January 2, 2014

You're Better at Backyard DIY Than You Think

You may stick your fingers together every time you use super glue, but you're really better at creating backyard projects than you think. Shelter magazines are full of huge projects that turn your property into a showpiece, and some of them do require the help of a professional. But a surprising number of outdoor projects are easy enough for someone who's never picked up a hammer in their life. The key is in the attention to detail. Make it look like it took forever with final touches, even if you only invested a couple of hours, and you'll impress all the doubters in your life.


Building a sand-based patio is a time-honored way to change the look and usefulness of your backyard. It may look like an elaborate project, but strength is the more important attribute you'll need for this simple project. Dig out an area the size of your proposed patio, about four inches deep. Pour on a layer of sand, tamp it down flat, and place patio stones on top. Pour sand over the stones and sweep the sand around so it drops into the cracks between the stones. Start digging on Saturday morning and you can be eating on the patio by Sunday dinner.

Pool Liner

Whether you've got an inground or aboveground pool, you can upgrade its looks with a new pool liner. Invite some friends over for this job, as it requires many hands. You can use PoolProducts.com inground liners, or one of the other replacement liner companies online. With the right resources, you'll find more than the typical basic blue liner you've seen forever. Today's new pool liners have the look of expensive tile, giving your pool a cosmetic upgrade along with a fresh liner.

Disappearing Fountain

Water features add value to your property as well as a relaxing atmosphere, and they're easier to make than most people suspect. Dig a hole big enough to hold a galvanized washtub. Sink the tub in the ground, and set a fountain pump in the bottom. Thread the pump tubing through a grate, and cover the hole with the grate. Pile large rocks on one end of the grate in a waterfall effect and use silicone sealant to glue the tubing to the back of the rocks. Fill the washtub with water and cover the grating with stones. Turn on the fountain to see water tumbling down the waterfall into the ground, and voilĂ --no apparent water source in site!

Custom Stepping Stones

Walk down a garden path and imagine stepping stones with embedded glass jewels, in unusual shapes or personalized with children's artwork. Rather than the work of a custom supply house, these stepping stones are the product of an afternoon with your children doing an art project. Smear a layer of petroleum jelly around the inside of pizza boxes, cake pans, or other flat containers with interesting shapes. Mix instant concrete powder and water into a thick slurry. As DoItYourself.com suggests, pour the concrete mix into the molds and allow it to dry for about an hour. Push glass jewels, leaves, or even toys into the concrete, or give the kids a stick and let them create artwork. Remove stones from molds after six hours and let them cure for a week before setting them in the ground.