October 21, 2021

Lessons Learned From DIY Backyard Projects: The Importance of Applying the 6P Rule

Do-it-yourself backyard projects can be fulfilling in a number of respects. They are typically a way for a person to “customize” their backyard to fit the needs and personality of their family. Depending upon the type of project, they can also add to a house’s market value, or at a minimum, to its “curb appeal.” By applying the 6P rule (Proper prior planning prevents poor performance), an individual can save themselves a significant amount of money and a substantial amount of labor and aggravation.

Need versus want

Before purchasing materials and tools and initiating any work, weigh whether the proposed project is a need or a want. Consider how the project will affect everyone (and everything in the case of pets) both during the installation/erection phase, and with its subsequent use. I recently helped a good friend disassemble and remove a gazebo with knee walls and windows because he and his wife decided that they needed the room for something else. He built the gazebo only 3 years ago, spent close to $9,000 in the process, and they used it only a dozen times since erecting it. Fortunately, he donated the materials to the local Habitat for Humanity resale store as opposed to just taking it to the local landfill.

Permitting inspection requirements

Depending upon the do-it-yourself backyard project and the applicable local municipal code requirements, building permits and subsequent code compliance inspections may be required. While this is probably not the case for something as simple as building a sandbox for children or building a raised garden plot, it may be exactly the case for something like a lighted/powered deck extension, a powered greenhouse with plumbing, or even a lighted patio with a built-in gas fire pit. Checking for applicable code requirements before beginning a project can save considerable amounts of money and aggravation.

In the event that the project does require obtaining any kind of permit, the project may have moved out of the do-it-yourself realm, as professional contractors of any type will be able to obtain the permit and know any applicable codes to ensure approval following the code compliance inspection. When a code compliance inspector discovers that a project was a DIY completed project, they tend to take a magnifying glass to every aspect of the work. This results in return inspection fees for the municipality, and added expense, labor, and aggravation for the person who has to amend the work already completed.

Consider utility placement

If a project involves either digging into the ground, or erecting something of substantial height, consider where the utility lines/pipes are placed on the property. If the project is going to involve trenching or digging (such as installing a lawn sprinkler system), the person doing the work should consider having the utility company come out and mark the ground to show where their lines/pipes run through the property. While hitting an underground wire or fiber run that carries internet service may not cause catastrophic injury to the person operating the trenching tool, the loss of internet service throughout the neighborhood may make them a vastly unpopular person with their neighbors.

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