The Value of Patience: Assessing Home Repair Projects

via Bret Engle @

When it comes to home repairs, patience is a virtue. Without it, you could easily wind up doing substantial damage to your most important investment: your home. You might even become seriously injured overreaching yourself, or worse. A good rule of thumb is to pause and weigh your options before jumping into a home repair if there’s any uncertainty in your mind. Some projects require knowledge and experience that’s usually confined to professionals who have years of training and certification. Without it, you could be asking for trouble.

Out with the Old

One of the first things to tackle before beginning the repairs is getting rid of any old furniture, flooring, and appliances that you don’t want to keep. In order to dispose of the large items properly, hiring a professional service to remove the junk for you would be wise. This service will haul away anything from mattresses to electronics and will ensure that they’re recycled or taken to the dump. Research junk removal services in your area, and make sure they’re prescreened and come highly recommended. These services usually cost between $100 and $800.

Hiring a professional

You may want to redo the kitchen and install new countertops to upgrade its look. It’s a significant investment — the last thing you want is to risk all that money by damaging your nice new countertops or installing it incorrectly. If you have a background in this kind of work and truly know what you’re doing, it might be worth a try. Otherwise, it’s probably better to hire a professional to ensure it gets done correctly so it looks the way you envisioned. 

The same goes for your home’s roof. If you suspect your roof has problems and is showing signs of aging or leaking, you’ll want to call in a pro to make any repairs. Remember that if you plan on selling your home in the near future, it’s ideal to repair your roof, since potential buyers will be looking at it in photos and in person. If you need a full roof replacement, keep in mind that this job can be an expensive project (between $3,533 and $10,666 for an asphalt roof in nearby Philadelphia).

The Right Tools

One easy way to decide whether to try a DIY project or hand it off to a professional is knowing whether you have the proper tools. If you lack the tools needed to put in a rec room, for example, or knock out a non-load-bearing wall, you’d be unwise to tackle this project yourself. There’s also the matter of technical proficiency (i.e. whether you have the knowledge and experience to use those tools safely and properly). If you have a background with a miter saw, for example, cutting molding or trim, then you may be able to save money by doing it yourself. 

Lacking tools or knowledge, your only other option is to invest in the tools you need, which may constitute a substantial investment in itself. Your attitude should be, “If in doubt, farm it out” if your technical knowledge and assets are limited. 


Any homeowner’s first concern should always be safety first. That’s especially the case if your inclination is to go the DIY route with home repair projects, because some are riskier than others. For example, a rewiring job can easily result in a fire or serious injury if something goes wrong. And unless you have safety training and understand exactly how to do the work, there’s a decent chance that something will go wrong. Even the slightest lapse in attention can have very unfortunate consequences, so whether your home project involves electrical work, working at a high elevation, or using very sharp power tools, it’s in your best interest to carefully consider the benefits of hiring a professional rather than risking life and limb.  

Common Repairs

Many small-scale repairs are well within the capabilities of the average homeowner, and most are quite affordable. For example, fixing a broken toilet lever can be done for just a few dollars with a crescent wrench. For a leaky drain, a bucket and replacement P-trap or washer are all that’s needed. A new P-trap (that’s a curved pipe) can be purchased for under $10. Unjamming a garbage disposal, a not infrequent occurrence in many homes, can be done with pliers, an Allen wrench and a wooden dowel.

There’s also more to consider before the wheels of your project start moving. You’ll need to account for a timeline, budget and plan for what to do in the event of major renovations.  Homeowners who commit to a major repair or remodeling project, whether as a DIY or contract job, should leave plenty of space and move any extraneous items like boxes and furniture into temporary storage to keep them safely out of the way.

The next time you’re confronted with a home repair, assess it based on the set of criteria discussed in this article. Unless it’s acceptable from the standpoint of safety, ability and technical prowess, start bidding it out to contractors (getting multiple bids). The alternative may be more costly than hiring a professional to do it for you.