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Improve Your Lifestyle With These Backyard Upgrades

Playing a game of cards on the brick paver pool deck

Improve Your Lifestyle With These Backyard Upgrades

Done right, your backyard has the possibilities to take you to a comfortable place where you and your family can enjoy time together, maybe even invite some friends over. 

Your backyard is your private outdoor space that you retreat to for a relaxing break from being in front of the computer or simply catching some fresh air.

Many people also enjoy hosting family and friends in their backyards as it allows them to take in the wonderful outdoor views and atmosphere. Moms love it because the inside of the house doesn't get destroyed.

In this article, we’ll give you a complete list of ideas on how you could up the ante of your home and improve your lifestyle with backyard upgrades. Some are most costly, some require more work, but whichever choice you go with, these upgrade ideas are great for adding character, depth and better functionality to your backyard.

Outdoor Kitchens

One way to upgrade your backyard is to add an outdoor kitchen. Outdoor kitchens, also known as BBQ islands, are part of a growing trend in the United States, particularly in the Southwestern parts where people can comfortably spend time outdoors.

Your outdoor kitchen can range from the most simple setup to extravagant complete ones that a world-class chef would love to spend time in. Just make sure not to lose sight of your allotted budget. So what should you consider before deciding to invest in an outdoor kitchen of your own.

cooking some burgers and brats in his outdoor kitchen

Complementing Your Home

Carefully plan what will go into your outdoor kitchen as well as the overall appearance of it before you get started. Remember that your outdoor kitchen must look good by itself and also complement the interior and exterior of your house. You’d want a well-budgeted, aesthetically pleasing upgrade rather than an expensive eyesore. As such, the decorations that you bring to your outdoor kitchen must complement the ones on the inside of your home.

What Will Be In It?

An outdoor kitchen will not consist of just a couple of kitchen appliances taken outside and set up for use there. You will also have to look into getting utilities such as electricity and water supply outside so that you can have a functional kitchen outdoors. You also have to look into flooring, walls, and ceilings for your outdoor kitchen set up. If you have a bit more budget to spend after all the necessities are accounted for, then you can look into adding more fun luxury features like a pizza oven, an awesome barbecue grill, a sound system.

A typical list of things that will go in your outdoor kitchen can include a fridge, grills, kegerators, kitchen drawers and cabinets for organization, beverage coolers and more.


Outdoor Fireplace

Another way to upgrade your backyard is to invest in an outdoor fireplace. If you live in a region with cold temperatures, then this may be a good addition to your home.

As with outdoor kitchens, an outdoor fireplace is available of a range of affordable to more luxurious price points. The difference in cost is accounted for in the type of outdoor fireplace you want installed. Here are some things you might want to consider:

Custom vs. Pre-Fabricated Fireplace

The type of labor varies depending on the type of fireplace that you would want installed. Pre-fabricated or ready-made fireplaces are quite easy to install and can be ready in a few hours with the help of a fireplace expert. Custom made ones require a bit more work and cost a lot more for installation. Prices for ready-made fireplaces will vary depending on the quality, size, and materials of the fireplace.

Location

The location of your outdoor fireplace must be optimized depending on the prevailing wind direction (so it won’t go out on you), the right balance between your preference for a private or scenic spot. It should also be far enough from any structures that can get burned down, and in a large enough space to be able to seat several people.

Materials

Costs for custom made fireplaces rely heavily on the type of material used to create the fireplace. You can choose from a variety of options like reinforced concrete (affordable, good for use with natural gas and propane flames), cast concrete (a popular choice in prefabricated models, affordable), brick (durable), stucco (great for custom made fireplaces), or natural stone (most expensive material for outdoor fireplaces).

Fuel Type

The types of fuel that you can choose from to use will also affect the cost of your outdoor fireplace. The four most popular types are wood, gas, propane, and electric. Each type has its own special considerations. Wood fireplaces would need a chimney, and would cost more than gas and propane where you’d only dig into the ground to use. Gas fireplaces connect to a gas line underground, and propane fireplaces need tanks, much like outdoor grills do. Of course, electric fireplaces need access to an electricity line to function.

Other Outdoor Fireplace Options

This would cover any other additional designs that you may want to add, like a sitting area around the hearth and more. While these may not be necessities, you’d need to spend on these as well if you plan to upgrade your outdoor fireplace even more.


Pergola

A pergola allows you to achieve a multitude of things at once. It adds aesthetic value to your backyard and allows you to have a space to exhibit your potted plants in. Don’t be fooled by the ‘incomplete’ look of a wall-less and roofless pergola, you will certainly get to enjoy a lot of things if you decide to get one of your own. If you’re still unconvinced, here are a few reasons why you should definitely add a pergola to your backyard:

wooden pergola creating shade on a hot day over a brick patio

Adds Definition

Despite its seemingly incomplete look, pergolas can help give definition to your backyard. If you do not have a deck or a patio outside your home, a pergola is a great alternative for that backyard upgrade you’ve been planning.

Privacy

You get the option of making your pergola more of a private space with the use of curtains, drapes, latticework, or screens. Don’t assume that just because it has frames for a structure, you wouldn’t get enough privacy in it.

Additional Space

You can do a lot of things with the additional space that a pergola provides, but one thing that comes to mind is that you can use it to exhibit those extra potted plants that you have. You can have hanging plants for a different effect, or you can use vines to add more character to the otherwise bare framing structure of your pergola. Get enough vines on it, and your pergola will have a ceiling of its own.

You can also use it as an entertainment venue so that your guests will get to experience the outdoors and have a change of scenery. It can be a dining area, a lounge, or something else entirely. Versatility is one of the strongest points of a pergola.

Provides Shade

If you opt to let your vines grow enough to get a makeshift ceiling on your pergola or even get a custom canopy, you can have your own shaded area to relax in without having to worry about getting sunburn. If you’re one who finds being in the outdoors relaxing but can’t be bothered with putting on sunscreen every time you go out, then this is a great option for you. There are a lot of options in outdoor shades to choose from these days.

Adds Value

If you end up selling your house in the future, pergolas are a great investment that would add more value to your house. Not only are they more affordable than gazebos, pergolas also add to the aesthetic value of your home. A pergola is also a great focal point, which is something potential buyers are usually interested in.

Lead-In Structure

If you want a pergola and a gazebo, it’s totally possible. You can use your pergola as a lead-in structure to other outdoor living structures that you have outside your home. It’s pretty versatile, so you can choose to use it however you want. As a matter of fact, pergolas are better used with other structures than just by itself.


Low Voltage Lighting

When it comes to making your backyard more habitable and cozy to hang out in, ambient lighting is something you’d want to plan properly. It’s safe and easy to install while creating the perfect atmosphere any night of the week.

Why Get Outdoor Lighting?

Low voltage lighting is extremely versatile since you can adjust the strength and intensity of the light with ease. All you have to do is pick out lights which have different watt. This can help you get the perfect ambience whether you’re shining lights on your plants, up a tree, down a wall, or along a path.

Just imagine the light softening your surroundings without being harsh, or acting as the perfect ambient lighting on a romantic evening. Even if you’re just relaxing outside with the kids, low voltage lighting creates the perfect setting for s’mores, scary stories, or fireworks in summer. You don’t even need to be an electrician to install your own lights since a simple 12 volts won’t hurt you.

Do Keep In Mind:

Sure, you can install these lights pretty simply by yourself without an electrician. For certain systems like solar lighting for instance, you can’t just install it and walk away; you need to make sure you pick up a transformer that reduces the 120 watts your home uses to a simple 12 watts. That’s what makes it low voltage. You’ll have to make sure the transformer is set up properly and plugged in outside, so the location of your outlet may limit the location of your lights.

Improving Your Backyard

Low voltage lighting is a great way to improve your lifestyle by improving your backyard for tons of outdoor parties, nights with the family or with your spouse, or just nights spent looking at the stars. You can point them at a wall to create shadows that light up the backyard without hitting your eyes. Shading around plants makes up longer shadows too, and shows off your beautiful backyard with ease. They’re a perfect quick upgrade for lighting up your surroundings without lights that’ll blind you.


Pizza Oven

People tend to take a look at pizza ovens and think that there’s no way they’d ever make so many pizzas. The good news is that pizza ovens aren’t only for pizzas. You can not only use them for other meals, they can certainly improve your backyard and your entire outdoor experience too.

custom made pizza oven with eden veneer

Using A Pizza Oven

Pizza ovens are great because they can cook so much more than a grill can. Halfway through summer when you’re getting tired of just grilled meats and vegetables, you can use your pizza oven for roasts and smoked chops too.

You can leave the oven on all day for some slow cooking or make a pizza in around two minutes when you get the fire hot enough. This makes a pizza oven perfect for parties, or fun dinners with your family. Art of Making Pizza is a great resource for easy pizza recipes On top of this, you can cook side dishes inside too. As long as you have the right cookware, other dishes can go inside the oven outdoors without running back into your house multiple times to stir or add spices.

What Should You Consider?

Most people balk a little when they take a look at some of the prices out there for pizza ovens. Some of the most expensive ones can cost as much as $4,000, although you can get a great outdoor oven for as little as $300 too. If you cook enough outside and take care of it, your oven will last for years and you’ll make up the cost in no time.


Fire Pits

Fire pits are actually much more useful than you’d think. You’re not limited to just roasting s’mores over an open flame; instead, you’ve got lots of options that will not only make your fire pit worth it, but will improve your lifestyle by leaps and bounds.

Features

There are many options when it comes to your fire pit. You can get something round or squared depending on what will fit more easily in your backyard. You can also pick out something that is built in or portable. Anything built in can be made to be the focal point of the backyard, while portable versions help you gather anywhere.

Wood or Gas?

Fire pits operate using two different options: wood or natural gas. Wood is pretty cheap and provides a real outdoorsy feel. On top of that, it’ll last for hours without you having to do anything. Propane won’t get as hot as a normal fire and won’t get the same smoke wood provides, but they can be powered with a remote switch and turned on instantly.

Outdoor Living / Family Rooms

Many people think that fire pits are too expensive, won’t fit in their backyard, or there won’t be any use for it. There are actually tons of styles that will fit your budget or the appearance you’re looking for. You can even dig the hole yourself, or add seating around it.


Water Features

Water features not only look great, they add sophistication to your backyard and a feeling of relaxation too. Imagine sitting by the pond one evening and relaxing to the sound of trickling water. They can even be used functionally to water your garden, which will save you lots of time and effort in the long run.

pond built in a suburban backyard

Practical Uses

Water fountains and backyard ponds do a lot more than sound nice and look great. The water actually produces a cooling effect in the height of summer. That means you can relax nearby with ease, especially since the sound of trickling water works wonders for stress relief.

Fountains

Fountains are popular water features, and they come in a few different forms. They can take the appearance of a waterfall, bubbling boulders or a statue. Choose something simple or fancy depending on what you’re looking for but remember that these are pretty easy to use since water circulates constantly.

Water Wall and Water Falls

Water walls look great in any backyard, and along with waterfalls, add some great noise as you relax. This stress relief will certainly help you calm down.

These water features also add a classic or abstract touch to any backyard.

pond with a waterfall in a backyard

Ponds

Ponds look great in any outdoor area. They are practical too since they can hold a whole ecosystem of fish and water plants. You can also add character by introducing a little waterfall or fountain that will keep circulating.

"Did you know that officer workers can relieve some of their stress by watching birds out of their office window, a study has suggested this after it found that it makes people less anxious and depressed after the experience. Watching birds in their natural habitat within shrubs and trees can help mental health, even if people are not in a rural area... the academics found."

#comealiveoutside


Gazebos

Most homeowners build a deck or a patio when they wish to add some new structures to their backyards. This is due to the misconception that it is much easier to build and install a patio or a deck than to build a beautiful gazebo. If a deck or patio is not your thing, consider adding a gazebo in your backyard as an upgrade.

Why Add A Gazebo?

Building a deck will take you almost the same amount of time and labor as building an outdoor gazebo, but with a gazebo, you will be able to enjoy best things that both patios and decks have to offer. Gazebos can provide you with an overhead shelter from rain and heat, something that deck or patio can’t offer to you and your friends and family.

Gazebos are visually appealing and kids love them. In their mind, a gazebo is not just some structure in their backyard; it is a castle, a polygon, a fort, and everything else their great imagination wants it to be. A gazebo can also boost the value of your property. Besides enjoying it as a backyard upgrade, you can also see it as an investment that will boost your returns when you eventually sell your house.

Different Materials

  • Aluminum 

If you are worried about the openness of your gazebo and your privacy, then this type might be perfect for you. The aluminum gazebo will provide you privacy and sturdiness, but keep in mind that its price tag might be somewhat higher than the other options.

metal gazebo for brick paver patio
  • Vynil

This is a common material when talking about gazebo materials. This material is frequently used for all kinds of outdoor projects and backyard structures. Even though it is not as visually appealing as wood, vinyl still gets the job done and it is easier to maintain.

vinyl gazebo for brick patio
  • Wood

A wooden gazebo is what most people have in mind when they think about building a gazebo. Wood is a traditional material which adds that unique rustic touch to any backyard structure and landscape. Wooden gazebos are much easier to install than the previous two, but they are harder to maintain. If you choose to install a wooden gazebo in your backyard, make sure that you inspect it from time to time to make sure there aren’t any termites and that your gazebo is rot-free.

wood gazebo

Boulders

There are few things more beautiful than seeing the breathtaking yard of perfectly placed boulders. There is something really special and even stylish about boulders in your yard. If you think your backyard is boring or if you wish to improve it, then boulders might be an option for you.

a young boy playing on a boulder in his backyard

Some Things To Consider

There are some things you need to know before you decide to make that backyard makeover. It is really important that you pick boulders locally. What that means is that you don’t want boulders which don’t fit in the surrounding environment and nature. Also, if you wish to maximize the potential of boulders when improving your lifestyle and your backyard, you should hire a pro to draw up the designs.

Boulders can also do wonders for the market value of your entire property. With boulders in different sizes and shapes, surrounded by colorful flowerbeds with an impressive landscape, your backyard would look a lot better.

This can be a pricy addition to your property if you don’t think smart. Or should we say ‘’think locally.” The biggest chunk of expense is the transport. That means that if you want a particular type of stone which is available far from your location, you will pay significantly more than you would pay for boulders which are located near you.

Another thing you should keep in mind is the scale. Be cautious when ordering the boulders. Do not order smaller ones just because they are cheaper to buy and transport. Boulders should be in scale with your property which means that bigger boulders will look more visually appealing than a bunch of smaller ones scattered across your backyard.

If you wish to improve your lifestyle and your backyard’s visual identity, then think about adding boulders. They can be a great addition to your property, they are beautiful to look at and your kids will absolutely love playing around them too.


Columns/Pillars and Walls

Some people will call them columns and other will call them pillars. No matter what you choose pillars, columns and walls will give your patio a unique look.

Columns

Columns add an architectural look to your patio by creating more 3 dimensionality. They are nice places to rest a plant or some candles. They can be placed at the ends of a seating wall, they can be freestanding or can be installed around some posts for a pavilion, pergola or ramada.

Columns or pillars, whatever you choose to call them, will enhance the beauty of your entire outdoor living area.

Seating Walls

This is the cost efficient and easy way of making your backyard look more attractive and more functional. If you think that your backyard is lacking something, a seat wall might be your solution.

When properly designed and built, seating wall can have a huge impact on the visual identity of your property. You can use them to surround the focal points in your backyard such as the fountain or any kind of other water feature.

Another thing you can do is to build concrete platforms at different levels and surround them with seating walls. This way you can add “depth” to your yard and create the feeling that every platform is another “room.”

Retaining Walls

The main purpose of a retaining wall if to keep the soil in place if there is a drastic elevation in your yard. These walls are often used to terrace yard where once was a steep slope. If you decide to build a retaining wall, you can create a new usable surface and they can help you by controlling the erosion of soil.

This kind of wall is also used in flat yards for flowerbeds, planting beds and they can enhance the beauty of your entire property overall.

natural stone retaining wall

Columns and walls can go a long way in adding character, depth and 3 dimensionality to your backyard, creating a cozy, wholesome outdoor space to enjoy.


Outdoor Entertainment

Drive-in movie theaters were once a big part of American culture for almost 90 years. Even though they are not that popular anymore, there is still something magical about watching a movie with your friends and family under a clear, night sky. If you feel nostalgic, you can always build your very own entertainment center right in your backyard without breaking a sweat!

Before you fire up your engines and buy the biggest movie screen, powerful projector and loudest speakers, stop for a moment and think about your neighbors. If your backyard is situated extremely close to your neighbor’s, you might need to have a friendly chat with your neighbor. The most ideal situation is if your neighbor is a distance away or if you can position your entertainment setup as far away from the wall you share with your neighbor.

Outdoor Projectors

You should consider buying an outdoor projector suitable for all seasons. Taking your indoor projector outside is not recommended because it can easily get damaged when exposed to outside weather elements. You should go for a 1080p projector even though a 720p one will be enough for most of your needs.

watching television outside on the brick patio with an outdoor projector

Inflatable Projection Screens

Another thing you can add to your outdoor entertainment setup is an inflatable projection screen. This screen is designed specifically for an outdoor usage, and it can provide high picture quality as well as resistance to harsh outdoor weather elements.

You can choose different sizes which vary between 16’ to 100’. Inflatable Projection screens are widely used by numerous movie festivals which mean that they truly are top of the shelf product.

inflatable projection screen

Invite your friends, your family and even your neighbors to your private outdoor movie theater and enjoy a night under the stars in the privacy of your garden. Just make sure that you don’t disturb your neighbors with loud noises and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Conclusion

These backyard upgrades are some ideas you can add to improve your lifestyle and enable you to enjoy your home better. Besides adding aesthetic and entertainment value, it’s good to note that these can often be viewed as an investment to increase the value of your property when you eventually decide to sell your home. Whether you decide to go with a simple pergola, artistic placing of boulders or an addition or a relaxing water wall, we hope these ideas set you in the right direction of designing your perfect backyard.

Sources:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/25/watching-garden-birds-good-mental-health-research-shows/

https://artofmakingpizza.com/pizza-dough-recipes/

David Arroyo

David Arroyo of Strictly Stone started laying brick as a summer job in high school with his father. He went on to study design at the Illinois Institute of Art which allowed him to further develop his expertise and to enhance his artistic eye. To date, David has more than 1,000 brick paving projects under his belt.