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Which home repairs to DIY and when to hire a contractor

Ready to take the plunge on a DIY home project? Looking to save a few dollars in the process? It pays to weigh all of your options before you start the projects.

Saving cash by doing home repairs on your own may seem tempting, but it's not always the right call. In some instances, doing the work yourself can help keep your budget down — but in the long run it may also cost you more than working with a reliable contractor. And pros with a track record for quality work can be especially helpful with more complex renovation projects.

What are good examples of good DIY (do-it-yourself) projects?

DIY projects typically have the most flexibility in renovations. They are mostly cosmetic in nature or simple fixes with minimal supplies and don’t require a permit.

  • Update kitchen cabinet door fronts: According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a kitchen remodel is $23,723 or $150 per square foot with most homeowners spending between $12,567 and $34,972. If embarking on the project on your own, be sure to research the best way to update specific materials and finishes.
    • Redo kitchen cabinet doors by repainting or re-staining.
    • Add new knobs to give the most trafficked area in the home a fresh feel.
    • Add organizers and shelving units to the pantries, cabinets and under the sink to organize supplies.
  • Fix a leaking toilet: Leaking toilets can waste large amounts of water. To troubleshoot the issue:
    • Inspect the float and inlet valve: As you flush, lift the float arm until the water stops.
    • Tighten the screw at the top of the ballcock so that the level of the float does not rise above the inlet valve.
    • If the water does not stop during step one, you may need to replace the ballcock assembly.
  • Add storage to a mudroom: There's no need to work with a custom cabinet manufacturer for a sleek look.
    • Install low-cost, pre-made built-ins of different shapes to create a custom look.
    • Add in anything from ready-made open shelving, stacks of drawers, and coat hooks to organize shoes, jackets and bags.
  • Replace tile grout: Grimy tile grout can detract from a home's appearance. To replace it:
    • Remove existing grout with a grout rake or electric tool.
    • Scrub the area with a stiff-bristle nylon brush to remove loose debris.
    • Use a grout float to smear new grout across the surface and into the joints.
    • After 20 minutes, clean the area with a grout sponge. Once the grout has cured, apply sealer.
  • Add curb appeal: Eager to spruce up the front of your home? It's easier than you think. Even a few simple touches will give visitors a great first impression.
    • Re-paint your front door or garage door
    • Add easy-to-maintain landscaping, or placing potted planters near the front stairs.
    • For bigger projects that involve new landscaping or regarding, you may want the insights of a landscape pro.
  • Patch drywall: To quickly fix a hole in the wall:
    • Remove loose drywall behind and around the hole. Sand the edges of the hole.
    • Adhere a wall-hole patch over the hole.
    • Apply drywall-patching compound to the patch and surrounding wall.
    • Sand the area once it's dry.
    • Spray the area with wall texture spray (if needed) and add a fresh coat of matching paint.
  • Apply new paint: A DIY paint job can be a great way to save money. Whether you're looking to repaint bedrooms or simply cover scuff marks in the hallway,
    • Prepare the surfaces before starting the painting process.
    • In-store paint professionals can help you choose ideal finishes for each type of room.
  • Replace tiles: Replacing tile in a small space can be fun project with an instant wow factor. When replacing tile, be sure to purchase items such as tile cutters, adhesive, and a utility knife to get a pro look.

What are examples of projects to hire a contractor for?

Before you start any project or home renovation, create a to do list. With that list, take a comprehensive look at the entire project, start to finish, taking into account factors such as material cost, resources, time and labor costs, and timeframes. Also consider if it’s worth the investment to have someone think strategically about the whole project. But before you hire out, make sure you can spot a home repair scam to make sure your project finishes as expected.

  • Bathroom remodel: Bathrooms are especially tricky to renovate because of the small size and the numerous pricey components involved, contractors say. Even in a small space, installing new plumbing and ripping apart aging fixtures can take days. For a quick revamp, consider replacing lighting or adding extra storage to create a neatly organized, well-lit space. 
  • Specialized projects: If there is any major structural, gas, plumbing, or electric work needed for your home repair or renovation, you should consider a professional because typically, that type of work requires permits and possibly an inspector. For example:
    • Electrical repairs. If your outlets, switches or electric system are showing signs of needing to be rewired, an electrician can assist with the project.
    • Lead paint removal. For homes built before 1978, a professional can assist with identifying the areas of your home that need lead paint removed and repainted.
    • Plumbing repairs.
    • Major structural repairs.
    • Roofing repairs or replacement. A professional roofer can help you select roofing materials that are engineered to stand up to harsh weather conditions.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.


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