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4 summer projects for your backyard

  • 4 summer projects for your backyard

    Jennifer Noonan | Improvement Center Columnist | June 15, 2016

    Sunshine-filled backyard with table and chairs by a poolThe more we spend our working lives inside, the more we want to enjoy the outdoors when we go home. Once Old Man Winter's made his exit, and the spring rains have gone, summer is the perfect time to start a backyard home improvement project. Weather is generally cooperative, making it possible to store supplies outdoors. Contractors can work steadily outside, minimizing disruption of your regular daily routine. If you've been dreaming of an outdoor kitchen or a souped-up shed to indulge your favorite hobby, now's the time to act! With a little planning, your outdoor space can be a seamless extension of your home, and your new favorite place to play, relax, and entertain.

  • Adding an outdoor kitchen

    Jennifer Noonan | Improvement Center Columnist | June 15, 2016

    Outdoor kitchen with stainless steel grill and bar seatingIf you enjoy entertaining, an outdoor kitchen may be at the top of your project wish list. If you think it's beyond your budget, think again. You can create a great set-up without splurging on everything. The essentials are a grill, a work surface for prep, room to move, light to work by, and shelter from the sun and elements. If you want to take it up a notch, add a sink, refrigerator, cabinet storage, and bar counters for guests to sit while you kibitz over the kabobs. An outdoor fireplace or pizza oven will really put you over the top. Your contractor should know the zoning laws, making sure open flames are appropriately spaced from combustible surfaces. Outdoor kitchens run anywhere between $5,000 - $50,000, depending on the size and materials used, and take anywhere from two to four weeks to complete.

  • Building a deck

    Jennifer Noonan | Improvement Center Columnist | June 15, 2016

    Wood deck with umbrellas and seatingBuilding a deck may be the simplest way to extend your outdoor living. With the right design, you can make the transition between inside and outside nearly seamless, boosting the square footage of your living space in warmer months almost instantly. Start by deciding what activities you'll do on your deck first -- relaxing, outdoor dining, entertaining, etc.. Based on the space required, you can decide where your deck should go, and how it should be built. Take your climate and time for maintenance into account before choosing a decking material. Natural wood is beautiful, but requires regular refinishing. Your deck contractor can help you determine stair placement and railing types. Depending on local codes and your deck height, railings might not even be required. You'll be sitting out there enjoying the stars before you know it.

  • Creating a paver patio and fire pit

    Jennifer Noonan | Improvement Center Columnist | June 15, 2016

    Outdoor fire pit on patioNothing livens up an outdoor evening quite like a fire pit. The smell of wood smoke and taste of s'mores are straight out of a summer day dream. A paver patio with a fire pit is a fairly straight-forward project, but there are things to consider before you begin. Consult your fire department to ensure your plans adhere to local fire codes. Those parameters will help determine where your fire pit goes, and whether or not it needs to be covered. A fire pit should always be on a level, non-combustible surface, which a paver patio will automatically provide you with. Build it downwind from prevailing winds, and allow adequate space between your fire pit and other permanent fixtures. Once the placement is settled, you can decide on the fun stuff, like materials, shape, fuel source, and seating. Whether you go for a simple patio with a portable fire pit and chairs, or a sunken pit with built in seating, it will be a place where good times are had and memories are made.

  • Adding a backyard studio or office

    Jennifer Noonan | Improvement Center Columnist | June 15, 2016

    Tiny red houseWith more people telecommuting and taking on expanded hobbies, the need for dedicated work spaces has increased. If you don't have space in your house to convert into a home office or studio, a backyard version may be just the ticket. Pre-fabricated shed kits abound, and they can be ordered to your specifications and shipped directly to you for DIY or contractor assembly. Or you can design something custom. However you proceed, make sure to do your research. Review local zoning laws and setback requirements for your property. Will you need electricity or running water? Want windows or skylights? Should you insulate or add heating/cooling? Install all the bells and whistles, including a bathroom, and it can be a guesthouse, as well. Pre-fabricated shed kits start around $5,000, and can be assembled in as short as a weekend.

  • Find the right contractor for the job

    Jennifer Noonan | Improvement Center Columnist | June 15, 2016

    Tools laid out on woodAs always, it's important to find the right contractor for your outdoor home improvement project. Talk to your neighbors and friends who've had work done recently for recommendations. Get estimates from three to five contractors. Always get at least three references for each contractor, and take the time to contact every one! The time you spend up front finding the right person for the job will be worth it. By summer's end, you'll have added major style points to your outdoor living.