Do-it-yourself dangers

What to try yourself, when to hire a professional

Published On: Jan 07 2013 08:34:08 AM EST   Updated On: Jan 07 2013 05:40:00 AM EST

One way many homeowners try to save money on hiring for home improvement work is by doing it themselves.

While DIY projects may work better for your budget, the problems that can arise can be disastrous.

 “We hear many stories where consumers just don’t know what they are getting into when they are doing a DIY project. It’s very easy to get in over your head if you don’t know what you are doing," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Try some smaller projects first: Projects that don’t need much experience or many tools.

When should you hire an expert? Any time the safety of your home and family are in question, hire a licensed expert to do the work. Such repair jobs can include the following:

Important questions to ask before tackling a house repair on your own: Before taking on a challenge and getting in over your head, there are important questions to consider.

Angie’s List 7 Tips for Hiring a Contractor when it’s time:

  1. Clearly define your project: Before you begin talking with contractors, read remodeling magazines, search the Internet for information on designs and materials. Even rough ideas on paper give a potential contractor a better sense of what you hope to accomplish and what is required to make it happen.
  2. Ask around:  Ask neighbors, friends and Angie’s List about good, local contractors, but don’t hire based on only one conversation.
  3. Check references: Get names of previous customers and find out if they were pleased with the work and the timeline of the project, and if they’d hire the contractor again. Get the names of subcontractors and ask if they work with the contractor often and does he pay on time. If your prospective contractor balks at providing references, find another one. Check with trade associations to learn how your contractor stacks up among his or her peers.
  4. Get estimates: Get at least three written estimates. Documentation is often the best ammunition you have if things go wrong.
  5. License for hire: Some states or cities have no licensing requirements for contractors, which can make it difficult for homeowners to check up on contractors before they hire. Don’t rely on the contractor’s word to know whether his or her license is valid: verify it through appropriate agencies.
  6. Insurance and bonding: Check the status of the contractor’s bonding and liability insurance coverage, too. A good contractor will come prepared with proof that he or she is covered. Without insurance, if something goes really wrong with the job, or worse, any of the workers get hurt on the job, the homeowner is on the hook.
  7. The contract sign: Don’t assume your contract covers all your needs. Know the details of the contract, as well as how any change orders will be handled. Check that your contract includes a lien waiver, covering payments to all subcontractors who worked on the project. Never sign a blank contract.