Consider potential dangers, costs of DIY carefully

Be realistic about DIY ventures. If you don't have the proper knowledge or tools, consider calling a pro to help. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Mitchell)

Be realistic about DIY ventures. If you don't have the proper knowledge or tools, consider calling a pro to help. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Mitchell)

The desire to save a buck motivates most homeowners with a DIY spirit to tackle home improvement projects themselves, according to a recent poll. The January survey of Angie’s List members revealed that 63 percent say they do some or most of the work on their homes. Of that group, 86 percent cite the desire to save money as the main reason for doing so.

Homeowners who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty should keep in mind that not all home projects are as simple as they may seem. Experts caution do-it-yourselfers to be realistic about their skills. If you don’t have the knowledge to complete a project, it could lead to additional costs and — even worse — injury.

“It can be an absolutely devastating injury that happens oftentimes in the intent of trying to save some money,” says Dr. James J. Creighton Jr., M.D., orthopedic surgeon and managing partner of the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center.  “And now because of the injury they are out of work for a prolonged period of time and they’ve got a health expense that they certainly were not budgeting for.”

Some home-related projects can be tackled successfully by homeowners, but it is important to ask yourself these three questions:

What experience (if any) do I have? Just because you’re not afraid to take on a project – doesn’t mean you should. You might find it difficult to find a contractor who will fix your snafu.

Do I have the time? Many home improvement projects take weeks rather than days. Measure the inconvenience against the cost of hiring a professional.

Do I have the right tools? If you have to go out and buy a power saw, but don’t plan to use it again in the future, it’s probably not a good investment.


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Comments

Angielist should stick with what it does the best, word-of-mouth advertisement, ranther than trying to give people advise on what-to-do and what-not-to-do. All the DIY article I have seen is trying to persuade home owner to spend money on contractors which is what Angielist.com does... Tell me that is not a tiny little bit interesting.

I have spent 23 years finding mistakes that "professionals" made constructing my home despite visiting the construction site every weekend during construction. There is little or no craftsmanship left in the construction trades. Admittedly there are some things I can't do and wouldn't attempt but about 80% of the time I CAN do the job and do it better than hired help because I live there and have to live with the results.

Box stores spend an incredible amount of money convincing people that they can "save big money" by buy cheap stuff and putting in themselves when they lack the critical experience. Further more, news media is afraid to anger these extremely large advertisers by telling how many do it yourselfers are injured or killed (even by falling boxes and crates) and how many issues there are with their subcontractors. Further more, the low warranty stuff is what these stores sell and it has to be because they have no idea what clown is putting it in. The untold truth is that emergency rooms are highly taxed by numerous customers hurt by trying to do more than they are properly equipped or skilled to do. The idea that one saves money is also in question in many cases. More truthfully, one saves money initially but seldom in the long run when it comes to major remodeling products and their installation.

jobs that don't require special knowledge are fine for DIY. Plumbing, Electrical etc. Leave to pros...unless you have lots of time and a high tolerance for frustration.

There is no substitute for the experience and careful craftsman. All home improvement projects require skill and experience. If you want to know how "easy" a project is, ask yourself the same question about your own profession. The construction profession has a vast set of standards and practices that require knowledge, experience and diligence in order to competently practice.

I read all the DIY inputs. What did I learn? All people are not created equal! The best tool for a DIY is common sense! Don't even get started without it. Always get advice. Where? The best place is your local owner operated hardware store. You will find that most are honest and eager to help - even if you don't buy anything!

Bird - at least in my locality, there's a procedure for a homeowner to pull their own permits, call for inspections, and have everything properly doc-u-mented, just as they would where a contractor is involved. It's not that difficult at all... I agree, this is a poorly-put-together "What can kill you NOW, news at 11" piece.

The is a poor excuse for a place to leave a comment, but here goes: I have been DIY-ing since I was 20. EVERYTHING, electrical, plumbing, painting, carpet cleaning, etc. I learned as I went along and picked up pointers wherever I could. I am now 84, and I know I have saved myself a lot of money over the years. Nobody ever told me about the potential problems, I learned those, too. I figure I might have saved maybe as much as $18,000. Never looked back. Recently,I trusted a "friend" who wanted to borrow $18,000. He was no friend. He's vanished. When I think of all I went through to save that money, I cry. This is my philosophy: DIY, whenever you can, and then Zip up your pocketbook and never lend money to anyone, unless you want them to disappear from your life!

The article is very biased. It accurately says some tasks are beyond DIY and need some training, but fails to give examples such as electrical work, gas lines and venting, etc. I have done room additions, brick (to code), concrete, electrical and plumbing. Not everyone can. But a LOT of DIY is within anyone's capabilities, and the stores are a vast resource of advice. It was an article with a lot of scare , no examples, and almost no good advice.

My husband and I do a fair amount of DIY, but mainly on smaller projects. I would recommend starting small if you plan to DIY -- things like replacing faucets, light fixtures, painting, etc. are not difficult to learn. Be sure to research the project before you start and learn how to do it the right way. We've had to rip out a bunch of DIY improvements that the previous owner of our home did. He imagined that he was a plumber and electrician; we've had to hire real plumbers and electricians to fix both his "repairs" and the original problem that they didn't fix!

This article was not very informative. But it did cause a good discussion of the pros and cons of DIY. Fir the past 6 months, I've been overseeing a complete kitchen remodel and 2 baths remodeled. Almost done and nearing the finish line. I hired "pros" and still find that they make mistakes, some quite major! I study up on techniques, codes, and whatever is being done so I can speak with the contractors somewhat intelligently. I watch them like a hawk, ask questions that they have to answer, and call them on their snafus in the most friendly manner I can muster. If I can't do it or don't want to do it, I hire out and inform myself. I am the project manager, no matter who is on site!

Dear departed Dad used to admonish that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing". Knowing what to do when the unexpected happens during a remodel is critical especially in older homes. Painting, replacing door hardware or fixing an occassional sink clog can be done with little knowledge. Kitchen and bath remodels or installing energy efficient windows so they don't leak dictates using someone who knows the product as well as the installation process

I agree with others, this reads more like a plug for contractors, shame on you. I recently had to replace an entire bathroom, most of the "professionals" were incompetent and/or crooked. At a minumum it pays to read up on the project so that you can tell when the contractor is bluffing.

I assume that "Leave Message" is where a subscriber submits a comment. If you agree, please change the wording and expand the text box so it displays more than 8-10 words at a time. The Do It Yourself article is one of the least informative articles I have ever seen on Angies List or anywhere else. I tried to provide some practical considerations in my previous comment! I am also wondering if or how long it will take for my comments to be posted... nothing on this page explains.

The time question is valid, but the other 2 questions to ask yourself totally miss the point. You have to start somewhere to get experience and expensive tools are seldom necessary. Common sense and forethought should be your guide. If you think the project through in a step-by step manor and have a reasonable amount of common sense, you can do nearly everything your strength and time permit. Don’t let a couple small tasks stop you, simply ask at home improvement stores, ask around, search the internet, get a how-to book or magazine from the store or library. If you are not willing to do your homework, you should hire a professional. I have been a do-everything-myself person all of my life. The knowledge and confidence you gain from each project help with future ones. In answer to which projects are easiest for the novice, see the above since it differs for each person and project. Think the project through in steps and research what you don’t know. This keeps your first projects from becoming overwhelming. Even if you don’t have all the answers and decide not to do the project yourself, the forethought will help you avoid paying for unnecessary labor or getting ripped off.

Terrible article. I agree that DIY projects can be dangerous, especially if you have little experience but it would have been nice to be given some examples of both dangerous projects and the alluded to injuries. This article had not real information in it and seemed thrown together in a weak effort to stimulate online chat.

The problem I have with DIY home improvements is that I invest a huge amount of time learning how to do a job - through background reading and hands-on experience. By the time I finish, I am able to replicate the job much more efficiently with a higher level of craftsmanship. However, most jobs I will never do again, so this learning has been a huge waste of time and energy. Better to use a professional, who is efficiently replicating his/her well honed skills.

Disagree with LiberalArtsBum: You are paying for a system of users who supply information to other users of services. If you don't contribute, you are not doing your part to hold up the value of this service. DUH!

Personally I don't see any reason for a person to not try the DIY route. I was a handyman for many years and I found no issues going in on a project that someone might have started and couldn't finish or didn't know how to finish. For those that wish to try to do it yourself I say go for it since any contractor will gladly pick up the pieces and maybe even get a chuckle from time to time.

I work in a "Big Box" store electrical dept. I am working on an article about all the interesting questions people ask. One example; Young man calling himself a "Contractor," loaded up several big florescent fixtures and then ask me what kind of wire he needed to hook it all together. They for a homeless shelter he contracted to wire. No wonder people prefer park benches. More later.

This is a nearly worthless article that provides no meaningful guidance for homeowners. It seems more like an ad written by a contracting company than an Angie's list article.

My wife and I bought a 60 year old house that hadn't been lived in for 10 years, and not updated since it was built. We have done a lot of work ourselves, and have also contracted out a hefty share, such as updating the electrical entrance to a new 200 amp service. I can tell you this. Remodeling sucks. It is dirty, dusty, time consuming and often aggravating. If I had to do this over, I would have built new, and not have to deal with the challenges of floors out of level, and rooms out of square. DIY is definitely not as easy or glamorous as the HGTV and DIY Network shows would have you believe. Can I do the work? Yes, but only by sacraficing nights and weekends breathing dust and fiberglass and mouse turds.

Yeah - and I get pestered constantly to comment on those I've hired. If I wanna comment, I will. What am I paying for?

This is an interesting article. The opening picture shows two peopole doing something very dangerous, but no mention of that. I am a contractor and of course I want work , but that does'nt mean decieving people to get it. Many customers ask me if they can do a job and I am always honest with them. But everyone thinks they can do my job ( "it's not brain surgery" right?) No it's not, but like many things experience and training go a long way. Fully half of the expensive repairs I make were necessary because a homeowner or unskilled contractor did something to "save' money which ended up causing a great deal of damage to a home, many times putting peoples lives or health at risk. Find a good contractor and take their advise about what you can handle or leave to a professional.

The article is a good one. I am a professional carpenter/contractor, and although I do encourage DIY, there is a lot to this work that really does take years to learn, under the guidance of journeymen. To think you can read an article online go out, buy some tools and do it yourself, the chances of it coming out properly, on time, and done well, are slim. However I encourage people to attempt some of the simpler tasks at home. But please don't dumb down the work, it could cost you more money, as well I have seen a few marriages end over renovation "DIY" dreams. Good article Angies List, smart.

This article is another step in Angie's List evolution into a tool for service providers rather than consumers. The printed newsletter is just advertisements for service providers or articles by "experts" who are selling their services. Now they have started emailing me advertisements as "The Big Deal".

I tried to paint a high-end door. Made it look low end with all the brush marks and the paint filling up the flutes. It also took days. A professional saved my doors.

If you are able to lift what you need to for the job and get in the spaces you need to get into, and can read, you can do many jobs yourself. When people ask how I learned to do something around the house, I tell them it is one of the rewards of learning to read and being a lifetime learner. If you put the money toward tools, you will probably find you will do another job in the future because you have the tool, so it is not likely you will use the tool only for the one job. I hire for what I know I can't do and tackle the rest myself when I have the time and energy.

I agree this is a poor article intended to scare people into using contractors instead of DIY. I renovated the kitchen and baths myself in my last house. It took me longer that it would a contractor but I took the time to do it right which is not always the case with contractors who are trying to minimize time. I've also found that either the homeowner or the contractor feels like they are getting ripped off.

An important question is missing: Does my town/city require that a licensed contractor do the work in order to get a PERMIT? If you do work without a permit, it can later lead to problems when you try to sell your house, or even try to get a new insurance policy that requires an appraisal. My town requires a permit for practically everything... even painting!

Yes, one needs to be careful while doing DIY. And, yes, one can save all sorts of money [though NOT time, by any means] doing it oneself. And, yes, I turned my attic into living space several years ago. I've never regretted it. I hired professionals to do the electrical work and to cut the hole in the 2nd floor ceiling. Other than that, I was on my own. I did other major projects as well. All with self-taught skills learned over time. The first rule: Don't listen to the nay-sayers. The second rule: know your own limitations - then go for it!

Though I am pretty skilled in construction having worked on my home for 20 years I have been injured with fingers in tables saw, crowbar breaking front teeth, falling eight feet to concrete from scaffolding. Knowing friends who have fallen off roofs I will be sure to hire someone to work on it. I am still in one piece with fingers attached and still fit to run daily with good dental care and do not get near that blurry part of the blade. I know the contractors have risks too but usually are safer in their work.

You say it may difficult to find a contractor if you make a DIY mistake. What kind of fear mongering is this?

Been DIYing for almost 30 years. Serious projects, too. Worst injuries: scratches, skinned knuckles, minor cuts and bruises. I agree that this article seems more of a scare tactic than a reasonable warning. It's like the prime-time news teasers on TV: "COULD YOUR VITAMINS BE POISONING YOU? Find out at eleven!" Not worthy of Angie's list, at least not without more meat in the article.

If one knows and respects his limitations, DIY projects should not pose a significant risk. I've done much of the work repairing and remodeling the houses that I've owned, but as I've gotten older, I find myself turning to professionals more often. Professionals normally get the work done much quicker than I can, and my wife really likes that. On the other hand, I'm retired and I can't find anyone who will match my hourly rate, so it is often still a question of cost. Generally, if I think I can do it and do it safely, I still do it myself.

I agree that homeowners don't necessarily have the skills to do every project that comes up. They may not have the money to hire a pro, tho. These are skinny times financially.

Where is the rest of the article? All I see is a fearmongering advertisement for contractors. Am I paying for this?

I will generally not tackle projects that require a lot of brute force: roofing, flatwork, sheetrock etc. Also, anything that requires multiple hands to do well or quickly like painting or carpeting. However, the high-value work that requires more detailed research like electrical, plumbing and some HVAC, I do as these can be mostly done by one person with the right tools and having done due diligence and study before tackling the task. Safety always trumps savings so if I do not feel I can do it without endangering myself in the process or creating a future risk, I will call a contractor.

I am a plumbing & electric contractor. Here's what you can use: Turn off the water at the meter before working on plumbing in the house. If it breaks, the utility will fix it. If a valve in the house leaks/breaks it is on you.

When my husband and I married 27 years ago our tool collection fit in a shoe box. Two whole house renovations later I will say this: DIY always takes longer, but maybe not as long as finding a good contractor, and then watching them like a hawk. Many times a project can be made more DIY friendly by changing the material or tools. Carpeting and sheet vinyl flooring are less forgiving than Pergo or Durastone tiles. A pad floor sander is slower but almost foolproof compared to a drum sander. Regarding large tool purchases check out used tools for sale at Home Depot. My pad sander cost $600 used versus $2,500 new. If I had rented, it would have cost more plus I would have had to drag the 150 pound sander back and forth to the store.

I agree with others, particularly Michael. What are the common injuries of DIY projects? What are the consequences? What type of projects are best left to the Pro's? Etc. This "article" was probably written in about 5 minutes... Makes me second guess my membership.

I think the topic is a very good one and arguing over who said what and why is a waste. I'd like to hear more about which projects are "easiest" for the novice, and which hold the biggest risks- financial, physical, and serious damage to the house. For ex: how easy is it to replace carpet in a bathroom with tile/other flooring. What are the easiest methods, materials for doing so?

I agree with the many people who have commented that the article sounds like a "thinly veiled ad program" who's main purpose is to scare off knowledgeable and skilled DIY'ers. I am also disappointed in Angie's List and will be thinking about this when/if I resubscribe to their service.

this is probably the least informative article i have ever seen. not a single new fragment of information is presented here. no new perspectives are attempted. i agree with the others that this is pure pro-contractor propaganda.

My vested interest in a quality outcome almost always outweighs my lack of skills or experience. The internet is a great resource for do-it-yourselfers. No doubt, that's why the tradesmen are so defensive.

This unfortunately reflects a typical marketing strategy of many service providers--get the person scared enough of possible consequences of doing it yourself so you hire someone to do it. I agree that you don't want to dash in and get in over your head, but a careful review of information available on the internet should equip you to decide whether you want to tackle the job yourself or have a pro do it. Just use good sense and THINK before you do anything when doing a do it yourself job.

I am a contractor, and we invite out clients to do as much of the work as they want to and we will work with them as needed. However, in my opinion, DIY projects usually take longer than people think, and getting professional results requires the right tools, enough time and experience, like any other profession.

While I would agree on the premise that there is a possibility of injury, you need to think things through. I've done plumbing, electrical work, all sorts of stuff myself. Was it easy? No. Doable? Yes. I spent time researching local codes before doing electrical work. Ditto plumbing. The building codes are really there to help you prevent accidents. Not at someone's whim. Just take the time to understand it thoroughly. Yes, sometimes you may eventually decide it is not worth doing it yourself, or you may not have the skills. Will I try pour concrete? Probably not. Drywall? You bet. Lots of work can be done safely. With emphasis on safety. My cardinal rule - if it looks unsafe, it probably is, think about doing it some other way.

Poor 'article'. At least list a few oommon dangers: electric shock, gas leaks, improper venting of furnace, hand injuries, lead paint removal, wear hearing protection/safety glasses. Horrible article Angie.

I bought carpet from a Mohawk dealer. Came highly rated from friends. He insisted his installer/family member install the carpet in 3 rooms by piecing the carpet together. Now the carpet has rippled and it's dangerous. Owner said the carpet is growing and that is normal for any carpet to do. They have been back 3 times - it's still growing. And of course the company told ME "IT'S NOT THEIR PROBLEM

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