Whether you want to fix up your home to give it a fresh look or to make it more appealing to resell down the line, it’s tempting to hire out contractors to do the job without getting your hands dirty first. But this can be a waste of money, especially with easier home improvements that don’t require specialized skills.
GOBankingRates spoke with real estate experts to find out which home improvement projects you can save thousands on by doing yourself. Find out how you can make these money-saving DIY home projects a part of your plan for resetting your finances in 2019.
Pave a Walkway
- Pro cost: $900 to $950
- DIY cost: $530 to $555
Pavers can be heavy, so if you go the DIY route, enlist a helper or have your materials delivered, said Joe Raboine, residential business manager at Belgard Design Studio. Don’t take this project on unless you’re absolutely sure you can handle the heavy lifting — otherwise, you might have to use the money you saved to pay for expensive medical bills.
Not only will paving a walkway increase your home’s value — it also looks beautiful and is extremely functional. When the project is complete, you’ll have an inviting walkway for your family and your guests.
Install a Fire Pit
- Pro cost: $1,400 to $5,000
- DIY cost: $200 to $400
Building a fire pit as a DIY project versus having it installed by a professional comes with some different benefits, said Raboine. If you make it yourself, you can create a portable model that can be moved when not in use. On the other hand, he noted that a fire pit built by a professional can look very impressive, delivering a good return on your investment.
Add a Retaining Wall
- Pro cost: $5,100 to $12,000
- DIY cost: $1,200 to $5,095
If you have a sloped yard that is difficult to mow, installing a retaining wall could be an investment that pays. Highly functional, this update can offer hillside stabilization and prevent landslides.
Also visually appealing, a retaining wall can make it possible to create a beautiful landscape design that is otherwise impossible on a steep surface. A retaining wall can be made from a variety of materials — like brick, concrete and stone — depending on its purpose.
Whether you choose to DIY this project or hire pros, it comes with a hefty price tag. If you don’t have enough saved up to cover the cost, you could take out a low-interest personal loan to help fund this upgrade.
Build a Fence
- Pro cost: $2,647
- DIY cost: Price per linear foot — metal/chain: $7, wood: $12, vinyl: $17, aluminum: $26
If privacy is an issue in your neighborhood, building a fence can be one of the best remodeling projects — one your neighbors will appreciate, too. HomeAdvisor recommended opting for a 6-foot fence, as it’s the most popular height, but be sure to look into building codes for your area so you can pass your home inspection.
The size of your property and material used to build the fence will largely determine its cost.
Add Built-In Shelves
- Pro cost: $2,000 to $5,000
- DIY cost: $500 or less
A space with lots of handy built-in storage nooks can increase the functionality of your home, and can also be an added bonus for prospective buyers when it comes time to sell.
You can save a lot if you DIY, with your only cost being materials, which should amount to about $500 or less. However, if you’re not handy enough to do this yourself but still want to install this upgrade, expect to pay between $2,000 and $5,000 for materials and labor on built-in cabinetry, entertainment nooks and bookcases.
If you don’t have enough cash to cover the costs, a personal loan — such as one offered by PenFed Credit Union, which has rates currently as low as 6.49 percent — can help you finance this upgrade at a lower rate than if you were to use a credit card.
Add a Subway Tile Backsplash
- Pro cost: $500 to $1,000
- DIY cost: $200 to $300
Jonathan Faccone, a real estate developer and investor at Halo Homebuyers, recommends adding a ceramic or glass subway tile backsplash to update the whole look of your kitchen.
“I love this option because it’s very cost-effective, it’s an easy design pattern to execute — which makes it less labor-intensive — and buyers always love the fresh designer look of subway tile,” he said. “Big-box stores sell a variety of ceramic and glass backsplashes for around $3 to $5 a square foot, so you’ll likely only spend $200 to $300 on materials. You can pretty easily take it on as a DIY project, which should take about one to two days, or hire out to a contractor at a cost of $500 to $1,000.”
Refresh Your Walls
- Pro cost: Up to $2,400
- DIY cost: $600
Painting is one way to update the look and feel of your home, and add personality to a room with minimal effort.
“Painting your own home instead of paying a painter can save lots of money,” said Justin Stanford, a realtor with Keller Williams Realty. “While it’s not necessary that one be a skilled painter, careful prep work will make the job much easier. Things like taping off the baseboards and windows, as well as placing drop cloths, will allow you to paint faster, with much less mess to worry about.”
Stanford said you should expect to pay about $600 for paint, paint rollers, brushes, an edging paint tool, painter’s tape and drop cloths. For comparison, hiring a professional would cost roughly $2,000 for a 2,000-square-foot home, and an additional $400 if the paint isn’t included, he said.
“You can save even more money on paint by buying five-gallon buckets (around $140 each) instead of single gallons ($35 each),” he added.
Add Curb Appeal With Landscaping
- Pro cost: $150 to $200
- DIY cost: $60 to $80
It doesn’t take much money to make the front of your home appear more appealing and attractive, said Stanford.
“First, trim and shape all plants, bushes and shrubs,” he said. “The only cost for this step is a $20 to $30 pruner. Add pops of color with small, ground cover type plants. You can buy these plants at a nursery for $7 to $10 each. A $20 shovel to dig holes is also needed. By simply cleaning up a few areas and adding color, you can transform your front yard.”
“Aside from investment of time, your total cost can range $60 to $80, depending on the amount of plants,” Standford said. “For the same job, a professional landscaper will easily charge $150 to $200.”
Rearrange Your Furniture
- Pro cost: $200 to $370
- DIY cost: Free
“You can frequently alter the appearance and feel of a space dramatically by merely rearranging the furniture,” said interior designer Amira Johnson of Emerald Doors. “For instance, if the first thing you see when you walk into your living space is the back of the sofa, that large piece of furniture cubes visitors. Just moving the couch into the opposite wall can create a new focus, improve traffic circulation and make the room appear more inviting, all at the same moment. And best of all, it costs absolutely nothing.”
If you do want to hire professionals to move the furniture within your home, you should expect to pay at least $200 for two hours of service, according to HomeAdvisor. With this free DIY project, make sure you can lift heavy objects or that you have someone who can to help you.
Dan Ketchum contributed to the reporting for this article.
Disclaimer: Prices included in this story are estimates, and actual costs might vary.