Curb Appeal: DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

Find out which curb appeal projects you can tackle yourself and which you should leave to the experts.

When looking to improve a home's curb appeal, homeowners must decide whether to do the work themselves or hire a professional. The obvious plus to doing it yourself (DIY) is avoiding contractors' fees, which can significantly increase the cost of a project. But the DIY approach has its drawbacks. If a homeowner lacks the proper skills to get the job done right, potential buyers will spot flaws in the work. You'll end up spending more in the long run if you have to hire a contractor to fix your DIY mistakes.

Before deciding whether to go DIY or pro, it's important to seriously evaluate your skill level as well as safety issues.

Tasks involving electrical work, heights or digging could be hazardous, so you should consider bringing in a contractor for those, says Stephen Boehler, owner of Mr. Handyman of NE Monmouth County in New Jersey. "Buried wiring, cable, phone and water lines, and sprinklers can ruin your day if you damage any of these," he explains.

Timing is also a consideration when deciding whether to go DIY or to hire a pro, says Joanna Seidler Farber, a Realtor associate with Davis Realtors in East Brunswick, N.J. When looking to sell, homeowners often have a limited time frame, so they may need a contractor's help to get the job done professionally and quickly, she notes.

If you do have the time and the inclination to do the job yourself, however, here are some guidelines on which curb appeal projects are suited for homeowners and which are best left to professionals.

Front Door

Updating an outdoor light fixture is an easy fix for a homeowner to do independently, as long as the wiring for the fixture is already in place. Turn off the power to the existing fixture from your home's main electrical box before removing the old fixture and installing the new one. For safety, use a live-wire testing device before attempting the job, Stephen suggests. If you want to add a new light fixture where there isn't one or want to install some new hardwired landscape lighting to light your walkways, however, it's best to call in an electrician.

Other front entrance fixes you can tackle yourself include adding new door hardware and painting the front door a pretty color.

Gutter and Roof

The height of your home's roof and your comfort level with being on a ladder are factors to consider before attempting to clean your gutters and roof. "If a homeowner feels comfortable with heights or has a ranch-style home, this is a fine job for a homeowner to do," Stephen says. But if your home's roof is high and you are unsteady on a ladder, hire a pro to get this task done safely and without any injury to you.

Driveway

Fixing small cracks in the driveway with driveway sealant is a fairly easy job for a homeowner to tackle. But if your driveway is crumbling and needs major fixes, it's best to hire a contractor, as putting in an asphalt or concrete driveway is a time-consuming and difficult job. "Spending your money once and having it done properly is the best way," Stephen says.

Landscaping

If your front yard needs a pop of color here and there, you can easily add them yourself by mulching your home's front garden beds, planting some flowers and hanging a few flower baskets by your home's front entrance, Joanna says. You can also tackle pruning and mowing on your own. But if your lawn is devoid of any real landscaping, you may want to bring in a landscaper to give it a professional and unified look, she says.

Professionals can get the job done quickly if time is an issue. "Professionals can mow and reseed your lawn, trim bushes and trees, and blow dirt and leaves off your walkways and driveway," says Kristine Ginsberg, owner of Elite Staging and Redesign in Morris County, N.J. "Professionals can also do major pruning and can put down sod."

Washing

Power-washing the driveway, walkways and the exterior of a home is an easy curb appeal task for homeowners to complete independently by using a power washer or a garden hose on a high setting. Washing the front windows of a home is a simple job for a homeowner if the windows tilt out or aren't too high up.

You may need to bring in a pro to power-wash a multi-floored home or to scrub high windows not accessible from the inside of the house. "There are products you can spray on and hose off, but the windows come out much better if done by hand," Stephen explains. "Height can be an issue if the house has multiple floors and overgrown gardening."

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