Home Repair Tips: When To Call In Professionals

Home repair tips: here are some ideas on when to call in the professionals for repairs.

Many homeowners are discovering advantages to buying homes that are in various stages of completion, from bare walls and foundation to almost but not quite finished. Instead of hiring professionals to complete the house, some amateur do-it-yourselfers learn how to perform basic home building skills- drywalling, painting, floor finishing, etc. As long as the work meets standard building codes, a homeowner can often see substantial savings over the same work performed by licensed professionals. But not every task is suitable for a competent but fledgling do-it-yourselfer. Due to the specialized skills required to do the job, or the unusual safety hazards inherent in the work, you may have no other choice but to call in the professionals to make sure the job is done safely and properly.

Here are a few situations where you will most likely need to call in the professionals for a home repair job.

1. Electrical wiring bigger than a standard outlet. Some homeowners do feel confident enough to install ceiling fans or replace standard electrical outlets. As long as the power supply is definitely turned off, such repairs are relatively simple and safe. But if you have problems with a 220 volt direct line to your air conditioner or electric oven, you should turn the job over to a licensed electrician. More than likely, the 220 connection is wired directly into a circuit breaker, which means that a homeowner without the proper testing equipment could never be assured that the power is completely cut off. Standard 110 household current can still cause a substantial shock, but 220 or above will definitely create a hole in next year's family album. Leave repairs of the circuit breakers themselves to professionals or the utility company.



Also, if you do choose to purchase a home that is left incomplete, make sure that the electricians have at least performed the 'rough-ins' that you will need for future connections. You may be skilled enough to make many of the later connections, but you will still need a professional's knowledge of building code requirements for electrical outlets and conduits.

2. Brickwork that is not merely decorative should be done by professionals only. At first glance, brickwork may appear to be one of the easiest construction jobs around- repetitive, simple designs and few tools. But as any professional bricklayer will tell you, the job can be overloaded with dangers. If you are working on a fairly straightforward decorative brickwork around a fireplace or as a base for an outdoor barbecue, you may encounter few problems- a crooked layer here or a slight tilt there. But any brickwork that involves a load-bearing wall or unusual angles or height should be left to professional bricklayers and masons. Small deviations from plumb may be okay for a backyard grill, but could cause an entire wall to collapse if unchecked. Professionals have the proper tools and techniques to prevent collapse due to improper alignment. If the job involves load-bearing structures, installation procedures must be followed to the letter, which usually means leaving the project in the hands of experienced workers.

3. Plumbing. Many do-it-yourselfers discover that simple plumbing repairs are completely within their scope of ability. Replacing a leaky toilet, for example, is an involved process but not overly complicated. Pipes for drains and sinks are standard sizes, and will come off with traditional wrenches without much effort. Many drainage problems can be solved with 'over the counter' products such as chemical clog removers and pipe cleaners. But the relative ease of these repairs can lull an inexperienced do-it-yourselfer into a false sense of security. Flooding and excessive water damage can be two of many problems associated with improper plumbing repairs. Much like electricity, you can't always be sure that all the connections are closed before you begin a major repair. Any plumbing job that involves a broken pipe that you can't see or reach should be handled by professionals. They have several methods of finding hidden breaks in pipes, and know how to repair them with little collateral damage. Any connection problems with the main line to the outside water supply should be handled by professionals or utility crews. One mistake could affect many other customers. Also, any drainage problem that is not cured by one or two applications of a commercial drain cleaner should be reported to the pros. You'll need to have some pipes snaked out or have the drains inspected for blockages. Professional plumbers have the right tools to do a thorough cleaning, not the temporary fix that a do-it-yourselfer might achieve on their own.

4. Gas lines are strictly for the pros. If you use natural gas for cooking or heating, you may feel comfortable with relighting the pilot light in a gas water heater or oven, but anything past that should be handled by the professionals. If a gas leak occurs, your only course of action is to evacuate the house and notify the gas company immediately. The longer you remain in the house looking for the leak, the more dangerous it can become. Turn off an obvious source, like an unlit stove eye, only if you can do it on the way out the door with everyone else. Houses contain a few hidden ignition sources, so the safest place to be is out of the line of fire literally. Let the gas company know if you suspect where the leak may be coming from or what steps you may have taken to correct the problem, but let them enter the house alone.

5. Roofing repairs. Do-it-yourselfers often save tremendous amounts of money by doing their own roof work. Once the roof has been properly raised and installed, shingling and other details are relatively easy jobs to perform, although somewhat dangerous due to the height and very uncomfortable because of the heat from above and below. If you are very comfortable with heights and are competent with shingling techniques, this is one project a do-it-yourselfer can probably do on his own. But roofing repairs that involve working at extreme heights or dangerous angles should be left to professionals. Much like a bricklayer, a roofer depends on levels and plumblines for success. If a roof is too far out of true, then it stands a good chance of collapse. Any repairs to the structure of the roof should be left to those who can accurately measure the proper angles needed for loadbearing. Routine repair work such as shingle replacement and even cutting out holes for skylines and vents can still be accomplished by competent do-it-yourselfers, but anything involving the actual frame of the roof should be handled by professional roofers.

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