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Projects You Can Tackle! …and Projects You Should Not

There are projects that a homeowner can easily take on and those that should be left to the professionals. Just because it looks easy on one of the many home improvement shows doesn’t mean it is. A professional has the experience and the tools needed for a successful project. In addition, safety is a paramount concern.

With some exceptions, these four areas require expertise and should be left to the professionals: plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and furniture refurbishing. Here’s why.


Plumbing tasks can range from simple maintenance to more complicated projects like fixture replacement or a leak behind the wall or under the foundation.

A Plumbing DIY You COULD Tackle

Maintenance can be cleaning or removing the mineral build up from fixtures. A mild 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water on a cloth or soft sponge and some elbow grease is all you need to make fixtures sparkle. Don’t forget to clean the screen at the end of the faucet, too. Using a plier or channel lock, unscrew it from the faucet. Set the screen in a mixture of 50% water and 50% distilled household vinegar. Let it sit for a while until you see a visible lessening of the mineral buildup. Use the cloth or sponge to lightly clean the screen and when done, simply reinstall.

Plunging a backed-up toilet or sink yourself can save a few dollars. You will need a plunger that seals to the surface of the backed-up fixture and some “oomph” to work the handle up and down. Don’t use the same plunger for the sink and toilet. Invest a few bucks and buy a separate one.

Cleaning drains of gooey soap buildup and tangles of hair is another simple task. Tub and shower drains typically pop right off. Clean the pipe with a snake, your hand, or other handheld instrument you might choose. Don’t get too vigorous, as the pipe is likely just PVC and could get damaged. You will want to wear gloves for this task. . . and don’t eat too soon before tackling it. It’s gross.

Not a Plumbing DIY You’d Want To Try

Some tasks may require a professional. Almost all fixtures need some form of gasketing and skill to remove the existing fixture without breaking anything and reattaching the new one.


Regarding your heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, unless you are skilled at servicing the various components, don’t mess with them. If you have a split system where part of the unit is on the roof, we do not recommend y’all climbing up there. That’s an accident waiting to happen.


There are HVAC tasks that you can and should do, such as changing filters. We are partial to pleated cloth filters and HEPA filters. These increase the particle filtration of the air. Be careful. Some filters may make the fan in the unit work too hard. Verify airflow requirements before buying a new filter. Also, when you change the filter, clean out the unit’s filter box of dust and debris that may have gathered. Never store anything in the filter cabinet.

Clean the ground-mounted compressor unit. Keep leaves and any other material like dirt from gathering around the unit. The delicate metal fins can be cleaned with a leaf blower or a compressor. Just don’t get the air pressure too high. A 40 to 50 psi will do the trick.

Replace the old thermostat with a newer programmable one. Research the different types based on your needs and app skillset. This job can be simple, though some of us might need a millennial to assist with the programming.

Not an HVAC DIY You’d Want To Try

Relocating or adding ductwork should be evaluated by a professional. The concern is the capacity of your HVAC fan being able to handle the increased load. This will require a technical calculation by a professional.


Be extremely careful with electrical tasks.

An Electrical DIY You COULD Tackle

Simple tasks such as removing and replacing outlet and switch cover plates don’t require professional training (just make sure the screw slots are vertical). Beyond that, some technical knowledge is necessary to prevent injury and electrocution.

If you want to replace a light fixture or outlet, be certain you know how to turn off the electrical power to the specific area you are working in. Know which circuit breaker to switch off. Don’t presume that the power is off. Keep a non-contact voltage tester in your toolbox. Check that all the wires in the outlet or lightbox are off. The wiring in the box may be from other circuits. This means the breaker you turned off might not be sufficient. That is why you must test ALL the wires for power. Getting even a slight shock while working on a ladder can spell disaster. ALWAYS, ALWAYS check and test each wire before you touch anything with your hand or a tool.

Not an Electrical DIY You’d Want To Try

Running a new circuit or adding an outlet or a new light location should be done by a professional. Some of these projects will require a permit from your local building department, especially when adding a room or component.


A Furniture DIY You COULD Tackle

There are quite a few things you can do to keep furniture looking great and functioning as it should. Dusting, vacuuming cushions, removing stains, and polishing per the manufacturer’s instructions are DIY tasks.

To maintain wood furniture, Irwin’s Furniture Restoration, a Rosie on the House Certified Partner, suggests vacuuming the area first. Using a 100 percent cotton or soft microfiber cloth, dab it with a light amount of furniture oil. Don’t use cloths or pads that are abrasive and scratch finishes. Wipe in the direction of the grain. Do not use heavy hand pressure if there is a heavy layer of dust particles as they will scratch the finish. Wipe off lightly with a damp, soft cloth to remove debris. Then go back over with pure oil such as Mohawk, Old English, or Guardsman to clean and dust. Steer clear of aerosol products. They contain added chemicals, which are harmful to the furniture’s finish.

Irwin’s also offers these tips for repairing watermarked and stained wood.

You can also tidy up outdoor furniture such as metal and wicker yourself.

Not an Furniture DIY You’d Want To Try

Leave it to the professionals to restore antique or one-of-kind furniture or projects that require special materials and tools. They will have the skills, knowledge, and access to materials you probably don’t have. You may spend a bit more, but it will be worth it in the long run.

If you have the knowledge and the skills, have at it – with caution. Learn how to do some of these tasks by watching these videos.



It’s important to know your limits on do-it-yourself projects.  We discuss a few from this week’s blog.  Plus homeowner questions on caulking after window installation, chimney damage from high winds, winter lawns and a contractor job left unfinished and frustrated.

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