Planning an Outdoor Space: The Pros and Cons of Hired Work

When planning an outdoor space, we all have visions of grandeur for your yard, a luxurious private spa, an amenity laden entrainment area, an outdoor kitchen that could rival a gourmet Tuscan restaurant. How do we reconcile our dreams and our resources? What happens when these opulent ideas are beyond our skillset or organizational ability? Hiring a contractor could be the answer. A professional can execute your ideal outdoor living space but hiring one will be dependent upon your budget, the scope of the project, and your schedule.

There are benefits and drawbacks to hiring a contractor.  You must weigh the pros and cons to decide what is best for you.


A professional is familiar with the permits and inspections required and they will usually take care of the paperwork. A contractor knows the local building codes to prevent future safety issues or fines. A large job might require a specialist such as an electrician or plumber. A contractor is skilled and has the proper equipment required for accomplishing the job. Professionals can usually finish the job quicker than a homeowner.


A professional will cost more money. They do not always serve indecisive homeowners well, so there is less flexibility with mid-renovation changes. Homeowners miss out on the personal enjoyment of accomplishing a home project.

So what projects can you do on your own and which require a landscape professional? The answer to this question will depend on your skill level, your budget, and the amount of time you have to devote to the project. The more elaborate your outdoor living space, the more likely you are to require the help of a landscape architect, designer or contractor. These professionals can take your ideas and combine them with their expertise to develop a creative design plan that will work in your yard.

Building a patio, retaining wall, or other permanent infrastructure, including foundations that require footings, should be done by professionals.  An outdoor project requiring technical skills such as running electrical and gas lines and plumbing should also be done by a contractor.

Sweat Equity

Not every project requires a professional. With a little sweat equity you can transform your outdoor space. DIYer’s can accomplish outdoor renovations such as painting, basic landscaping, installation of a fence, creating walkways with gravel and pavers, and the building of a fire pit or fireplace. With the increased interest in outdoor living space, many manufactures are creating Do-It-Yourself kits for outdoor living spaces such as pergola kits, designed specifically for homeowners to assemble.

The costs associated with an outdoor space vary by region and by the luxuries you desire. A professional will charge for materials and labor. Materials typically receive a 5-10 percent contractor mark-up. According to, for a contractor in Southern California to replace existing cracked concrete with interlocking pavers on a small patio costs just under $9,000. In the same area, a contractor transformed a useless backyard and built an outdoor living room, outdoor kitchen, dining area and fire pit with built-in seating for $64, 860. estimates it costs a homeowner $5,000-$10,000 to build an outdoor fireplace.

If you have a yard, you can enjoy an outdoor space of your own. Hiring a contractor or not will depend on your resources- your budget, your available time, and your skills. You do not need a lot of money to make outdoor improvements just a little ingenuity and grit. If you plan to go big, seek out advice from a landscape contractor, architect or designer. Remember there is no shame in seeking professional help.

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