If your backyard is a jungle or simply bland and boring, you might be dreaming of finally doing something about it. Now is the time. Backyard makeovers are creative and fun to do, and they transform more of your property into usable space. Entertain guests, let your pets roam, or enjoy your private outdoor space in solitude. Keep it basic with new grass and a firepit or scale it up with elaborate hardscaping, decks, and water features. Whatever you desire, you can accomplish with a backyard makeover.
How to Makeover Your Backyard
Start with a goal that helps you come up with an overall plan for your backyard makeover. Are you the social type who dreams of summer barbecues and evening soirees with plenty of friends? Or are you looking for a private oasis that will help you forget the hustle and bustle of your work day?
A deck will elevate your party, giving you a solid, dry space for all of your fun activities. Another option and less expensive is a ground-level patio made from bricks, pavers, flagstones, or even with gravel.
When to Makeover Your Backyard
The most favorable time to begin your backyard makeover runs from late spring to early fall, in most areas. But it all depends on what you're doing. For one, concrete is temperature-sensitive; generally, you will want temperatures to be above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Bricks and pavers can be laid at any time of the year, as long as the ground is soft enough for you to dig several inches down.
Many homeowners choose to accelerate their backyard makeovers, pushing them into those less-than-favorable months, so that they can enjoy the fruits of their labors in spring and summer.
Jenni Radosevich of the design blog I Spy DIY and briefly hostess of HGTV's "My Flippin' Friends" needed a flat, dry, and attractive space to host her Milwaukee friends for get-togethers. Her lifestyle was active, but her backyard could barely keep up. This dirt patch hardly fit the bill for hosting.
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After: Decked Out
A spacious deck and fencing were added by a friend, but Jenni took on the rest. After hauling two tons of dirt to raise the ground, she and friends rolled out sod for three days straight. White planters are filled with Philodendron Selloum and ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia).Continue to 2 of 19 below.
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Before: Stark Concrete
It's a common enough sight among homes built in the early to mid 20th century: the long driveway. The end point of those long, paved driveways, a one-car garage, is rarely a good match for today's larger vehicles and instead usually becomes a workshop or storage area. But the owners of this Salt Lake City home had a better idea. They wanted to transform the unused driveway into a lovely yard with plants and grass.Continue to 3 of 19 below.
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After: Functional Beauty
With assistance from landscape architect Richard Laughlin, the homeowners turned the ignored concrete driveway into a cool, green space for their dogs to play. They built a pergola to provide shade while relaxing during hot Utah days. Not only does a pergola act as a base for trailing vines, but it also helps to visually delineate an area.Continue to 4 of 19 below.
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Chicago landscape designer Carol Heffernan seized a unique opportunity when the adjacent cottage came up for sale. Since the cottage was set back so far, its front yard could become Carol's backyard. But this transformation would not come without significant work. The backyard-to-be was low and prone to flooding, a condition exacerbated by the removal of a massive catalpa tree. The space would need to be seriously landscaped.Continue to 5 of 19 below.
05 of 19
After: High and Dry and Gorgeous
One foot of topsoil was added to the entire area, raising it to match Carol's adjoining property. To further promote drainage, hardscaping was the order of the day. Evergreen yews form a low hedge to separate the newly made-over backyard from the street.
The first order of business for a backyard makeover is to properly manage the water. Water from gutters and downspouts, groundwater, or even from neighbors can ruin the best-laid makeover plans. French drains are a popular way of siphoning off excess backyard water.Continue to 6 of 19 below.
06 of 19
Before: Dark and Dreary
The backyard had everything going against it. Dark and gloomy, the yard hardly felt inviting. Weeds dominated. With rain, the ground turned muddy. There was a tree stump located front and center. Nothing about the yard was friendly or inspiring. Home bloggers Chris and Julia wanted to makeover their backyard, but they could only devote one weekend to the project.Continue to 7 of 19 below.
07 of 19
After: Weekend Transformation
After removing the stump, weeds, and excess, Chris and Julia added steel walkway edging to contain the pea gravel. A few flagstones at the beginning of the walkway encourage guests to walk toward the back. The truly tempting invitation, though, is the do-it-yourself fire pit. They purchased the fire pit as an all-in-one kit. But similar fire pits can easily be built by creating a circle of retaining wall blocks.Continue to 8 of 19 below.
08 of 19
Before: Muddy Mess
They removed eight yew trees. Then the arborist told them that the giant maples had to go since they were rotten. When all was said and done, Kim and Scott from the home blog Yellow Brick Home were left with a deteriorated fence and a muddy yard with no grass. Pretty much everything had to be scrapped and started from fresh.Continue to 9 of 19 below.
09 of 19
After: Perfect Respite
To add grass to their backyard without the expense or work of rolling out sod, Kim and Scott used a tiller to loosen the soil and prepare it for overseeding. Maintaining a depth of just three inches made raking and clean-up easier. Young cypress ring the property and will grow upwards and outwards to form a green privacy screen. The centerpiece of their creation is a pea gravel patio with Adirondack chairs facing a do-it-yourself firepit.Continue to 10 of 19 below.
10 of 19
Before: Weedy and Wild
Upon purchase of their home, design blogger Molly and husband Gideon inherited pretty much your standard 1960s ignored Southern California ranch house backyard. It came with loads of weeds and dry grass and poorly tended trees, but little charm. And of course, there was that giant air conditioner unit looming over everything.Continue to 11 of 19 below.
11 of 19
After: Backyard Oasis
Though it cost a bundle, Molly says it was completely worth it to move the air conditioner unit from the patio. Then, six feet were added to the end of the patio to increase the entertaining space. Modern pavers set in sand set a desert mood, and the perimeter of bougainvillea adds dots of lively color when they bloom. They also gave the house a fresh coat of paint. All in all, the eventual design was cool, crisp, contemporary, and big on solid shapes.Continue to 12 of 19 below.
12 of 19
Before: Barren Dirt Patch
An open, dirt backyard may look like an uninspiring space. But the good thing is that it allows you the freedom to design without the influence of existing foliage or hardscaping. This Missouri backyard presented a host of opportunities. Except for a couple of trees to be saved, this backyard was ready for anything that the owners and landscape architect Aaron Bradley could dream up. This area was as close to being a blank slate as anything.Continue to 13 of 19 below.
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After: Modern Lines
Because the house on its big, half-acre lot is modern, it made sense to makeover the backyard accordingly. Standard, hardy plants perfect for that region were incorporated into the design: boxwood, yew, and hornbeam. Large format concrete pavers set in Mexican river rock complete the contemporary look. New turf was rolled out. Ready-made, rolled turf needs some time to stitch together after it's been laid out, and it's usually a few weeks before it can be walked on. But it's much faster than seeding a lawn from scratch, a process that can take up a year or two.Continue to 14 of 19 below.
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Before: Blank Slate
With its scraggly grass and lonely swing set, the backyard was fine but nothing spectacular. As a mother of toddlers, though, Emily Henderson discovered that she really wanted a lovely and functional backyard as an escape zone for the kids. Childhood is fleeting, so Emily had to act fast to get this fun play area up and running while the kids were still small.Continue to 15 of 19 below.
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After: Kid-Friendly Backyard
This backyard was made over with fun in mind. First, the swing set received Farrow & Ball exterior paint in a shade to match the fence, helping it to visually melt away. A new wooden playset expands play opportunities for the kids. Emily, too, recommends reducing the "square-box effect" of backyards. To that end, she lined one edge of the lawn with flagstones and put in plants of varying textures and heights, such as salvia, sedum, and lavender, around the rest of the perimeter.Continue to 16 of 19 below.
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Before: Dated Stonework
Stamped concrete has its place. It works well for driveways, walkways, commercial spaces, and other high-traffic areas. But this backyard needed a more organic look, and the mousy groundcover, uninspired shrubs, and stamped concrete were not doing a good job of it. The owners wanted a freer, more natural look to their backyard.Continue to 17 of 19 below.
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Illinois landscape designers Van Zelst, Inc. transformed an awkward backyard into one that was more free-flowing and easy on the eyes. The stamped concrete was broken up and hauled away, to be replaced by bluestone and fieldstone liberally dotted around the yard. Fresh plantings enhance the home's exterior, with a few splashes of color to add interest.Continue to 18 of 19 below.
18 of 19
Before: Concrete Block Eyesore
When an unattractive cinder block wall separates your property from the adjoining neighbor, tearing down the wall is hardly an option. One option is to paint the cinder blocks. As long as you use the right type of cement and masonry primer to fill in the pores, the paint layer goes on as easily as painting any ordinary wall.
Yet the brains behind the design blog Classy Clutter had a trick up their sleeves. They figured that they would rather cover up the cinder blocks.Continue to 19 of 19 below.
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After: Private Haven
Instead of tearing out or painting the cinder block wall, the Classy Clutter team devised a privacy screen and built it from inexpensive one-by-two lumber. Weather-resistant Sunbrella fabric shades the Arizona sun from the outdoor loveseat and two swivel rockers.