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What you can and can't DIY

Date: 4 June 2018

Restricted building work

First of all, there is some work you simply won’t be able to do yourself for legal reasons. ‘Restricted building work’ is required to be designed and carried out (or at least supervised) by a Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP).

If it requires a building consent or will affect the primary structure, weathertightness or fire safety design, it’s restricted.

Rules around restricted building work are all tied up with you local council’s consenting and inspecting processes. It’s all about making sure there’s a record of what’s been done to the property, by whom, and how it meets the Building Code. This record not only protects you but future owners of the property. 

Find a comprehensive rundown of restricted work here

When you’re shopping around for professionals make sure you check they are licensed because not everyone is.

DIY yes

Here are jobs you could probably do yourself during a renovation:

Interior painting

Invest in some good brushes and quality paint, don’t skimp on getting the surface prep right and you’ll be impressed with your end result. 


We’re not going to lie, wallpapering is challenging and a two-person job, but you’ll get better with each drop you put up. To help yourself out opt for a paper that doesn’t require pattern matching.


With the right equipment and taking time and care, you’ll end up with quite a decent finish.

Laying laminate flooring

There are heaps of inexpensive and easy to install laminate or click-together flooring options available. Read the instructions and maybe watch on online tutorial before you get started.

DIY maybe

Some jobs are a bit more complex. You could do them yourself but you’re probably better hiring a professional.

Plastering and gib-stopping

With surface prep, getting the right compound and tools and techniques to consider, this is actually a DIY nightmare. Plus, it’s one of those jobs where “good enough” won’t cut it. You could do it yourself but for a perfect finish hire a pro.

Exterior painting

The painting itself is not DIY-unfriendly, it’s the fact that this job really requires scaffolding. This costs a lot and there are safety issues associated with using it. If you think you can do it with a ladder here’s a sobering stat from ACC: in 2016 there were nearly 15,000 active claims directly related to falls from ladders. This doesn’t mean the fall necessarily happened in 2016 but that’s still an awful lot of people having accidents with ladders over the years. 


It’s not impossible to DIY but it is difficult. It has to be cut just right and if you get any part of the process wrong it’s a very expensive mistake. 

Minor demolition

Ripping out old fixtures from the bathroom or kitchen can be very satisfying. It’s not hard, just be safe (think about sharp edges, splinters, plaster dust and exposed nails and screws) and hire a skip to get rid of all the rubbish. Probably best not to demo walls yourself as you don’t want to wreck any wiring or take out a load-bearing beam.

DIY no!

Plumbing, electrical and gas repairs and installations

These can be seriously dangerous jobs and have ongoing safety implications if done wrong. For that reason they almost always require a licensed contractor by law. Check with your local council. 


In fact, any exterior work involving heights requires proper safety equipment.

Asbestos removal

Always use a professional, not just because it’s dangerous to handle but it must be disposed of carefully. 

Structural work

As mentioned earlier, this is restricted and needs an LBP.

Before you DIY ask yourself:

Do I have the skills?

Consider the complexity carefully. You can buy products that designed for DIYers and you can watch instructional videos, but if the job is just too tricky it could end up costing you.

Do I have the time?

Remember that some projects will need to happen on or within a specific timeline/timeframe and may take several sessions before it’s done.

Do I have the right tools and equipment?

If you’re going to DIY invest in some decent gear; the result really will ride on this. Consider hiring equipment if it’s for a one-off and you’re unlikely to need it again.

Do I need a permit or consent?

If it changes the structure or weathertightness of your home the answer is yes and as discussed above, this will need a professional. Checking early in the ideas/design phase to see what consents you need is essential. 

Am I doing this to save money?

Refer to the first question. It could actually be more cost effective long term to hire a pro. At least have a chat with one to see if they can offer any advice on how to save money while still using their services.

Is it safe for me to do this?

You might be surprised where hazards are hiding in renovation jobs. Think about ladders, power cords, toxic substances…the list goes on.

Renovating can add value to your property if it’s done right. Download our free guide to find out where to start, how to set your budget and what to expect during the process.