How To Organize And Tackle a D-I-Y Project-Backyard Transformation, Part 1

Written By Lisa Lucke

You’ve probably caught the do-it-yourself shows on TV that show a plain old backyard of a young couple’s house at the beginning of the segment, and then the end result an hour later: an oasis of epic proportions. Usually, but not always, there is a professional designer and builder involved, who brainstorm the process in order to please the owner and stay within the budget. If you don’t have a TV show budget, but you do have a desire to walk into your backyard at the end of a long day and say, “Ahhhhh,” this article’s for you.

The Budget

Any project has to start with money. Whether you’re heading to the grocery store or out on vacation, a person or family has to know how much money they have to work with. The rest can be designed around the budget. Don’t get set on a dream backyard you saw on TV and then get stressed out, or worse, go into debt trying to pay for it. Don’t talk it up with your neighbors before a decision is made. Instead, figure out your budget, then pick a design, and then do the very best you can within the budget.

Choose Your Design 

Once you have a number in mind, start researching. If you are a totally blank slate with regard to ideas, or even what kind of backyard you want, do a search on the internet of “creative backyards on a budget.” You’ll see a ton of options, but try to narrow it down to three or four top contenders. Not sure which one of your favorites is the one you want to tackle? Bookmark them and do a little next-level research on the materials and costs. Are the cost of materials still a little out of reach for one of them? Don’t forget to get creative and figure out alternate materials and see if you can’t get really close to the one you liked the most and still stay within your means. Once you’ve got a design goal nailed down that matches your budget, you’re set.

Make a Timeline

If you’re doing your research in November, depending on what part of the country you live in, you may want to plan for a spring start. Or if it’s the middle of July and you live in Phoenix, push the start date to the late fall. Figure a couple of months start to finish, depending on the design goals. One way of doing this is picking the date you’d like to be finished by. Then, work backward, penciling in the number of hours you can devote each day or week. Be realistic. Keep in mind your job demands. If you are a seasonal firefighter, forget about digging into a new project at the height of fire season. If there’s just no way to get it done, push the finish date out a little further or pull the start date back and try to get going sooner, depending on which of those dates offers the most flexibility. 

Gather and Go

Once you know your design and have your timeline, gather materials or get them ordered. Keep your materials out of the elements and have them ready to grab when it’s time. Be sure your process steps are ordered correctly; you don’t want to pour a cement pad and then realize you forgot to drop a cople of poles first for the volleyball net. Keep an eye on your inventory. If you’re still a long way from finishing the retaining wall and you only have a couple dozen bricks left, re-calculate and get more materials picked up or ordered. 

Creating a new backyard from the ground up does not have to be overly complicated, and almost any budget can be satisfied if you do some research before you get started. Keep the project running smoothly by getting and staying organized.

Next time: Backyard Transformation, Part 2—Creative Ideas for a Lifetime of Memories

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