DDIY: When should you hire professional landscaping help?
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Homeowners love DIY projects, those do-it-yourself tasks that save money and deliver the satisfaction of getting your hands dirty.
For some projects such as hardscaping, however, the best approach is DDIY: Don't Do It Yourself.
Sure, we can watch online videos and feel like any project is DIY. The Do-It-Yourself industry offers plenty of products, informational videos and instruction sheets for almost any hardscaping project. While saving on labor costs might attract DIYers, the hidden costs to any project may send them packing.
“The main thing you’re paying for is knowledge and state-of-the-art equipment,” said Dave Busch of Greenview Designs in Ringoes, New Jersey. “It may seem simple on a DIY sheet but it’s pretty complex. It’s an art and a skill.”
Busch added that among the many components of any hardscaping project like the design, compacting the subsoil, grading the stone base, etc., specialized equipment is also necessary. “You need cut-off saws. A table saw. A dump truck. You need 14,000-pound compaction equipment for pool bases.” Equipment a DIY-er would rent would not yield the same results as professional equipment.
Also, warranties on the patio pavers may be voided if not installed correctly. “I’ve seen people backfill trenches with dirt, not sand," Busch said. "That’s wrong.”
What not to DIY:
Any plumbing or electrical work in an outdoor kitchen or bar must be left to professionals. Non-certified work may not pass inspection and may end up costing the homeowners much more in the end. For safety reasons, all installations must comply with the municipalities’ regulations.
Revamping an existing pool deck requires excavation, compacting, leveling, grading, town permits and much more. “There are a lot of moving parts,” Busch said. “We have heavily-skilled laborers. Quite a bit goes into it.”
In many cases with pool installations, only professionals can obtain work permits for the labor. Another consideration is disposal of earth or discarded man-made materials. Most construction debris is not permitted in municipal or private home garbage collections.
Large patios and long walkways
A one-level, square paved patio or walkway is a DIY to-do for some homeowners. Busch agrees. “Depends on the size of the project. A DIYer may attempt to tackle a paver walkway or a small patio,” he said. Many videos and websites, as well as the paver manufacturers, provide instructions for smaller installations. Busch advises homeowners to make sure to check paver warranty requirements and check permeable land requirements.
Before any project begins, homeowners must contact utility companies to mark the buried gas and electrical lines. If lines have to be moved, that can change the scope of the project. “There’s a lot of components to doing a project right,” he said.
Read more about green home landscaping.