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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Don’t Try This At Home: Dangerous and Illegal DIY Projects

Home service contractors joke that they charge more to correct botched work a homeowner has attempted than to do the job themselves in the first place. But there are some DIY projects where shoddy work is no laughing matter. Instead, it may be dangerous and illegal. If you are not trained and licensed, do not try to do the following jobs yourself.

The purpose of permits

There’s a good reason that some work — jobs involving electricity, gas or structural integrity, for example —requires a government permit and a licensed contractor. If you are not a professional or hire an unlicensed contractor for a DIY project, you put yourself at risk and run afoul of the law. Work done illegally can bring serious consequences if someone gets hurt and can also jeopardize a future sale of the house.


Electricity is dangerous. That’s why electricians get licenses through extensive training at a trade school. You may be capable of doing some simple things, like changing a light fixture, on your own. Yet even then, you could cross a ground wire with the power line. Bigger jobs such as running new wiring through a wall, setting switch and outlet boxes, connecting to a breaker box or distinguishing the needed voltage and amperage require a trained and licensed professional. Life-threatening shocks and fires are the risks of tampering with electricity.


Licensed plumbers must install gas lines and appliances using them. Gas is designed to burn, and a leak from substandard work risks explosion, fire or asphyxiation. In addition, the supply line valve from the outside meter has a seal that a licensed plumber must set.

Structural support

Open floor plans are nice, and you may want to take a sledgehammer and knock out that wall between the dining room and kitchen. Before you do, though, consult with a remodeling contractor. The wall might be load-bearing, supporting the roof and the upper story. It’s not always easy to identify whether a wall is a load-bearing, so it’s always best to hire a pro.

Septic work

Be sure to hire a properly credentialed pro to install or clean a septic system. Septic systems typically require a permit from the county or state health department and a trained and licensed installer.

Tree work

If the most dangerous machine you typically handle is your laptop, becoming a weekend warrior wielding a chainsaw is fraught with danger. Your state may or may not require tree or heavy branch removal to be done by a certified arborist. But that won’t absolve you of responsibility if the tree you fell lands on your house or your neighbor’s. YouTube hosts many videos of tree work gone wrong. If you’re tempted to try DIY projects, watch a couple of those first, then hire a pro.

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