Tradespeople

5 jobs to try yourself and 5 to leave to an expert

By
Zoopla

You can save thousands of pounds by taking on some home improvement jobs yourself, while others are definitely best left to an expert. Here are 5 key examples of each.

Try it yourself

1. Painting: If it's a straightforward job, and your walls are decent, you can't go too far wrong in doing your own painting. And you could save yourself a few hundred quid in the process too.

Make sure you prepare the walls first by filling in any holes or cracks with suitable filler. Then, when it's dry, sand it down and cover with primer before applying two coats of your chosen paint (pick up colour sample pots from local hardware stores).

2. Putting up shelves: It might seem daunting but, so long as you enlist a reliable helper, putting up shelves is a manageble task.  First off, use a 'multi-purpose digitial (or 'stud') detector to ensure the parts of wall you intend to drill are not concealing cables or pipes. 

Hold the shelf on the wall and mark with a pencil where you want to bottom to go, and the brackets. Then check with a spirit level to make sure it's straight.

Drill into the wall and screw brackets into place, using wall plugs if you need to. Take the shelf down and drill small 'pilot' holes into the bottom, replace and screw together.

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3. Putting up curtains or blinds: It's easy to buy ready-made (or made-to-measure) curtains and blinds. Putting them up yourself is easy too.

Use a tape measure to ensure you leave equal lengths of curtain rail at each end. And make sure there's enough room for each curtain to hang without covering any of the window when they are open.

Remember to measure the curtain drop from where the rail will go, not from the top of the window and always use a spirit level before drilling holes in the wall.

Finally, if you have small children, make sure cords and chains are not hanging down in a loop to eliminate the risk of strangulation. You can learn more on this here.

4. Staining wood: Staining wood is a really easy task to carry out yourself. Prepare by sanding down the surface of the furniture until it's completely smooth. Next, clean the wood with white spirit and apply the wood stain with a rag or sponge. Finally, apply a finish protector.  

5. Changing taps or washers: With call-out fees for a plumber starting around £70 an hour, changing a tap or washer is a simple job to have a crack at yourself. You can find plenty of online step-by-step guides for every kind of taps. 

Don't forget to turn your water off at the mains before you start, though. And have some towels on standby in case you need to mop up any excess water.

Leave to a professional

1. Plastering: Plastering, which blots out cracks, holes and other imperfections on walls, is one of the most difficult and messiest jobs to carry out. The plaster starts to dry out as soon as it's mixed so you'll really need to know what you're doing. And if you do mess it up, you'll be left with unsightly bumps on your walls which can be difficult to undo.

To be on the safe side, leave it to an expert plasterer who will be able to get a smooth, level finish first time around.

2. Electrics: Electrics is another job to leave to a professional. Not only is a badly wired property potentially dangerous, but it may also be illegal.

'Part P' of the building regulations in England and Wales state that any electrical work must be carried out by a 'competent person', namely someone with qualifications relating to electrical installations.

If you do not comply with these rules you could devalue your property and have to spend hundreds of pounds paying a professional to put the work right. Worse still, you could harm or even kill someone with your unskilled work.

3. Plumbing: While changing a tap may be within the scope of the average DIY enthusiast, it is best not to tackle more complex plumbing jobs yourself.

Get it wrong, and you could have a major leak on your hands that could cause significant damage to your home and its contents.

Even jobs that are relatively simple for professional plumbers require a full toolbox and a good sense of a property’s entire plumbing system.

4. Roof work: Roofing is complex and if you don't know what you're doing, it is very easy to cause thousands of pounds worth of damage – not to mention run the risk of injuring yourself.

If the job's not done properly, you could end up with a home that's not watertight or properly insulated. Furthermore, some insurance companies will reject claims for leaking roofs unless you can show the work was carried out by a qualified professional. 

5. Carpet fitting: Laying a carpet is a difficult job for a novice. For starters, you have to ensure the carpet is cut to exactly the right size for the room.

You'll also need specialist tools – and knowledge of how to use them. A carpet needs to be stretched and secured using glue and tack strips, while padding should be laid dead flat to avoid any wrinkles or bumps. 

Paying a reputable carpet fitter will be money well spent.

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