When to DIY and when to DI-with the pros..

I haven’t posted for a while. It’s the usual story.. too much to do and never enough time..

As someone who knows how to make lots of things, or at least knows enough to work out how to make things, it is sometimes difficult to step back and have things done by others. Part of this story is about identifying when I need to pay the pros to come in rather than trying to go next level DIY!

One of the never ending tasks that has dominated my time over the last few months has been to finish the structural landscaping work in our yard. With some big jobs, like the 250m2 concrete to be laid, it was pretty clear that this was not something we would be doing completely by ourselves.

The thing is though.. just because you are paying a contractor to do a job, doesn’t mean you have to disappear into the background while the work is being done – it is possible to still be involved in the process to ensure the job is done in the way you imagined, and it can save you some money as well. Coordinating various contractors to do the serious stuff and sourcing materials may not be the same as DIY, but it will cut out the need for a builder or project manager if you have a clear idea of what you want and a bit of knowledge of landscaping and construction.

It is important however, to recognise the bits that are better done by someone else. The questions I ask myself include..

  • Can they do it quicker, and does it actually matter how long it will take?
  • Do they have access to specialised equipment or materials at lower prices than those I can get?
  • Will they finish the job to a higher standard, and does that matter?
  • Does the person need a special licence or qualification to do that job legally?
  • Is there other work I could be doing while I pay someone else to do that job better than I can?
  • Will I be able to observe and learn some new skills along the way?

Preparing the area or doing all of the other little things that need to happen along the way can save you the hassle and cost of labourers that are just marking out, digging a trench, moving soil or gravel, rubbish removal or cleaning up an area. There might be bits of furniture or other items that you can build and contribute to the job. There are always elements that you can do yourself.

I am lucky to be able to call this (just under 2 acre) bit of paradise my home. But living in a place like this means.. work!

*Before and after pics from the street..

A few years ago, we identified that several landscaping elements were not only starting to look a bit sad, but they were contributing to time consuming maintenance tasks every single week. That was the beginning of some pretty significant changes to the underlying ‘structure’ of the block. The kind of work that needed to be done meant our home had to look a worse before it was going to be better! You can see the early stages of retaining walls and rock walls in my previous post.. ‘First time stone mason..’

I must admit, I didn’t think it would take this long.. but finally.. the last of the big jobs are done.

It has been 3+ years of terracing, drainage, retaining walls, fencing, and laying better surfaces so that we can keep the place neat and tidy without all the hassles of erosion, build up of garden waste, and just generally better access and layout to all parts of the yard.

So, our recent push to finish the ‘big stuff’ was a carefully coordinated, action packed schedule of clearing and mulching of vegetation, removal of old fencing, rebuilding of simple concrete retaining walls and edging, more drainage improvements, and then formwork to pour a concrete curb to retain the new gravel driveway.

The sloped section that had eroded to the point where a big chunk of our driveway had relocated itself down the hill needed to be fully reshaped, compacted and new topsoil put down.. so we had our excavator guy come in for a day. He also levelled out the driveway section along the front of the house and spread about 16m3 of new gravel. Even if we hired a little excavator, there’s no way we could have done this as fast or as well as he does.

 Unlike previous work where we reestablished our lawn using seed, it was too risky to leave that topsoil exposed to be washed away in our next heavy rainstorm, so we paid the extra dollars for turf. I could have saved a bit by rolling it out myself, but in this case, I decided to have the turf guy do it just because that slope is crazy and I’m just not that fit haha!

To improve privacy, appearance and noise, we finished off both sides of our property with a Colourbond fence. This was another task that I decided to hand over to the pros. In this case, it was clear that the contractor would be fast, accurate, high quality and probably have access to better material prices than me as well. I had plenty of other work to keep me busy, and it was also important to have this done so that the neighbours could be assured of quality as well. I enjoyed watching the fence go in and the difference it made to the appearance of our property on both sides.

Over on the other side of the property, the unfinished driveway had been haunting me for years. We tried and failed to have this job completed (with various bitumen and concrete companies that said they would do it but then let us down) so it was a nervous few days when the guys actually turned up and got into it. 

You would think that this was a job where I should just stand back and let them go, but there was still some plumbing, deck and fence modifications to be done, and because there were still some decisions to be made about the shape of the surface, it was important to be on hand to guide them as they did all of the earthworks and preparation. I am sure that those concreters prefer jobs where the owner is not hovering around, but honestly if you are paying the big dollars to get a job like this done, you need to be sure it is going to end up how you want it. 

The good news is – that’s exactly what happened. We were on hand to identify any little issues during preparation and the finished concrete pour was just right 😊

So, I can say that the hard work and attention to detail during these last few months has really paid off. There are still loads of jobs to do (it really never ends does it!) with painting the exterior of the house being next on the list, but the backbone of this property is now in place, finishing it off and keeping it well maintained should now be easy and enjoyable to do..

Here’s a few more before and after pics.. I am so excited to have this work finished.. I cant help sharing!


*Looking up the driveway

*Across to the front of the house..

*At the shed end..

*The front slope that kept wanting to wash down the hill, and the neighbours lovely but untamed jungle and storage area (you know, that bit of your yard where you stash all of your left over materials etc)..

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