Flipping Houses

4 Home Improvement Jobs You Should ALWAYS Hire Out

Expertise: Real Estate Investing Basics, Real Estate News & Commentary, Personal Development, Flipping Houses, Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance
102 Articles Written
worker standing on roof installing new tiles

I am a huge fan of doing it yourself. My husband and I have flipped numerous houses—but on a fairly small scale, one home at a time and doing almost all of the work ourselves.

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YouTube is a great resource. There are videos for just about any task on that site. But just because you KNOW how to do something doesn’t mean it makes sense for you to do it yourself.

Here are four jobs we have attempted at least once—and will never again do ourselves.

4 Home Improvement Jobs You Should Always Hire Out

1. Gutters

The material cost at the local big box store was about $400 less than the quote we received for gutters on our house. We decided we could save that $400 and went ahead and bought all the parts (mistake #1). We thought, “How hard could it be?” We chose metal gutters (mistake #2).

The gutters themselves only come in 10-foot-long sections, and as none of our roofline measured only 10 feet, we had to slide the sections together. Because they were metal, they must be riveted together in order to stay, which meant more supplies and more chances to misalign (and mistake #3).

By the time we carried this giant piece to the backyard where we were going to install it, we were bleeding, the gutter looked horrible, and I had silicon caulk all over my hands. (Note: Silicon caulk is not easily removed, as it is waterproof.)

As we held this piece up to the roofline, we realized we would need about 17 more hands in order to install this. We quietly took the giant gutter back to the front yard, packed all unused materials into the car and returned them. We called the gutter company. They came out and installed seamless gutters in about 12 minutes. They didn’t bleed on anything, either.

worker installs the gutter system on the roof

2. Roofing

Roofing materials weigh hundreds of pounds, and getting them to the roof is an enormous ordeal. Removing the original roof is a giant task, as well. Reputable roofing companies assemble teams of experienced roofers to remove the old and install the new, minimizing the chance that water will get into your home while it is uncovered.

Related: Do You Know Which Home Improvements Will Pay Off?

Our neighbor needed his roof replaced after a hail storm. He hired a roofing company that came out, assessed the job, and chose a crew that could finish the whole thing in one day. They arrived fairly early in the morning and started ripping off the roof. As they finished removing one section, the installers got to work, putting down new roof paper and starting on the shingles.

The first section of the roof was installed before the last section was removed. One cloudless day had the entire job done and done right. They cleaned up the heavy, old roof and took away all materials. When they left, the only evidence they had even been there was the new roof.

3. Drywall

Drywall is a dusty, dirty job. The sheets of drywall are heavy—hanging it on the ceiling requires a lot of strength. Getting a smooth finish is an art. Getting a good finish with texture requires skill. It is very easy to do wrong and very time consuming for the novice to do correctly.

Our home was built in the early ’60s. They used some sort of drywall artist to finish the walls. When we replaced the out-of-date supports, we had to open up some walls. Once those walls were closed, we needed to match the drywall finish as closely as possible.

We didn’t have any clue how the finish had been applied. The drywall company we called employs several finishers, and they knew they had to use their most experienced finisher to complete this job. We have a stellar-looking house now because we knew our limitations. In three days, they completed a task that would have taken us at least two weeks to accomplish and likely not have looked even half as good.

I do think it is worth learning how to repair small holes, but trying to match a finish is difficult if this isn’t something you do frequently.

4. Sewer

In the state of Colorado, the homeowner is responsible for the sewer line from the house until it gets to the main line, usually in the street. When we bought our house, we didn't have a sewer scope. We should have, which would have told us the line was almost completely clogged and needed to be rooted out. (We bought it in foreclosure, and the very old trees and shrubs growing DIRECTLY on top of the line should have been a clue.)

Related: 4 Mobile Home Improvements for Landlords That Are Worth Their Weight In Gold

We discovered this on a Friday morning not long after we moved in, when the (only) toilet backed up all over the bathroom floor. We rented a sewer scope/snake and started. We thought we had it cleared, but when we flushed, it all came back up over the top again.

It was getting late, my father-in-law was staying with us, and we had two small children. Not having a toilet wasn’t an option. So, we called the sewer guys.

Roto-Rooter came out and snaked the line. It took several hours, and the aroma from the open line to the sewer was overwhelming. That guy definitely did not get paid enough for that job.

There are plenty of tasks that you can do yourself, but knowing your limitations can save you thousands of dollars and tons of headaches.

What are some jobs you always hire out? Have any stories about projects you wish you hadn’t tried on your own?

Leave a comment below!

Mindy Jensen has been buying and selling homes for more than 20 years. She buys houses, moves in, makes them beautiful, sells them, and starts the process all over again. She is a licensed real est...
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    Tim Niemela Investor from Seattle, Washington
    Replied almost 3 years ago
    How about having the roto rooter guys fail to unclog the plugged sewer line getting stuck about 70 ft in with every sharp head they have! this happened to me on my duplex and ended up digging up 120ft of concrete sewer line and replacing with PVC. luckily I knew someone with a large excavator and had an operator so I was able to save lots on the project but I spent countless work hours myself helping on this project to get it done quick since I had renters!
    Robert
    Replied almost 3 years ago
    Many people watch TV and see some of these jobs completed and they believe all it takes is one Saturday morning. If you have the slightest doubt don’t try it. I have worked in residential construction for over 20 years. Jobs usually take at least twice as long and cost twice as much as you think.
    Merritt S. Contractor from Milwaukee, WI
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Some good insights. I laughed at the blood on the gutter comment. Gutters are not that tough, but you do need to know the tricks and its true that a contractor will have it done in a fraction of the time it will take a novice. LOL – you learned the hard way that seamless is the only way to go. Roofing is great to hire out for all the reasons you stated. You missed the fact that roofing is the single most accident prone home project – pretty much each and every roofer has a falling-off-the-roof story to tell. However, if you need to lose a few pounds, it’s not rocket science and could save you thousands if you have the time and tarps. I think drywall is easy enough, the mud is an entirely different animal. Id say it depends on how much of it you need to have done. It is messy. Definitely another task a contractor will finish in much less time than a novice. Sewer. I think there are two sides of this story. In simple cases, it is certainly easier to just call someone and pay $50-$150 bucks more than a rental to have them do it. However, they may just get the water to run and leave, then it clogs again a month later. You have to make sure the entire pipe is clear of all the roots, then kill the roots or even better cut the trees down, or else it will be a reoccurring problem. Also, if you have to call a plumber on a holiday, which as Murphys Law would have it is when pipes like to back up, you may pay double or triple or may not even be able to get anyone right away. Knowing how to snake a drain could come in handy if you have guests coming over.
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied over 1 year ago
    In my experience, DIY tends to be a bad idea, at least from the various disasters I’ve seen, which I documented here: https://www.biggerpockets.com/renewsblog/2015/06/03/top-10-funniest-real-estate-investor/
    George Lozada
    Replied over 1 year ago
    I agree with all mentioned above. I rather pay a bit of money and have the work warranted for a period of time then attempt to do it myself and have to pay a contractor to fix my mistakes.
    Evan Lowry Investor from Nashua, New Hampshire
    Replied over 1 year ago
    These are good tips. I think knowing what to take on and what to hire out is a big gain that comes with experience. I’m definitely still figuring it out because I always think I can DIY, but sometimes I’m wrong…
    Daniel L Brown
    Replied over 1 year ago
    Dig the holes to fix a foundation. All four of the items in the article had me laughing so much, because I have experienced the tasks before. About the sixth bundle of asphalt hauling on a ladder to the roof really make you question your sanity.
    William Clark
    Replied over 1 year ago
    Wow. Great article and really awesome feedback. I’m looking for my first property and these notes will definitely come in handy. I’m a huge DIYer so we’ll see what happens.
    Billy P Whyde
    Replied over 1 year ago
    Not mentioned is the real advantage of contracting out the repairs you listed. 1. The possible death or injury to another human is reduced. 2. Work associated risk. Do it yourself, offer a few bucks for helpers and someone gets injured, hello to a possible nasty lawsuit you may end up paying for for the rest of your life not to mention your state government and workers compensation. Criminal prosecution as well. 3 A legal contractor will usually offer quality workmanship while complying with labor laws. 4. A legal cost of the repair that can be used in a tax audit. A $14K roof job write off with no documentation might just set the off a deeper audit in taxes.
    ???????? ?????????????
    Replied about 1 year ago
    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people in this particular topic, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks
    John Murray from Portland, Oregon
    Replied 9 months ago
    A good thing the pioneers of the westward expansion of the US did not prescribe to the hire out construction and repair doctrine. Those brave people would have had a tough time finding a contractor to put up that thatch roof. Americans have become very lazy and fearful of many things, one is hard work the other is being sued. Ain't that America you and me.
    Chad Matthews Rental Property Investor from Philomath, OR
    Replied 9 months ago
    The original post is so old that likely nobody will read this but - add #5 to this list - INSULATION. You will pay more to purchase the product than you will to pay a specialty insulation contractor to do the entire job. Ask me how I know ... Me and my 9 months pregnant wife were completing a massive renovation in our early real estate adventures (I always thought that Do It Yourself was the cheapest way to go). I ended up spending more money and many hours wrestling with fiberglass batting - and then somebody showed up after the fact and said, "Hey, you know that the local insulation guys can do it cheaper" ... LESSON LEARNED
    Brad Shepherd Syndicator from Austin, TX
    Replied 9 months ago
    One house I bought was covered nearly floor to ceiling with saltillo tile. I spent the weekend chipping it out with a jack hammer. I don't think I've ever worked harder. Glad I did it once? Sure. Would I ever do it again? Not in a million years. I'm a fan of hiring others to do the skilled work, as well as even the simple, but crazy hard stuff too.
    Rick Wade
    Replied 9 months ago
    This is great advice. I am a contractor and have done many rehabs, I always job out these 4 things when they are needed. Especially Dry Wall, which I job out to a crew as they do this daily and are much more efficient than I am. I also do not have to be surrounded by Dry Wall dust all day...which is a huge bonus.