Life Outdoors: The Elements Of a DIY Backyard

Life Outdoors The Elements Of a DIY Backyard

When it’s time for the “outdoor season,” garden shows and home improvement stores are a great place to get inspired, but the sheer variety of what’s available can be nearly mind-boggling.

For the do-it-yourselfer, experts say the best place to start is with a defined place for gathering. In the trade, it’s known as the hardscape.

“Whether it’s a flagstone patio or a wooden deck, it’s important to have a foundation to anchor your back yard and to serve as the stage both for entertaining and for enjoying the landscape that surrounds you,” says Chelsey Gardner, an outdoor living expert based in Dallas.

Where do-it-yourselfers sometimes err, she says, is in buying “props” before creating the “main stage.”

“You can buy the best patio furniture available and outfit your deck with a grill that costs as much as a car, but when you set it out on a tired old deck, it’s not going to look anything like it did in the showroom,” Gardner says.

But if your existing deck is looking shabby and time-worn, what are your options other than to tear it down and build a new one? Increasingly, smart do-it-yourselfers are giving their old decks makeovers. Companies like Deckorators, founded by St. Louis native Kelly Jones, provide products that make it possible to give an old deck a new look in a single weekend.

Deckorators sells $15 million worth of pre-fabricated, easy-to-install deck balusters and accessories that give homeowners a range of options for updating the look of their deck. They are simple to install and easy to find, available at Lowe’s Home Improvement stores and hundreds of hardware and building products distributors throughout the country.  

“The biggest challenge we hear from consumers is that it’s hard to pick their favorite style,” Jones says, noting that the company makes dozens of different balusters in materials ranging from metal to glass. Balusters are available in an array of shapes, styles and colors, each offering its own unique feel.

“Our glass balusters have also exploded in popularity, because people want to sit on their porch or deck and see the view. When you’re sitting, eye level hits the rail. See through glass takes away the obstacle,” Jones says.

Enhancing their outdoor living space at their suburban Chicago home was the goal for Kris and Darrin Haugan, who not only wanted to create an environment they’d be happy to spend time in, but who also wanted to add resale value to their home.

Initially believing they needed to demolish their old deck, the couple was pleasantly surprised to find that their deck was structurally sound. “It was just ugly,” Darrin laughs.

The Haugan’s opted to replace the plain wooden balusters on their deck rails with powder-coated aluminum balusters in a curved, Architectural Baroque style. They also covered their corner and stair rail posts with decorative Postcovers, which slip over the 6-inch by 6-inch posts that anchor the rails. 

“I absolutely fell in love with the Postcovers,” Kris says. “They look like stacked stone columns, but they are so lightweight that my husband was able to install them by himself. It’s such a creative idea,” she says.

“Personalizing your outdoor living space by maximizing your most basic element is what it’s all about. We can customize our living room with our furniture, fabrics and lighting. In the backyard, we do it with our hardscapes and landscapes. It’s about focusing on the core elements,” Gardner says.