DIY projects are a great way to save money and learn new skills—and there’s no substitute for the satisfaction of having built or repaired something yourself. Having said that, some home improvement jobs really do call for a professional—either because they’re dangerous, time-consuming, or simply more costly. Here are a few home-improvement projects that you shouldn’t try to tackle without professional training.
1. Electrical work
This is at the top of the list because your home’s electrical lines are easily the most dangerous and complex system in your home. The risk isn’t just of a deadly shock during the repair—shoddy wiring can damage expensive appliances, and improperly grounded or exposed wires can wait until you’ve already patched up the wall to ignite, potentially releasing toxic gases or even burning down your home.
There’s also the legal hazard of DIY electrical work—if you’re a renter, own a condo, or have homeowners’ insurance, you’re required to find a professional with a permit to alter or repair your home’s electrical system. Long story short: if you’re not a licensed electrician, don’t mess with it.
2. Tree removal
Cutting down trees is dangerous work, and you can face legal liability if you send a tree trunk crashing into your neighbor’s living room—but most of all, it’s just too expensive. Tree removal requires specialized, bulky equipment that requires training to use effectively, and you’ll have to rent most of it since it’s not worth buying for a one-off project.
Without a crew, it can take weeks to get a large tree down safely. Even if you don’t count the value of your time or the risk, you’ll barely break even on costs after all the equipment rental—and then you’ll have the stump to contend with. A professional team can remove a tree, stump and all, over a weekend. Doing it yourself just isn’t worth the headache.
3. Installing windows
This project isn’t as dangerous as wiring or tree removal, but an amateur window job is a great way to tank the value of your home. This is another project that requires specific tools that aren’t likely to come in handy for anything else, and they’ll be a lot harder to find for-rent than a wood chipper or a pole saw. Add to that the cost and hazards of demolition and building a new frame, and it just doesn’t make sense. Instead, shop around for a contractor who will warranty their work at a decent price, and don’t lose any sleep over it.
4. Extensive plumbing work
Big plumbing jobs like installing a new toilet or ripping out a sink require a level of know-how that you’re not going to get from a YouTube tutorial, and just like a wiring project, doing it yourself can void your insurance or even subject you to civil liability from your neighbors. Of course, external jobs like replacing bathroom faucets or shower heads are fine. A good rule of thumb for plumbing work is this: if you’re going to need to dig into your walls, call a professional.
5. Major structural remodeling
Any home improvement project that calls for major structural changes to your home (additions, knocking down walls, etc.) will require a professional understanding of home construction and architecture to avoid the risk of sagging ceilings or even collapse in the long run. Careless demolition can also damage your plumbing, gas, and electrical lines in ways that are tough to anticipate. Keep in mind, it’s a lot more expensive to correct a bad remodel than it would be to have a professional do it right the first time.
Author Bio: Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.