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10 Ways to Save on Backyard Renovations

By Scott Gamm of HelpSaveMyDollars.com.

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Summer is on us, and chances are that the warm weather will have you spending more time barbecuing, relaxing, and socializing outside in your yard. Wouldn't it be great to make some improvements to that backyard for the lowest possible cost, while still bolstering its curb appeal and possibly increasing the value of your home?

From the landscaping to the lighting to the furniture, how can you save money on backyard renovations? What parts of the yard should you update? Do you dare take on the project by yourself or is it wise to hire a contractor ? We asked some design experts for advice.

Backyard improvements can get expensive and complicated. Set a budget, plan appropriately and consider hiring an expert when needed.

Set a budget
Backyard renovations can cost a few hundred dollars or tens of thousands of dollars -- it depends on the type of renovation you're looking for.

If you plan on building a swimming pool or a deck, projects that will be very costly and most likely require a contractor, be sure to get price estimates from several different contractors. And always try to negotiate with the contractors for a better price.

Unless you have the cash to finance your renovation, don't do it. Avoid home equity lines of credit , even though interest rates are at extreme lows. These loans are secured debt -- your home is collateral, so if you lose your job and can't afford to pay back the line of credit, you stand a chance of the lender taking your home.

And it doesn't make sense to get into credit card debt for something as nonessential as a backyard renovation, so save what you can and pay cash!

Should you hire a contractor?
You've probably heard contractor horror stories from friends and neighbors, but when all is said and done an intensive backyard renovation may require the skill and expertise most licensed contractors possess.

Licensed contractor Kia Ricchi of TheContractress.com, warns against taking an outdoor lighting project into your own hands: "Don't take a shortcut here, because electrical malfunction can be serious," she says.

According to Ricchi, some projects will require a building permit -- especially projects that involve major tools and equipment (power saws, electrical tools, bulldozers, etc.). Unless you are qualified to operate these tools, you may end up hurting yourself or further damaging your backyard, costing you more money in the long run. For bigger projects, have a licensed professional on your side.

And if you're considering renting a bulldozer to clear your backyard, make sure you know how to drive one.

Plan the design
Walk around your backyard and plan how you'd like it to look after the renovation. Perhaps you're not fond of the landscaping -- figure out what plants and flowers would make your yard look better. Fixing up the yard without a clear plan and vision is a huge mistake. You'll end up buying plants or materials that you may not need. A design plan will ensure a stress-free construction project.