Winter isn’t just a time for celebrating the holidays and spending more time in shopping malls than you ever dreamed possible. This time of the year is the perfect opportunity to catch up on those winter home improvement projects taking up space on your to-do list.
As with any home improvement project, especially those you do yourself, there’s always risk; not just in terms of expense and time spent, but the possibility you’ll do serious damage to the property. Said risk is even more pronounced when adding a DIY winter home improvement project to your schedule, when the weather is almost as brutal as those frozen pipes that need to be replaced.
Before you strap on the tool belt and head to Home Depot, here are five winter home improvement projects you should not DIY, and instead leave to the professionals.
Winter Home Improvement Projects Best Left to the Pros
1. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning) System
Repairing/improving the heating and air conditioning elements in your house is risky under the best of circumstances. Freon leaks from an improperly-handled air conditioner can lead to serious respiratory issues. What’s more, there may be no more complicated piece of equipment in a modern home than a heat pump.
There’s also the issue of HVAC warranties. Many manufacturers will void warranties for heating and air conditioning units if someone other than a licensed professional — with the right training and certifications — works on the equipment.
It goes without saying, but inadvertently making a mistake can compromise your ability to produce heat in a property during the winter, which can have severe consequences.
Tip: Wait until spring to improve your HVAC elements, unless already compromised. And always hire a licensed HVAC professional to perform the improvements.
There’s an old saying in the home improvement field: a homeowner should not attempt a DIY home improvement unless they can come up with a list of all the things that can possibly go wrong. And when it comes to plumbing repair and improvements, that list can grow longer (and faster) than a five-year-old’s Christmas list.
Not unlike HVAC improvements, working on the plumbing of your own property gives rise to a myriad of risks, such as an overflowing toilet or a burst pipe. In the winter, when old, non-copper pipes have a tendency to freeze, this risk can be magnified.
This doesn’t mean “simple” jobs such as unclogging a toilet or unblocking a drain require a call to that $500/hr, emergency plumber on speed dial. It just means major plumbing improvements, especially in the winter, should be left to those who can bring more than a plunger and a wrench to the table.
Tip: Aside from the usual clogged toilet or blocked drain, leave the complicated plumbing jobs to the professionals. It also helps to be aware of the busy months for plumbers; plan ahead.
Some electrical home improvements are well within the scope of a DIYer’s comfort zone, such as changing fuses or replacing lighting (that includes ceiling fans) to brighten the appearance of a home. However, for more complex electrical jobs, such as replacing or installing wiring, not having a firm grasp of electrical knowledge, doing major electrical work can be quite dangerous.
In the wintertime, when circuits are overloaded by things like holiday lighting, this risk is even more exacerbated (leaving you the possibility of not having electricity, when you need it most).
Tip: Feel free to change fuses, and swap out lighting fixtures and ceiling fans (as long as you know what you’re doing). If you are otherwise incapable, leave major electrical work to the folks certified to do so.
Unlike working with electrical wiring, there’s nothing obviously dangerous, or inherently difficult, about replacing or adding a window to an existing property.
However, most people underestimate how challenging window replacement can be. Window home improvement work requires specialized tools to guarantee new windows are secure, and provide an adequate amount of insulation. And because it’s quite easy to install windows incorrectly — even a millimeter can make a huge difference — this can possibly lead to leaks during the cold, rainy winters; making them the ideal winter home improvement project for somebody else to do!
Tip: Don’t be tempted into thinking replacing/adding windows to prepare your home for winter is an easy job; they require specialized tools, and knowledge. You’ll save yourself time and money by hiring a qualified professional to handle your window home improvement needs.
Roofing is dangerous under the best of circumstances. Roof repair can be a risky proposition that requires great physical dexterity to pull off.
In addition, roofing isn’t as simple as some online resources may lead you to believe. It requires specialized tools and materials, along with a foundational understanding of the steps required. (DIY roofing mistakes are often not noticed until it’s too late.)
Throw in the cold, slippery, (often brutal) conditions of winter, and roof repair (unless there are extreme cases) is a job that should be at the very bottom of any winter home improvement strategy.
What Winter Home Improvements Can You Make?
There are plenty of winter home improvement projects that don’t risk personal safety, or require a ton of specialized knowledge or tools: Painting, backsplash install, cosmetic lighting changes, and door replacements are a perfect addition to any homeowner’s winter home improvement to-do list.
Whether you’re looking to improve your primary residence or a rental property, it’s important to remember if you’re looking at some winter home improvement ideas, sometimes the best thing you can give yourself is a little help.