13 Before and After Backyard Makeovers You Can Do in a Weekend
Have a bland backyard and a free weekend? We’ll show you how to update your outdoor space for fun and function.
Before: Sound Structure, Worn Decking
This home’s existing decking and railing was in bad condition, but the pressure-treated structure was still sound. There’s no need to tear down an rebuild, when a simple decking and railing update will suffice. And the results of this makeover will surprise you.
After: Refreshed Decking Looks Brand New
If your existing deck is old, shabby and a maintenance nightmare, you don’t have to tear it all down and start over. Chances are that the structural parts are still in good shape. If so, you can simply remodel it with new decking, rails and stairs, and save tons of money over the cost of a complete rebuild.
In this story, we’ll show you how to replace worn decking, railings, stairs and several other features. We won’t tear out the basic deck framing—instead we’ll describe how to tell if your deck is in good structural shape. We’ll show you how to replace old decking with low-maintenance composite materials and build a new “floating” landing at yard level that expands the deck in an attractive, practical way.
Before: No Space for Relaxing Outdoors
When a deck is inviting, you know it, and here’s one that will definitely draw you outdoors. It’s spacious and attractive. It features large planters to put green plants and flowers close at hand. And it has a versatile railing system that lets you combine solid panels for privacy and open sections for great views and cooling breezes.
We framed the deck with pressure-treated wood, which will last for decades, and then covered the framing with plastic/ wood composite decking and an engineered wood trim, aluminum balusters and fiber cement siding.With these materials, your deck will look great for a decade with little more than an occasional cleaning.
After: Amazing, Maintenance-Free Deck
Build this spacious, semi-private deck, which features planters, a handsome railing, low-voltage lighting and a wide range of low-maintenance, durable materials. It’s a big project, but our photos and drawings show you all you need to know to assemble it successfully. Get the full step-by-step plans here.
Before: Unattractive View
The deck location on this home includes an unsightly view of the neighbor’s backyard and dog pen. When you can’t relocate a deck, try this simple project instead…
After: Perfect Private Hideaway
If you enjoy spending time on your deck but the neighborhood pest seems to pop over every time you step outside, this privacy fence project is for you. It’s designed to gracefully replace sections of your existing railing and make your deck more private. It also blocks unsightly views, reduces outdoor noise and gives you shelter from the wind, making your deck a more comfortable spot on those breezy days that usually drive you inside. We’ll show you how to build this deck privacy fence here.
Before: No Place to Kick Back
If there are no areas to sit and relax or gather with friends, your backyard is just wasted space! Turn it into something special.
After: Space to Relax and Entertain
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 how-to plans for this project here.
After: Safe, See-Through Deck Railing
The tinted glass in this deck railing is strong and safe, and it adds flair to your outdoor space. This article explains everything you need to build the railing for your deck. We’ll walk you through how to do it yourself here.
Before: No Place to Pass
Add an element of interest as well as a practical way to walk through your backyard with a gravel path. It’s easier to do (and less expensive) than you may think.
After: Affordable Backyard Pathway
Gravel is the easiest to handle and least expensive path material. It feels soft underfoot, but it’s solid enough to handle a loaded wheelbarrow. And although it looks informal, it can complement a formal garden, especially if you add a stone border. Here are several options as well as how-to steps.
Before: Hot Paver Patio
Is your paver patio too hot to sit on for more than two minutes? Create a touch of shade by adding a pergola.
After: Pretty Pergola for a Hint of Shade
Build a vine-covered pergola in your backyard to shade a stone patio or wood deck using wood beams and lattice set on precast, classical-style columns. The dappled sunlight created by the overhead latticework creates a cool, relaxing environment perfect for backyard entertaining. Here’s how to do it yourself.
After: Bug-Free Outdoor Room
You can add a spacious, airy outdoor porch to your home. We’ll show you everything you need to complete the project yourself, including how to frame the porch, attach it to your house and all of the finishing details. Sure, it’ll take a lot of time and work, but once it’s done, you can beat the bugs and spend more time outdoors during the summer. We’ll walk you though how to build it step-by-step.
Before: Wishing for a Water Feature
Have space in your backyard for a unique water feature? Here’s a great idea.
After: Zen Space, And Less to Mow!
Let us show you how to add this easy-to-build pond and easy-care deck to your garden. This serene retreat can be built by a novice and doesn’t require a lot of expensive tools, yet it offers a unique design. In this article, we’ll show you the plans and techniques needed to construct the pond and deck. All it takes is some digging, simple assembly and this easy-to-follow DIY advice.
Before: Trampled Grass Walkway
Do you want to spruce up an ordinary, all-purpose sidewalk or patch of grass that’s constantly walked on? If so, this project is a great eye-catching solution.
After: Heirloom Garden Pathway
Our project dresses up a space along the side of the house from the driveway to a service door. It also provides a firm, smooth surface for rolling a garden cart or wheelbarrow and keeps your feet out of the mud on a rainy day. Its width, a full 7 ft., allows enough room for a bench to kick off your boots, with plenty of space left over for potted plants.
After: Natural Stone Patio
Add a welcoming feature to your backyard with this attractive, long-lasting brick and stone patio. Our design easily adapts to fit your yard. Choose from a wide variety of stone types and brick styles. The result will be permanent and maintenance-free. Here’s the step-by-step, so you can install it in your backyard.
Before: Sloped Site for Stairs
Installing stone steps in your yard can be complex, but it is a doable DIY project. You’ll first need to figure out how many step risers you’ll need. Gentle slopes like ours require short risers and long treads, while steep slopes require taller risers (up to a maximum of 8 in. and short treads). If your hill has both steep and gentle slopes, break it up into sections and calculate the step layout separately for each area.
After: Natural, Stepping Stone Stairs
Our steps are built on a gradual slope, but by changing the riser and tread sizes you can build them on slopes as steep as about 40 degrees. Rustic steps like these are well suited for informal garden paths like ours, but we wouldn’t recommend them for entry or other steps that get heavy daily use.
In addition to the basic gardening tools, leather gloves and carpenter’s level, you’ll need a few special tools for breaking and moving stone. Buy a 4-lb. maul (Photo 7) to chip and break stone. If you have to cut a few stones, buy a dry-cut diamond blade, available at home centers. To move the stone, rent or buy a two-wheeled dolly with large wheels. Get the full how-to plans for this project here.
Before: Lacking Backyard
You don’t need heavy equipment and a week of work to lay an attractive and durable path. We designed this one for simplicity and ease of construction. It’s made from old street pavers and granite cobbles set on a sand bed. But you can substitute just about any pavers or types of stones that are readily available and fit your landscape.
After: Fantastic Focal Point
Make a simple garden path from recycled pavers or cobblestones set on a sand bed. Learn all the details of path building, from breaking cobblestones to easy, fast leveling using plastic landscape edging. Plus: Check out our 40 favorite outdoor woodworking projects for beginners.