DIY or Hire a Pro?

DIY-or-hire-a-pro

Deciding which way to go isn’t as simple as you might think

Once you have your own home, maintenance, repairs, and upgrades are your responsibility. There’s no landlord to take care of those things for you! So now you face the classic homeowner dilemma: DIY or hire a pro.

Hands-on satisfaction and cost savings vs. time

There’s certainly enormous satisfaction in doing something yourself. For example, smaller tasks, like painting, don’t seem intimidating. Painting is certainly more cost efficient when you do it yourself. When it’s done, you can take pride in the results. And if for seem reason it doesn’t quite look right, you can always repaint.

But there is the trade-off of time. Anyone who’s painted a room and done it right can tell you that prep takes as long or longer than the actual task. A pro can prep and paint multiple rooms far faster than you, with less drips and mess. The cost of a pro is greater, but the rooms are finished much more quickly.

The costly mistakes of assuming—do your research!

Let’s take that example one step further. Let’s say those rooms you are painting have popcorn ceilings. Should you leave them or modernize by removing them? Sure, there are YouTube videos on how to do it. Friends may even tell you it’s easy to do and offer explanations on how they did it. But the real question is, should you?

Popcorn ceilings installed between the 1950s and the 1980s may contain asbestos. Furthermore, that ceiling paint may contain lead. According to asbestos.com, you should buy a test kit and send off the results or hire a pro. If there is asbestos or lead, consult local regulations first. Usually a professional removal team in hazmat suits has to do the removal and safely dispose of the materials. If you can legally do it yourself and are game, that website also provides step-by-step information on how to remove and dispose of it safely and correctly. Be aware there are lot of hoops to jump through.

So, that “easy” popcorn ceiling removal isn’t as cut and dried as you first thought. Research is a must.

The same is true when it comes to plumbing and electrical work.

When to call a plumber

Certified Appliance Accessories sells a number of plumbing-related products. These include washing machine hoses, ice maker hoses, dishwasher connector hoses, and water heater connector hoses.

Hoses with FGH ends, like washing machine hoses, don’t require special skills to fasten. If you can hook and unhook a garden hose, you can fasten a washing machine hose. 

But first, you’ll need to turn off the hot- and cold-water supply valves. Next, inspect them:

  • Do they look corroded or have lime scale buildup?
  • Are they hard to turn?

They need to be functional because they should be off or closed when the washer is not in use. Why? Those valves are designed to constantly hold water pressure in check. Washing machine hoses and those connections at the washer itself are not designed to do that. If they are forced to constantly bear that water pressure, the result can be premature failure. Messy if your washer is in the garage. Disastrous if it’s on the second floor.     

So, although you certainly have the skill set to attach FGH washing machine hoses, you may not have the skills to replace corroded water supply valves—much less know which parts to buy. If you don’t, that’s when you need to call a plumber. After the valves are fixed, then you can install the hoses yourself.

Dishwasher hoses come in both MIP and FGH ends. Ice maker hoses have different sizes of FCM compression ends. And water heater connector hoses have FIP ends. Check your appliance’s manual so you get the correct size and end type. If you know how to make secure connections with each of these kinds of ends, go for it!

But if you’ve never tried to make any of these other kinds of connections, or don’t know what the acronyms even mean (read our blog to find out), then you should call a pro.

Plumbers don’t mind you doing stuff. Just don’t get lulled into thinking you can do any plumbing repair because you’ve watched some YouTube videos!

Basically, when it comes to plumbing, be honest about your skill level. You don’t want to undertake something only to create a much bigger, wetter mess. Always keep your plumber’s number handy. And know where the master water cutoff valve is!

When to call an electrician

When it comes to appliance electrical cords, you’d think this would be a simple DIY job. Certified Appliance Accessories sells electrical power cords for dryers, ranges, and dishwashers. But there are a lot of variants from which to choose.

  • Does your dishwasher require a 10-, 13-, or 15-amp grounded power supply cord?
  • Does your electric dryer or range need a 3- or 4-wire 30-amp, 40-amp, or 50-amp cord?
  • Do you need a cord with wires at one end or with plug heads at both ends?

To answer these important questions, read your appliance’s manual and installation instructions. Then watch some relevant YouTube videos. And don’t forget to locate the right breaker to turn off at the fuse box!

But before you buy the power cord—much less proceed with hook up—make sure you carefully examine the wall outlet itself:

  • Does it match what your appliance requires? If not, it needs to be replaced with the right one.
  • Is it darkened or scorched like there’s been some sparking or extra heat? If so, it definitely needs replacement as well as in-the-wall troubleshooting.

Electrical repair can be fraught with danger. From getting zapped to electrical fires, things can go wrong in a hurry. If there is doubt about your skill level or what might be behind the wall, play it safe. Call an electrician.

When to call a handyman—or handywoman

Sometimes a handyman can be a less expensive alternative to calling a pro. In many cases, a handyman is a DIYer with years of experience handling things that are new to you.

Some specialize in certain types of jobs while others can do a bit of everything. Regardless, you’ll want someone:

  • Honest enough to admit if the job is out of their comfort zone
  • Willing to admit that what you really need is a professional plumber or electrician
  • Explains upfront that what you want done requires permits and inspections, which can add to costs and delay completion

Learning by experience

Let me relate a personal nightmare (or comedy of errors, your choice) that dragged on for weeks. It involved both electrical and plumbing issues surrounding my purchase of a new dishwasher.

Let me first start off by saying the Certified Appliance Accessories sells dishwasher installation kits. But I knew I didn’t know enough to get the right kit. As you’ll see, it turns out that was a wise decision.

When the appliance company’s crew delivered the dishwasher, part of the deal was to remove the old one, haul it off, and install/hook up the new one. Sounded good to me!

So, they shut off the hot water feed under the sink because there was no shutoff valve just for the dishwasher water line. Then, when they started to pull out the old dishwasher, we discovered it was wired directly into loose wires inside the wall—no outlet in sight. Worse, that wiring smelled smoky. The crew, not being authorized electricians, was forbidden by the appliance company to install a proper outlet. They left, leaving the old dishwasher in place till I could get someone out to put in a new receptacle. And because there was so little room behind the dishwasher, it had to be a special recessed one that allowed room for the plug head. I duly noted the kind of plug that came with the dishwasher power cord.

In the meantime, I killed the breaker to that wiring, as I was very concerned about the smell of smoke. Unfortunately, that breaker also controlled the refrigerator. So, I had to buy an appliance-grade extension cord and run it to another outlet that could handle the amperage of the refrigerator. Then I called my handyman.

I explained the situation about needing a true outlet behind the dishwasher. No problem, he said. I was not home when he added the outlet. When I came home late in the day, I discovered he had ignored my request for a recessed outlet. Rather than fight what had been done, especially since he was now out of country on a 2-week vacation, I bought the kind of outlet I needed and called an electrician. It took a few days to set an appointment date, but he took care of it.

All this time, of course, I had no hot water at my kitchen sink.

Finally, the appliance crew came back with the new dishwasher and finished the installation job—including hooking up the water and waste lines. But that evening, the water hookup under the sink began a slow drip. As noted earlier, the water supply to the dishwasher under the sink had no separate cutoff valve. I was now completely out of my depth and highly frustrated. I placed a bucket under the drip as I was afraid to touch the hot water turn-off valve for fear of doing more damage. Thankfully, it was a very slow drip.

The next morning, I called a plumber and made an appointment to straighten out the mess under the sink and properly connect the water supply and drain hose. That took a few more days, but finally all was properly hooked up.

There are multiple lessons there. Take your pick.

DIY or hire a pro

Different people have different comfort levels when it comes to DIY. Some will do electrical but shy away from plumbing. Others will install a toilet but refuse to touch anything having to do with electricity. Yet others will tackle almost any plumbing task as long as there’s no corrosion, rust, or lime buildup.

To make that final decision, consider these factors:

  • Skill level
  • Safety issues
  • Possible structural damage
  • Ability to cope if simple things turn complex
  • Permitting issues
  • Time things are torn up

Then, if you have the least bit of hesitation about DIYing the install, call a professional.

However, there is a third option. You can always BIY—Buy It Yourself.

According to housebeautiful.com

“You can also take a buy-it-yourself (BIY) approach, which is buying products yourself and then hiring a pro to install them. ‘A BIYer can save up to 20 percent on home improvements by shopping for bargains and eliminating contractor markups on materials and finishes,’ according to HouseLogic.com. ‘It's a growing trend that industry experts and big-box home improvement centers are watching closely, defining BIY as its own genre.’”

So, buying the required outlet for my dishwasher was BIYing—though at the time I didn’t know it had an acronym!

With that in mind, let’s revisit those water hoses and electrical cords from Certified Appliance Accessories we talked about earlier. If you do your research right, you’ll know exactly what to purchase and can BIY. Then, if you are not ready to DIY, hire a pro and hover over their shoulder to learn how it’s done.

One day, you may be able to tackle it on your own.