Easy DIY projects to smarten up your backyard this summer

Give your backyard a new look for summer with our quick and easy updates for patios, decks, fences and more

Laid table on a decked terrace with candles
(Image credit: Westend 61/Getty Images)

After a cold a dreary winter – and a cool and soggy spring – most people are looking forward to a beautiful summer. Preparing your home’s exterior (for what is arguably the most popular season of the year) can lift your spirits and increase your home’s appearance. 

Even if your yard is in need of new look, you may not have the budget, time, or desire to engage in major outdoor makeovers – and you may not have the skill level either. However, we've put together a list of easy exterior DIY projects that aren’t time-consuming and won’t break the bank. So why not give them a try this weekend and get your backyard ideas looking their best this summer? 

1. Clean and re-stain your fence 

painted fence in athenian black and olive by annie sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

It's quite possible that years of winter weather have taken a toll on your garden fence ideas. And according to Bailey Carson, home expert at Angi, this can not only be an eyesore, but could also determine how well your fence functions over time. 

'By keeping up with the routine maintenance of your fence, you can keep it looking good and functioning properly for many seasons to come,' she says. And fortunately, it’s relatively simple to restore the fence. 'Start by giving it a power wash and remember to let it dry completely before doing anything else.' Next, Carson says you can apply fresh sealer or stain to make the fence look brand new. 

But she warns against rushing through the staining process. 'The amount of time you spend on it will be a direct reflection of how the fence will look in the end.'  

And there’s yet another easy DIY fence-project you can do. 'Walk the perimeter of your fences and gates to check if they are in good working order,' advises Elizabeth Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada. 'If they are not, you risk your pets getting out and potentially getting hurt, or other animals coming into your yard and potentially damaging your space.' 

2. Add some outdoor lights

string lights

(Image credit: Amazon)

Adding some outdoor lighting ideas to your backyard is a simple way to beautify your property and make it more usable. 'It is a simple and cost-effective way to really enhance the look and function of your outdoor living space,' Carson says. 'Not only does this DIY project help increase your home’s curb appeal, but it also prolongs the amount of time you can spend outside, and believe it or not, can provide an added layer of security to your home.' 

Her views are echoed by not one, but two of our other experts. 'String lights can make a huge impact on an outdoor area, and nowadays there are some great solar-powered options for those looking for lighting that's eco-conscious,' says David Steckel, home expert at Thumbtack.  

In addition, Mark Feldman, chief home officer at Riverbend Home, recommends outdoor decorative lighting since it’s both beautiful and functional. Admittedly, some extensive projects may require an electrician, but he says many of them won’t. 'Landscape light, and especially solar lighting, are easy installations for the DIY homeowner and make your home both welcoming and safe,' he says. 

3. Enhance your space with an outdoor rug

add pattern and color: outdoor rug

(Image credit: Iamfy)

If you're looking to give your patio ideas or decking ideas an update for summer, Feldman recommends adding an outdoor rug to define separate spaces, especially living and dining areas. 'A rug not only provides instant definition between spaces, but it also adds color and ambience.' 

And here’s another tip: if you have high-traffic areas, kids, or pets, Feldman says outdoor rugs are a great option to use indoors as well, since they’re not only beautiful, but also durable and easy to clean.

4. Add groups of planters

planters on garden steps

(Image credit: Dobbies)

One super easy DIY project is to add some garden planter ideas, and Feldman says this simple project can also provide instant curb appeal. 'You can even create an entire flower or vegetable garden using various containers,' he explains. So, what types of planters are best? Concrete and cement planters are extremely on-trend this season; and self-watering planters can give you a green thumb with minimal effort,' Feldman says.

5. Introduce an outdoor water feature

water feature from A place in the garden

(Image credit: A Place in the Garden)

Outdoor water feature ideas can add a level of tranquility, but it might seem too complex to qualify as an easy outdoor DIY project. However, Feldman assures us that it’s not. 'Most water features only require an outlet, and come with extra-long cords that can easily be hidden, so installation is a snap,' he says. 'From a classic cascading rock design to a more contemporary stone fountain, there are so many options to fit your unique style.' 

6. Consider a backyard fire pit

Choose the best fire pit for the garden

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

There’s one quick and easy project that will allow you to use your exterior space even during cooler months. Scott Hamilton Harris, co-founder and COO at the Building Construction Group in Los Angeles, CA, says having one of the best fire pits means you can make S’mores and enjoy late night drinks.

When it comes to how to build a fire pit, he recommends visiting your local stone yard to get either a few bags of gravel or small rocks of your choice. 'Spread them out to the shape that you want, and then start stacking your favorite larger rocks - I like to find the flatter rocks, as they’re easier to stack.' And then, he says add some sealer to finish the project.

'Or, if you want to take it to the next level, make friends with a plumber and have him add a gas line inside the pit, with a valve on the side; add a simple pipe with holes drilled in it, and cover over with lava rock.'  

7. Fit a simple sail shade

decked terrace area with sail shade overhead

(Image credit: Dura Composites)

Traditionally, patio cover ideas were an expensive project that required an expert to install. But now, Harris says you can go to your big box store to get a sun shade sail - or order one online from the likes of Amazon or Home Depot. 'They come in many sizes, but I like a 12’ x 12’ sail, as it’s big enough to comfortably put a table under or to have a small gathering.'

He says the only part that takes work is figuring out where you want to put it. 'If you are fortunate enough to have an L-shaped footprint home, you can secure it with the supplied hooks and fasteners.' But if you don’t, or if you would prefer to place it in the middle of the yard, Harris says that’s also doable. 'Simply install a few metal or wood posts from your local store,' he explains. 'Pro-tip: dig a 24” deep hole, pour in a bag of dry concrete and simply add water from a hose, and by the next morning, you’re ready to secure your shade sail.'

8. Revamp your furniture

how to clean outdoor wooden furniture: soapy sponge

(Image credit: John Slater/Getty Images)

The final DIY project to consider is cleaning and repairing outdoor furniture. 'For instance, if you have wrought iron furniture, you can easily spray paint it to give it a fresh look,' Dodson explains. If you have aluminum furniture, she says you can simply wipe it down with a rag and cleaning solution. 'If you have teak furniture, you may want to allow the furniture to fade or you may want to stain it with a simple stain,' Dodson recommends.  

There's more tips on how to clean garden furniture in our handy guide.

Terri Williams

Terri Williams is a journalist with real estate, home improvement, and product review bylines at Realtor.com, Bob Vila, Yahoo, MSN, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Houston Chronicle, and Apartment Therapy. She also covers business topics, with bylines at USA Today, The Economist, US New & World Report, Verizon, and several other brands that you’ve probably heard of. Follow her adventures on Twitter.