Backyard RenovationThe dedicated homeowner understands that the home doesn’t end at the front and back doors. Decorating and landscaping the backyard doesn’t just give pretty landscaping, but actually extends the living space into the great outdoors.

Backyard renovation – sculpting and transforming your backyard into a showcase entertainment and recreation area – doesn’t have to cost thousands and consume hundreds of weekend hours. Consider the five easy renovation tips:

Start With the Patio and Work Outwards

A great patio will serve as a recreation space through spring and fall and even well into autumn. Keep off the chilly temperatures leading up to winter with an outdoor fireplace. Available in wood-burning, gas, and electric models, an outdoor fireplace becomes a centerpiece to your patio area and a great backdrop to your patio furniture.

If your patio or back deck area is too small (or if you’re looking to renovate your rooftop deck,) consider installing a fire pit. These smaller, typically roundish installations give you the ambiance and comfort of a campfire in a controlled, contained area.

New Furniture Means New Comfort, Fresh Beauty

Patio and backyard furniture have a lifespan. After a while, replacing the tables and chairs reaps the same benefits as updating the furnishings on the inside of your home: a new sense of freshness to their area, an updated sense of style, and a fresh motivation to enjoy staying home.

Getting new patio furniture gives you a great opportunity to experiment, too. You can buy furniture with a new and different motif. You can even install new fixtures (a wet bar, a TV) that take your patio’s entertainment potential to a new level.

Expand your Storage Space with an Outdoor Shed

Storage sheds aren’t just for having a place to stow lawnmowers and snow blowers anymore. Modern storage sheds also serve as a greenhouses, root cellars, wine cellars, and personal “museums” and storehouses for collectibles.

Many storage sheds feature decorative accessories, too, including window boxes and shutters, cupolas and weather vanes. These are usually sold separately but may come included with the storage shed assembly kit.

Gazebos, Arbors, and Pergolas Add Depth, Versatility

Backyard RenovationBeyond the deck or patio, the backyard will benefit from a gazebo or pergola to act as a centerpiece for flower beds, swimming areas, and gravel or brick pathways. The ancient elegance of the gazebo also makes a great place to establish a wet bar or dining area.

Like the traditional garden arbor, pergolas make ideal scaffolds for ivy and other hanging plants. All three backyard structures can be painted (white is the most elegant color), but also look handsome when left their natural wood grain.

Gazebos, arbors, and sheds are available in different wood grains, and many are sold as prefabricated kits. Some manufacturers offer cedar and redwood models as well.

Set Up A Canopy For Fun In the Shade

If you don’t want to commit to a permanent backyard structure, the popup canopy or tent affords shelter from both the sun and rain only whenever you need it. Canopies make great shelters and (with sidewalls) outdoor dressing areas for pool parties and other events. For something a little more sporty, a sail shade lends any backyard a touch of architectural grace while still providing sun-beating shade.

Here’s a bonus tip: control pests throughout your backyard by investing in a mosquito magnet to lure and trap mosquitoes and other airborne pests away from where you and your family and friends enjoy your backyard.

Storage ShedsWooden storage sheds provide ample shelter and maintenance space for any one of thousands of household and lawn items. Yet for the ambitious landscaper, the storage shed’s exterior is an opportunity to bring a centerpiece of beauty to their property’s overall decor.

Many wooden storage shed manufacturers also offer a line of accessories to help beautify their basic storage shed units. Of course, there are many decoration and customization schemes you create and bring to life yourself. Some of them are discussed below, arranged to help you organize your redecorating plans.

Include the Storage Shed In Your Landscaping

It’s no secret that flower beds and gardens amplify the beauty of a house and lawn. Planting flower beds around your wooden storage shed’s base gives it added depth and shape while also boosting its visual appeal. Flowers always present a lively burst of color and warmth to a backyard or property; storage sheds with flower beds demonstrate the owner’s commitment to making every inch of their yard lovely to behold.

Add Exterior Trim to Outside Walls and Windows

Renovating or accentuating your wooden storage shed’s outside walls and windows brings a sense of architecture and design to the overall design scheme. Many storage shed manufacturers, most notably Handy Homes, provide a complete range of window accessories that are compatible with all their various models. These add-on accessories can include flower boxes, window arches, and shutters. Like flower beds, such accessories provide depth and texture to the shed’s appearance, reducing the squarish appearance of its basic structure and giving it a more nuanced silhouette.

You can also paint the shutters and flower boxes, like the storage shed itself, to complement or counterpoint your house’s colors.

Add Design Elements That Decorate, Improve The Roof

Storage Sheds

A Sequoia storage shed with dormer windows

There’s more to maximizing your wooden storage shed’s appeal than just planting flowers and adding window shutters. You can also increase the beauty of the roof by adding a cupola. Sometimes confused with a steeple, cupolas are generally more squat and rounded yet still add height and dimension to their buildings. Cupolas also make great bases on which to add weather vanes. These ancient yet still useful weather forecasters brings a rustic touch to any property, but today feature modern durability and design, as well.

You might also add window dormers to the front of a gabled storage shed roof. This brings a classic, traditional appeal to the shed by giving it the semblance of a second story or attic space. Dormer windows are standard on some model storage sheds but optional accessories on others.

Add A Gravel or Brick Path

Adding a gravel or brick path away from or towards your storage shed demonstrates its stature among your lawn or property decorations. It also reduces the amount of grass to cut while at the same time giving you a safe, comfortable route to travel from the storage shed to other parts of the yard.

 

Pergolas

A redwood pergola

Perhaps the easiest way to understand the pergola is to consider what it is not. Though its popularity in backyards might bring to mind a gazebo, the pergola actually shares few traits with that other, Asian form of outdoor pavilion. Others might tend to think of the pergola as a kind of arbor, but structurally it is actually much different.

A Brief History of the Pergola

Modern pergolas trace their roots to 17th Century Rome. In fact, the word itself comes from the Latin pergola, meaning “projecting eave.” Popular throughout the Renaissance, they faded from use until the 19th Century, when brick and stone pergolas began appearing in public parks and gardens.

In modern times, wooden pergolas have become a fixture around swimming pools, throughout garden and public spaces, and outside restaurants and cafes. Their uses are both practical and beautiful. Their overhead lattice provides protection from direct sunlight, and they make great frameworks on which to grow orchids, vines, and ivies. Pergolas are also ideal in place of gazebos for sheltering hot tubs and to cover patio furniture.

Modern Pergola Design and Construction

There are essentially two types of wooden pergola: those with arched roofs and those with flat, level tops. The gently graceful arch of the roof affords greater headroom inside. It also increases the pergola’s space consumption, however, and may be more expensive.

Red cedar has become one of the most popular materials for modern pergola construction. Durable but handsome, red cedar’s heavy consistency makes it an ideal load-bearing scaffold for plants and ivy. Another popular wood variety, redwood, offers the same strength with a touch of California glamour.

Other, more affordable pergolas will feature a wooden lattice but aluminum or steel legs. Pergola accessories include lighting systems and retractable canopies for nighttime and inclement weather use.

Choosing the Pergola That’s Right For Your Home

PergolasArched roof pergolas work best in larger backyards and as the centerpiece – or pavilion – for larger patios. Flat-roof pergolas can serve the same purpose, too. However, flat-roofed pergolas work better on backyard decks, near swimming pools and within gardens. Many homeowners choose to replace their back porch or patio overhang with a pergola, to take advantage of their greater beauty and versatility.

Pergolas also make great additions to restaurants and cafes that offer patio dining. Customers will enjoy the intimacy and elegance the pergola provides while also appreciating its shade.

Pergolas and Vegetation

Depending on the climate, the vegetation planted on or atop the pergola will require watering. Pergola owners should therefore make sure the wood is treated against frequent dousing. Such information is usually available before a purchase is finalized.

Playhouses and Playsets

The "Sunflower" cedar playhouse

The stories of childhood are full of special places. Knights and princesses have castles while superheroes have secret headquarters. Wizards have towers and lords and ladies have mansions. Even animals have enchanted forests. As children grow towards their teens and then adulthood, they identify having a place of their own with having a place in the world.

Adding a playhouse to your backyard (or other property) makes a fantastic addition not just to your outside décor but also gives your children the gift of a lifetime. However, playhouse construction takes a certain amount of skill. Playsets are lots of fun for smaller children, but older kids might outgrow them too quickly.

Choosing between a playset or playhouse – or opting for both – requires a well-thought out investment of time and money. It’s not a time to make an impulse purchase.

Playset or Playhouse?

Playsets are ideal for larger backyards in areas where children don’t have ready access to playgrounds or other equipment to help them get exercise. But if your house is located near a school or church with a playground, buying your own playset is possibly redundant. Likewise, if your children make steady use of swingsets while at school, a playset of their own might also go ignored.

Playhouses give your children a place to be by themselves, nurturing their imaginations. Making children responsible for its upkeep – cleaning and routine maintenance – also helps teach them responsibility. Their downside is largely a matter of time. Children may outgrow playhouses relatively quickly, abandoning them for more “mature” pursuits. That’s when parents have to either re-purpose the playhouse into a storage shed or other facility. Scrapping or selling the unit are also possibilities.

When considering which to buy, the most important questions to ask remain simple. What will do my child the most good? How long do we expect the playset or playhouse to remain useful? What happens then?

Where to Place Your Playhouse

Playhouses PlaysetsPlaysets obviously go in a wide, sunny area of the yard. Playhouse placement can be a little more tricky. The playhouse should go in a sunny area, out from under tree cover (for safety during thunderstorms) and within shouting distance of the main house.

At the same time, children will appreciate having the playhouse in their “own corner” of the yard or property, away from the figurative shadows of the house. When choosing, look for an area that’s close but still far away by children’s standards. Remember that like time, children often perceive distance differently than adults.

Storage Sheds

A Santa Rosa-model cedar storage shed

The simple, simplistic storage shed has come a long way from its utilitarian roots on the grounds of countless American farms. While the storage sheds of yesteryear were often cobbled together from scrap wood and sometimes thrown together without regard to decorative effect (or even craftsmanship,) the modern storage shed is an elegant, weatherproof addition to any home’s main house and carport.

But the great advantage of any storage shed, regardless of its decorative appeal, remains its versatility.There are probably as many uses for storage sheds as there are varieties and models, with a wide range of sizes as well.

Storage Shed Construction

Most modern storage sheds are made from the same traditional materials as their forebears: wood and metal remain perennial favorites, but modern storage sheds also include molded plastic and vinyl models that afford a greater amount of convenience and weatherproof security. Nevertheless, wooden sheds remain the most aesthetically appealing, and many homeowners prefer the rugged durability of cedar sheds and garden buildings for their backyard.

Matching The Building Material To Your Purpose

If you’re looking for a straightforward addition to your property that’s purely functional (for example, storing hardware or landscaping equipment,) you’ll likely want to invest in a metal outbuilding or vinyl coated shed. These will protect your machinery from the elements with a maximum of stability and durability. For more genteel uses, including storing gardening tools and seeds, a wooden or cedar outbuilding offers plenty of enclosed floor space but with greater decorative appeal.

Children’s Cottages and Playhouses

Storage Sheds

A children's cottage playhouse

Closely related to the garden shed is the child’s playhouse or cottage. Essentially, these delightful children’s sets are  elaborately structured and decorated storage sheds, available in a variety of motifs and designs. Some even include porches, flower boxes and interior lofts as accessories, virtually becoming a second “house” on your property.

Some other playhouse sets include churches, fire houses, and schoolhouses. Together or separately, they make great additions to day care centers, Montessori academies, and preschools.

Five Unconventional Uses For Your Storage Shed

Of course, the storage shed has unconventional uses as well, including:

Collection display space: Storage sheds make great display spaces for sports, hobby, and memorabilia collectors.

Wine “cellar:” Oenophiles can weatherproof their choice of wooden sheds, line the insides with shelves and let their collection grow.

Man cave: Larger storage sheds, with a window-unit air conditioner and some furniture, make great places for guys to “hunker down” and enjoy their favorite pastimes.

Family museum: Store family albums, collectibles, mementos and heirlooms without taking up storage space inside the home.

Mixed use: A storage shed or playhouse doesn’t have to have just one use. For example, you may want to combine storage space with a comfortable area for the family pet, or store collectibles along with family heirlooms. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

 

Most storage sheds – also frequently called simply “backyard sheds” – fall into one of several categories based on their construction material: wood, vinyl and plastic, and metal. Making the right choice for your own storage needs will depend largely on where you plan to situate your shed on your property and also (of course) on your storage needs.

High humidity may call for synthetic materials

Residents of the Deep South, Hawaii, and other climates with a high humidity often prefer to invest in plastic resin, vinyl sided, or plastic storage sheds. These materials are resistant or immune to the effect of constant exposure to moisture, including mildew and rust. While it’s true that most modern wooden and metal buildings are resistant to such slow-creeping damage, homeowners still prefer these more damp-resistant materials.

Plastic resin and vinyl sheds

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a plastic resin storage shed

Once disdained for their unadorned, synthetic appearance, plastic resin and vinyl storage sheds have come a long way in recent years, with many including decorative touches that complement their surroundings. Compared to metal and wooden sheds, they offer better resistance to humidity and other forms of moisture and can often be cleaned simply with a garden hose and soapy water.

Metal sheds

Metal sheds are heavy, sturdy, and resistant to wear and tear as well as the elements. Their chief drawback is aesthetic: most are strictly functional in appearance, with sometimes little to offer the beauty of a backyard or grounds. Nevertheless, their durability makes them a frequent favorite for housing equipment such as tractors, mowers and edgers.

Wooden sheds

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a wood storage shed

The oldest – and still the most aesthetically pleasing – form of storage shed offers a variety of themes and styles, often with elaborate decorative elements including flower boxes, trimmed doors, and more. The chief drawback lies in wood’s susceptibility to the elements and to infestation by pests, though modern wooden storage sheds are treated against both kinds of hazards. Wood sheds frequently include architectural details including steeples, arched roofs, and even front porches, making them a great aesthetic addition to any property.