When to call in the experts
In this article, we'll cover:
There are benefits to doing DIY. It keeps costs down and can be immensely satisfying. Plus, with YouTube and countless online guides at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever to have a go at home improvements. Sometimes this is successful, and other times it can lead to disaster.
Whether you’re considering a small home hack or tackling something altogether much bigger, we’ve produced a short guide to what you should consider having a go at – and what might best be left to the professionals.
Painting and decorating
Most of us have picked up a paintbrush in the past and, perhaps excluding a few paint splashes, the potential for a major disaster is small. If you’re not too worried about the end aesthetic, this can be a good trade to try yourself.
However, decorating certainly isn’t as easy as you might think. The end result is hugely dependent on preparation – filling walls, sanding, caulking and masking. A painter’s cutting in and rolling skills have been developed over years of experience, and a job that might take them four days to complete could take you far longer.
DIY disaster rating: If you want a perfect finish, call in the experts, but if you’re more relaxed on appearances and have time to spare, the propensity for disaster is low.
Plastering can take many forms – from gypsum to lime, and each material and job requires its own unique approach. Much like painting, it’s hugely reliant on the preparation work. You can’t just trowel plaster onto a wall or ceiling — you need to make sure the surface is prepared, or you might find your hard work in a puddle on the floor.
It’s a mucky, time-consuming job for an amateur to attempt, and simply getting the plaster off the hawk and onto the wall can be complex enough. You can probably just about get the wall ready to paint – but achieving a good finish takes many years of practice.
DIY disaster rating: It might not be likely to land you an injury, but without proper prep, you might end up having to call in the experts anyway.
Electrics and plumbing
Water, gas and electricity are three things that can cause extensive damage to your home and land you with serious injury too. Even the most competent DIYer would be wise to leave these jobs to the experts, who spend years at college training for very good reason.
DIY disaster rating: Don’t even think about it.
Working with wood can be great fun and is an enjoyable hobby for many. But this trade covers a broad spectrum, from making a bird box to pitching a roof. There is obviously a sliding scale to what you should attempt and what might be best left to the experts.
Be guided by your own experience and abilities in this area, as well as what tools you have at your disposal (there’s a reason tradespeople talk about the importance of having the right tool for the job). As a rule of thumb, anything structural should always be left to the experts, and you might also want to consider handing over anything you plan to put out on show. DIYing a new kitchen might not land you the slick home centrepiece you wanted.
DIY disaster rating: The potential for injury is high, and you’re unlikely to come close to the finish a professional trade can give you.
For the ambitious, it could be tempting to save money by completing your own excavations. Most groundworks are completed with machinery, following careful surveys which highlight which services run underground. Hiring a digger without understanding what lies beneath could land you with costly home damage, but getting out a spade and digging by hand could be safer. This job can be time-consuming, particularly if the weather isn’t on your side – and don’t underestimate the physical stamina needed too.
DIY disaster rating: Hard work, but doable – just as long as you avoid pipes and cables. You might want to get a professional in to check the work you’ve done.
The thought of laying bricks may seem easy, but setting out, keeping everything level, and toothing in is far from simple. This trade takes years of experience to master, and like every trade, the finish is reliant on lots of prep. External brickwork is highly visible, so consider whether you really want to give this one a go.
DIY disaster rating: At best, you’ll end up with wonky bricks, while at worst, you could be looking at serious structural issues.
Always leave anything structural to the professionals. Even experienced builders can come across challenges they haven’t seen before, and this is where experience is essential. Not to mention that many structural improvements will need building regulation sign-off.
DIY disaster rating: Don’t even think about it.
The ease of tiling depends on what surface you’re applying tiles to. A newer house is likely to have perfectly level walls, whereas an older property is likely to take quite a bit more prep. The type of tiles, along with the number of edges, corners and obstructions like plug sockets, will all also determine how easy this job is to complete.
The recommendation is to start small and see how you find it. Tiling is another highly visible job, and you need to consider how visually perfect you want the end result to be.
DIY disaster rating: It might not land you in hospital, but wonky tiles could draw a few looks from visitors.
Be realistic about what you can do and can’t do. DIY can be satisfying but know your limits and when to call in the experts. Just make sure the trade you use is suitably qualified – and not a DIYer in disguise.