10 home renovation projects you shouldn't do yourself

DIY can save you money but can also turn disastrous. Here are top tips and things to consider before going it alone.

Avoid DIY dramas

It may seem like a genius way to save a bit of cash, but choosing the DIY option on certain home renovation projects can also be very costly (and potentially dangerous or illegal) if you don't have the right skills or expertise.

Here are 10 things CHOICE recommends you call in the professionals for, and some top tips for avoiding DIY dramas.

If you decide you do need to find a tradie to give you a hand, see our guide to using find-a-tradie websites.

1. Installing an underbench dishwasher

Underbench or built-in dishwashers, designed to be mounted under your kitchen counter, can be quite complicated to install. And as they use both electricity and water, there are specific guidelines around how they should be fitted (in fact, it's illegal to undertake most types of electrical or plumbing work on your own home if you're not licensed).

"You also need to ensure these types of dishwashers are anchored properly, so they don't tip forward when you load and unload," says Matthew Steen, CHOICE's director of reviews and testing.

2. Installing a rangehood

Once you've bought your new rangehood, it can be fairly simple to install if you have basic DIY skills (provided there's a power point close by – if not, you'll need a licensed electrician to install one) but keep in mind it's also a job for two people as you need someone to help you hold it and lift into place.

And be wary of potential dangers: "If you're installing a rangehood, you may need to punch a hole through the wall to vent it. You shouldn't do this yourself if you live in an old fibro house that could potentially have asbestos," says CHOICE household and whitegoods expert, Ashley Iredale.

3. Bolting an appliance such as a TV to a wall

"There are a large number of appliances that you could install yourself, but it's always better to get someone else to help if you're outside your comfort zone," says Matthew. 

It's safer to have a securely wall-mounted television than a freestanding one, particularly if you have small children as they won't be able to pull it over on top of themselves. 

But think before you decide to mount anything to your wall yourself, such as televisions, satellite speakers, clothes dryers or bathroom radiant heaters. If you don't do it properly (including measuring precisely and getting a couple of people to help you), you risk damaging the appliance or your wall. 

If you insist on mounting your appliance yourself, ensure you use a stud finder to ensure you're bolting it to a solid stud, and use anchors which are appropriate to the wall type and the weight of the load you're mounting. Check before drilling, too, in case there are live wires or plumbing about.

4. Installing or servicing an air-conditioning unit

Unless you have a portable air-conditioning unit, you'll need a professional approved by the ARC (Australian Refrigeration Council) to install your air-conditioning system. These professionals are licensed to handle the required refrigerants, which can be very harmful for both you and the environment. 

Air conditioner installers will also be able to advise you on the right capacity air conditioner for your needs (which can vary depending on room size, number of windows, sunny vs shady aspect etc.), and tell you what the best location for your indoor unit is – for example, for optimum efficiency, air conditioners shouldn't be installed directly over a window.

But cleaning your air conditioner is something you can do yourself, and should do regularly.

5. Installing a gas cooktop

You'll need a licensed gas fitter for installing appliances that require gas such, as a gas cooktop or an infinite supply gas-on-demand water heater. 

Internal gas heaters are fine to install yourself as they plug into a pre-installed wall socket (but you'll need to ensure you choose correctly between a flued or unflued gas heater, depending on the ventilation in your home).

6. Sanding floors

It's perfectly fine to sand your floors yourself if you're happy to hire the professional equipment required, but keep in mind that sometimes it's not as easy as it looks!

"If you've ever seen someone try and use a floor sander for the first time then you know it can go horribly wrong very quickly," says Ashley. "If you don't hold on tight, it can take off across the room and punch a hole in your wall. There's no reason not to give it a go if you know what you're doing, but you'd better know what you're doing!"

If you're in need of a flooring facelift, check out our guide to buying the best timber and tile flooring.

7. Fixing a roll-up garage door

The tension on the springs on older-style garage doors is so great that you could do yourself serious injury if you try to repair them yourself. We recommend calling in the pros.

8. Fixing a broken phone line socket

You shouldn't touch your phone lines.

Telstra is responsible for maintaining a functioning connection to the network boundary point (depending on the age of your property and how it's cabled, this could be a grey box on the side of the house, or all the way to the first socket), so you should contact them if you have any issues.

Likewise with the NBN – leave it up to the professionals to connect you (though plugging in the NBN modem is your job).

9. Removing or repairing chipped lead-based paint

Lead-based paint is still present in many homes in Australia that were built before the 1970s. As there are significant health risks associated with working with lead-based paint (and several safety precautions you need to take), you may like to call in a professional painter who is trained in lead-paint management.

10. Installing dashcams, reversing cameras or a car stereo

If you want to install a dashcam, reversing camera or car stereo, then you may get better, neater results if you hire a professional (particularly if you want to wire your dashcam into the car's electricals so you can film when the engine's off, as you run the risk of your battery going flat on you). You may also void your car's warranty if you modify parts of it yourself.