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8 summer home improvements for a happier family

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | May 12, 2016

Table set outdoorsSummer is the time for outdoor fun, but what if your fun is getting a little old and stale? It's time to liven things up with home improvements that can turn this summer into the best one yet. Whether you are into sports, love to cook, or just want to give the kids a place to play, these improvements can turn your so-so backyard into a much more exciting place.

For the happy gardener

Love to plant a seed and watch it grow? Do you get a thrill from harvesting your own veggies, or cutting your own flowers for a beautiful arrangement? These are a few options that can help ensure your garden goes on and on for many healthy summers to come.

  • Raised beds. This is a great project for any budget, as you can go bare-bones or all-out. For a simple raised bed, simply create a rectangular bed with wood, brick, or even hay bales, making sure you can reach inside the bed from any side. Reinforce the sides, use a great potting soil and compost, and get to planting! If you want to sink more cash into it, look into beds built much higher off the ground, to help you avoid all that bending and stooping.
  • Compost bin. Though you could buy a ready-made compost bin from a home improvement store, where's the fun in that? There are numerous plans for compost bins readily available, and most of them are made quite simply, with untreated lumber, nails and a length or two of chicken wire. Here are a few great options.

For the adventurous cook

Those who truly love to cook might feel a bit stifled by their kitchen, no matter how large it is. There are so many other cooking avenues to explore! Why not create your own outdoor kitchen, or go with these neat summer home improvements that can have you cooking something new in no time.

  • Pizza oven. An outdoor oven isn't just for pizzas -- it can also roast veggies, any kind of meats, and even serve up a bubbling hot and unique dessert. Wood burning pizza ovens can be created from scratch or with the use of prefab kits; either way, they make for a challenging project that yields delicious results.
  • Fire pit. Want to do something a little simpler? A well-placed fire pit can cook anything from classic s'mores to a pot of soup suspended over the top. Besides that versatility, soaking up the ambiance from a crackling fire can be a wonderful way to spend a Friday night.

For the sports fanatic

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy those basketball games, a few rounds of flag football, and of course, plenty of baseball. Whether you prefer to watch the games on television or want to create your own team in the backyard, these home improvements fit the bill:

  • Outdoor big screen. Why bother with that little television? Go big with an enormous outdoor screen. Simply project the television image onto the screen with the appropriate hardware, and you're ready to watch the game in style. You could even build a permanent frame around your outdoor screen to use it year-round.
  • Create your own playing field. You might not want to plow under your backyard Field of Dreams style, but you can still create a great place to play by using environmentally-friendly paints, creating a wooden scoreboard and building bench seats around the backyard. The kids will love this!

For the fun-loving child

Speaking of kids, there are few things more delightful than watching your little ones play happily in the backyard. Make it even more fun than the playground by tailoring a few areas to their interests. These home improvements will make them squeal with delight, and get you one step closer to parent-of-the-year status.

  • A jungle gym. Sure, you can buy a prefab play area for the kids, but where's the fun in that? Sit down with the kids and sketch out the kind of play place they might like to have. Set your budget, rework the plans until they are perfect, then gather the lumber, concrete, and other materials to get started. It might take all summer, but it's a family project you will all remember forever.
  • A swinging chair. If you don't want to get too ambitious, remember that kids are often quite happy with something that is simply new and different. A swinging chair or two, hung from a very sturdy tree branch, can give them a place to rest when they need a break from all that hard play. Want something for yourself? A nice hammock built for two might be the ticket.

Get outdoors this summer and enjoy everything your home has to offer. These home improvements are designed to make your haven a little more enjoyable, and who knows? They might even add value to your home in the process.

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.