When to do it yourself, when to hire someone

Seasonal chores: DIY or outsource? How you decide what tasks to take on and what to delegate depends on several factors — cost and time involved, safety concerns and personal preference. After all, one person’s chore is another person’s relaxation.

Liza Hausman, vice president of industry solutions for Houzz, said that if you’re on the fence about whether to tackle a chore yourself or outsource, especially a bigger task, ask a professional.

“(Most) professionals are certainly open to talking about the pros and the pitfalls of taking on a project because most of them have probably come in and rescued homeowners when they got in over their heads,” she said.

Chores to do yourself:

1. Lawn mowing. This is the top summer chore to do yourself, said Dan DiClerico, home expert and smart home strategist for HomeAdvisor.

“It’s fairly foolproof. You get exercise, fresh air, and you can really save a pretty good chunk of change,” he says. HomeAdvisor, which collects data on home improvement costs, estimates lawn mowing costs, on average, $30 to $80.

Lawn mowers start around $100 for machines like the manual Earthwise 20-inch five-blade Reel Push Lawn Mower ($99.99 www.menards.com) or the Black+Decker 15-inch 10-Amp Corded Electric Push Lawn Mower ($129, www.menards.com

2. Painting/staining. Tackle small projects like painting doors, fences, decks and other ground-level jobs yourself, DiClerico said.

“It’s pretty easy to do; it doesn’t require a lot of tools, although there is a little investment there,” he said.

Most of the time spent painting is for preparation work, as the actual painting can go quickly. Paint prices vary depending on type and quality, but a popular exterior paint from Sherwin Williams, A-100 Exterior Acrylic Latex, starts around $45 a gallon (www.sherwin-williams.com)

Decks and porches should be finished and resealed or stained annually or biennially, and DiClerico said the savings to do it yourself can be significant. A gallon of a popular sealer like Thompson's WaterSeal Clear Multi-Surface Waterproofer costs around $12 (www.homedepot.com)

The one possible exception, when it comes to painting, is an entire house exterior. Here’s where time and safety concerns, like climbing ladders, come into play. HomeAdvisor estimates the cost of a professional house-painting job averages around $2,700.

“If they do the job right, you’re not going to have to do it again for 10 years. So it doesn’t really make sense to put yourself through all the work to do it,” he said.

3. Pool maintenance: Pools can be a lot of work — opening and closing for the season, plus the weekly cleaning. Regular maintenance can keep problems at bay. To do it yourself, you'll need to invest in several pieces of equipment, like skimmers, vacuums and brushes. Battery-operated vacuums cost as little as $100, like the Water Tech Pool Blaster Battery Powered Leaf Vacuum (www.thepoolfactory.com)

Chores to outsource:

1. Pressure washing. Think twice about doing this chore yourself, as easy as it may seem, DiClerico said.

Proper machinery is pricey and the more-powerful machines are dangerous, he said. “There are thousands of injuries every year from the machines. The pressure is intense — people lose fingers — so you have to know what you’re doing. That makes it a good one to consider outsourcing,” he said.

The average cost for a professional to pressure wash the house is $281, and to do a driveway, the cost is likely less, he says.

2. Tree trimming. You may be able to trim some shrubs around your house, but homeowners who don’t know what they’re doing can damage trees.

DiClerico said proper tree trimming requires specialized tools, and there are safety issues with taking down limbs. Cost can vary depending on tree size and other factors, but HomeAdvisor puts the average cost at $745.

He said hiring a professional is a smart, long-term investment. “A good tree surgeon is going to know the portions of the tree (to trim) to stop the disease, for example. We all know how valuable trees are, so it’s really worth spending a little money to keep them healthy for as long as possible,” he said.

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