Save a Lot of Money on Outdoor Home Projects by Doing It Yourself

The volume of incoming inquiries I get from DIYers on’s Ask Tim page is growing faster than the Fed can raise interest rates to rein in runaway inflation. With the prices of basic necessities such as fuel and food putting a greater strain on family budgets, there is often little money left over to hire contractors to do the work.

If you can’t afford to hire a contractor, you may be wondering if you can tackle a bigger project yourself. I know it can be daunting, but bigger projects have never been easier. Years ago, you couldn’t learn from videos on the internet how to perform a repair task. Now, many manufacturers have great instructional videos that can give you the confidence to do the job as well or better than some subcontractors sent in to work on your most prized asset – your home!

You’ll also be amazed at the vast selection of tools you can rent to perform tasks that require you to be in the air. Years ago, men’s lifts didn’t even exist. Now you can get motorized lifts with giant hinged arms that allow you to safely paint that high gable of your home or reach that tricky side wall above a sloping roof. Never before has it been so easy and safe for you to carry out exterior work on your home.

For example, imagine you want to install gutter guards. I have tested many of them and found the best ones. (You should go to and read my Gutter Guard Test Results column.) Some companies charge astronomical prices to install these simple products. If a hoist can get around your house, you could finish the job in less than a day. It is possible to save over $1,000.

Two months ago, a friend rented one of these manlifts to do some exterior painting. He’s okay with using ladders to work about 15 feet in the air, but he’s terrified of climbing any higher. In just two weekends, he not only completed all the painting work at height, but he also used the elevator to install a heavy light bar above his petanque court.

An often overlooked tool that you may not be aware of is a simple pipe scaffold. I’ve owned four sets for 40 years. Masons traditionally use this scaffolding, and it is strong, safe and stable. Once you stack the pieces together, install the braces, place the aluminum platforms and then the guardrails, it’s as if you were standing on the ground. Scaffolding allows you to eliminate anxiety and fear while you work diligently 20 or 25 feet in the air.

Where I live in central New Hampshire, I can rent six sets of this scaffolding, including the aluminum work platforms, for just $300 a month. This would allow you to build a tower that puts the bottom of your feet 30 feet in the air. There is plenty of scaffolding to set up around a ranch house so you can walk on top of the six sets placed next to each other and walk nearly 50 feet to one side of your house. Don’t underestimate what you can do with this strong steel tube scaffolding.

Safe pipe scaffolds allow these homeowners to remove old wood siding and install new vinyl siding themselves. They will save several thousand dollars. (Tim Carter/TNS)

Angel, a young woman who lives in upstate New York, uses this scaffolding to help her build a skylight on her house. I coached her over the phone as she progressed through this daunting project. She tried to convince contractors to bid for the job, but none called her back. She has the three Ds: diligence, determination and discipline. She will not be content to make the skylight; it will also save tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

Let’s say you want to install new vinyl siding on your house, but you’ve never done the job before. How about if I told you it’s extremely easy to do and modern toppings have made it even easier. Add to that the vast amount of how-to videos you can watch for free online, many of which are produced by vinyl siding manufacturers.

Some aspects of installing vinyl siding require some expertise, but chances are your home doesn’t have those challenges. I visited the Vinyl Siding Institute website and they have a huge section that shows you how to install vinyl siding, including a wonderful free interactive installation manual. There are also great videos.

When you see how easy it is to install vinyl siding, I guess you’ll be motivated, just like Angel. Her skylight job is much more difficult than just installing vinyl siding and she should be an inspiration to you.

I leave you with that. My stepfather had a great saying that you should consider: “Success breeds success. It just means that your confidence grows as you tackle increasingly difficult projects and get great results every time. If you have a garden shed, cover it with vinyl siding first. Once you’ve finished that, you’ll say, “Damn, that wasn’t so bad. I’m sure I can make the house now with some of these pipe scaffolds! »

Please send me before and after pictures of the difficult project you have completed.

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