One Home Repair Worth DIYing — And One to Skip, According to a Pro

published Aug 18, 2023
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bright yellow-orange tool bag with tools inside. Sitting on counter in home setting
Credit: Sarah Crowley

It’s relatively easy to get a peek inside real, everyday homes — but what about a peek inside real, everyday home repairs? You know, the most common home repairs people need, and the most common home repair mistakes people make? Perhaps the person who can give the best inside scoop from apartment to apartment (or condo to condo, or bungalow to bungalow — you name it) is a tasker on the app Taskrabbit, aka an app-based freelance handyperson who’s booked for apartment and home visits. Taskers are enlisted for all sorts of things, from hanging artwork to assembling furniture to repairing botched DIYs. 

Lindsay, a Tasker based in Brooklyn, New York, who’s also a licensed contractor, joined the platform three years ago and makes home visits for all sorts of things, from furniture assembly and mounting, to custom woodwork and repairs. After having completed hundreds of tasks on the app — and more through her own handywoman business — Lindsay weighed in on the most common project she does that people could probably tackle on their own, if they were looking to give DIY a try or save a bit of money: minor electrical work.

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One Home Repair You Can DIY (with Caveats)

People are usually shocked — no pun intended — when I say this, but my answer here is actually minor electrical work, like changing a light switch or swapping out light fixtures,” Lindsay says. If you take the proper precautions (turn off the breaker, use a voltage tester before touching wires, and always use proper wire joiners), Lindsay says basic electrical work is within reach for an intermediate DIYer. You’ll need to make sure to do plenty of research beforehand, but there are lots of YouTube tutorials out there to give novices the, ahem, light bulb moments they may need, she adds. 

One caveat, though: “Lots of emphasis on the MINOR electrical work,” Linday says. Those are projects where you’re swapping out one thing — like an outlet, a switch, or a light fixture — for something else with the exact same setup. That means same wires, same wattage, same size, same weight — so changing out a pendant light for another pendant light (not a heavy ceiling fan), or swapping out a non-GFCI outlet for another non-GFCI outlet.

“If everything goes well, and it’s a simple fixture swap where you follow all precautions above, you should have no problem,” Lindsay says.

There are exceptions to this, of course. If you can’t figure out how to cut power to the area that will need to be rewired, definitely do not proceed. If your home is still filled with ancient knob-and-tube wiring, leave that to a pro. And of course, if you run into any snags with installation, step back and get a professional electrician on board. You don’t want to risk electrocuting yourself or creating the possibility of electrical fire in the future.

Lindsay’s best advice for those who feel ready to take on this DIY? Get a reliable contactless voltage tester. A no-frills one will run you about $20. Do not attempt any electrical work without one of these in your pocket,” Lindsay says. “Using one just might save your life.”

One Home Repair You Should Never DIY

Then, of course, there are the projects where you should go straight to the pros from the jump. What’s one home repair renters/homeowners should never try to tackle themselves? Plumbing, Lindsay says. 

“Even I have trouble with plumbing sometimes,” she says. “It requires specialized tools, patience, and usually working in tight spaces with pipes that are rusted together.”

Lindsay says often when newbies attempt plumbing repairs, they can put stress on the system that causes a new problem to arise somewhere near the newly fixed connection, bringing them back to square one. Any little leaks can go unnoticed for a long time before they cause major problems down the road. “Plumbing definitely causes me the most frustration, and I have lots of experience,” she says. “So honestly, save yourself the headache (and backache!) and hire someone when it comes to plumbing.”