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The Fresh #ShowEmYourDIY: 15 DIY Ideas to Transform Your Sad Backyard

Welcome to new and improved #ShowEmYourDIY: Outdoor edition. The feeling about these seem to still be mutual: we love seeing/showing off all of our readers’ amazing work and homes, and you guys seem to be loving reading all about it, so we’re back with a no-brainer topic that means more this year than ever! Our backyards have become our safe havens, so sprucing up our outdoor spaces is pretty imminent (heck it’s already July 15th). I know it can seem daunting to look out into a yard that is crying out for help and not know what to do /think it’s going to cost a fortune or need a professional. BUT if these now 15 projects are any indication, it’s very doable, I promise. Get ready to sit back, sip a cold drink and let that charred smell of grilled sausages all up into your nostrils.

A Stunning (User-Friendly) Pergola

First, let me start with a very exciting DIY… That incredible pergola!

Last summer, Tiffany of Pretty Real, decided it was time to tackle her backyard and create a dream lounge/entertaining area. She started with extending her concrete slab (the more budget-friendly option to a floating deck at $2,500) to fit her soon to be DIY’d awesome pergola. The idea of building a pergola has always been intimidating to me. I mean what if it came crashing down because I didn’t support it correctly?! Luckily Tiffany found Toja Grid. It’s a company that sells those black brackets you see above. This way you can confidently DIY a pergola without any fear of it “unexpectedly falling down.” Tiffany wrote a whole post on it here but the dollar breakdown was around $800 for the Toja Grid hardware and about $300 for the lumber. So for $1,100, her whole family can enjoy endless summer nights in their backyard under that pretty epic pergola.

Two updates in one post? Yep! Tiffany said that staining the pergola black was always the plan but you know… life happened so they waited a year to finish their project. Both versions look great but I LOVE the black stained version. If you are thinking about staining your current pergola for a needed facelift or plan on DIYing one after seeing this, here is the stain she used. However, if you want some more info check out her post about the whole process here. Also yesterday Tiffany wrote a post about her DIY outdoor movie theatre (What can’t this pergola do?)

The Perfect Sunroom

Now let’s head back inside, we’re just dipping our toes into “outdoor” but it’s actually a sunroom because that’s kinda outside, right?

Fun fact, we actually have already showcased Avery’s handwork in the DIY kitchen post where she transformed her kitchen for $250. But when she heard about our DIY outdoor space callout, she emailed us this room and it was too good to pass up. We play by our own rules and definitions here. This awesome transformation took six weeks and cost $650 (minus the rug and curtain dye). She first painted the space with Sherwin Williams’ Extra White, the accent wall with Aubusson Blue from Annie Sloan and the floors with gray epoxy paint. She then, with the help of her brother-in-law, built a bed swing, transformed free tree stumps into coffee tables, and then made custom olive drapes by dying basic white IKEA curtains. For the rest of the pieces, she either owned them or thrifted. My biggest question to her was how did she feel secure about the swing and her advice was to just make sure that “you screw your eye hooks into ceiling joists.” Noted for the future. It looks awesome and if you want more info go here and for the swing DIY go here.

Shall we officially head outside again?

Stenciled Concrete (YES it’s painted)

I mean this entire transformation is insane but likely the most impressive part of Kristin’s outdoor space is her DIY concrete stencil. Ya’ll (I’m stealing “ya’ll” from Caitlin:)) the total cost was $90. Yes, your eyes don’t deceive you! So for under $100 you too could make your bland gray concrete into something so fun and special. Kristin has a whole highlight on her Instagram for you to look at and learn all of her tips and tricks.

The Gravel Marvel

When Melissa and her husband bought their 90+-year-old home they knew a lot of love was needed for their backyard. So over 2.5 years, their yard went from falling apart to looking brand new. The first thing they did was tear down the old fence. Instead of rebuilding it, they repurposed some of the pavers from the ground and created a small retaining wall (needed due to the sloping of their yard). They then dug out all of the grass and built those great garden beds and added pea-sized stone all over. The last DIY was that awesome cedar walkway. Since the rest of the yard had gotten a facelift, they decided to say goodbye to the cement walkway because it looked out of place. It was definitely the right call and the whole space looks fantastic. Like I said before, this project took them about 2.5 years and a rough total of $2,700. Well worth the wait!

The Modern Wall Disguise

Now I’m pretty excited to show you this next DIY because I feel that A LOT of people deal with similar less-than-ideal backyard plaster walls. This is how Anita made her’s nearly disappear.

Anita decided she was tired of looking at her old plaster walls so she and her husband DIYed these very cool modern wall panels to help disguise them. They started by digging holes for the posts followed by pouring a bit of cement into the holes to create a foundation. Next, they sanded the posts down, set them into the holes and finished by securing them with filling the holes with gravel. Once the posts were all set, Anita and her husband painstakingly sanded the rest of the slats with an electric sander and then decided to leave them natural instead of painting which was the original plan. Once the slats were up, she added the flower boxes to add some more visual interest. They also wanted to give their cement pad a fresh look so they painted it with a soft grey. In addition to that, Anita learned how to limewash brick so the previous 90s red bricks that would have been in front of the wall now look brand new! Now for the grand total…the fence (all materials included) was $244 and the plants/planters came out to $481. Anita said that weather prolonged the process but that someone could easily do this over two weekends or even a long one (weather permitted). This is really such a clever and budget-friendly DIY.

Want another killer wall idea but for a patio??

The (Faux) Green Wall of Privacy

Bev is one of the lucky few in New York (Brooklyn specifically) to have outdoor space (especially now). But as expected in a big city, it lacked privacy. In a stroke of genius, she decided to figure out a way to create a green wall and I think it’s safe to say she nailed it. With a bamboo fence, a faux trellis, and zip ties, her patio looks like a slice of serene outdoor heaven. She calls it “The Easiest DIY Green Wall Ever” but it’s also the smartest. Since NY experiences all of the seasons, her bamboo and faux greenery should hold up beautifully. This is incredibly renter-friendly (no tools needed), small space friendly and for a rough total of $500, you can make one yourself. She wanted to point out that the $500 is for two panels so if you need only one panel then slash that price in half. 🙂 Head to her blog post to get the full how-to.

Did you even summer if you didn’t dip into a pool? Bri thought, no…

The Cutest Budget Pool

After being inspired by other DIYers on Instagram, Bri decided she wanted to put in a stock tank pool in her backyard. While she and her husband are already very handy, she still did a lot of research, read blogs and watched YouTube tutorials. After all that, she and her husband were confident they could make it happen. To add more style and avoid the pool looking “like a giant cake pan” as her young daughter so lovingly described it as, they decided to build a little deck. Bri said, “from there it was calculating our plans on how to build the deck, level the pool with sand, purchase the wood for not only the structural base but also the top decking that I wanted to have a more modern feel. And then we sealed it.” You now may be thinking, “but how does it stay clean?” Well, they put in a pump system and use chlorine tablets. The pump is hidden underneath the deck and is hooked up to the nearest outdoor electrical outlet.

Wanna know the craziest part? It only cost roughly $650 all up. To be able to have a very chic pool for just over $500 is mindboggling to me. They did such an incredible job and I now really wish I had a backyard.

Now this year Bri added to her already awesome yard with DIY BBQ Station.

A Modern BBQ Station

It looks so great and solved their grilling storage problems. Plus for a total of only about $300, Bri was able to customize it to exactly what she wanted. She even made the concrete toppers herself! She has a whole blog post of how she did it so if you too are a grill master head over asap.

The Dreamiest Stucco Sofa

For the last #ShowEmYourDIY post, we shared two of Sarah’s incredible DIY bathroom transformations and today she is back with a total genius and chic outdoor DIY…the succo sofa. Again with her handy husband Emmett, they were able to build this custom stunner in three days for about $1,000. By using cinderblocks, cement, and a few other materials they made such a special accent to their already beautiful yard. She has a whole blog post on the exact how-tos of the project. While I love my little place, seeing this sofa makes me SO sad I don’t have a yard that I could replicate it in. Someday, right?

Is it dinner time? Well, it is on Erin’s patio.

Build Your Own Dining Table

Erin and her husband built this awesome large table for about $200 (instead of the $1,000 it would have cost to buy brand new). They used this tutorial as their guide and once it was all built and beautiful, they finished it off with Superpaint (an exterior grade primer + paint) from Sherwin-Williams in Extra White. PSA: If you can eat outside then you should absolutely eat outside. Head here for more info on her process.

Let’s now talk pergola AND firepit…that is next to a waterfall?! (dreams)

Pergola + Firepit = Summer Heaven

Audrey, her husband, and two boys tackled these two awesome DIYs. They started by ripping out the grass (which was mostly moss). Even though it was very pretty, they wanted to make the space more drought-friendly, sustainable and drain better during their Seattle winters. So they hauled in 24 yards of pea gravel to cover the area.

For the firepit, they stacked paver stones around an iron ring, laid iron mountain flagstone on the ground and set granite boulders to help create a fire pit zone. To make the area soft and inviting, they landscaped with ferns, hosta, moss, and flowering groundcover. Now for the pergola, they wanted it to be the main statement in their backyard so they chose to use 8×8 posts. For how they installed the posts, she said her husband “raised the posts by himself and I would steady the posts while he mounted them to hidden brackets attached to cement pillar bases he had dug three feet down into the ground.” Easy right? Ha. Once they finished putting up the rest of the structure, the whole family painted the posts Sherwin-Williams Caviar but kept the cedar slats a natural tone. To keep everything looking consistent they also used the iron mountain flagstone underneath the pergola. In total, the two projects took them three months and they spent about $6,500 for materials. A last-minute project Audrey emailed about was the outdoor dining table. Kevin used 4×6 cedar pieces for the base with leftover stain from the pergola. They then spray painted an old tabletop and chairs to give it a fresh look. It looks brand new! All that hard laborious obviously paid off. 🙂

The Wood Plank Coffee Table Firepit

This is such a chic and easy way to make the most functional firepit ever. Designer Kisha Gianni made this awesome yet simple wood plank insert for her firepit. This way when those flames are taking a break, she can use it as a normal coffee table. Note the two holes on top to make it easy to take on and off. The only tricky measurement you really want to get right is the depth of the pit. You want to make sure that the braces are the right height so when it sits in the hole, the piece is flush with the rest of the coffee table. So if you have a measuring tape, a power drill, and some screws (maybe an electric saw if you can’t get the pieces pre-cut) you are good to go! Also if you are in the market for a firepit head here🙂

Turf Oasis

I have questioned the use of turf before. I mean I know it’s low maintenance and saves on water but does it look better? Well if there was ever a case in favor it’s designer Lauren’s poolside oasis.

“When we bought our house a little over 5 years ago, the wood deck around the pool had been painted white. The concrete around the pool was a beige/almost peachy color with lots of cracks. I tried several methods for sanding the deck, but the most effective option was an angle grinder with a DimaBrush attachment. I then used a multi-tool with a detail sander attachment to sand in between the cracks of the deck. To say it was tedious is a massive understatement! After everything was sanded, I filled all of the cracks in the concrete and used H&C Cool Feel acrylic deck & walkway coating from Sherwin Williams to paint it. For the most part, I rolled it on, but I had to brush it on along the inside edge of the pool and in between the plastic expansion joints. Next, I replaced the broken and warped deck boards and stained the whole deck with Cabot Australian Timber Oil in Jarrah Brown. The angled part of the fence that really bothered me broke during a storm this spring (how convenient!), so we hired out that job and got that replaced. In order to help the old & new fences blend in a little better, I pressure washed the existing fence and stained everything with Wood Defender stain in Harvest Brown. While you can clearly tell that part of the fence is newer (the color isn’t exactly the same and it is horizontal as opposed to vertical), it is much better than if I had left the old part untouched. Eventually, we’ll replace the other two sides, but that just wasn’t in the budget for the time being.
I ordered turf from a local company to create a small grassy area and break up all of the wood. The company delivered the turf in a large roll and helped me set it in place. Then I cut the shape using a box knife. Since it was going directly on top of a wood deck, I just used a staple gun to keep it in place. The turf is definitely one of my favorite parts of the whole makeover! It does get very hot in the heat of the day, but it is soft and very realistic looking.”

This was clearly a big project but man what an incredible reward. Here’s the budget breakdown:
Fence- $2227.12
Turf- $1124.27
Stains, tools, etc.- $719.25
Total- $4070.64

Again a very big project with a lot of DIY labor but for something that will last them years and hours of enjoyment, it was a great investment.

In need of garden/patio inspiration on a budget? Well, Cathy is here to fix that.

The Perfect Paver Patio

This DIY is seriously impressive, not only for how beautiful it turned out but it only cost $2,000 (not including the furniture). Cathy and her husband kept the deer fence, grapes, and fruit trees but cleared out the debris, added gravel, made garden beds, created the stone patio added a gate and styled the whole thing. Plus, get this…it only took four weeks to complete. This just goes to show that while this yard had beautiful bones, it’s completely possible to fully makeover a space on a reasonable budget and timeline. Head to her blog if you want the total breakdown of the costs and process.

Lastly, we have another familiar face, Leigh.

Poolside Retreat Makeover

You might remember Leigh from our DIY bathrooms post and her awesome mint green vintage tub. Well, that was just one of MANY projects because she and her husband are renovating their entire home (backyard included). Again, there were a couple of things they hired professional help for like resurfacing the pool and installing an outdoor shower. But the rest was her, her husband and some very kind friends. While her husband resurfaced the pool deck, she DIYed that flower pot wall by painting inexpensive terracotta pots and gave some much-needed love to her vintage patio furniture.

For the furniture, she painted the glider navy blue but wanted to keep the circle chairs lighter for visual contrast. To do that she painted the bases white then replaced the old broken vinyl herself (after watching YouTube videos). “It was actually very fun and easy to do. You measure, subtract about 10%, then boil the vinyl strips and they get stretchy.” Very cool and everything looks great.

I don’t know about you but I want to be outside and preferably in a pool of some kind RIGHT NOW. A frozen drink sounds pretty nice, too. However, in all design seriousness I, as always, hope you feel inspired to DIY your outdoor space if it needs a little makeover. Also, let us know what you want to see next in the DIY world and we will do our best to deliver. 🙂 Lastly, thank you, thank you to everyone that submitted…again!

Love you, mean it.

REMINDER! If you are looking for more even renovation and budget-friendly goodness including posts and shopping options head to the All Things Renovation and Budget Ideas sections of the site.

Opening Photo Credit: Design by Bri Moysa

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1 year ago

For the sunroom DIY, i believe the woman’s name is Avery, not Leigh. I recently found her blog and love that sunroom!! It’s creative and beautiful!!

1 year ago
Reply to  Julie

Yes, her name is Avery not Leigh….credit where credit is due 😉

1 year ago

Wow, these are all incredible and so inspirational. Thank you for sharing!

1 year ago

Love posts like this! Thank you! And definitely pinning some of these ideas! ??✨

1 year ago

Loved this post! Every single project is fabulous.

Sarah Gibson @ Room for Tuesday
1 year ago

Thanks so much for the feature!! xox

1 year ago

Great ideas and great inspiration. I’m also looking for ideas for my patio. It needs less sun but a tree is out of the question because of the septic tank and a roof of any kind would have to be free standing. Hubs already took that down. Solutions? Btw, Melissa and her husband have a sloping yard not a slopping yard.

1 year ago

Swiped up just to see Mellisa’s backyard. What a beautiful labor of love! (You may want to correct slopping to sloping)

Erin Kestenbaum
1 year ago

Thanks for including our dining table in this post! So much great inspiration in this round-up!

Paula Carr
1 year ago

Did you really mean to call Sarah’s sofa “succo?” 🙂

Love all these! It’s so nice to see creativity trump bucks.

1 year ago

Great & inspiring projects! I LOVE all the pillows Leigh used, especially the mix on the hammock.

Mari Beth
1 year ago

Hey Emily! Do you have any ideas for what to do with an old cement patio (besides taking it out.) Can it be covered or finished with something?? Ours is all cracked and not beautiful. Thanks!

1 year ago
Reply to  Mari Beth

Hi Mari Beth! This is Leigh from the last project in this post. The concrete deck around our pool was original and is 65 years old. It was not pretty! Look into concrete resurfacing products. There are a lot out there that help you repair chipped and cracked concrete. From there you can also find different paints or sealers specifically for concrete that can give you an updated look. Hope that helps 🙂

1 year ago

Wow, I love summer and this is a great post. My fav is the DIY stucco outdoor sofa, it’s really awesome.

XO Anna From Italy

[…] Tolle Inspirationen für den Garten gefällig? Here you go! […]

1 year ago

Thank you so much for featuring our DIY Pergola and Fire Pit project. It’s definitely an honor to be included among the others in this post!
Audrey @wildwoodmodern

9 months ago

Love these!! As a Southerner, I have to point out that it’s y’all, not ya’ll. The apostrophe takes the place of the ou in you. 🙂 Love y’all!

9 months ago

These are great inspiration! I want to do the modern wooden fence to cover a green chainlink and the stenciled patio.

9 months ago

How wonderful and budget friendly to be so handy! Sigh, I am married to a man who uses his hands to point to where things should be fixed or moved…we hire out. Sigh.
Kristin’s stencil patio matches Bri of Emerson Grey’s kitchen floor!

9 months ago

THAT table … Emily and Brian! Make that for the mountain house and get your DIY on!

Sara…there’s your tank pool right there!

Such A-maz-ing transformations
*(except that awful fake grass = bad for the environment, planet, all of us….Eooowwrrgghh!)

Inspiring stuff and so doable for so many. Yaaay! 👍

9 months ago
Reply to  Rusty

Lauren here, with the awful fake grass! I’m aware of the environmental impact of turf. A few years ago, we looked into doing our entire backyard with it and decided against it. In this case, it’s a very small area with wood decking underneath. Growing real grass was clearly not an option. It also eliminates the negative impact turf can have on bugs & insects (nothing was burrowing there in the first place), and we did not dig up any soil to replace it with sand. Yes, the plastic is an issue, but this will have a 25+ year life, as it gets very little foot traffic. That’s 25+ years of no mowing, fertilizing, weed control, watering, or any other practices that negatively impact the environment. We just wanted a pop of green to break up all of the wood, and you can see it’s
not too much larger than the area rug that sits atop it. Just thought I’d point that out, as you seemed to have a very visceral reaction 😉

9 months ago
Reply to  Lauren Horton

You make some good points of clarification.
I get your decision making.
Yes, the impact is less.

9 months ago
Reply to  Lauren Horton

Wow, people are pretty negatively passionate about fake grass on this site. Well done, Lauren, for taking it head on. All I can say is: “You do you!”

The area I was thinking about, in my yard, is the same size as Lauren’s patch. The cost to install is making me change my mind to Elfin Thyme- hardy, full sun, drought tolerant; and not mounding in growth and takes foot traffic.

9 months ago

“succo” “ya’ll” and an incorrect naming credit all pointed out quickly in the comments.. you know we love you EHD but we’ve been begging for a copywriter for years!

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