Outdoor fire pit

5 DIY ways to enjoy your yard more

Summer is finally here and if you're lucky enough to have a yard, this is the time you'll want to enjoy it.

You've hopefully finished your spring cleaning and maintenance chores. The only hot summer weekend tasks you want to tackle are mowing the grass, firing up the grill, and inviting your friends to hang out.

If you're less than thrilled about showing off your yard this year, here are five great yard projects to enhance your outdoor space.

1. Build outdoor furniture

When you build your own outdoor furniture, you can create a custom look for your deck or patio, or simply reduce the expense of buying large, ready-made pieces. Couches, storage benches, shelving, bars, and tables are just a few of the things that you can craft from plywood or pallets with basic DIY tools and skills.

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Tips. Be sure to thoroughly coat your wood furniture on all sides and the bottoms with a water seal, stain, or a primer and at least two coats of exterior paint so your furniture can withstand exposure to the elements. Buy or make seat cushions from fabric designed for outdoor use. If considering pallet wood, examine its condition and know the source. Some pallets are treated with pesticides and fungicides, and those that aren't may be infested or moldy.

2. Make a fire pit

A fire pit can warm up a chilly evening, providing a focal point for gathering after the sun goes down. You can build a permanent fire pit that's either in-ground or above ground, gas-fueled or wood-burning. In-ground fire pits are typically round, while above ground fire pits allow for more design leeway such as rectangular and square shapes. An above-ground pit keeps the fire walled in; an in-ground pit, however, is level with the ground and could pose a tripping hazard, especially for young children.

Tips. You'll need to find a flat place to dig the pit, at least 10 feet from all structures and plants. Leave enough room for seating seven feet from the fire on all sides. Use non-combustible materials such as concrete, landscape stones, or fire bricks to build your pit. A forged metal fire ring inserted as a liner protects this material from drying out and falling apart over time.

3. Decorate the fence

Think of your fence as a blank slate, a vertical part of your backyard landscape that's available for additional visual stimulation. If you have a plain wood privacy fence or even a chain link fence, you can use it much the same as you would your home's interior walls to create a new ambiance. Murals or other artwork painted directly on the pickets, glass marbles embedded in them or hanging framed pieces, mirrors, metal sculptures, sconces, and vertical gardens are some examples. If it delights you and you can hang it or paint it onto the fence, you can use it as decoration. There are colored inserts available online that allow you to create designs on chain link fences.

Tips. You can often find decorative materials suitable for fence art when you declutter your craft room, garage, or kids' closets. Your old candle sconces can be repurposed as bird feeders, or put some LED candles in them to light up the night. Large eye hooks inserted in the fence post can hold solar pathway lights. Paint interestingly shaped, lightweight, but durable containers to use as hanging plant holders.

4. Erect a pergola

A pergola creates architectural interest in your yard and offers a three-dimensional structure from which to drape vines or curtains and hang bird houses and feeders, lanterns, and wind chimes. Place it over your outdoor dining area or patio. It also makes a great addition over a pathway, across a breezeway, or spanning the entry to your garden.

Tips. Cedar is a popular choice of wood for pergolas because it's durable. Without stain, it takes on its familiar gray, weathered look as it ages. You may also build your pergola from logs and planks of varying thickness as well as foraged wooden poles. You can anchor the posts to a concrete slab or in the ground.

5. Create concrete patio planters

Thanks to a concrete product called ShapeCrete® new to the market in 2015, you can fashion concrete planters as easily as working with modeling clay. Once you mix it to the consistency of clay, you can shape it with your hands, roll it out onto fabric or other flexible materials and drape it into unusual forms. You can mold it in or around another vessel, which you remove when the product cures in a day or two. Unlike clay, you don't have to bake ShapeCrete® in a kiln. You may also use it for a myriad of other garden and indoor projects.

Tips. For even more versatility, you can add pigment to the mixture. Get creative by pressing sturdy, thick-veined leaves into the wet ShapeCrete®. Experiment with different textures of fabric to give the surface of the finished planter an interesting pattern. Because this is a Portland cement product that creates dust, wear gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask when mixing it, and supervise children under 12. It's not suitable for crafting containers that will come in contact with food, but it's safe for growing plants. Don't forget to drill drainage holes in the bottoms of your outdoor planters.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.