There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to do a project yourself (DIY) or outsource home maintenance tasks. They include:
- Your skill level
- How much extra time you have
If you’re like most homeowners, you’ll probably choose to do some tasks yourself while hiring a qualified professional for others. With that in mind, here’s our guide to common home maintenance tasks, including when it makes sense to do the task yourself and when it might be best to call in an expert.
Home Maintenance Tasks: DIY or Hire a Pro?
Below is a punch list of routine home maintenance chores.
Home Heating & Cooling
- Changing heating, ventilation and air conditioning filters: It’s important to change your furnace and HVAC filters at least once every three months. If you have allergies or pets or run your system frequently, you might need to do this more often. It’s an easy, quick home maintenance DIY job unless you can’t safely access the filter. For example, call an expert if it’s on the ceiling and you can’t climb a ladder. It’s also best to consult an expert if your cooling or heating system isn’t functioning properly.
- HVAC system inspection: It’s important to hire a pro to inspect and service your heating and cooling system at least once a year. This annual inspection will help to prevent surprises—such as discovering your AC doesn’t work on the first scorching hot day of the summer. It may even be necessary maintenance to keep your warranty in force. A professional HVAC technician will check the airflow, electrical connections, safety controls and other components of your heating and cooling system.
Basic Home Upkeep & Repairs
- Fixing toilets: This can be a simple home maintenance DIY job, depending on the problem. Many toilet issues can be solved by replacing a handle or installing a new fill valve or flapper. These parts sit inside the tank and can be purchased at any hardware store. These simple toilet repairs typically don’t require specialized tools, though you may need a hacksaw in some cases. They will involve shutting off the toilet water supply and emptying the tank before you work. A leak around the base of the toilet is a little more complicated. You may want to hire a pro for that issue unless you’re handy or experienced with plumbing.
- Testing carbon dioxide monitors and smoke detectors: Home carbon monoxide and smoke detectors should be tested regularly to make sure they’re in good working order. This is an easy DIY job if you can reach the device, or you’re okay with climbing a ladder. It’s important to test smoke detectors once a month by pressing the test button and listening for a loud sound. If the tone sounds weak or your smoke detector begins “chirping,” change the batteries. You can test a carbon monoxide monitor in the same way, but it’s also a good idea to test it once a year with a special carbon monoxide tester spray.
Home Exterior & Yard Work
- Roof cleaning and inspection: It’s important to keep your roof free of branches, leaves and ice dams that can damage the structure. If you’re lucky, you have a simple peaked roof that doesn’t accumulate debris. If not, you might be able to DIY leaf or snow removal by using a roof leaf rake or a roof snow rake. But if your roof is too high to reach with one of these tools, hire a pro to clear and inspect your roof as necessary. If you’ve had a storm, you might need to hire a pro to repair shingles.
- Washing home exterior: Cleaning your home exterior at least once a year will keep it looking sharp. The annual cleaning is also a good time to inspect for any areas that may need repair. Most types of siding can be cleaned with warm soapy water and a soft-bristle brush. This can be a home maintenance DIY job. However, as with painting, you might want to hire a pro if your home is tall or has hard-to-reach nooks.
How To Hire Home Maintenance Pros
The whole point of hiring someone to help with home maintenance is to make your life easier, so make sure to do your homework to avoid home repair headaches down the road. Hiring the wrong contractor can cost you money, result in damage to your home and even expose you to fraud.
Always vet a contractor thoroughly to make sure they’re legitimate and do quality work. You can find contractors with a good reputation by:
- Asking neighbors and friends for recommendations
- Checking the Better Business Bureau
- Reading online reviews
If applicable, make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured. It might cost a little more upfront, but it will offer peace of mind. It could even end up saving you money since shoddy repairs can be expensive to fix.
Get familiar with common contractor scams to decrease your chances of becoming a victim. The AARP offers these five tips for foiling home improvement scammers:
- Avoid contractors who approach you first.
- Be wary of lowball bids.
- Don’t pay cash.
- Never put down a big deposit.
- Steer clear of contractors who offer financing.
And if you look to a relative or neighbor to help with your home maintenance, double-check your homeowners insurance coverage. It pays to be prepared just in case your handy friend falls off a ladder or cuts a finger.
Following these tips can help you keep your home looking great and avoid home repair disasters that can be costly and difficult to fix.
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