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Electrical among tasks you should leave to pros

Published On: Nov 07 2013 11:39:16 AM CST
Updated On: Nov 18 2013 01:49:15 PM CST

By Katie Marks, Networx

Some home improvement tasks are best left to the pros, unless you're very confident, very skilled, and very ready to get them done right. If you fail, you'll find yourself with problems that will add up later, in terms of maintenance problems with your home and nightmares at the time of sale. Let's take a walk through some of the more common tasks homeowners take on themselves when maybe they shouldn't.


Building a deck seems like it would be easy, right? The work of a casual weekend, all for a big payout: a nice outdoor space where you can lounge in the warm season, barbecue, and dine outdoors. Plus, decks and other outdoor spaces radically increase the value of a home, so if you're thinking about making a sale, a deck might seem like a natural thing to add.

But decks are actually pretty tricky. They need to be properly supported and built with pressure-treated wood that will resist weathering and insects. The ledger board attaching the deck to the house needs to be firmly anchored, with flashing to ensure water won't be trapped against the house, and the footings need to be made from poured concrete. Furthermore, decks must have sturdy railings for safety, and stairs or ramps need to be constructed at the right incline.

A contractor will take out a permit to build a deck, if she's working by the book, and she'll take her time to get the project done right. If you're not confident that you can build a safe, sturdy, and legally compliant deck, call a pro.


Painting is another thing that seems simple, and it's often recommended as a good DIY project to freshen up rooms. Both indoor and outdoor paint, though, require real skill to avoid a myriad of problems from cheap, peeling paint to dripping, splotchy indoor jobs. Outdoors, paint requires preparation to strip old layers of material, treat exposed metal nails and screws, and make sure the surface is clean and even. If these steps aren't taken, the paint applied to the exterior will be more prone to peeling and other problems.

Inside, a bad paint job can quickly become a nightmare, and prep work is just as key. It's hard to cover, hard to remove, and expensive to fix. Make sure you know what you're doing before you bust out the rollers, especially if you're working with textured surfaces, complicated jobs involving multiple colors, and other paint jobs that require a little extra finesse.

Electrical systems

Electricity is serious business. If components aren't installed correctly, you're looking at an increased risk of fire, electrical shock, and even death in rooms like the kitchen and bathroom where standing water creates even more hazards. If you aren't skilled when it comes to handling electricity, leave it to an electrician who can manage the task. That goes double for electrical problems; it's one thing to install an outlet with a very clear set of directions and some experience, but another to attempt electrical troubleshooting on your own.

If you make a mistake, you could shock yourself severely, cause an electrical fire, or damage electrical equipment in your home. Those are not good outcomes!


Drains have to be installed well to work right. The general rule of thumb according to plumbers is that a drain should slope down approximately one quarter inch per foot. That means no running uphill (yes, really, home inspectors have seen this!), and no running flat, either. It's also important for drains to be an appropriate width for the application, and for them to let out in the right place. Bad drain placement can cause soil erosion, damage a house, or lead to a health risk, depending on what the drain is carrying. If you live somewhere with cold winters, you also need to think about frost control issues.

Not sure you're comfortable with drain installation? Call a Denver plumber instead of taking on the task yourself.

Tree removal

If you have a big tree, you might be tempted to limb it and take it down yourself after seeing an estimate from a tree removal service. Don't be. Tree removal requires a high level of experience and skill along with special equipment. If a tree is felled improperly, at the least it can damage property including homes and cars (hope you have good insurance!). At worst, it could seriously injure or kill someone.


Ventilation is critical in a home. If you're installing a new exhaust vent, stove hood, or other type of vent, you need to make sure it draws correctly to pull moisture all the way out of a house. If it doesn't, moisture can become trapped in the walls and roof, creating a mold and mildew problem that may bloom invisibly for months or years before you realize what's going on. It's also important to make sure vents are properly insulated and installed the right way to prevent unwanted heat exchange and drafts.




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