By Lee Campbell
Owning your own home is a major achievement on the stepladder of life. Maintaining this investment takes money and sweat equity because household chores won’t get done by themselves. Some tasks are relatively easy if you’re the do-it-yourself type, but when it comes to the more technical tasks, it is best to hire a professional.
Which home services should you pay a pro to do, and what can you add to a DIY list? Check these out.
$pend the Money
Heating and air conditioning are nothing to fool with if you’re not professionally trained and certified. Technicians understand heating systems and know what to look for — and what NOT to touch. In furnaces, pipes transferring toxic gases may become rusted, causing them to leak. Duct systems gather dust and debris. The combustion chamber develops residue, which might cause a system to shut down. When it comes to furnaces, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you may cause more harm than good.
Same thing for central air conditioning systems. The AC’s coils, filters, and fins need regular checkups. Maintaining window air conditioners is a bit easier for DIYers, but for a central air system, certified HVAC techs will:
- Test for refrigerant (and the correct amount of it)
- Measure airflow through the evaporator coil
- Inspect seal ducts for leakage
- Make sure the heating and cooling systems work simultaneously
- Clean and tighten electric terminals and connections
- Lubricate motors and check belts for wear and tear
- Adjust the thermostat.
Don’t know what this stuff means? Hire a professional. Have the AC serviced in winter, so it’s ready for hot spring and summer weather.
Electrical circuitry varies, especially in older homes that may use low and high-voltage systems. Before hiring an electrician, get a cost estimate in writing. The actual job may be more or less, depending on what the electrician finds, but there are ways to save on the cost of labor.
- Be specific as to what problems you’re finding so the tech can go right to the source.
- Make sure the electrical panel box is easily accessible.
- Be ready to pay the bill at the time of service (or make prior arrangements).
- Get the final bill in writing.
Fixing a water faucet screen or toilet innards is a DIY job (for some people). But extensive plumbing issues like broken pipes, heavy clogs, no hot water, sewer smells, and water leaks are not a job for the weekend warrior fix-it crew. If you want to know when to hire a plumber, that time is now.
Downspouts and Gutters
Yeah, you could do this one yourself but climbing ladders and cleaning out gutters isn’t an easy job, especially for houses higher than one level. One solution? Purchase a protective system to keep fallen leaves and debris out of the gutter alleys. With various types of gutter products on the market, consider the costs and decide if they’re worth it. Otherwise, you can hire a handyman for the job. (Or, if you’d rather DIY, make sure your health and disability insurance is current — just in case).
Roof and Chimney Repair
Unless you are a bonded and insured roofing professional, even the slightest tasks can be dangerous. Roof inspections include checking (and repairing) missing mortar, loose rubber, damaged flashing, and shingles. Hire a chimney sweep to clean soot and ash buildup.
Depending on how big the property is, lawn and garden upkeep takes just a few hours to do on weekends. Yes, you can hire out for lawn care to enhance the property’s curb appeal, but save some money and DIY these tasks:
- Weed flower beds. Prune trees and bushes
- Plant trees, native shrubs, and flowers on your property
- Paint or stain woodwork
- Clean indoor carpets
- Replace furnace filters (that’s one furnace task you can do by yourself)
- Clean out the attic and crawlspace. (Check for bugs, mold, and leaks)
- Inspect smoke and carbon dioxide detectors (change batteries twice per year)
- DIY with the design! Your home décor awaits.
Keep track of all the projects you do. Good record-keeping is helpful for future maintenance needs and useful when it’s time to put the house on the sales market. Buy a couple of notebooks and an alphabetical accordion folder to store repair receipts, insurance documents, and other paperwork about your house. Having it all in one place is a convenient way to keep track of everything.
Lee Campbell is a house flipper, landlord, handyman, and freelance writer. He loves to remodel and refurbish older homes and, like most aspiring writers, is working on his novel.