Home Repair Projects that Should NEVER Be DIY

Shannon Quinn - May 11, 2020
This basement is in the middle of being insulated and finished. Credit: Shutterstock

8. Finishing or Expanding Your Basement

A lot of people dream of having a finished basement. This can be a great way to add additional square footage to your home, especially if it’s not possible to build upwards. Most people use their basements as a cinema room, gaming room for the kids, a downstairs bar, or an extra bedroom space. All of this might seem easy enough, but you should never start a basement finishing project without consulting a professional first. 

Basements have structural importance to your foundation, and the rest of your home. Credit: Shutterstock

Basements need to be waterproofed and insulated, especially if your house is below sea level. If the water table is too high, you may not even be able to do everything you hoped for in the basement. Always consult a professional to come and inspect the property, because they will let you know what’s possible, and how to get it done correctly. If the basement ever floods, you can run the risk of mold growing, or you could lose everything that’s down there. 

A contractor measuring a door to make sure it fits properly. Credit: Shutterstock

7. Installing a New Front Door

Installing a new door might not seem like a big deal, but it can actually be a huge project. We recently had a new front door installed in our house. Our goal was to replace an antique door that was originally on the property, but it had no insulation. My parents decided to turn this into a DIY project, but it became a nightmare. The size of the old door was small compared to the new door that they purchased.  So my dad had to knock out both sides of the wall in order to get the new door to fit. 

A contractor installing a new door lock. Credit: Shutterstock

When the door arrived in the mail, the sealants of the door were broken. We called the manufacturer to have them replaced, but the replacements arrived broken as well. Even now, there is still a draft coming through that door because my dad couldn’t install it properly. All of this hassle could have been avoided if they just paid a couple hundred dollars to a professional door company to install everything. If they purchase a door that was the exact same size as the previous door, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a hassle. But it’s hard to imagine installing a door on my own after seeing what my parents went through. 

So much can go wrong with a broken toilet. Credit: Shutterstock

6. Replacing a Toilet

For some people, the idea of replacing a toilet seems easy enough. They want to do it on their own without hiring a professional. However, there was a lot that can go wrong with toilet replacement. If you don’t install it properly with a ring and make sure that everything is sealed in place, it can leak and lead to mold. This can also cause water damage in the floor, which damages the underflooring. Wobbly seating are the least of your problems if you make a mistake installing a toilet.

You should always hire a plumber to replace a toilet for you. Credit: Shutterstock

Personally, I have replaced toilets and rings on my own with the help of family members. However, these projects never worked out as planned. We ended up having wobbly toilets and other issues that didn’t work out properly. In the future, I would always hire a professional to replace a toilet. Even if it costs a couple hundred dollars to get the project done, it’s worth knowing that you can sit down on the toilet seat without worrying if it’s going to crash through the floor. 

Sometimes, you can use wood glue to a fix a chair. But it can still lead to disaster. Credit: Shutterstock

5. Repairing Broken Furniture Legs

Whenever a furniture leg breaks, one of two things usually happen. Either the person throws away that furniture, or they come up with a weird DIY solution like putting a stack of magazines where the missing leg used to be. If the furniture was under $100 to begin with, it might make for financial sense to simply get rid of it, and buy something new. However, if you have an expensive piece of wooden furniture that costs closer to $1,000, it would be worth the money to have it repaired.

This professional is working on fixing a broken chair leg. Credit: Shutterstock

Carpenters need to use special tools in order to recreate the legs of your furniture to fit perfectly. This isn’t something that you can accurately accomplish with a weekend DIY project. Thankfully, this shouldn’t be too expensive for you to hire a local carpenter to work on the project for you. It’s best to find a small mom-and-pop style business in your town. This can’t be done somewhere like Home Depot or Lowes. Alternately, you can try to find replacement legs on the manufacturer website, or eBay. 

Some people can handle reupholstering chairs on their own, but it’s best left to a pro. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Reupholstering Furniture

Sometimes, we find a great piece of vintage furniture that would look amazing, if only we could reupholster the fabric and stuffing. While it may seem tempting to tackle on your own, it might be too difficult for most people. My aunt has a reupholstery business in her home, and her entire basement is filled with the proper equipment in order to get it done correctly. You need an industrial sewing machine, electric saws to cut foam, button pushers, tools to remove pins, sanders, and so much more. 

This professional is installing new springs into a piece of furniture. Credit: Shutterstock

During quarantine, my mom decided to reupholster her couch on her own. Since she and my dad had both learned a little bit from my aunt, they weren’t total novices. However, my mom still ended up breaking her sewing machine, because it was not industrial grade. I ended up spending around $200 to buy her a new machine. Even though they had some background knowledge, it still took my parents a month or two to reupholster their couch. However, with that being said, if you want to reupholster your dining room chairs, this should be simple enough for you to DIY. I have seen several videos on YouTube with people explaining how to do it, and it should be possible for even beginners to pull off.

There’s nothing better than a beautiful front porch during the holidays. Credit: Shutterstock

3. Building a New Front Porch

Building a porch might look simple enough, but it’s actually a form of engineering that should not be taken lightly. This is especially true if you are building a double-decker porch or something else that is meant to hold a lot of weight. If the porch is not built properly, there is a chance that it could break or collapse underneath people while they’re standing on it. I have also seen plenty of stories where people’s feet accidentally go through the porch wood and they end up breaking an ankle. This is yet another example of another DIY disaster I have unfortunately experienced in real life. 

A brand new front porch with vinyl rails. Credit: Shutterstock

My parents want to install a new front porch on their house. They want to save money, so they have avoided hiring professionals. It’s not the sort of job that can be done with just one person, so they have tried to recruit friends who are handy with tools, and pay them half the price. Even when people said “yes” to helping, they would quickly avoid their calls. My parents removed the old front porch roof, because they trusted that they would have help from friends. Now, they are dealing with a winter without any protection on the front of the house. This has been a nightmare, especially considering that we need to stay at home and receive grocery deliveries and Amazon packages more than ever before. Always pay the professionals who will show up on time and get the job done for you before it’s too late. 

It’s okay to do rough sketches, but don’t mistake this for real architectural sketches. Credit: Shutterstock

2. Architectural Blueprints

On home makeover TV shows, you might see the interior designers make a sketch for their design ideas. They may even make a 3D rendering of what they imagine they want done. This might work for decorating. However, this is no replacement for actual architectural blueprints when you are trying to build a house from scratch. There is a very good reason why people go to college for architecture and civil engineering. You need to make sure any building or addition is structurally sound, if you don’t want your house to fall down.

Professional architects can help you make your dream come to life. Credit: Shutterstock

If you are adamant about building a tiny house, shed, or addition by yourself, at least buy the blueprints online. Many are available in a downloadable PDF format. Instead of hiring an architect, you can pay between $100 to $500 for access to the building plans. Once you have the plans in place, you know exactly what kind of lumber to buy from the store, as well as materials needed. You also have a plan on how to put everything together, set aside by an expert. This can be passed on to other experts in the construction industry, and the job goes by a lot smoother.

With severe ceiling damage, wood often needs to be replaced. Credit: Shutterstock

1. Water Damage

Hopefully you will never have to deal with water damage, because it can be devastating. If you have a leaky roof, there is so much more that needs to be done beyond the patch work. Water damage can cause mold, but it can also eat away at the integrity of the wood. Ceiling tiles often need to be removed completely. Wet wood can also lead to a termite infestation. Unfortunately, a lot of people will paint over water damage, and pretend like there isn’t a bigger issue happening underneath. Black mold can seriously affect your health, so don’t mess around with it. The longer you let water damage go, the worse the situation will be.

Major leaks can cause huge issues in your walls. Credit: Shutterstock

My family’s beach house was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. The basement had to have the water pumped out by the fire department, and all of the floorboards needed to be replaced. Our main house is also near a lake, so we have a high water table. We’ve dealt with water damage throughout our lives, and it’s never something you should ignore or try to do on your own. There are special vacuums to suck up excess moisture, dehumidifiers, and so many other pieces of equipment that go into removing all of that water from a flood. It’s a costly job, and it needs to be done by a professional if you want to go back to living in a warm, dry home.