The Home Projects You Should Never Attempt on Your Own, According to a California Real Estate Agent

published Oct 5, 2022
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Breeze blocks on a home in Palm Springs, California

If you’ve ever watched a home improvement show, then you may be convinced that anyone with a hammer and enough gumption can tackle a big, complicated remodel on their own.

Not so, says Cara Ameer, a bi-coastal real estate agent with Coldwell Banker who splits her time between California and Florida.

“There are definitely some things that homeowners should never do themselves,” she says. “Home improvement shows may make these projects look dangerously easy but there is often much more than meets the eye.”

I wanted to find out more about the types of home upgrades that benefit from a little — or, rather, a lot — of help from a professional, so I asked Ameer for her take on the seemingly simple tasks homeowners should never attempt on their own. Here’s what she had to say.

Taking Down Walls

How good would it feel to bash a sledgehammer into some drywall, particularly after a long, stressful week? It might look fun and easy, but in reality, removing walls is actually pretty serious business. It’s best to consult with a contractor, a structural engineer, an architect, or some other building expert on this one.

“You don’t know if a wall is load-bearing, not to mention if you are hitting any plumbing or electrical infrastructure that you can’t see that could cause leaks, sparks, shocks, and the risk of electrocution,” says Ameer.

Doing Electrical Work

Electricians spend years learning their craft (not an exaggeration!), and there’s a very good reason why this profession sets such a high bar: Anything involving electricity is inherently dangerous. 

Beyond the health and safety implications for you and your family right now, if you fuss with your home’s electrical wiring, you may be putting future tenants or homeowners at risk, too. If your work isn’t up to code or lacks the proper permitting, you might also make the home harder to sell in the future. 

“Do not attempt to rewire your home or install an electrical panel yourself,” says Ameer. “You may be an ‘engineer type’ who thinks they can outsmart the best of the contractors, but this one can get you into trouble and can create fire and safety hazards to yourself and others. Always hire an electrician.”

Credit: Fusionstudio | Shutterstock

Installing Flooring

Lots of homeowners are under the impression that they can simply remove or demolish their existing flooring, then lay down new materials — simple as that. And while you might be able to get away with replacing flooring in a small room, if you’re planning a whole-house do-over, it’s best to hire a professional. 

They know how much material to purchase, and they understand the amount of hard work and prep that’s involved before putting down that shiny new hardwood or tile.

“Knowing the best direction to lay the flooring and make appropriate cuts is not for the home improvement enthusiast,” says Ameer. “There is definitely an art to installing floors and the professionals know how to do this most efficiently because they work with it all day long.” 

Embarking on a Kitchen Remodel

Something relatively simple like switching out the drawer pulls or painting the walls? Go for it. But for a full-blown, tear-everything-out-and-start-over kitchen remodel, do yourself a favor and hire a contractor. You spend a lot of time in your kitchen and the last thing you want is to see your less-than-perfect handiwork every time you make dinner.

“Invariably, there is always more than meets the eye on kitchen remodels,” Ameer says. “There are all kinds of nuances that come into play when you’re measuring cabinets and counters — from angles to flush walls to lining it all up. It is worth hiring a professional to essentially ‘measure twice, cut once’ on a project like this.”

Doing a Bathroom Overhaul

The same goes for the bathroom, where an experienced plumber and tile installer should be your go-tos.

“A lot of painstaking work goes into making precise cuts with tile to ensure it all lines up correctly, and plumbing can be a problem area as well, particularly if you need to replace the pipes or you’re moving plumbing lines,” Ameer says. “Definitely not something for an amateur and a couple of DIY friends.”