What does it take to create the ultimate backyard? Well, that depends on how you want to use your outdoor space. For many homeowners, it’s a place to relax, get together with friends and family and have a good time.
However you plan to use it, we’ll walk you through the key components. The following is a collection of our favorite backyard ideas, projects, tips and tools to help you build your ultimate outdoor space this season.
Whether it’s a deck or stone patio or even a patch of grass, defining a place to gather is a must, even for small backyard designs. In this project, we’ll show you how to build a platform deck in just three days. (Yes, you read that correctly—three days!) Since it’s not connected to a house and sits just inches above the ground, it’s an inexpensive, quick-to-build alternative to standard decks and patios. Check out the full plans for this project here, so you can build this platform deck in your backyard and if it ever gets cold, snuggle into an outdoor heated blanket to stay warm.
Pro tip: Your deck can be any size. But if you’re using 2×6 framing material, place footings no more than 5 ft. 11 in. apart, and limit joist length to no more than 6 ft. 8 in.
A deck is especially easy to build if you have the right tools on hand. The editor’s picks above helped to bring the platform deck to life quickly and easily. Click on the images to get your hands on all three of these go-to deck-building tools now. Also consider using this Makita impact driver, this DeWalt 12-in. sliding miter saw and this Tajima chalk line to pull off the project.
Easy deck add-ons you can DIY
Once your deck is build, add shade, lighting and more to enhance your gathering space. Here are some of our favorite ideas (with free project plans!):
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You don't have to let the blazing sun or drippy weather drive you indoors. One of our favorite DIY deck ideas, this simple covered pergola, will keep you comfortable long after your neighbors with unsheltered decks have given up and gone inside.
Plan and install a low-voltage lighting system to light up your deck. No electrical skills needed; you simply plug the system into an existing outlet. It'll highlight deck features without glare and is safe and easy to install. And if you don't have anywhere to plug something in on your deck, installing an outdoor outlet is another easy DIY project.
One of our readers, Rune Eriksen, sent us photos of his design for a home-built deck drainage system, and we were impressed enough to check it out. His low-cost, easy-to-build system catches the water that drips through the deck boards and redirects it to the outside of the deck. Now, Rune can use the area under the deck as a covered patio, where he can enjoy warm summer rainstorms without getting wet. Several commercial systems are available to create a dry space under a deck, but Rune’s seems to be just as effective. And it’s inexpensive and easy to build using materials found at any home center.
Planters make a striking addition to any deck, and also create more privacy, making the outdoor space feel almost like a separate room. These deck planters are another easy project you can tackle yourself with the plans.
Convert a deck railing into a handsome privacy screen and block nosy neighbors, unsightly views, wind and noise. It's easy to build and will fit most decks; just follow the step-by-step instructions. And it'll make your deck a more comfortable, welcoming place.
Cool deck ideas make you think of shade! A canopy patio awning is a fabric-roofed structure supported by a freestanding, rigid frame that’s bolted to your deck. The frame becomes a permanent part of your deck, and you can either leave the fabric up year-round or remove it seasonally. The fabric should last about 15 years.
In a little under an hour, you can make this simple railing-mounted planter. All you need is some standard gutter parts. The green touch that it adds to your deck will make your outdoor space so much more welcoming and comfortable.
Outdoor Storage and Seating
This outdoor storage bench is just a box made from four frames with legs that wrap around the corners. The panels that fill the frames are plywood with waterproof fabric stapled over them. Covering the plywood seat with foam and fabric is something even an upholstery novice can manage. This bench is easy to customize, too: You can change the dimensions; choose fabric to complement other patio furniture, and stain the wood to match your deck or paint it to match your house.
There's nothing quite like the twinkle of outdoor lighting on a cool summer night. It might just be the easiest way to give your deck a little flash. To get you inspired, we've rounded up 10 of the most breathtaking outdoor lighting looks to take your backyard oasis to the next level.
The Whole Shebang
This deck isn't huge—about 16 ft. wide x 18 ft. deep plus bays and stairs—but it's big on features. The upper deck is just the right size for entertaining small groups—spacious but intimate. It has cantilevered nooks on both sides that provide space for seating and barbecue storage. The pergola shades the upper deck and the home's interior from the sun, and it offers a space for hanging or climbing plants. The lower deck is a great place to hang out in the sun, while the cascading stairs flow into the yard and provide lots of space for planters and pots. Get the full details, and learn how to build them into your deck.
There's no need to learn how to build a covered deck when you can easily build this deck with pergola using our project plans.
Amazing backyard ideas often include vibrant, green grass. And it’s a lot easier than you might think to grow and maintain a barefoot-worthy lawn yourself. It just takes a little bit of patience and know-how. Check out our best solutions for improving your grass if you:
Where to Place Landscaping Lighting: Do Focus on Lighting the House First
Surely, the most prized, and expensive, part of your property is your home. Without it, what would landscape lighting even mean?! That's why you should first put your attention on lighting your house using the right type of outdoor light fixtures that illuminate your home and provide safety and security at night. You should position lighting fixtures so that they highlight walls of the house as well as architectural features. Check out these breathtaking outdoor lighting looks for your yard.
Where to Place Landscaping Lighting: Don't Overdo It
When it comes to landscape lighting, don't group too many fixtures in one space. While your thought might be to create optimal lighting of a certain object or space, you're merely drawing more attention to the lights themselves. Here are 14 outdoor lighting trends for 2018 and the best outdoor lanterns to illuminate your backyard.
Where to Place Landscaping Lighting: Do Take Advantage of Multiple Layers
If you want to really create a bright spotlight, avoid grouping a lot of fixtures and instead position several spotlights with different angles toward the object, like a garden statue or topiary, that you want to illuminate. This will reveal silhouettes and layers that make for a dramatic effect. Don't forget about your deck! Here's how to install deck lighting.
Where to Place Landscaping Lighting: Don't Place Lights in a Straight Line
Where to Place Landscaping Lighting: Do Get Creative With Pathway Lighting
So if you can't put your pathway lights in a straight line, what can you do? Get creative! While you don't want to create too unique of a look that comes off as busy or distracting, you can do something like stagger the lights, or place them so they shine down the pathway. Check out these affordable garden path ideas.
Don't Choose the Wrong Bulbs
We can't talk about landscape lighting without discussing energy efficiency. Incandescent bulbs are energy suckers, and won't last as long as you'd like. Furthermore, bulbs with 40 to 75 watts are ideal for outdoor fixtures, and should work with the fixture you're using. Using light bulbs with more wattage than needed can actually create an ugly glare that is less than inviting for your guests. Here's helpful information on outdoor low-voltage lighting.
Where to Place Landscaping Lights: Don't Ignore the Small or Out of Sight Spaces
Whether it's the second floor of your home, or that dark space in the corner of your yard, your oversight of these second-thought locations could keep you from truly taking advantage of the safety, security and beauty of landscape lighting.
No backyard grilling station is complete without a few cool toys. You’ll definitely want to add the three grilling tools above to your wish list this season. Click on the photos to buy them on Amazon now.
Pro tip: This project is really just a plywood box dressed up with solid wood slats.
The ultimate backyard beckons friends and family to hang out, so be sure to include lawn games, barbecue supplies and anything else that encourages fun and conversation. In the videos tutorials above, learn how to make your own cornhole boards, additional seating and side tables.
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