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How to get your new backyard ready for hosting

If your new home comes with a yard, here's how to tackle it.

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A new home comes with plenty of new projects indoors, but your outdoor space matters, too. Creating a backyard living space that reflects your personal style is just as important as your interior updates. Here are a few ways you can create a backyard the whole block will flock to.  

Make a plan

Before you furnish and organize your backyard, it's important to envision your end goal. Try imagining how you'll use the space. Do backyard barbecues appeal to you? Do you want wide open spaces for pets and children to run around? Would you prefer a peaceful garden for reading books in the shade? Answering the "what" will prepare you to answer the "how" of you backyard's remodel. 

No matter what you'll use your space for, take stock of the current condition. Nearly any enjoyable backyard space will need to start with a clean, secure, safe and healthy environment. These basics should be the first things you think about as you get your yard up to snuff. 

Lawn area

Your front lawn might catch the eyes of passersby and nosey neighbors, but the lawn in your backyard space is the one you're most likely to really spend time enjoying. Whether it's finding the right lawn care products or simply buying a new lawn mower to take care of overgrowth, your lawn will appreciate some TLC; it is a living thing, after all and the "flooring" of your outdoor living space.

Drawing out a rough sketch of your backyard vision will help you mentally organize the space and decide what parts of your lawn you want to keep, resurface or expand. Be sure to take measurements before you begin. A few sheets of graph paper can really help make sure your plans are in proportion. Be sure to deduct any square footage that might be covered by decking or patio surfaces when calculating the amount of seed, mulch or fertilizer you need.

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Pavers and gravel offer a DIY-sensible approach to creating a patio. 

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Patio structure

With your lawn space accounted for and on the mend, it's time to turn to your other surfaces. This is where you're likely to put furniture, outdoor appliances and other accessories. 

If your home came with an existing patio structure like a deck or pergola, it's important to give it a good inspection and check for any rotting boards, popping nailheads or damage that could affect safety. If there are significant issues, repair might be more expensive than removing it and starting over. 

If you don't like your current structures, you can usually knock out demo of a wooden structure in a weekend with the help of a friend or two. If it's a concrete patio, you'll probably need to rent a jackhammer or hire skilled labor to get the job done.

Pouring a new patio or building a deck are doable, DIYs, but very labor intensive and should be carefully calculated. If you want (or need) to go the DIY route, laying pavers or filling with gravel could be the easier approach to tackling a new patio on your own.  

Fencing

If your home needs fencing for children, pets or privacy, keep that in mind while budgeting for backyard renovations. Most homeowners opt to pay for fence installation by a professional, but you can DIY if you have a few days. Many home improvement stores sell fencing in short sections. Again, some perimeter measuring and math will give you a good idea of how much money this project will cost. 

One note on fencing: Before hiring a professional, it's important to make sure you know where you property lines fall. You can find this out by contacting your county assessor or recorder's office. Sometimes, property plat maps are also available online. You may have also received a survey in your paperwork when you purchased your home. This will include lot details. 

It's also courteous to discuss your fencing plans with your neighbors. Better to address any concerns before the work is done. Some folks partner with neighbors on the cost and maintenance of fencing, but tread lightly here. It may be a way to cut costs, but like borrowing money from relatives, it can quickly sour an otherwise good relationship should complications arise.

Create living spaces

With your landscaping and basic structures sorted, the next thing to do is focus on creating dedicated living spaces. A backyard should have a floor plan, with spaces for cooking, eating, hanging out and having fun. Consider these major categories and how each one is part of your outdoor living space.

Everyone might not have a backyard large enough for multiple spaces. If you're limited, consider combining spaces. A nice dining set with several chairs allows  you to create different seating arrangements. A hammock or higher end folding chairs offer seating that you can store when they're not in use. 

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A grill and bar cabinet make a great simple outdoor kitchen setup. 

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Kitchen and grilling

No backyard is complete without a place to grill. You might not need a top-of-the-line outdoor kitchen (although if you can swing it, I highly recommend). Just setting up at "grilling station" of sorts will motivate you to do more cooking outdoors. If you're the host for happy hour, consider an outdoor bar cabinet. Often these have wheels and you can move or store them when you're not using them. 

The biggest thing to think about for outdoor grilling is grill placement. You want an area that provides plenty of ventilation, but isn't far from the entrance to your home for quick kitchen access. Grills come in a variety of types, sizes and styles so be sure to take a look at our guide before you get shopping. Other outdoor kitchen considerations include items like coolers, smokers, and pizza ovens.

Outdoor living room

Just like the inside of your home, a welcoming backyard needs a comfy place to kick back. If you have the space, outdoor sofas and chairs are the easiest way to set up dedicated spaces for conversation and relaxing. 

Outdoor furniture can be expensive, but second-hand and DIY options exist if you're looking to save some dough. Sectionals, rocking chairs, hammocks and the classic Adirondack style are all great options for seating away from the dinner table.

Dining space

That dinner table is likely to be the heart of your backyard space. Dining al fresco can look like anything from a two-person café set to a full dining table and seating for eight. If you're short on space, café sets often offer a foldable table and two to four chairs that can tuck into a corner when they're not in use.

Be sure to choose furniture made from a material you're willing to maintain. Wood options may need sealing and refinishing in the future. Composite materials or metal will likely require less care. 

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Yard games are a backyard barbecue hit.

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Room for fun

After all your furniture are cooking accessories are in place, you'll still want some room for fun. Think green space for kids and dogs, or an open area for yard games or yoga and meditation.

These fun spaces might be part of the lawn area you mapped out in your original plan or a separate zone with its own special surface. Putting green, anyone? 

This is also a great time to think about outdoor entertainment. Speakers, projectors and screens can outfit your space for epic movie nights under the stars. Or you can adorn your outdoor bar with a TV (like Samsung's outdoor model) for a sports bar feel. 

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String lights add warmth to any outdoor space.

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Finishing touches

With all your major pieces in place, it's time to add the details. Outdoor pillows, throws and rugs create a homey feel. Adding textiles softens the look of all the wood, concrete and metal outdoor spaces can be heavy on.

A colorful umbrella adds visual interest and keeps you cool. No magical outdoor dining experience would be complete without twinkling string lights and the warm glow of a fire pit. All of these items can be had for as little or as much money as your budget allows. More expensive isn't always better, so keep an eye on big box stores for well-reviewed deals.