Contractor Vs. DIY: When To Know Not To Do It Yourself

Hey there, home improvement enthusiasts! We all love a good DIY project that adds a personal touch to our living spaces. But what about those times when the job calls for more than just a splash of paint and some elbow grease? When it comes to tackling water damage restoration, a crucial decision arises: Should you roll up your sleeves and go the DIY route, or is it time to call in the professionals? Let’s dive into the world of contractor vs DIY water damage restoration and find out when it’s smart to say, “Not this time, DIY!”

Large fans for drying up water

Understanding Water Damage Restoration

First things first, what exactly is water damage restoration? It’s the process of salvaging and restoring your home after it’s been affected by water damage, whether from leaks, floods, or burst pipes. The goal is to prevent further damage and mold growth while bringing your space back to its pre-damage condition.

While smaller water-related mishaps might be ideal for your DIY prowess, extensive water damage requires a professional touch. Professionals not only have the expertise but also the specialized equipment needed to assess the situation accurately and implement effective solutions.

The Allure of DIY

We get it—there’s something inherently satisfying about taking matters into your own hands. DIY projects let you flex your creative muscles, learn new skills, and save a pretty penny while you’re at it.

When it comes to small repairs and cosmetic changes, like painting or replacing cabinet knobs, the DIY approach can be a fantastic choice. However, water damage restoration is a different beast altogether, and here’s why.

When to Roll Up Your Sleeves (And When Not To)


  • Minor Water Intrusion: If you’re dealing with a small water leak that hasn’t spread far and hasn’t affected structural elements, you might be able to tackle it yourself. Quick fixes like resealing a leaking pipe can be within your DIY wheelhouse.
  • Quick Response: Acting fast is crucial in water damage restoration. If you catch the issue early and have some DIY skills, you might mitigate further damage. For instance, immediately removing water-soaked carpets and padding can prevent the spread of moisture.
  • Cosmetic Fixes: Surface-level damage, like minor water stains on walls or floors, can sometimes be addressed with DIY methods. Using specialized stain-blocking primers and paint can help cover up these blemishes.


  • Extensive Damage: When water damage is widespread, affecting multiple rooms or structural elements, it’s time to call in the pros. Professionals have the expertise to assess the full extent of the damage. For example, if water has seeped into walls, floors, and ceilings, a contractor can determine the best course of action.
  • Hidden Issues: Water can seep into hidden spaces, causing structural damage and mold growth that might not be immediately visible. Contractors have the tools to detect and address these issues. They use advanced moisture detection equipment to identify hidden pockets of water that could lead to future problems.
  • Mold Prevention: Effective mold prevention requires specialized techniques and equipment that professionals are trained to use. They can treat affected areas with antimicrobial agents and ensure proper ventilation to prevent mold growth.
  • Health and Safety: Water damage can compromise the integrity of your home’s structure, posing safety risks. Professionals ensure that repairs are done safely and effectively. Structural instability due to water damage can lead to collapses, making it crucial to have experienced contractors handle such repairs.

The Risks of DIY Water Damage Restoration

While your enthusiasm is admirable, there are some risks associated with taking on water damage restoration yourself:

  • Inadequate Equipment: Proper water extraction and drying require industrial-grade equipment that DIYers often lack. Professionals have access to high-capacity water extractors, dehumidifiers, and air movers that ensure thorough drying.
  • Mold Growth: Inadequate drying can lead to mold growth, which can pose health risks and further damage your home. Professionals have the tools to achieve proper moisture levels, preventing mold infestations.
  • Insurance Issues: Some insurance policies may not cover DIY water damage restoration, leaving you with unexpected costs. Professional contractors often have the required certifications and insurance coverage that align with industry standards and insurance requirements.
  • Costly Mistakes: Incorrect repairs can lead to more extensive damage down the line, resulting in higher costs. For instance, improper drying can lead to warped floors, damaged drywall, and compromised structural elements, necessitating costly repairs in the future.

Bringing in the Pros: Benefits of Hiring Contractors

Hiring professionals for water damage restoration offers several compelling benefits:

  • Expertise: Contractors have the training and experience to assess the extent of the damage accurately and implement effective restoration techniques. They understand the complexities of different materials and how water interacts with them.
  • Time Efficiency: Professionals work efficiently, minimizing downtime and helping you get back to normal life sooner. Their streamlined process ensures thorough restoration in less time.
  • Comprehensive Restoration: From water extraction to structural repairs to mold prevention, contractors offer a holistic approach to restoration. They leave no stone unturned, addressing all aspects of damage.
  • Proper Equipment: Industrial-grade equipment ensures thorough water extraction and efficient drying, reducing the risk of mold growth. Professionals have access to equipment that is not commonly available for DIYers.
  • Insurance Expertise: Contractors can work directly with your insurance company, simplifying the claims process. They understand the documentation and evidence required to ensure a smooth insurance claim process.

The DIY Enthusiast’s Toolkit

Before deciding whether to DIY or call a contractor, take a look at your toolkit:

  • Skill Level: Be honest about your skill level. Water damage restoration demands technical expertise that goes beyond basic DIY skills. Understanding moisture dynamics, structural integrity, and mold prevention requires specialized knowledge.
  • Equipment: Assess whether you have the necessary tools and equipment for effective water extraction, drying, and restoration. DIYers often lack the high-capacity equipment required for efficient water removal.
  • Time Commitment: Water damage restoration can be time-intensive. Consider whether you have the time to commit to the process. Professionals can dedicate focused time to restoration without juggling other responsibilities.

Consulting the Pros: The Initial Assessment

When in doubt, consult a professional. Many contractors offer initial assessments that help you understand the scope of the damage and the necessary steps for restoration. This assessment can be a valuable tool in making an informed decision. Professionals can identify underlying issues that might not be immediately apparent, such as compromised structural elements or potential mold growth.

The Heart of the Decision: Factors to Consider

Several factors should influence your decision to DIY or hire a contractor:

  • Severity of Damage: Consider the extent of the damage. Extensive damage calls for professional intervention. Large-scale flooding or significant leaks typically require contractors to ensure thorough and effective restoration.
  • Health Risks: Mold growth and compromised structural integrity pose health risks. Professionals are equipped to handle these challenges while minimizing risks to your health and safety.
  • Insurance Coverage: Check your insurance policy to see if DIY restoration is covered. Hiring a contractor might be more cost-effective in the long run, especially if your policy covers professional restoration.

Financial Considerations: DIY vs. Contractor

While DIY might seem cheaper upfront, consider the potential long-term costs of inadequate restoration. Contractors ensure effective restoration, reducing the risk of further damage and expenses. Proper restoration prevents future issues, such as mold growth, which can be costly to address if it develops later on.

Balancing Budget and Long-Term Impact

While hiring a contractor might have a higher initial cost, consider the long-term impact. Effective restoration reduces the risk of ongoing damage, mold growth, and health issues. Investing in professional restoration safeguards your home’s structural integrity and the health of its occupants.

Restoration specialist

Expertise Beyond Repair: Contractors at Your Service

Contractors offer more than restoration. They bring expertise in assessing damage, preventing future issues, and working with insurance companies. Their knowledge extends to understanding building codes, material compatibility, and structural stability, ensuring a comprehensive approach to restoration.

Finding the Right Contractor for the Job

When hiring a contractor, do your due diligence. Research, read reviews, and ask for references to ensure you’re working with a reputable professional. A trustworthy contractor will have a history of successful restoration projects and positive client testimonials.

Navigating the Restoration Process: DIY Tips and Tricks

If you decide to tackle small water damage restoration projects, follow these DIY tips:

  • Act Quickly: Swift action helps minimize damage. Address the issue as soon as you notice it to prevent water from spreading further and causing additional damage.
  • Use Proper Safety Gear: Wear protective gear to safeguard your health during restoration. Gloves, masks, and safety goggles protect you from potential hazards.
  • Thoroughly Dry the Area: Effective drying is crucial to prevent mold growth. Use fans, dehumidifiers, and open windows to promote airflow and reduce moisture levels.

Striking the Perfect Balance

In your journey to transform your living space, remember that knowing when to call a contractor is just as valuable as mastering the art of DIY. Water damage restoration requires a combination of technical know-how, specialized tools, and a commitment to safety. By considering the extent of the damage, potential health risks, and long-term impact, you’ll make the right choice for your home and your well-being.

Remember, every step you take, whether with a toolkit or a phone to call a contractor, brings you closer to a safer, more comfortable, and beautifully restored home. Whether you’re tightening a faucet or overseeing a comprehensive restoration, you’re an essential part of creating a space that stands the test of time.

Jennifer Bell is an avid home restorer, DIY novice, and writer for water damage specialists in the Philadelphia area.

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