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Your Backyard As A Haven

These days, folks are spending more time at home and, in warm weather, outdoors in their backyards. To maximize this outdoor living area, Danny Lipford, host of "Today's Homeowner," has some helpful ideas on how to turn a backyard into a private retreat.

Creating the Master Plan
One of the most important things to do before you start a home improvement project is to set aside some time to research and plan your project.

  • Decide on the overall look, layout and budget.
  • Consider low-maintenance materials, how much privacy you would like and how family-friendly you'd like it to be. This will definitely prevent some obstacles later on in the process.
  • Keep in mind, even though it can be a big project, it doesn't have to be done all at one time.

    One of the best ways to create a backyard retreat is to work with a landscape architect. They are often not as expensive as people think and are a worthwhile investment in the long run. (Danny's plan cost less than $1,000.) Plus, you can plan out your project in steps based on your budget.

    Another less expensive option: Use landscape design software.

    Creating the Surfaces
    First you'll want to choose a space where you can start entertaining, either a deck or patio area.

    If you want a low-maintenance deck, composite decking, a synthetic look-alike material, is perhaps the best choice. Handrails coated in white vinyl are also a low-maintenance option that can add contrast to a wood-colored deck floor.

    A less expensive option is a concrete patio area. But don't think you have to settle for drab grey concrete. Instead, you can score, texture and stain a plain concrete surface to give it some personality. This can also be done to pre-existing concrete using an abrasive blade to create the texture and a typical circular saw to cut score joints in the concrete, followed by a coat of concrete stain.

    Amenities Focused on Backyard Fun

    There are lots of amenities for the backyard that focus on all different ages and interests. Choose and add on as you like.

  • Grilling is one of America's favorite pastimes. When deciding on the grill's location, consider an area near the kitchen.
  • The hot tub has numerous leisure features that can be fun and relaxing for all ages. It's also a great alternative to a full swimming pool, especially if cost or space is an issue. However, because of the tremendous weight of the structure, a concrete slab foundation is needed. And, if installing on a deck it requires an inspection by a qualified contractor or engineer.
  • Think about safety features when installing play structures. First, maintain a clear open view from the house to the playground area. Allow for sufficient space surrounding the structure for jumps and falls. Also, embed the playground in special safety mulch to better absorb falls. Other features include vinyl coating and plastic safety caps on all the metal hardware and non-treated woods which have no chemicals.
  • A storage structure doesn't have to look like a typical shed. Windows and window boxes alone can add a great deal of appeal. It can also be used for more than storing lawn equipment. Transform it into a hobby room, reading room or any other kind of little retreat.
  • Landscape lighting throughout the backyard adds a wonderful element to the overall enjoyment of the backyard living space. A big trend among outdoor lighting is solar. They are simple to install and no longer require the expense of hiring an electrician.
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