If the letters “DIY” strike fear in your soul, these easy outdoor projects are for you. Did we mention they’re really, really easy?
You don’t need to be the host of an extreme home makeover show to build an amazing backyard. In fact, the transformative projects below are easy enough for even the klutziest home improvement newbie to complete. Just don’t be shocked when the Johnsons appear at your door with hot dog buns in hand, begging to throw a cookout at your place.
1. No-Blow Outdoor Curtains
When Cara Daniel of “The Project Addict” blog spied a neighbor’s unruly outdoor curtains, she hacked some for her porch that could withstand a gusty Tornado Alley afternoon without upending a glass of lemonade or ensnaring an unsuspecting guest.
She found the sweet spot by slipping conduit pipes through the curtain tabs up top and a hem at the bottom, and securing the pipes with wires (taut, but not too tight). Daniel did all the hard work of dreaming up the curtains, so a DIY newbie can definitely recreate the project, which uses easy-to-find materials like washers and camping stakes.
Upkeep has been equally simple thanks to her sturdy choice of fabric. “The marine fabric is better than outdoor fabric that I bought,” says Daniel. The easy-to-wash choice has kept the curtains looking picturesque after five years of use.
2. Shutter Privacy Fence
No fence? No problem! Daune Pitman of the “Cottage in the Oaks” blog MacGyvered an attractive privacy feature from a friend’s pile of discarded shutters. The $0 price wasn’t the only thing that made the material desirable for an outdoor nook’s privacy screen, though. “They were tall,” says Pitman, “could easily be attached to posts, had the vents — which allows air to flow through — and didn’t weigh too much.”
After nailing the shutters to four-by-fours cemented into the ground (an easy task with a store-bought bag of pre-mixed cement), the nook-facing side got a charming French-blue facelift and the back a coating of foliage-matching bark brown paint. With just five materials needed and seven simple steps (and the seventh is, “Sit and listen to birdsong while sipping your coffee!” by the way), the project has earned Pitman lots of luxuriating in the new outdoor spot.
3. PVC Pipe Pergola
Suburbanite Monica Mangin of the site “East Coast Creative” jumped at the chance to rehab a client’s neglected urban patio. The redo’s showstopper was a cleverly conceived PVC pergola decked with industrial-style lights, built on-site, and installed on the top of three patio walls. She was inspired by traditional wood pergolas, but wanted an easier material.
“A lot of mason jar light fixtures were trending,” says Mangin. “I liked the look of that but wanted to turn it a little more industrial.” PVC pipe — with rebar inside as an anchor — won out for its ease on the DIYer and wallet. Could it get any easier?
A simple coat of hammered metallic outdoor spray paint gave the pipe a pricier look, and industrial-strength zip ties kept the string of dimmable, Edison bulb-style lights in place. Although the project doesn’t take much time or skill, Mangin recommends recruiting two friends to help. Have one hold each end of the pergola while the third secures the lights with zip ties. Overall, it’s a dinner party-friendly cinch that’s surpassed the one-year mark.
4. Solar Light Hose Guards
Topping the list of Sad Gardening Ironies is when the hose you’ve lugged out to help your landscaping stay lush mows over a bed of delicate flowers you just planted. Lynda Makara of the blog “Home of Happy Art” prevented future mishaps with a simple hack that also ended up being a charming addition to her yard.
She created her own garden hose guard — with a stylish twist. Makara used rebar to stake down simple, budget-friendly solar lights. The DIY part entailed trashing their original plastic stakes (they weren’t strong enough to hold a hose in place), hammering 24-inch pieces of rebar into the ground, and slipping a light over each piece.
Those sturdy posts could handle even the most unwieldy of hoses, protecting Makara’s garden beds and putting a lovely spotlight on them post-dusk. Plus, the little light fixtures have some serious longevity.
“The rebar is maintenance free,” says Makara. “I have had to replace some of the batteries in the solar lights, but I think that’s pretty normal.”
It doesn’t get much easier than hammering a stake into the ground. Although Makara suggests straightening the rebar with a level, that’s about as technical as it gets to create a more functional, flowering garden.
ELIZABETH LILLYis the associate online editor for “This Old House” magazine, where she’s written about paint colors, chicken coops, and nearly every home improvement project in between. She uses her New York City apartment as a laboratory for executing her latest DIY ideas.ELIZABETH LILLYis the associate online editor for “This Old House” magazine, where she’s written about paint colors, chicken coops, and nearly every home improvement project in between. She uses her New York City apartment as a laboratory for executing her latest DIY ideas.