Outdoor Renovations You Shouldn't Do Yourself

We know that all the DIYers out there are going to scoff when they read the title of this article. Dare we make the suggestion of not doing something on your own? Yes, we do. There are times when even the most (seemingly) knowledgeable DIYer needs to call in a professional. Now, when most people think about home renovations, they think of work being done inside the house. But we're Outdoor Blog, so we're looking outside.

The fact is that there are outdoor home renovations that you should not attempt to do yourself. Apart from being downright dangerous and potentially deadly, certain outdoor renovations may actually require a professional, depending on the permitting laws in your town, county, or state. More often than not, any outdoor work that affects the structure of the house will require a permit. And permits (most of the time) mean professionals. You'll also need to keep in mind that any major upgrades to the exterior of your house could alter how your property taxes are calculated.

So, bearing all of that in mind, here is a list of 13 outdoor renovations you shouldn't do yourself. This is not a comprehensive list but rather a compilation of greatest hits that, if done poorly, could really cause some massive headaches. 

Roof repairs

Unless you're a professional roofer and are able to work on your own house using safety trimmings, equipment, and experience, do not attempt to fix your roof. The average American house is between 18 to 25 feet tall (via GIGA Calculator). And while falling from that height won't yield the same result as, say, falling off the Empire State Building, you need to understand what a fall from a roof can do to your body. 

On average, one storey is 14 feet in height. So, that means that our average American home is around two stories. And seeing as falls can be deadly from as little as 0 feet, a fall off the roof of your house could land you in the hospital — or in the grave. This is why roof work is a problem for anyone who is inexperienced working at such heights.

Professional roofers always wear safety harnesses and have specialist equipment to deal with potentially dangerous roof scenarios. They can tell almost immediately what parts of the roof are safe to walk on and which aren't. This is important because, apart from height, rot or water damage can also be the downfall of an inexperienced DIYer. In short, do not attempt to fix your roof.

Covered structures

Building a pergola for the back patio is not the same as adding a portico to your entryway, a roof to your porch, or a raised deck. These structures are either directly attached to your house or require significant foundations to keep them upright. As such, you need to take the construction of your house into question when you think about adding any one of these and take the proper precautions when it comes time to build.

Any covered structure that is attached to your house is a complex piece of construction. There are roof lines to consider, but also foundation footings and a whole manner of other components that require some serious work. And it's also going to require permitting. Therefore, it's best to call in structural engineers and contractors in order to ensure that the construction is done properly. It's one of the reasons you shouldn't attempt it yourself because of the sheer fact that so much goes into adding anything structural.

Plus, if you do go ahead and do this yourself, there is a high likelihood you will make a mistake. Improperly laid foundation footings, roof shingles, drain spouts, or facia boards can cause long-term damage. We're not saying that professionals don't make mistakes, but thanks to their years of experience, they are far less likely to than you.

Pool installation

Unless you're planning on destroying your backyard with a shovel and a pickaxe, you are going to need an excavator in order to dig your own pool. Hey, if you like manual labor, by all means, go ahead and dig. We're not sure your family will appreciate how long it takes you to dig a hole big and deep enough to store an inground pool, but hey, at least you got a workout, right? Wrong. Pool installations should always be done by licensed professionals. Why? Because there is more to pool installation than just digging a hole.

While the digging could, in theory, be done by you, there is the matter of putting the actual pool shell. All of the equipment needed for this is somewhat mind-boggling. There are stones, cement, filtration lines, pumps, and sanitation systems. Then there's the actual fiberglass insert itself. These are immensely heavy, meaning that the kit will need to be lifted via an excavator or crane in order to be properly installed.

Also, what happens if you break something during installation? You're out potentially thousands of dollars more than you would be if you let the professionals install it for you. Then what are you left with? A decimated backyard, a broken pool, and a ticked-off family. 

Patio installation

There are plenty of reasons why you shouldn't install your own patio. Yes, the price tag of a professionally installed patio can be exorbitant, but that price tag comes with equipment, experience, and an understanding that project budgets are fleeting. You, as the average homeowner, are likely not going to know the potential magnitude of costs associated with building your own patio.

We won't get too specific, but you are more than definitely going to be shelling out several thousands of dollars to do a patio. However, the difference is whether you're going to spend that money once and get things installed correctly or run the risk of spending more than your initial budget because you're fixing mistakes that you make. Unless you're super meticulous and have a decent understanding of how to lay brick and stone, you're going to be in trouble. 

Plus, an improperly installed patio will come with its own share of risks. Pavers could crack. If the pitch isn't correctly calculated, you could have issues with frost and standing water.  Your patio could sink into the ground if the under layer wasn't properly compacted. Stones could be pushed out of place owing to frost heaves or other drainage issues. All told, you want your patio to last for years and add value to your home. That's why you call in the pros. They have the experience, tools, and, best of all, warranties.

In-ground drainage

Here's the thing: drainage is important. You don't want ponds of water showing up where they shouldn't be. The damage that can be caused to the lawn and home by improper drainage is not something that anyone wants to experience. Water damage can lead to so many longer-lasting problems down the road, such as erosion, foundation damage, and standing water. This is why you want to hire pros to install your in-ground drainage.

Whether it is French Drains or drain lines for that fresh new patio you just paid through the nose for, getting this wrong could result in water exactly where you don't want it. Luckily, if you've done a bad job with the drainage, it can be fixed. It's not the end of the world, but fixing things can get expensive.

Installing ground drainage on your own can be a bit of a nightmare. There is a lot of digging, calculating of slopes, equipment, and installation tactics to take into consideration. More often than not, inexperienced homeowners will make mistakes that didn't need to be made. This is why it's better to either work and learn alongside a pro, preferably one with an excavator, or just have one who can do it themselves. It'll save you a lot of headaches and potential costs for fixing damage caused by you.

Retaining walls

Retaining walls make for interesting hardscapes. The intention of their design is to retain the integrity of the sloping ground and keep it from falling away in a landslide. You can immediately see signs of one that is about to collapse, including bowing, cracks, standing water, and sinking soil. It's for these reasons that there are limits to what the average homeowner is advised to do with it when it comes to building retaining walls.

The general retaining wall rule is that the taller the wall, the more pressure it needs to retain. Nearly everyone can build a small retaining wall with next to no issue, which is why any DIYer thinks they can build one. Anything under 4-feet in height is perfectly easy and acceptable for the average homeowner to undertake because it is not holding back the pressure put upon it by massive amounts of earth. However, anything taller than that 4-feet is going to require the input of a structural engineer and a good mason.

Depending on what kind of material you are working with and the shape of the land in question, an engineer will need to come up with a detailed plan. Building a large retaining wall is a matter of complex masonry that most who are untrained cannot properly comprehend and don't have the proper tools for. Keep this in mind the next time you're considering building a tall retaining wall in your yard.

Outdoor electrical work

There are some DIYers who excel at carpentry, plumbing, plastering, roofing, landscaping, and masonry. However, if there is one thing even the most staunch DIYer is afraid of, it's wiring. Electrical work is not something that can easily be picked up in an afternoon. It's something that takes years to learn and understand, and even then there are still challenges. And that's just for indoor wiring.

When it comes to outdoor electrical work, you don't just have the complexities of wiring to contend with, you've got the elements fighting against you. Whether it is heat or cold or rain or snow, the electricity you place outside needs to be able to stand up to the elements. That's why there is a difference in the thickness of insulation between outdoor and indoor wires, which many DIYers might not even know about. You're certainly testing your luck if you use anything other than a properly insulated outdoor wire for any outdoor electrical appliances.

There is also the inherent danger electrical wiring presents. If you do it wrong, like forgetting to shut off the breaker as many people do, you're contending with live wires that could send electrical shocks through your system that could potentially kill you. So, it really is best to leave all of that to licensed electricians.

Repaving a driveway

We're not talking about taking an afternoon, a few buckets of new sealant, and giving your driveway a once over. That's something anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the weather and painting can accomplish. No, the project we're talking about is when the big guns are required. When your driveway is beyond the point where you can just patch it and call it a day. Complete repaving requires professional assistance.

A driveway that needs to be completely repaved requires the old to be removed and the new to be installed. This is going to require a lot of heavy machinery to get done, as well as a good amount of paving equipment. The ground needs to be properly compacted, sealed, and drained in order for the driveway install to be successful. And the only way to really ensure that is if you hire professionals.

They will have the removal and paving equipment required for a complete project. You won't have to worry about pitch, layering sand, concrete, or paving stones at all when someone else is taking care of your drive. In this case, it'll actually save you money because you won't have to buy or rent any of the equipment. Plus, depending on the material used, your fresh driveway could come with a 5 to 10-year warranty. 

Outdoor kitchen installation

Calling for professional help really depends on the level of outdoor kitchen you are installing. If you're just looking to build yourself a simple setup for your Weber, a new wood-burning oven, or a brick grill, the input of a mason or carpenter would be nice but is not required. Doing these simple things is not going to negatively affect how your kitchen comes out, other than it potentially looks bad if you make a quick mistake. It's not going to affect the cooking. All of that changes, however, when gas lines get involved.

Any kind of gas line plumbing needs to be done by professionals. The last thing you want is to have hooked up gas to your outdoor kitchen, only for there to be a leak in the line that could potentially ignite or cause carbon monoxide poisoning. This matters if you're intent on designing a top-tier outdoor kitchen that is linked to natural gas or propane. 

If you are preparing that next-level outdoor kitchen, you need to take building codes, materials, landscaping, and permitting into account. You're going to need some professional help to make sure it all gets installed properly. Otherwise, you could run into a whole heap of trouble.

House siding repair

Siding, whether it's clapboards, shingles, wood, or vinyl, is your house's first line of defense against the elements. It's important stylistically as well, as it created the overall exterior aesthetic that sold you on the house in the first place. By the same token, it's one of the first prospective buyers will see if and when you plan to sell your house. Therefore, it is best to keep any siding repairs that need to be done by a professional.

Because the siding protects your house from the elements, improper installation can lead to a lot of problems. Not only can wind get through, creating drafts and increasing your wintertime heating bill, but poor siding can allow other areas of damage, such as water, rot, rodents, and insects to have their way with the interior walls of your house. Plus the materials, installation requirements, and actual time the project takes could end up being a devourer of free time and money. 

Professional carpenters are going to be able to keep your house snug as a bug in a rug, without actually letting any bugs in. They will make sure that any shingles or clapboards or any other kind of siding you have is replaced properly, thereby causing less future headaches for you.

Tree removal

There are trees, and then there are trees. You all know what we mean by this. Saplings and smaller trees should be okay for any homeowner with a chainsaw to take care of on their own. But the big trees are the ones that need to be taken down by professional arborists. We've all seen the videos on YouTube. Trees can be unruly and can cause untold amounts of damage to body and property. And, let's face it, most homeowners do not know how to properly cut.

Big tree removal can require cranes and, in some cases, traffic coordination. This is especially true if they are on a main road. Now, municipalities will hire professional arborists to take care of the trees that pose potential dangers to power lines at no cost to the homeowners. This is a good thing. However, this will not always be the case, and you, as the homeowner, need to be prepared for the cost and hassle of tree removal.

Any trees too that are near structures, such as your house, garage, your neighbor's house, or your driveway should be taken care of by top arborists. They are professionally trained to fell trees with little to no impact on the surrounding area. They have the equipment and expertise necessary to carry out the task at hand. So, let's leave it to them, shall we?

Gutter Installation

Gutters are tricky things. Sure, when they are working at their best, they divert water from the foundation of your house. Yet, you still have to make sure that they're cleaned so that the water will flow freely instead of becoming blocked up against debris. Further still, gutters will need to be replaced at some point, whether from age or because they got ripped away from the house by storms. And when these things happen, the gutter replacement should be done by professionals, and not by you.

Not only does gutter installation involve ladders, which we've already learned can be very dangerous to work on, but an improper gutter installation could lead to a whole manner of issues down the road. Not only will bad gutters cause water damage to your siding, potentially introducing rot and mold to your walls, but the water that falls away from gutters could begin to weaken the foundation of your house. The more groundwater that is built up around your foundation, the more potential there is for the types of leaks and openings for winter frost that could really damage a foundation.

So, rather than risking these potential pitfalls by installing the gutters yourself, just hire a professional company to do it for you. You'll save time, money, and the headache of worrying about water damage. 

Garage door replacement

Like everything else on this list, garage doors are inexplicably difficult to install properly. Not only do you have the motor and electrical works to worry about, but the doors themselves are heavy, flimsy, and difficult to wrangle. They could be forever damaged at the slightest drop, and they need to be placed in the track just so in order for them to function properly. Plus, the torsion spring keeping the door moving smoothly could present a danger if improperly installed. 

You could try and DIY this, but honestly why would you? The doors are beyond difficult to install properly, and even if you do manage to do it, you're very likely going to wish that you hadn't. It's really just a pain in the backside. Which is why it's better to leave things to the pros. 

If you're someone who has the skills to complete these tasks but happens to work in a different industry, by all means, tackle these projects yourself. But there is a reason we have tradesmen. And that reason is because these renovations can be dangerous and time consuming, so it takes a professional to get things done right and well without too much hassle.