10 Things You Can Fix (and 10 Things You Shouldn’t Try)

portrait of caucasian plumber at work

Sometimes the do-it-yourself route saves you a ton of money. But sometimes it winds up turning into a horror story that saps your finances, drains your energy and can even endanger your safety.

Wondering whether you can tackle that home improvement project yourself or if you should outsource the project? Let’s take a look at 10 top DIY money-savers you can totally tackle on your own and 10 “DI-Don’ts” you’re better off paying a pro to handle.


Do some Googling, grab a how-to book or watch some home improvement shows and you can handle these repairs and renovations yourself.

1. Cosmetic changes. Repainting your walls, staining your deck — any project that’s merely cosmetic (it changes the way your home looks rather than changing the inherent structure and workings of your home) is something most DIYers can do safely.

2. Minor plumbing work. By “minor,” we mean things like installing a toilet, fixing a leaky sink or changing a showerhead.

3. Minor electrical work. Think: installing a new light fixture or changing out switch plates. Anything more involved than this is worth consulting a pro.

4. Installing tile. As long as you take your time, installing a new kitchen backsplash or shower tile is absolutely do-able. Just don’t rush it; make sure each tile is placed properly and everything lines up each step of the way. Watch YouTube videos and read instructions online so you’ll know what potential pitfalls to avoid.

5. Patching drywall. Repairing small holes in your walls is a (relative) cinch. Just follow a step-by-step guide online and that memento of your picture-hanging mishap will be a thing of the past.

6. Caulking. Re-caulk the seals around your tub, shower and windows regularly to keep water out. Remove existing caulk first and clean any mold or mildew.

7. Changing your locks. This one is on the intermediate level as it does require a fair amount of patience and trial and error if you need to drill a larger hole for the new handle. But if you’ve got the time and the determination, you can be your own locksmith.

8. Filling in driveway cracks. Hose down your driveway to remove any debris, then apply crack filler (you can find it at a hardware store) and let it dry. Do this as cracks develop and you can postpone a costly repaving job (which is definitely one for the pros).

9. Installing floating laminate flooring. Floating laminate floor is easy for even basic DIYers — simply cut it to size and click it into place; no need for adhesives, nails or staples. Just be wary of whether or not you’ll need to remove baseboard -– and make sure your floor stays level.

10. Refinishing kitchen cabinets. As long as you label which cabinet goes where before you remove them, you can totally refinish and repaint existing cabinets to make them look new.


These projects are too complex and/or potentially dangerous to tackle yourself. To make sure the job is done right, leave it to the pros.

1. Structural change. Any structural modifications to your home, such as tearing down a load-bearing wall or building an addition, are best left to the pros.

2. Major plumbing work. Any major plumbing project warrants a call to the professionals. Otherwise you risk potential backups, leaks and work that isn’t done to code (which can hurt your resale value).

3. Major electrical work. Circuit repair, rewiring and installing new wiring can be extremely dangerous, and doing these things wrong creates a fire hazard. Just call a pro.

4. Anything involving gas. Installing a new stove, hot water heater or dryer may seem easy enough, but natural gas can be lethal, so you’re better off playing it safe. Don’t risk a potential explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning.

5. Roofing. Repairing a roof is tricky business. Let the licensed (and insured) professionals climb up there-it’s safer for you, plus they may be able to identify issues like leaks and ice dams you wouldn’t be able to spot (or fix).

6. Installing hardwood flooring. Unlike floating laminate, genuine hardwood floors require a long list of tools and (pricey) materials and need precise measurement and installation. You don’t want to get this wrong.

7. Installing granite countertop. Bad measurements can cost you dearly, and improper installation can result in issues like breakage and water damage. (Not to mention: granite slabs are incredibly heavy). If you’re going to spring for granite, spring for professional installation.

8. Fixing the foundation. The integrity and safety of your home rests (literally) on its foundation, and only the pros have the training and equipment necessary to repair it right.

9. Installing insulation. Electrocution, fire hazards, regulatory requirements, ventilation. — with all the things that could go wrong, you don’t want to try this one yourself.

10. HVAC installation. To make sure air flows properly through an air conditioning and/or heating system, you need to understand things like grille and diffuser placement and ducting. If you don’t, let the pros handle it.

Paula Pant quit her office job in 2008, traveled to 32 countries and became a successful real estate investor. Her blog Afford Anything is the groundswell of a rebellion against standard, tired old financial advice that says you should skip lattes and chain yourself to a desk for 40 years. Afford Anything is dedicated to crushing limits, creating riches and maximizing life.

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