4 Repairs Better Left to the Pros

So you watched a few DIY videos, and now you’re itching to test out your newly-learned skills? By all means, give it a whirl! Just make sure your experiments don’t include one of the four areas below. These kinds of projects are strictly for pros. Hands off, weekend warriors!

hammer on board

Plumbing

Small plumbing repairs are fine, but get in over your head and you could quickly be up to your neck in hot water. Basically, that means anything more advanced than a running toilet or a faucet replacement should be handled by a professional licensed plumber.

Pros will know how to deal with permits and have professional training that allows them to find and fix repairs quickly and efficiently. They also understand how to minimize damage, and are able to solder pipes together if the job calls for it. And they can handle jobs that combine plumbing and electrical work, like installing a brand new dishwasher.

Last of all, plumbing companies often offer warranties for their technician’s workmanship. So if anything else goes wrong, you can just call them up and have them visit again. You’re not going to get that kind of a guarantee with a DIY job!

Electrical

You may have tackled small electrical jobs in the past, like replacing an outlet or installing a new ceiling fan. But that doesn’t mean you have the technical prowess to compete with the pros! The benefits of calling a professional electrician are pretty obvious: You won’t be putting yourself at risk of electrical shock or monkeying around with unfamiliar wires.

In most states, electrical work also needs to be handled by pros to ensure that it’s up-to-code. DIY wiring can result in overloaded circuits that makes them a fire hazard.

Electricians have the proper devices to test wires and outlets to ensure that they’re safe to touch. They also know how to completely shut off the power to outlets, circuit breakers and appliances before they start working on them. All in all, you’re almost always better off calling in a licensed electrician, rather than trying to catch up on wiring through a few videos.

Roofing

Your roof is often the only thing standing between you and the elements—do you really want it compromised by shoddy work? Properly shingling a roof can be difficult for a novice to do properly.

Meanwhile, climbing up on the roof is trickier than it appears. Even if you pride yourself on your excellent balance, you’re taking a major risk when you get up on your house. In fact, even the pros have difficulties sometimes. Roofers are about three times more likely to fatally fall on the jobsite than workers in other construction industries, so it’s safe to say that they have a dangerous job.

And have you ever tried to lift shingles yourself? Shingling often weighs in the tons—not the kind of stuff you want to try dragging around without professional help. Unless you’re just making a tiny repair, it’s best to call out the pros for this one.

Anything Involving Gas Lines

Just bought a new gas stove? Leave the hookup to someone who knows how! Gas furnaces, appliances and water heaters should always be handed off to the professionals.

The issue here is that it’s very easy to create a gas leak. Slow leaks could go undetected for a long time—at least, until you start smelling gas. And by that time, static buildup can cause the gas to ignite, which is a huge risk to your family and your home.

Instead, always call in a pro to handle repairs and installations, and use extra caution when hooking up gas grills outdoors. A worry-free home? Now that’s something anyone can appreciate!

5 Signs Your Hot Water Heater Is On Its Last Legs

Nothing is worse than running out of hot water mid-shower. If you have a household full of teens, you know where that water went. If not? The culprit may lie in your hot water heater itself. Heaters only last into their teenage years themselves, so if you haven’t bought a new one since your kids were in diapers, it may be time you started looking around for a new one.

Of course, age isn’t the only indicator. A handful of tell-tale signs will reveal if your hot water is approaching the end of its life, like if there’s less hot water, or if you notice banging noises and a funny taste in the water. Want to know more? Here’s the skinny on hot water heater failures—and how to tell if your unit is toast.

woman showering

It’s Getting Up There in Years

The lifespan on a hot water heater is typically only about 10 to 15 years, tops. So if yours qualifies as a senior citizen in water heater years, it’s probably time to replace. Not sure of its age? Look at the serial number. The first three digits actually contain a coded date. The month is expressed as a letter of the alphabet at the beginning of the serial number (A for January, B for February and so forth), and the year is indicated next by the two digits that follows (15 equals 2015, for instance). That way, you can identify exactly when your unit came off the line.

Your Hot Water Has a Rusty, Metallic Taste, Color or Odor

A lot of different issues can cause rusty water. But if it only happens when you turn on the hot water tap, it’s usually an indicator that your water heater is going. Why? It means that the inside of the tank is corroded—and that leaks are imminent. But you don’t need to panic quite yet. First, give it a few days. Occasionally, incidents with the public water supply can cause temporary discolorations that go away on their own. Next, try flushing the water heater (something you should do about once a year anyway). Family Handyman has a helpful video with instructions how to do just that. After that, if you’re still having issues, it may be time to start shopping around for a new unit.

It Keeps Making Weird Noises

Either you have a monster in your basement or your hot water heater is going. Either way, some sort of intervention is inevitable. Strange rumbling, banging, cracks and pops coming from inside the heater usually comes from build up around the bottom of the tank. Your water contains traces of mineral sediment that collect over there time. The heating and reheating of this sediment eventually hardens it into a thick, unyielding coat of gunk, meaning your heater has to work harder to do its job—and of course, leaks and other issues are only a short way away.

It Just Doesn’t Work Like It Used To

Sediment buildup doesn’t just effect your water heater’s acoustics, of course. It also impacts its performance. You might notice temperature fluctuations, or maybe it seems like the water doesn’t stay hot as long as it used to. Or in some cases, the hot water might go out altogether—although you should check the pilot light and the circuit breaker first. Of course, all of that rigamarole adds up to higher energy bills,. So if yours have recently skyrocketed, that might be another sign as well.

It’s Leaking

If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a hot water heater failure before it progresses into a leak. But unfortunately, for many homeowners, the first tip off occurs when it starts to spill water all over the basement floor. Fortunately, most leaks start small, with a manageable pool of water around the heater itself. In this case, there’s often a small fracture in the water heater tank. When the water becomes heated, the metal expands—and the crack along with it—causing water to drip through the fracture. Once the water cools, the crack shrinks again and often, the water stops leaking. Of course, the water could be coming from loose connections, too, so check those first before you decide it’s time to buy a new tank.

Want your new unit to last just a little bit longer? Make sure to perform some regular maintenance, then, such as regularly flushing the tank, checking the connections and pilot light, and testing the pressure valve. Other things you can do to extend its lifespan? Change the anode rod every five years and install a water softener to reduce wear and tear. Do that, and your next tank should last you for ages—or at least until the kids are out of college!