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HGTV’s Amy Matthews Answers Questions About Exterior Renovation

In a Q&A, the host of Sweat Equity on HGTV, Amy Matthews, provides a few tips for homeowners embarking on outdoor renovations, and how they can save money by taking on a few projects themselves. 

Where should beginners start when renovating the exterior of their home?

Create a design board of inspiration photos for your exterior renovation. What is your vision if money were no option? What will bring you joy? What will transform your space in a way that elevates your experience in your home? Two: Set a budget. Be realistic and make sure to include an extra 10 percent for overage or surprises — contingency dollars. Three: Consider where you can add your own sweat equity. Doing some projects yourself will save on costs so more of your budget can go toward product and the hired labor for areas that you don’t have the time commitment, knowledge, or tools to tackle on your own. 

If homeowners want to put in a deck, patio, or porch, what type is the best and how can they get it completed the most efficiently? 

I think any good renovation starts with a consideration of the architectural integrity of your home. That means add elements, products, and designs that will have timeless value. Work with the existing structure, not against it. Then, consider what aspects of the deck will give you the most bang for your buck. Will it be the size of the space, the quality of product used, or the maintenance of the materials? 

When it comes to building and fixing exteriors, what are your preferred materials and tools?

Tools for landscaping and exterior fixes are always project specific. Many of the larger tools you’ll use for landscaping and exteriors are items that you can rent. I recommend that, unless it’s a tool you will use again on multiple occasions. I’ve used a jackhammer to bust up old concrete walkways to make way for new pavers, power washers to clean old decks and fences before refinishing with new stain, roofing nailers to add shingles to a new portico, a cement mixer used to set footings for a pergola, and many more. Most of these tools you’ll only use once for a backyard project. Borrow or rent what you can and put your dollars to the design elements or labor. 

Regarding product, an important consideration for a DIYer is the usability and ease of installation of a product. For instance, choose a patio brick that is easy to cut, or better yet, choose a design for the layout that requires the least cuts possible. Finding a way to save yourself time and reduce stress is paramount to a great remodeling experience.  

What are common DIY projects that beginners can create in their backyard? 

Defining a garden space by spreading out the plants and pulling the borders away from the home goes further than you’d think — both to give space for plants to grow and flourish and to keep your watering away from your foundation. Then add mulch or other ground cover to give it a finished look, which is all about sweat equity. It creates instant curb appeal for not a lot of money, and it’s all about the labor, which any beginner can tackle. Adding a paver patio and outdoor living space extends the feel of your home’s square footage and a pergola or fire pit is a great way to add interest and create gathering spaces that transforms your experience in your space. 

What are three ways that can help people improve their homes outdoor space?

Start with a cohesive design that works with and extends the current living space and compliments the homes existing architecture. This will always prove to be a good return on investment. 

Add elements that are specific to you or your family’s needs and wants, and will increase your joy in your home. Unless you are planning to sell in the next year, I always advocate for remodeling in a way that enhances your life, as opposed to designing and investing in a renovation that you hope the next buyer will value. Part of a ROI is actually living in and enjoying the space.

Tackle anything that is in disrepair or that is a red flag as far as home maintenance first. There’s no sense in putting money and time into adding something new, if there is an area screaming for attention and an upgrade. Sometimes the simplest fixes can have the most dramatic effect, without breaking the bank. 

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