Best & Worst Home Improvement Projects to DIY

By: Lee Campbell

A couple working on a home improvement project together.

Which home improvement projects should you DIY, and which ones require professional help? We have all heard the old saying, “you get what you pay for.” But sometimes it’s what you should have paid for that ends up costing the most money, time, and energy. Here, we break down the dos and don’ts of do-it-yourself home improvement projects.

DO: Start a Garden

A woman planting a new garden.

Almost anyone can tackle this easy home improvement project. Simply decide where you’d like your garden to grow, what you’d like to see pop up (flowers? vegetables?) and grab your gardening gloves. Of course, the condition of your soil will make a difference, and supplementing may be necessary. Soil lacking in minerals and nutrients may need amendments. Before getting started on your dream garden, it’s a good idea to have the soil pH evaluated since plants can’t properly take in nutrients if the pH balance is off. Check your state’s cooperative extension office to see if they offer soil evaluations.

DO: Create a Backyard Oasis

A backyard oasis showing an achievable home improvement project.

If you can dream it, you can achieve it – at least when it comes to the look and feel of your backyard’s overall design. From colorful throw pillows (in outdoor fabrics, of course) to furniture in low-maintenance materials like rattan to clever storage units that double as tables or footstools – it’s fun to create an entertaining yet relaxing space that meets your family’s needs.

DON’T: Paint High Ceilings

Man painting a high ceiling with two windows.

Ask anyone who’s tried to paint a ceiling and you’re sure to get a grimace and lots of head shaking. It’s not an easy project, but it can be done with proper preparation. Rookie mistakes include forgetting to lock your pets out of the room (while you’re on a ladder looking up… with a paint roller above you — need we say more?), trying to paint over a popcorn ceiling without first removing the texture, and the most non-intuitive mistake in painting- leaving overlap marks because you took your time. Proceed with caution on this DIY home improvement project.

DON’T: Tile Kitchen Backsplashes or Floors

A professional tackling the complicated home improvement project of laying a tile backsplash.

Your kitchen is the most high-traffic area in your home, and likely one of the first things guests will notice when they walk in the front door. So why take chances trying to affix a backsplash or lay down a complicated tile pattern on the floor? Unlike painting where you want to keep up the pace to avoid leaving marks, you definitely don’t want to rush prepping surfaces and spreading grout. A bad DIY tile job can be spotted a mile away and usually comes with a side of regret.

DON’T: Lay Carpet

A man laying carpet in a room.

Avoid this DIY home improvement project at all costs, if possible! Installing carpet requires a lot of muscle, specialized tools, equipment, and know-how. Not to mention, carpeting can be expensive and needs to be precisely measured and cut, considering the transition areas near the borders of the room. It’s hard to get the measurements right, and most DIY carpet projects end up looking like a big mess. Carpet also needs to acclimate to your climate and setting – and who wants to guess at the length of time needed for that? Definitely not recommended unless you’re a pro.

DEFINITELY DON’T: Tackle Complicated Plumbing Projects

A professional plumber tackling a leak under the sink.

The rule when it comes to plumbing is simple: measure twice, cut once, then call the plumber. Sure, you may be able to fix a small leak under the sink, but you may also make it worse and ruin your hardwood floors or carpet. More complicated jobs, such as trying to repair a leak in your sewer line, could be dangerous because those lines contain toxic materials.

It’s best to know your limits when tackling DIY projects. Do what you can, realistically, and leave the rest to the professionals. That way, you’ll have some time to relax and enjoy your home’s beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces.

Lee Campbell is a house flipper, landlord, and freelance writer. He loves to remodel and refurbish older homes and like most aspiring writers, is working on his novel.

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