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DIY or a Job for the Experts?

Some make-over projects present the perfect opportunity to roll up your sleeves and tackle the job yourself, especially if you’re looking to save some money, while other jobs are better left to the experts. Knowing the difference can help save headaches and hassle and get you to the beautiful home you imagine in no time at all.

Painting, Landscaping, Garage Remodeling All Make Great Jobs for Novices

Amid tougher economic times, more and more homeowners are tackling their own home improvement projects, such as interior painting, gardening, landscaping and garage enhancements as a means of saving some cash.

“People are doing what they can themselves,” says Richard Johnston, a spokesperson for the Home Improvement Research Institute in Tampa, FL. The research organization conducts a study every two years of 17 types of home improvement projects to determine who’s actually performing the work. “We have started to see a little less work done by the pros and a little more by do-it-yourselfers,” Johnston says.

The survey’s 2009 findings reveal that an overwhelming majority of homeowners polled report tackling interior painting projects on their own rather than hiring professionals. Of more than 2,500 respondents, 80 percent got out the rollers and brushes and applied paint to the walls themselves, compared to 9 percent who contracted the job to professionals.

The remaining 11 percent split the work somehow – in some cases purchasing supplies and doing the more straightforward parts of the job on their own but leaving more detailed or difficult project aspects in the hands of hired pros. This middle-of-the road approach makes a lot of sense for improvements that call for greater expertise or involve higher degrees of difficulty, such as steaming and stripping wallpaper, replacing or adding tile work, or repairing cracks in walls that could signal larger structural issues.

In landscaping and garage enhancement projects, results were similar. In 2009, 82 percent of survey respondents took on gardening and landscaping improvements themselves, and 89 percent took a DIY approach to garage enhancements.

Update Electrical Switches and Fixtures Simply and Safely

When it comes to electricity, many more homeowners wisely leave the work in the hands of professionals, taking no chances where live wires are concerned. That said, even expert electricians concede that novices can handle many common projects adeptly on their own, such as replacing outlets and installing updated light fixtures.

“Any homeowner should be able to change out outlets, switches, and cover plates on his own,” says Jason Scott, a master electrician. “I couldn’t’ sleep at night if I didn’t at least suggest to my callers,

“As long as you go to the electrical panel and turn off the breakers for the outlet in question, it’s perfectly safe,” Scott says. And a task as simple as swapping out older light switch and outlet covers can make a big impression when you’re trying to sell your home. “Just going from ivory to new white in a house with new paint on the interior walls can really set off a room,” he says.

Replacing light fixtures is another project that many homeowners decide to take on themselves. “There are two ways to kill power to a ceiling fixture,” Scott says. As long is there is no danger of someone coming into the room and hitting the switch while you’re up on a ladder working, you can simply shut off the wall switch, “ he points out. “Placing a strip of tape over the switch in the off position is an easy, added precaution you can take, or you can also turn the breaker for the light fixture off at the electrical panel,” he adds.

As with outlet covers and switch panels, installing new lighting fixtures doesn’t have to be an expensive project requiring a hefty electrician’s bill. By purchasing stylish but affordable new fixtures at your local hardware store and installing them yourself, you can bring new life and panache to a room while staying well within budget.

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