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Should you do the remodel yourself or call a professional?

Ask the Expert
Here are remodeling projects you can probably DIY, and those that are better left to experts. Rogelio V. Solis/associated press

A do-it-yourself remodel can be a budget-friendly way to freshen up your home. For some projects, it may take just a few YouTube videos to show you how to modernize your space.

But not every project is right for amateurs. Your skill level, budget, and how important the project is to your home’s value can all be deciding factors in whether to call a professional.

Here are remodeling projects you can probably DIY, and those that are better left to experts:

DIY:

THE FLOORS AND WALLS

Aminah Chung and her husband, Bernard, who share their DIY projects on social media, updated their Phoenix-area home’s primary bedroom and pantry and built a playhouse.

Starting in small spaces or trying simple changes, like paint or paneling on a wall, can help you build confidence for bigger rooms, Aminah Chung said.

With a little extra research, installing new floors can be a spare-time project, said San Diego-based DIYer Liz Lovery. She and her husband, a former structural engineer, installed laminate flooring in their home.

“Things like that might feel overwhelming, but they aren’t,’’ she said. “They’re very attainable, and it can actually save you a lot of money in the long run.’’

Tools can be a significant portion of your DIY budget, said Chris Egner, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Add those costs to your budget, and ask whether the tools are worth the investment, Egner said.

IT DEPENDS:

KITCHENS AND BATHS

Homeowners should consider their skills before committing to a full DIY kitchen or bathroom remodel, Lovery said, because those spaces are often essential to your home’s value.

Some things, like painting the cabinets, may be within reach. But if you need new cabinets installed and you don’t feel confident about accurately measuring for them, Lovery said it may be worth using a professional to get a quality finished product.

Using a contractor for a kitchen or bath remodel might cost tens of thousands of dollars, but Egner said their knowledge of building codes and design best practices may end up saving you money because they’ll do the job correctly.

A designer can show you multiple options for a new layout and predict possible issues down the line, said Kevin Brown, design manager with Sunnyfields, a Baltimore-based kitchen and bath remodeling company.

The project also may finish faster, Brown said, since a professional can coordinate electricians and plumbers, avoiding “a real nightmare’’ of potential delays if you do it yourself.

The Chungs have two kids and full-time jobs, so a DIY kitchen remodel would take a lot longer, Aminah Chung said. “I believe in doing the projects that you can do so that you can save the money for the projects you don’t necessarily want to do.’’

OUTSOURCE:

PLUMBING, HVAC, & ELECTRICAL WORK

It’s best to let experts handle systems that make your house function, like the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems, Egner said. This work often involves permits and background knowledge, and the cost of a misstep can be high.

“A simple mistake in an installation of a toilet or a faucet could lead to thousands and thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage,’’ he said.

Lovery is willing to knock down walls in her home, but she makes room in her budget to outsource some work, saving potential headaches down the road.

“When it comes to those very niche trades, it’s really, really nice to throw in the towel and hire out those jobs,’’ she said.

Managing reno costs

If you’re still undecided, have a contractor write up an estimate and compare it with your DIY budget, Egner said. You can search for professionals on the NARI website (nari.org).

He also recommends adding 10 percent to 20 percent to your budget for unexpected expenses, which are inevitable with DIY and professional projects.

Cash is the interest-free way to pay for home improvement projects, but if you don’t have enough available, shop around to find the best financing.

Home equity loans and lines of credit offer low interest rates and long repayment terms, which keep monthly payments low, but it could take a few weeks to a month to get approved.

Personal loans have higher rates and shorter repayment terms, meaning your monthly payments will be higher, but the debt will often be cleared sooner. With these loans, you can typically get funds in a week or less.

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