When thinking about DIY backyard ideas, most people immediately gravitate to homemade firepits, reclaimed wood projects, and string lighting that has become a staple of modern backyard living. In fact, it’s hard to find a Pinterest board or a blog post that does not include at least one of those three pillars of DIY backyard design.
We spent the better part of the last two years (read: pandemic) ideating a backyard that is unique, yet familiar to guests, while being sure not to break the bank. Some of these ideas feature products you can find in your own neighborhood or nearby park, while others are available at discounted prices around the web.
Plus, we strived to develop DIY backyard ideas that will be applicable to both single-family homes and the city condo or apartment. If you have an area you would call a “backyard” then this list should mostly apply to you. We also split them up into two sections: the more intricate and intense ideas, and the simple ideas that are intended to be more accentuations than primary designs.
Intricate and Intense DIY Backyard Ideas
These are bigger, more involved projects that will take you a little more time to complete. If you have a free weekend with some good weather upcoming, you can complete each one in two days.
Add a New Walking Path
Walking paths are both visually and functionally appealing. They allow you to guide guests to certain locations, and they provide great visual cues that can act as the center or support of a backyard design. You can generally create a path in three steps: outlining, filling, and adding the steps.
Outlining is the simple act of deciding where the path will go. This may seem obvious, but make sure you know exactly how wide and how long to make it. If you have grass covering the future path, you will likely want to remove it, so ensure there are no sprinkler lines or shallow roots hiding underneath the ground.
The filling is where you remove the current ground cover and put in whatever new cover you want to use. We recommend starting with topsoil and then adding mulch to make the path obvious to visitors while also minimizing the threat of weeds.
Finally, the steps are the most fun part because you have a wide variety of options. On the expensive side, flat stones can cost upwards of $40 per step, but you can also be creative and repurpose existing stones in your yard, or buy inexpensive pavers that will maintain your backyard motif.
Bury Your Downspouts
Another heavily involved project is one that lacks the vanity of a path, but has every bit of functionality. If you have gutters on your house, you also have downspouts that likely release the water away from the house. These can be unsightly and trip hazards if they are poorly installed. If your yard has any sort of downward angle to it (or even if it doesn’t) you can bury your downspouts and install an exit system down to another location at the edge of your property.
At its most basic, this can be time-consuming because you have to dig up literally every inch of ground you want to use for the exit path. However, you can also rent various tools from your local hardware store to expedite the process. Make sure to purchase the proper drainage system so they do not deteriorate, puncture, or freeze in the winter.
Round the Edges of Your Lawn
Like most people, we originally believed we needed grass to extend to every corner of our DIY backyard. But then we realized it’s not only unnecessary, but rounding edges can add a new design aesthetic. By rounding edges, you can add mulch, rocks, or any other material you like. This turns a previously square yard into a fun, creative space.
Similar to the walking path, you will need to draw some clear boundaries and plan this out ahead of time. Then, be sure to maintain the rounded style – do not settle for square lines!
Simple Accentuations for Your DIY Backyard Ideas
These are quick and easy – ideal for putting the finishing touches on your project.
Solar-Powered Outdoor Lighting
These little lights work perfectly to illuminate the new pathway that you built earlier in this article. They also are great support on stairs or around a patio that extends from a walk-out basement.
Wooden Spool Tables
These are difficult to find in stores, but if you know anybody in construction or flea markets, these are usually extremely inexpensive. Turn the spool on its side and you get a high-top bar table that will not blow over in the wind and is extremely durable.
Rubber Mulch (For Playgrounds and Swingsets)
When it comes to mulch, we understand the value of true woodchips. But if you have little ones playing outside, rubber mulch is a great idea thanks to its long lifespan and the fact it helps break your fall better than its wooden counterpart. It also is much easier to maintain than traditional mulch.
The big downside? Kids are prone to accidentally bring it inside thanks to rubber’s tendency to stick to shoes, pants, and arms.
Lavender and Citronella
These plants are easy to care for and they provide other benefits: lavender smells amazing, and citronella repels mosquitos. That old bug candle you bought? It’s citronella! We buy citronella plants every year for our small potted plants and they provide strong support against bugs. They are not the prettiest plants in the world, but they work great in planters and their functionality is unrivaled.