Renovating your kitchen is an exciting project, but the various tasks involved can also make it a daunting one—especially for home improvement novices. While some projects can save money on the overall costs of a kitchen remodel, you need to know when it’s safer to leave tasks to the professionals. Here are some tips to help you separate the DIY from the hire-a-guy projects:
1. Installing a sink
Installing a sink sounds simple, but there are actually a lot of factors involved, including sink type, plumbing, and hardware. The type you choose determines how it should be installed, as well as the extent to which hardware and plumbing may be involved. In any sink installation, it is best to leave plumbing work to a pro. This ensures proper placement while also preventing leaks and bigger issues down the road. Common sink types and installation considerations include:
- Top-Mount: Top-mount sinks also require hardware, fittings, and adhesive for installation. They’re installed over the countertop, which means they can replace existing sinks of similar size. In cases in which a former sink was smaller, a bigger hole may be cut into the counter to make the new one fit. Countertop professionals know how to accurately measure the space required for the sink and any plumbing.
- Undermount: Undermount sinks are the most complicated to install because securely fitting them underneath countertops requires specialized tools, hardware, finesse, and experience. Plumbing contractors are a necessity for this kind of project.
- Pedestal: Pedestal or farm sinks are easier to install than others because they are standalone items around which counters and other kitchen hardware may be installed. However, pedestal sinks—particularly those made of porcelain—are also quite heavy and fragile; therefore, homeowners should not attempt installing them on their own. Porcelain sinks further require plumbing and the installation of hardware such as connectors, fitting and mounts.
2. Replacing cabinets
Cabinet replacement is another major kitchen renovation project. While there are some DIY-appropriate cabinet projects—refinishing wood cabinet doors or refacing cabinet doors with paint or stain, for example— some cabinets rot or wear to the point of needing replacement after several years. When this happens, homeowners should have a professional remove the cabinets—particularly given the following risks:
- Cabinet doors falling on the feet or hands
- Wood chips or shards
- Sharp nails jutting out
- Cabinet shelving falling out
- Damaging drywall
You could run into numerous complications when trying to install new cabinets on your own. If you choose cabinets that are too big for your kitchen, for example, you could get halfway through your project only to find that just half the cabinets fit onto the wall. Cabinet installers know how to accurately measure your wall space and choose cabinets that will fit with the size and style of your kitchen.
3. Hardwood flooring
Many websites will purport that homeowners can install hardwood floors as a DIY project, but there is a lot of room for error. Homeowners should not attempt to lay wood flooring unless they’re absolutely sure they know the process and have the right materials to do the job. Otherwise, flooring installers should be called in to do the job. Here are some of the most commonly faced problems in DIY flooring projects:
- Moisture: Too much moisture or lack of moisture accounts for most wood flooring installation issues, particularly bumps and swells. Installers know to allow for the expansion of the floor and will lay it loosely enough to allow for swelling and shrinkage.
- Subfloor: In order to successfully lay hardwood flooring, you must start with subfloors that are flat, clean, and dry. Installing wood flooring over the wrong type of subflooring may cause swelling, shrinkage and other issues. Solid wood flooring should never be installed on concrete slabs. Particle board is not a suitable subfloor for any wood flooring.
- Layout: Many DIY installers approach installation with the perspective that a room is square, which causes problems as they near the end of their projects. Professional floor installers know to plan the layout of a wood floor installation ahead of time, and they carefully measure the room to avoid errors and install a professional-looking floor.
- Nails: If there aren’t enough nails or fasteners put into the wood, the chances that the floor will pull up with wear and foot traffic over time are increased. Homeowners are less likely than a pro to know how many nails are enough.
4. Overhead lighting
Homeowners who attempt to install lights in their kitchen could run into issues with electrical wiring. Electrical wires hold a significant charge—one that could put you in the hospital if you aren’t careful. While you could cut the power to the kitchen to perform the installation, it’s better to call a professional to disconnect any old lights, particularly if you want to upgrade for energy efficiency or brightness. Additional lighting means additional electrical wiring and safety considerations.
Here are some lighting types you might consider having installed by a professional:
- Chandeliers: General lighting to add brightness overhead in your kitchen; recommended with transparent glass or fabric shades for easy cleaning.
- Under cabinet lights: Slim track lighting for your cabinets to illuminate them in a new way.
- Recessed task lights: Round or square lights to place over your oven or sink for preparing and cooking meals.
- Pendant lights: Short, hanging lights to put over your island or bar while you’re preparing food or enjoying snacks with friends.
5. Countertop replacement
Over time, countertops wear down and get scratched or burned by pots and pans. While you can refinish or reface some types, others simply need to be replaced. You can invest in installing various countertop materials:
- Ceramic tile
- Stone slab (granite, marble, quartz, etc.)
- Recycled glass
- Stainless steel
Countertops are very heavy—and old countertops must be removed in order to install new ones. That said, it’s imperative that homeowners hire a countertop professional to install countertops. Otherwise, there’s a high risk of personal injury, as well as underestimating or overestimating the amount of countertop material required.
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