We tend to spend the most time out in our yard during the summer. A well-kept yard undoubtedly a major undertaking and a huge cost. You don't need to be a professional landscaper to spruce up your yard -- nor do you need to break the bank.
From power-washing your deck to raising plant beds and building a new fence, what are the step-by-step instructions to accomplishing some of the most common yard projects?
MainStreet did some digging to find eight easy do-it-yourself backyard projects, all from the design experts themselves.
1. Raising Plant Beds
Raised plant beds offer a modern and clean look. Here are some steps to get this project finished on your own, courtesy of home improvement expert Mark Clement, co-host of “My Fix-It-Up Life”:
Step 1: Build the frames
Begin by building the top and bottom frames out of 1x2 western red cedar strips. From there, fasten two 26’’ strips to two 13’’ strips to form a rectangular frame. Apply some wood glue to the strips, then nail them together with a single nail (this will hold them more securely). Pre-drill the ends to keep them from splitting, then insert a screw in each corner.
Step 2: Attach side panels
Stand the two frames on their sides and apply some glue to the insides of each bottom. Attach four side panels to each long side, smooth out the sides and nail from the inside to hold them in place. Repeat on the other side of the box.
Steps 3 & 4: Attach the end and bottom panels
Next, stand the half-completed box on its end and apply more glue to the inside face of the bottom end frames. Attach two panels to each end just like the side panels and repeat on the opposite end. Attach three bottom panels to form the base of the planter box, using glue and screws. Drill several holes in the panels so water can escape.
2. Power-washing Your Deck
Hosing down a decade-old deck won't be enough to get the job done. That's when a power washer comes in handy. The best part is that you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars buying a power washer, since you'll only need it for a few hours. Save money by renting one at your local hardware store.
As for how to properly power wash your deck once you have the machine, expert Mark Clement says too much pressure can cause damage. "Just the right amount of power washing can brighten the space. And for a more natural look add a clear finish or dark-colored stain."
The finish will protect the deck from further wear and tear throughout the year.
3. Sanding and Staining
Some decks need more than just a power washing. The more intensive task of sanding and staining will take at least a weekend to complete, but the step-by-step strategies from Alex Roberts, president of Mr. Handyman will help give your deck the rehab it needs.
Step 1: Inspect
Examine the entire deck for chipped and peeling paint. Use a dust mask and remove loose pieces with a paint scraper or resort to renting a disc sander. If some areas are still rough, sand again with a fine-grit sandpaper.
Step 2: Clean
Prepare your deck by pressure washing it and remember to wear safety goggles. Allow the deck to dry completely.
Step 3: Stain
Latex or oil-based stain (choose one with sealant included!) can be easily applied to the floor boards with a paint roller a few boards at a time. Have a clean paint brush ready to spread the excess stain before it sets.
Step 4: Wait
Wait at least three days before walking on the freshly stained surface.
4. Flower Planters
Now that you've finished perfecting the look of your deck, it's time to decorate! "One of the easiest ways to add color and fragrance to any patio is by adding flowers as a finishing touch," says Roberts.
But Roberts tells us there are a few important factors to keep in mind when building a flower planter:
• Make sure to create holes at the bottom of the box for drainage and install a strong support system for each box.
• Select low-maintenance, colorful flowers such as coneflowers and Shasta daisies. Consider adding marigolds and bee balm to naturally repel mosquitoes.
• Ensure your potting soil is moist and leave at least two inches from the top of the planter if you want to include mulch after planting. Add your flowers and water.
5. Patio Furniture
What's a well-maintained, flower filled deck without furniture? If your current patio table and chairs is on its last legs, before you buy a new furniture set take into account Roberts' mini-guide below for purchasing outdoor furniture meant to last:
• Weather-resistant pillows in bold colors bring comfort and zest to the seating area, while floor pillows add extra seating.
• Make sure your patio umbrella is weighted to prevent high winds from taking hold. Many glass top tables have been broken by high winds.
• And finally, Roberts says wind chimes and an outdoor clock/thermometer are affordable outdoor accessories to spruce up the area.
6. Building a Fence
Installing a fence around the perimeter of your property could costs thousands, but is certainly necessary for safety and privacy reasons. Barbara Hastings, senior manager in marketing communications at Troy-Bilt, a manufacturer of outdoor power equipment, offers the following tips for constructing the perfect fence (though this project is likely for the experienced DIYers.)
Step 1: Spacing
To begin, you need to plot out the fence outline and mark all corners. Posts should be spaced six to eight feet apart.
Step 2: Posts
Set the fence posts at least two feet into the ground. This should equal one-third of the overall length of the post. Dig post holes at marked locations and add gravel in the bottom of each hole. Place posts in holes and fill with concrete to two inches above ground level -- then brace the posts.
Step 3: Rails
Cut your fence rails once the posts have set. Nail them four feet apart from each other. Attach bottom stringers to fence posts with screws and nails -- usually six inches up from the grade. Attach top stringers to the fence posts approximately six inches below the top of the pickets.
Step 4: Pickets
Once you have determined how many pickets you will need, cut them to length. Lay out the pickets side by side to determine how wide the spaces between them should be. Attach pickets to the stringers with screws and nails. Using a spacer block can help with space consistency.
Step 5: Protection
Once you have completed construction, remember to apply paint or stain to protect the fence from inclement weather.
7. The Birdhouse
You read that correctly -- the birdhouse. It's a common backyard accessory, but whether or not you have one in your yard, it may not have a copper roof. Eric Berman of Erikson Birdhouse shares the following tips for how to construct a striking copper roof for your birdhouse, bound to stand out and garner compliments from guests (and neighbors!).
Step 1: Calculate
Determine the dimensions of your birdhouse's roof to estimate the appropriate size of sheet metal to purchase. Most home improvement stores will cut the sheet metal for you.
Step 2: Bend
Use the bar folder to bend the edges over two to three times around the perimeter. This provides a sturdy, blunt edge for the roof and improves the look of the finished product. After the edges have been folded, you can easily bend the roof with your hands to fit it onto the birdhouse structure.
Step 3: Customize
For a patina look, use the metal spritzer to lightly mist the copper roof. Allow to dry completely. For a newer, polished copper look, omit this step.
Step 4: Attach
Align the copper roof to your structure. On the copper sheet, mark where the nails will attach the roof to the birdhouse. Once the marks have been made, drill holes into the roof using a metal-cutting drill attachment, making sure the holes align with the wooden structure of the birdhouse. Using the copper nails, attach the roof to your wooden birdhouse.
8. Barbecue Cleaning
Now that your deck is looking brand-new and your outdoor furniture is in tip-top shape, it's time to start grilling. A filthy barbecue impacts the taste of the food. A dirty grill doesn't mean you need to replace it. Instead of buying a new grill, cleaning your current one is a cost effective way to grill as if you bought the barbecue yesterday. Bruce Yacko, CEO of JAWS Cleaners, shares his expert tips with MainStreet:
Step 1: Heat
Heat the grill to a low heat and use a stiff wire brush for the grate(s). Be careful to avoid coming in direct contact with the hot grates.
Step 2: Clean
Next, after the grates cool, spray on a nontoxic multipurpose solution. Wait a few minutes to allow the cleaner to penetrate the surface before wiping with the rag. Use the wire brush to remove any remaining build-up. Next, wipe clean with the rag. Be sure to also use this on the exterior of your grill, including the handles and knobs.
Step 3: Rinse
Rinse with water -- it's that simple!
As for how to ensure a clean grill going forward? "Clean the grill and the grates (once the grill cools down) after your next grilling to make things easier," Yacko advises.