DIY Wish List: Function Trumps Form

Digging a fire pit in the yardTwenty percent of the homeowners surveyed put building a fire pit on their list of desirable and doable outdoor projects. Image: Erin Lang Norris

A new study examines which outdoor projects DIYers would love to do … but probably won’t.

When it comes to picking outdoor DIY projects, we found it interesting that homeowners opt for functionality over form — and even finances, according to a new survey of U.S. homeowners. That’s music to our pragmatic ears.

By a wide margin, homeowners say they prefer functional projects (57%) over those that just look good (28.3%) or have financial value (14.7%).

But just because DIYers desire a project, that doesn’t mean they’re going to strap on a tool belt and actually do it. The survey also reveals the most-wanted projects a DIYer is least likely to do: High-skill/high-effort projects, like building a deck or privacy fence, probably will never make it off the DIYer’s wish list.

The most-desirable projects promise to make outdoor time more fun; but the ones homeowners probably will do are the easiest, like planting a garden or spreading around some landscaping pebbles.

Take a look at these numbers crunched by the Home Projects Council, a group of home improvement experts that sponsored the online survey of 1,278 homeowners planning outdoor home improvement projects in 2013.

Top-5 Desirable Outdoor Projects

1. Plant a garden (49.1%): Anyone with a shovel and some seeds can try this project, though it’ll take some experience to grow temperamental veggies, like tomatoes.

2. Landscaping with pebbles, stones, or rocks (28.3%): Attractive landscaping adds value to your home by boosting curb appeal. And it doesn’t take much effort to spread pea gravel in garden paths to add color and texture. 

Tip: Edge your path to keep the gravel from spreading.

3. Build a deck (22.8%): A deck is a great way to create outdoor living space, especially when your yard is sloped. Deck maintenance is easy, too: A coat of sealer will keep it looking good.

4. Create a fire or BBQ pit (20.5%): This retro project evokes 1950s dads flipping burgers over a handmade brick pit. Today, you’re more likely to install a gas grill in the pit, which makes the stainless steel seem less industrial and more homey.

5. Build a patio or walkway with pavers or bricks (19.2%): These stone hardscapes are elegant, functional, and long-lasting.

Top 5 Projects DIYers Wouldn’t Do on a Bet

Hey, a guy can dream, and then hire a pro to:

  • Pour concrete slabs for patios, steps, or sidewalks.
  • Install a garden pond.