How to decide what to DIY versus what’s best left for professionals

Information verified correct on December 10th, 2016

Which renovation jobs can you do yourself and which ones should be looked after by the experts?

DIY vs RenovationBudget is a key factor in any renovation project. If you can save even a little bit of money at any stage of the process but still end up with the same result, it’s worth finding ways to cut costs.

One way you can save money when renovating is to take on some jobs yourself. By the same token, however, there are certain jobs that should be left to someone with professional knowledge and training, due to the end quality of the work, a quicker completion of the task or simply to ensure everyone’s safety.

Let’s take a look at the renovation tasks you should do yourself, the jobs you could do yourself, and those that should definitely be left to the experts.

Renovation jobs you should do yourself

The biggest advantage of DIY renovations is saving money. If there are jobs you can do yourself, why waste money hiring a contractor to do them? As long as you’ve got enough time to invest in the project, doing the job yourself is a win-win, as you have complete control over the scheduling and completion of the project. We’ve listed some of the jobs you should DIY below:

Painting

Doing the internal painting yourself is an excellent way to save money on a renovation. It’s simple to do, there’s no safety risk and any mistakes you make can be painted over. There’s also no need for any specialised or expensive equipment, so painting is one job you should definitely DIY.

Minor demolition work

If you need to strip and clear out a space before the renovation work can begin, there are usually plenty of simple jobs you can do yourself. Pulling up carpet and removing tiles and wallpaper are all easy, low-risk tasks that an amateur renovator can handle without expert help.

Outdoor work and landscaping

Putting in a new garden bed? Painting the driveway? Adding a front gate? These are all jobs you can probably take on yourself. The best thing about outdoor work is that even if it takes several weekends to complete, it won’t completely disrupt your life like an unfinished indoor renovation would.

Plastering

DIY plastering is relatively easy. There are plenty of useful how-to guides explaining all the ins and outs of completing the job yourself, and there’s little risk of causing any significant damage to your home.

DIY renovaterCosmetic renovations

There’s a huge array of simple cosmetic changes you can make that can really make a difference to the look and feel of your home, and the good news is that you can do many of them yourself. Painting cupboards, changing door and drawer handles and even resurfacing a benchtop can all be done on your own and can all make a noticeable difference.

Manual labour

This is the one job that every DIY renovator should be prepared to take on. If you’re prepared to put your back into it and get your hands dirty whenever it may be required, your project will be finished a whole lot quicker. You may even be able to convince a tradie to use your muscle instead of employing a labourer, but make sure you’re prepared for a bit of hard yakka.

Renovation jobs you could do yourself

The jobs in this category could go either way. While you theoretically could do them yourself, you need to be sure that you actually can do them yourself before starting work. You’ll need to consider whether you have the necessary skills to complete the job to a high standard, as well as if you have enough spare time to devote to the project.

Tiling

You can enjoy significant savings on a bathroom renovation if you do the tiling yourself. If you know what you’re doing, DIY tiling is safe and you can produce excellent results. But tiling is also a critical part of any reno and if you get it wrong, chipped tiles, patterns out of alignment and amateur grouting can all detract from your project. When in doubt, get a professional.

Carpentry

Carpentry and joinery can be taken on by a DIY renovator with the right skills. From cabinets to planter boxes, there’s a long list of simple projects that most renovators can take on themselves. But if your skills with a hammer and saw are extremely limited, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Bricklaying

Bricklaying may sound like a piece of cake but it’s not as easy as you think. Get it wrong and you can end up with an unstable wall, and even small mistakes early on in a project can grow into much bigger problems by the time you’re finished. But if you’ve had some experience bricklaying and you’re confident in your skills, this is one of those jobs you can DIY.

Renovation jobs that should be left to the experts

There are some aspects of a renovation that should always be left to the professionals. This could be because:

  • It’s unsafe. If you make a mistake while performing major electrical work, the consequences could be fatal. You must get a licensed and trained electrician to complete any electrical work.
  • It could cause damage. There are some jobs that, if done badly, could cause serious and expensive damage to your home. This could not only be a substantial setback for your renovation project but could also affect the value of your home.
  • You don’t have the qualifications. If any job requires a special permit or license, that’s usually a good sign that it’s beyond the reach of a DIYer.

Experts

We’ve listed the renovation jobs that should be left to the professionals below:

Electricals

Electrical work is dangerous stuff and the risk of electrocution or fire is very real. Australian electricians need to be certified before carrying out any work, so unless you’ve got the right qualifications, it’s time to find a good electrician. Compare quotes and make sure whoever you choose meets all the necessary licensing requirements in your state or territory.

Plumbing

In most Australian states and territories, it’s compulsory to have a compliance certificate before completing any plumbing work. There’s a big safety risk with taking on any plumbing jobs yourself, not to mention the potential to cause costly damage to your home. That’s why it’s important to compare quotes and find a plumber you trust.

Gas fitting

If you want to be cooking with gas in your new kitchen or using a gas hot water heater for your new shower, you’ll need to get a licensed gasfitter to take care of it for you. The good news is that many plumbers are also licensed gasfitters - this is true of around 7,000 of Victoria’s 16,000 plumbers - so you can often kill two birds with one stone.

Structural work

Any structural work on a renovation project needs to be done by a qualified licensed builder. Don’t even think about taking it on yourself - that’s a recipe for disaster.

Major demolition work

Any heavy-duty demolition work, or any demolition jobs on a property where asbestos could be an issue, should be left to the professionals. Not only is there a very real safety risk if you don’t know what you’re doing, but there’s also the chance of causing serious structural damage to your home.

Floor sanding

While there are some jobs you could do yourself to achieve the same results as a professional, floor sanding is not one of them. You’ll never be able to get the same flawless finish that an expert can achieve, so don’t try to take on this task yourself.

Roofing

While there may be some roofing jobs you can do yourself, such as replacing a few damaged tiles, this type of work is generally best left to the professionals. In addition to the danger involved in working at heights, there’s also the consideration that some jobs, for example, installing insulation or connecting gutters to stormwater drains, can only be done by a professional in some parts of the country. A roof leak can also cause substantial and costly damage to the rest of the property, so this is not an area where you want to get anything wrong.

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How to work out which jobs you can do yourself

There are several factors that need to be taken into account when working out which jobs you should DIY, the most important of which is your skill level. If you’ve had sufficient experience with a specific task, then, by all means, do it.

But if you’re at all hesitant or concerned by the scope of the work required, you’ll be better off in the long run, hiring a professional. Not only will a professional do a better job, but your stress levels throughout the entire process will be greatly reduced.

You will also need to consider whether you have enough time to give the job the attention it deserves, as well as the overall cost of DIY vs the cost of hiring a tradie. Is the money you will save worth any potential difference in the quality of the work?

Finally, remember that just because you could do the job yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you should do it. Consider all the influencing factors before you start hammering that first nail.

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