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Good Living at Home

7 Backyard Improvements That Make a Difference

By Debbi Mayster | Contributor


The housing market always has its ups and downs, and home renovations appear to be hitting some record highs in the last few years. With more people staying home to work, relax and play, many homeowners have chosen to renovate rather than move to a new home to obtain their dream house and have it work better for their family. But what about extending those enhancements outside, into the family backyard? 

According to a recent poll commissioned by the TurfMutt Foundation and conducted online by The Harris Poll, more than three-quarters of Americans who have a yard (76 percent) say the family yard space is one of the most important parts of their home. When it comes to design, it makes sense family backyards are being taken as seriously as the interior of the home. 

“Backyard improvements can impact your home’s value should you decide to sell someday, but we think it’s also important to make changes that enhance your experience and enjoyment of your yard today,” says Kris Kiser, President & CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation, which encourages people to care for and utilize the green space around them, including our own backyards and community parks. 

He adds that he is “loving our newly renovated backyard as we’ve brought some of our indoor living, outdoors. It feels like we’ve added onto the house by just utilizing the outdoor space more effectively.”  

Maybe you’ve already completed the improvement projects inside your home such as adding a fresh coat of paint, putting in new flooring, or updating appliances and furniture. But how are home improvements taken to the backyard so the “outdoor living room” works better for your family and at the same time makes your home feel new? 

Here are seven suggestions from the TurfMutt Foundation for turning home renovations “inside out”: 

•    Replace flooring inside = cleaning up the yard and improving its turfgrass. 
Grass is the canvas for your outdoor living room. Improve existing turfgrass by overseeding or aerating, or start fresh with new sod. Clean out flower beds and remove debris from all parts of your yard, and then build the other elements from there. Remember, outdoor power equipment like a lawn mower, hedge trimmer, or leaf blower can help make even big jobs easier.  

•    Repaint inside = planting flowers to attract and support backyard wildlife.
A fresh coat of paint can transform a room, just like planting flowers outside does for a yard. Choose native plants that have evolved to thrive in your microclimate (they are better for the ecosystem and require less input from you). Selecting native perennials over annuals means only having to plant once to enjoy their beauty for years to come. Plus, pollinators and other backyard wildlife will thank you as these types of plants are natural habitat and food for them. 

•    Replace household appliances = freshening up your cache of outdoor power equipment. Getting the right equipment for your lawn size and type customizes the experience of caring for your yard. Good news is there are lots of options available for all needs and tastes. Robotic mowers that act like a Roomba for the lawn and battery-powered leaf blowers that are lightweight, powerful, and portable are good choices. For larger lawns, zero-turn mowers and even a UTV might be helpful.

•    Swap out furniture inside = creating high-value spaces outside. Spending time outside is all about connection with nature and others. Really think about what you need for your lifestyle, and buy outdoor furniture accordingly to create spaces that support your family’s lifestyle. Things like a picnic table for backyard study sessions, an outdoor sectional for connecting with others, a hammock for swinging away stress, or even an outdoor office to strike a better work life balance are all ways you can create high-value outdoor spaces. 

•    Kitchen renovation = adding an outdoor kitchen. The sky is the limit when adding an outdoor kitchen. You can certainly create full set-up complete with a sink, refrigerator, and built-in grill and cooktop. Or keep it simple with a beverage cart or cooler and spend a little more on a quality grill to cook meals on. 

•    Add on to your home = creating a true outdoor living room. Go all out and add a deck, hardscaped area or screened in porch if you have the time and budget, or simply make the most of the yard you have. Create a soccer or croquet field on a grassy flat area. Add a fire pit and use string lights in trees to enhance enjoyment in the wintertime. For warm summer days, a pergola covered in colorful vines that attract butterflies might be just the ticket. 

•    Add a game room inside = creating activity zones outside. Make your backyard the neighborhood gathering hot spot by creating activity zones that are fun for the whole family. Cornhole, soccer, bocce ball, and a giant checkers board game can help parents more easily manage their kids’ screen time. A patio or deck is a great setting for family game nights. Or go all out and add a swimming pool to lock in your backyard as the place-to-be for your kids and their friends. Involve your family in the planning and keep in mind that shrubs and hedges are a great way to distinguish the different activity zones you create in your yard. 

Download the International Backyarding Fact Book, to learn why spending time in our yards and community parks is good for us and the planet.


About TurfMutt
TurfMutt was created by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) TurfMutt Foundation and has reached more than 70 million children, educators and families since 2009. Through education partners such as Weekly Reader, Discovery Education and Scholastic, TurfMutt has taught students and teachers how to “save the planet, one yard at a time.” Today, TurfMutt is an official USGBC® Education Partner and part of their global LEARNING LAB. TurfMutt has been an education resource at the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2017, the TurfMutt animated video series won the coveted Cynopsis Kids Imagination Award for Best Interstitial Series. TurfMutt’s personal, home habitat was featured in the 2017-2020 Wildlife Habitat Council calendars. More information at www.TurfMutt.com.

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