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Sprucing up Your Outdoor Space With Matt Blashaw

Photo: Courtesy of Chaz Curry

Matt Blashaw, host of DIY Network’s “Yard Crashers,” never planned to be a do-it-yourself (DIY) guru on television. A contractor and realtor, he entered a contest looking for America’s next top handyman on a lark. Though he didn’t win, that exposure ultimately led to him becoming the most contracted host ever on the DIY network. “I love what I do,” he says. “I love building, and I love showing people how to do this themselves. I’m really blessed to be able to live this dream.”

While Blashaw never planned on his own success, he’s a big advocate for planning when it comes to backyard design. “When I decide to design a backyard, I just pick three places I’m going to work on,” he says. “My philosophy is to figure out what your problems are, and then you’ll start to build a solution. You want a formal, relaxing entertainment space? Get some hardscape in there. Want some ambiance when it gets cold at night? Create a fire pit area. Need a place to cook? Create a barbeque area. Figure out what you need, then plan from there.”

Focusing the project

Limiting a design plan to just three areas has several upsides. “You want to all these areas to be very accessible, and you don’t want to put five or six different things into one back yard. It’s just going to be crowded.” More than that, too many plans can destroy your DIY enthusiasm. “Don’t try to tackle your entire backyard at one time,” he says. “You’re going to get bored or overwhelmed. It’s all too much. Tackle a little bit at a time. There’s nothing like finishing a job and saying, ‘Oh, look at this. Awesome.’ You get a positive jolt from it, and then can move on to the next project.”

While Blashaw warns against the threat of feeling overwhelmed, he wants homeowners to embrace their mistakes. “I have a quote I’ve borrowed: ‘A person that makes few mistakes makes little progress.’ When people start a project, they get so nervous. The good news is that there are so many resources to tackle a project, so don’t be afraid to mess up. I talk to contractors all the time, and every one of them has messed up. Know that you’ll mess up, and that you’ll build your arsenal and get better and better.”

Consulting experts

Though he encourages DIYers to mess up, he also urges them not to even try certain tasks at all. Sometimes a job really might be best left to the pros. “Leave the gas line to the professionals. Leave electrical to the professionals,” he says. “Know your limits, and pay for someone who knows what they’re doing to do those jobs.”

Potentially dangerous jobs aren’t the only ones that amateurs should skip, either. “Don’t spend the time and money to put in pavers yourself. It’s a crazy process, and if you don’t do it right it will look like a truck ran over it in a year or two.”

Blashaw also urges DIYers to research the plants they choose. “Don’t fight nature, and if you’re not willing to do a lot of work, consider native plants.” More than that, though, Blashaw just wants people to get started. “This summer, try something new. Next summer or spring, try something again. Just continue to build on it. Get out there. If one person does one project from my show, then I’ve done my job.”

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