3 Projects to DIY and 3 to Leave to the Pros

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ShutterstockAbout 70 percent of Americans plan to take on a DIY home improvement project this year.
By Abby Hayes

Nearly one-third of Americans are planning a home renovation this year, according to a Liberty Mutual Insurance survey of 2,000 adults. Of those, 7 in 10 plan to do at least some of the work themselves. DIYing it can be a great way to save money, but you have to be careful with the projects you choose to tackle on your own.

Projects that look enticing and easy on Pinterest can easily go awry if you're an inexperienced DIYer. Even experienced DIYers can have trouble handling some of the more difficult home improvement projects.

So which projects should you tackle to increase your home's value, and which ones should you hire out to a professional? Master carpenter Chip Wade of "Ellen's Design Challenge" and HGTV's "Elbow Room" weighs in.


Let's start with the hopeful side of this equation. You can give your home a boost this summer and save money by doing it yourself. You just have to be careful which projects you choose. Chip's top three projects for homeowners to DIY include landscaping, seating and interior painting.

1. Landscaping. This can be a huge project, but you can use a few simple tricks to add some curb appeal and comfort to your home. "A tip I always give is for homeowners or renters to start by removing dead plants, or trimming unhealthy plants that may bloom later on in the season," Wade says. This simple trick can make your home appear more pulled-together. Then, add splashes of color with easy-care perennials in a front garden bed, or place potted annuals on the porch.

2. Seating. If you're hankering to start hammering something, building multipurpose outdoor furniture is a good place to begin. Boxy, bench-style furniture is a great option for cutting your teeth on carpentry. It's fairly easy to build, and there are plenty of tutorials online. This easy, versatile seating can instantly update a front porch or back deck, and give you a more personable outdoor space.

3. Painting. The easiest of these projects is probably interior painting, and it can make a huge difference! The right paint can make a space look larger and more finished. Or you can simply update the look of your home by opting for a trendy color, like these in the Benjamin Moore Color Trends 2015 palette.

Not to DIY:

When it comes to home renovation, Wade says, some projects are simply best left to the professionals. Certain projects, of course, are downright dangerous. For instance, you don't want to go around messing with electrical wiring if you don't know what you're doing. The top three popular projects Wade cautions homeowners against tackling alone include outdoor pathways, retaining walls and large landscaping.

1. Outdoor pathways. This can seem like an easy, cheap DIY project. Pinterest, after all, is full of cute ideas for outdoor walkways. However, Wade notes, homeowners often skimp on costs by using less expensive materials, which crack in a season and need to be replaced. Plus, ensuring an absolutely level underlayment is essential. Without proper tools and knowledge to level the walkway, even the best materials will crack.

2. Retaining walls. These are similarly difficult to install properly, though they can look effortless. Most homeowners don't understand the intricacies of properly installing a wall that will last for years to come. Engineering is essential, especially for walls over 2 feet high.

3. Large landscaping. The last project to steer clear of may seem contradictory. Wade did say that landscaping is a great DIY project, right? However, when it comes to planting medium-to-large sized trees, it's a whole different story. These trees and shrubs need particular care to help them take root. You don't want to spend hundreds on an ornamental tree only to have it die within a season.

If you decide to hire professionals for some must-do projects this summer, Wade gives some good advice: "A great way to find a professional is to ask friends or neighbors who they have used for their renovations or home projects. Additionally, if you have one trusted professional, he or she may be able to recommend a skilled worker they have worked with in the past."

DIY projects can be a great way to save on summer upgrades to your home. But you won't save a dime if you waste money on a project that's better left to the pros!

Abby Hayes is a freelance blogger and journalist who writes for the personal finance blog The Dough Roller, which covers topics ranging from credit scores and banking to how much money you should be saving.
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