DIY Home Improvement
Create a Backyard Oasis
With these DIY projects, it’s easy to turn a bland outdoor space into an extension of your home you’ll never want to leave. Read on for 13 ways to achieve your very own backyard oasis.
DIY a Low Maintenance Water Feature
If a water feature you can assemble in a day is more your speed, this is the project for you. This fountain is designed around a stone from which the water will flow out of into a gravel-filled reservoir below, and circulate back up through the rock with the help of a pump. You can either look for a rock, that comes pre-drilled, at local stone suppliers, or you can drill a hole through it yourself with a rotary hammer drill. Best of all, this water feature requires very little maintenance because it was designed to not require a collection pond. Locating it out of the sun reduces algae growth, keeping the water fresher. To learn everything you need to know to build this fountain, click here.
Make a Grill Gazebo
Nothing says summer like firing up the grill with friends and family. This ‘grillzebo’ allows you to keep an eye on the grill without leaving your guests; with ample room for seating, your guests will be comfortable and cool while you flip the burgers. It only takes a weekend to build this structure, and if you use Western red cedar like we did, it will last for years with a little upkeep. Plus, it’s designed to fit most standard grills while also being small enough to fit on existing patios. You can customize it to your liking with room for coolers, storage and dishes. Read the full how-to here.
Build a Pergola
Kick your outdoor space up a notch with the addition of an elegant, vine-covered pergola. This project will keep you and your guests cool while creating a relaxing spot to spend hot summer days. Building the pergola on top of your existing patio will reduce the cost and simplify the labor involved. And building it unattached to your house relieves the headache of matching up the new structure with the eaves of the house and moving any existing gutters. To make the project even easier, we used durable, hollow-core composite columns, which slip right over treated 4×4 posts embedded in concrete. If you’re ready to take on this project, head over here for the full step-by-step.
Construct a Patio Privacy Screen
There’s a time and place to fraternize with the neighbors, and that time isn’t necessarily when you’re trying to kick back and enjoy a little quiet time on the patio. We built an airy, attractive screen that serves as the perfect solution to achieving a little outdoor privacy for homes a bit too close for comfort to the neighbors. Plus, its unique look will enhance any yard. While it may look like a big project to tackle, most of the work is cutting boards to length and screwing them together. It measures 12 ft. long and 7 ft. tall at its highest point, but it’s easy to adapt it to your yard. All the steps you need to construct this handsome outdoor privacy screen are here.
Install a Screened Porch
Expand your home’s living spaces with a screened porch, perfect for hot summer days where you want some of the breeze and none of the bugs. It’s a multi-day project, but you’ll get many seasons of use per year out of this DIY addition. Built with standard dimensional lumber available at home centers, we designed this project not to have heavy beams or complicated joints. Straightforward construction plans make this project ideal for someone who is comfortable building decks or sheds. And the exposed rafters and open soffit make the whole project look attractive and professionally done. It may seem like an intimidating project to tackle, but we’ve broken down all the steps and tips you need to know here.
Build an Outdoor Living Room
Another alternative to increasing outdoor living space is with this beautiful outdoor living room. The protective roof will shield you from the elements, and exposed beams and stately wood piers make the project look high-end. But fear not; by adding it on to your existing patio, even a novice carpenter with a bit of remodeling experience¬—perhaps with the help of a buddy–can build this project in a couple of weekends using basic hand and power tools. And once it’s done, you’ll always have a spot to barbecue, read a book in the shade or entertain friends. Get the full materials list and how-to here.
Install a Tree House
It’s every kid’s dream to rule their own roost, hidden in the privacy of the treetops. Give them a special space all their own by building a custom tree house. The beauty of tree houses is they can be as simple or as elaborate as the builder has the patience for; they can match the style of your house or be evocative of a rustic, cabin retreat. However, you decide to proceed, it’s important to carefully research proper building techniques before beginning. For instance, it’s critical to choose a healthy hardwood tree for your site; maple, oak, beech and hemlock are good picks. If you’re feeling inspired, view the rest of our tips, curated from both TFH readers and expert tree house builders.
Create a Gathering Space Around a Fire Pit
A fire pit is an upgrade that can be enjoyed by the whole family, whether it’s rounding out a barbecue or fired up specially to make a batch of s’mores. Skip the store-bought models, which are often flimsy; for about the same price, you can DIY your own masonry version. It’s easy to clean out, maintenance-free, and long-lasting. A project such as this also serves as the perfect introduction to masonry. While it will require a few days of work, much of that is setting time for the footing and mortar. Before getting started, check fire pit codes in your area; they may require the fire pit to be a certain number of feet away from any structures or overhanging trees. Click for the full set of instructions.
Build a Water Garden Stream
If you’ve always dreamed of hearing the sound of moving water from your property, we’ve got the project for you. It’s possible to create a pond and babbling brook in your own yard using preformed shells, simplifying the project without compromising on sound effects. By using two preformed shells, one positioned a few inches higher than the other, and a pump, filter and hose, water can flow seamlessly and continuously from one and into the other. Once you’ve completed the project and it’s filled with fresh water–we’ll show you the whole step-by-step here–you can begin to fill in your new landscape feature with plants and aquatic wildlife.
Add Seating with a DIY Wooden Bench
Install a Roof Under the Deck
If you have untapped space under your deck, you may be able to convert it into a dry, spacious second outdoor living area. One of the major upgrades that would make this necessary is constructing a roof that catches water that drips through the deck boards and redirects it outside of the new patio area. Commercial systems are available to solve this problem, but one of our fearless readers came up with a low-cost DIY system using corrugated fiberglass panels. Adding gutters, though optional, prevents the draining water from splashing onto the patio. We’ve broken down all the steps you need to know–check them out here.
Shade Your Outdoor Space
Decks are meant to enable you to spend your days in the fresh open air, but sometimes the heat can be prohibitive. To shade your space (and block harmful ultraviolet rays) there are many different options on the market designed to fit a variety of budgets, styles and deck sizes. Canopy awnings, for example, may be a good fit if you’re looking for a permanent structure that won’t retract, but can be removed seasonally if desired. Retractable awnings offer the choice of shade or sun instantly. If you’d prefer more of a built-in structure, building a pergola or a covered deck may be a better choice. To read more on these options and more, check out our guide to shading your outdoor space.
Build Your Dream Deck
A deck doesn’t need to be big in size to be big on features. We’ve got the plans for everything you’ve ever wanted in a deck: cantilevered seating nooks, a cedar pergola for shade, detailed horizontal railings and cascading stairs, to name a few. It’s the perfect space to fire up the grill, read a book, enjoy breakfast or set up a hammock for afternoon open-air naps. It’s a big project, but one that you could complete in about two weeks if you’ve got some carpentry skills and a buddy. We’ve mapped out all the steps you need to achieve this unique, dreamy outdoor space–get the plans here.