricity, plumbing, your roof, your HVAC system, or any hazardous materials like mold, asbestos, or lead paint should be left to the pros. Not only are they financially costly, but they could be risk your health as well.

  5. 5. What is my budget?

    If your budget is limited a DIY home project is a great option. Many homeowners apply for a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to help finance repair or home improvement projects. If you don’t have access to funds—if you’ve just gotten a mortgage, it might not be the right time—DIY might be the best choice. Especially if you own a fixer-upper that will require ongoing projects. But if your budget is flexible, a pro can save you lots of time, and can guarantee a professional job.

  6. 6. Is this project DIY-able?

    Even the most experienced DIYer hires out for some projects. But others are relatively easy tasks to do yourself. Here are a few common DIY projects:

    • Demolition before major contract work
    • Painting, sanding, and staining
    • Kitchen backsplash installation
    • Hanging shelves, pegboards, and other decor
    • Installing hardware, like cupboard and drawer pulls, bathroom towel rods, shower curtain rods, and toilet paper holders
    • Faucet installation

    These are projects you may want to leave to a pro:

    • Electrical work
    • HVAC work
    • Roofing
    • Plumbing
    • Built-in shelving
    • Installing a new structure, like a deck or shed

    Ready to find a home you’ll enjoy filling with your own DIY home projects? See what’s available now on Trulia.