If you’re a homeowner who likes working outside, consider doing these home-improvement projects yourself. You’ll save at least 50% of what hiring a professional would cost.* These projects require more grunt work than talent and only a small investment in materials and tools. Each of them will improve the value of your property.
Power washing: To keep your house looking its best, consider an annual cleanup with a power washer. You can hire a building cleaning service for $377 to power wash a typical 1,200-square-foot house. Or you can rent a gas-powered washer rated at least at 1,200 psi (which means that it delivers 1,200 pounds per square inch of water) with detergent for $160 and pocket a nice 58% savings. Figure that you’ll spend a solid two days on the job.
Gutter cleaning: An important seasonal maintenance chore for every home owner is cleaning and repairing gutters. A handyman will charge $102 to clean and make minor repairs to 200 linear feet of gutters on a one-story house. If you have a sturdy ladder, garden hose, bucket and rubber gloves, you can do the job in two hours for $40 (the cost of some caulk and roofing cement) and save 61%.
Warning: If you have a very high home or uneven terrain, it may be safer to hire a pro.
Painting the garage: You’ll pay a painting contractor $307 to spray paint the exterior of a typical one story, two-car garage. You can do the job in a weekend for $100, for the cost of the paint and renting an airless sprayer for a day. That’s a 67% savings. Figure that you’ll spend the better part of the first day prepping the area before you paint.
Pruning: A landscape service will prune and groom a small tree and some bushes for $80, but for an investment of $36 (for pruning shears and a lopper), you can do it and save 55% in three hours. You’ll save the full $80 the next time you prune.
Initial savings: $44.
Mulching: You can pay a yard service $324 to lay a four-inch-deep spread of organic mulch in a 300-foot area or buy mulch (30 to 35 bags) yourself for $75. In a day, you can complete the job and save 77%. If you have a vehicle that can haul it, you won’t have to pay extra to have the mulch delivered.
Lawn seeding: You can seed a lawn and create a luscious green landscape, but whether or not to do it yourself depends on the condition of your soil. Assuming it is level and free of grass, weeds and rocks, a landscaper will charge $201 to prepare the soil and seed 2,000 square feet. You can buy seed for $50, do it yourself and save 75%. But if rocks, weeds and grass need to be removed, leave it to the pros. In most areas, the best time to seed is late August or early September.
Laying a gravel path: Consider laying a gravel path as a walkway or winding path through your garden. The work involves digging and hauling material, but you’ll save 57% by doing it yourself. For a three-foot-wide, 100-foot-long gravel path, a landscape contractor will charge $349 including gravel. It’ll cost you a long day’s work and $150 for the material.
Building a patio: This is strenuous labor and time-consuming — it takes about a week to do — but every time you use your new patio, you’ll appreciate your sweat equity. A contractor will charge $2,275 to build a 15-foot-by-20-foot brick patio. You can do it for about half that ($1,100 for the material).
Building a split-rail fence: A split-rail fence is one of the most attractive ways to enhance your yard and define your property. The most difficult thing is digging the post holes. You can rent a post hole digger for about $80/day, buy a manual digger for $30 to $100 or use a shovel. A fence contractor will charge $1,091 to build a 100-foot-long rail fence. You can do it for $500 (the cost of the material) and save 54%. But fence building is not for the faint of heart — it’s a good three-day project and hard work.
*In this article, the costs to hire a professional are based on several of the estimating publications that contractors use to bid on their jobs. The material costs are based on information from major national retailers and manufacturers.