To take advantage of Seattle’s friendly summer weather, now’s the time to enhance the outside areas of your home. In the last of our “12 Days of Summer – Outdoor Improvement Projects” series, we’ll explore more ideas for making your backyard more beautiful while adding value for when you decide to sell your house in the future.
DAY 10: CREATE AN OUTDOOR LIVING SPACE
One of the hottest trends for homeowners right now involves adding space and comfort to their houses by extending the livable portion of their properties into their backyards. The best approach is to think of the project in terms of dividing the space into different areas for different uses and incorporating a variety of elements such as water, fire and earth into the design to enhance your enjoyment.
Depending on the amount of space you have to work with and your budget, you can add a simple charcoal grill or hire a professional contractor to install a fully realized cooking area complete with a countertop, grill, sink and storage areas. You’ll also want a place to eat the delicious meals you prepare, and your choices can range from foldable chairs and TV trays to a full-sized patio table with an umbrella and matching chairs.
Adults and kids can all enjoy recreational activities without having to drive or leave the comfort of home. There are numerous options you can choose from including adding a pool, a horseshoe pit, volleyball or badminton court, soccer or batting practice area, sandbox, swing set and tree house.
Whether you want to lie in the sun or sit and talk with friends and family, it’s nice to have a few comfortable, adjustable lounge chairs in the outdoor living space. Visit a local patio store where you can choose from many stylish, comfortable models of furniture that can withstand the elements because they’ve been designed for outdoor use.
Consider adding an area for quiet reflection and relaxation. This would be a nice spot to add a fountain, bench and plant-lined walkway in a place where you can escape the fast-pace of everyday living.
Just keep in mind that if you plan to include any major construction in your backyard, you may need to secure a permit.
Choose a Look
Looking for design inspiration? Check out these portfolios by designers for some great ideas.
DAY 11: ADD PLANTS AND GARDENS
Remember to include Mother Nature when considering great outdoor projects. Including natural elements like flowers, trees, shrubs, stone and a garden is a wonderful way to enhance enjoyment of your outdoor living space.
While in our front yards the focus is usually on curb appeal, in the backyard, in addition to beauty, you’ll want to consider adding a variety of plants to enhance your personal enjoyment and privacy.
• Lawn: Including a pretty grassy area can add a sense of openness, coolness and serenity to your outdoor living space. It can also help the environment by purifying water as it enters our underground aquifers.
• Trees and shrubs: These elements come with many advantages. Trees and shrubs can provide shade, help minimize wind, add privacy and, if you choose, provide you with fresh fruit as well.
• Ornamental grasses: This addition can appeal to several of your senses as you can watch their motion while you enjoy the color variations, feel the texture, smell their prairie-like aroma and hear the sound as they sway in the wind.
• Flowers: Flower gardens add beauty to your backyard and lift your spirits. Talk to your local nursery experts about which varieties will grow best in your area and soon you’ll be enjoying a multitude of hues and fragrances.
Vegetable and Herb Garden
There are many reasons to consider adding a vegetable garden to your backyard, including:
• Eating fresh, organic produce
• Providing a shared experience with your family
• Teaching your children about weather cycles and growing seasons
• Feeling rich soil with your hands
• Smelling freshly-turned earth
• Lowering your grocery costs
• Relaxing after work while watering your growing plants
There are thousands of online resources available to learn about what to grow, how to lay out your planting bed, maintain your garden, and harvest and store your bounty. Be sure to read up on the subject and plan ahead to avoid overgrowth and frustration.
Even if you have a small backyard with limited space for planting a garden, it is possible to grow your own food. Watch this how-to video for some helpful tips.
DAY 12: BUILD OR UPDATE A BACKYARD DECK
If you’ve ever considered adding a deck to your backyard, now may be the perfect time to do it. Decks appeal to the eye, raise your home’s value and transition well into your natural backyard surroundings. In addition, they can be custom-built to fit the area you choose. You can look at design magazines and landscaping websites to find information on virtually every aspect involved in building a deck including photos, how-to videos and design ideas. Also, be sure to learn what building code standards apply in your area.
Pressure-treated Wood: This is always a popular choice since it’s affordable, and it resists weather, insects and rot.
Synthetic Materials: These have greatly improved with time. They look much more natural with embossed wood-grain surfaces, simulated streaks and color variations. They also require less maintenance than wood decks.
Updating Your Existing Deck
Even if you already have a deck, you can update the look by adding features.
Railing: This part of your deck is more visible than the flooring, so you can create a strong first impression and set your deck apart from others by adding a railing. The common types of railing are simple wooden ones, but there are other options available including iron and vinyl. You can also combine materials for a unique look all your own. Just be sure to consult your local codes office to determine the minimal height requirements.
Lighting: It’s amazing how much you can change the appearance and atmosphere of your deck by adding some lighting elements. Whether you choose electric or solar power, you can provide illumination for entertaining with overhead lights, add a soft glow to create intimate areas with post lights, highlight plant boxes with accent lights, and ensure safety by installing step lighting.
DIY Video Link
If you want to build your own deck, check out this video on how to get started.
Thank you for reading our “12 Days of Summer” Outdoor Improvement Projects series. We’ve covered a lot of ground here and, while you may not be able to accomplish all 12 projects in one season, you can bookmark the link to save the ideas for future upgrades to your front and back yards. Choosing to undertake even one outdoor improvement project will help enhance the enjoyment of your home, and you’ll gain the added bonus of adding value if you ever decide to sell your house.