Quick and Rewarding Summer Projects
Summer is right around the corner, and what better time to make some home improvements? Warm weather and long days are perfect for building a new patio, gardening, and grilling up a tasty dinner. If you have a little extra time on your hands, why not use it to make your summer even more enjoyable? Done well, you might even be able to increase the resale value of your home!
Outdoor Lounging: Patios & Decks
Adding a new patio or deck is an excellent way to increase your outside time and decrease your energy consumption. You might design a special space for a hobby, like painting, or create a multifunctional patio that can be used for porch-sitting, exercise, and birthday parties. Spending more time outside this summer can do wonders for both your physical and mental health and will cut down on your indoor cooling and lighting costs.
Classic & Creative Concrete Patios
Concrete is inexpensive to install and can last up to 30 years. You might put down a simple slab and call it a day or add a concrete finish for a unique look. Concrete coatings can also be slip-resistant for patios near pools and ponds. You could add personal touches to your new concrete patio by incorporating colorful broken glass, seashells, marbles, or your family's handprints.
If you live in a particularly wet area or stormwater runoff is a problem, consider a patio made of permeable pavers or pervious concrete that allows the water to drain through the surface. Other, more sustainable concrete options include Hempcrete and Dialysis Plastic Scrap Concrete.
Radiant & Rustic Decks
If you prefer the look of wood over concrete, you may be more interested in installing a deck. Hardwoods, including cedar, redwood, and bamboo are the most resistant to rot and warping and can often be found at construction reuse stores. Composite decking is a good alternative that looks just like wood but doesn't require the staining and maintenance that solid wood does. High-Density Polyethylene Resin (HDPE) is another environmentally friendly wood-look-alike.
Hot New Additions: Fire Pits & Outdoor Kitchens
Sunsets and summer evenings are simply too nice to cut short. So don't. Stay outside, grab another cool drink, and make your dinner alfresco.
Anyone can buy an inexpensive BBQ, but how many people do you know with a stylish, built-in grill? Building a permanent grilling space is much easier than you think. You might frame a space for your current grill to slide into and flank it with counters or upgrade to a professional BBQ specially made for built-in use. If you plan to buy a new BBQ, pellet grills are the most environmentally friendly option. They cook extremely efficiently and are fueled by a renewable sawdust material. Solar grills are also great if you don't mind a longer cook time.
Add a beer fridge, sink, and barstools for the ultimate outdoor chilling and grilling space. A well-built BBQ area will encourage you to eat at home more often, enjoying healthier meals while saving on gas and parking. Pro tip: Grilled vegetables are delicious!
Fully Functional Outdoor Kitchens
Kitchen appliances, including ovens and even dishwashers, are available for permanent outdoor installation. That means it's 100% possible to have a complete outdoor kitchen. You can also add cabinets and store a durable set of dishes for backyard dining and entertaining.
Who doesn't love pizza? Wood-fired pizza ovens are a super fun way to make a delicious meal. Impress your friends with a gourmet flatbread or set out the fixings for everyone to make their own. Pizza ovens are also great for cooking an ooey-gooey sandwich, a flakey filet of fish, or a tray of brownies. You'll save on indoor cooling costs by running the hot oven outdoors and will create a fun new family activity at the same time. If you have little ones, invite them to build their own meal and watch as the crust rises, and the cheese bubbles up.
Fun-Filled Fire Pits
There's just something about sitting around a campfire with friends and family as the sun sets, but why should you have to wait for summer camping trips? Bring those magical moments home by adding a fire pit to your backyard. We recommend you check your local regulations before adding a fire pit as some areas have restrictions to minimize wildfire risk. Your municipality will also be able to tell you if it's safe to burn household or yard waste to decrease your family's contribution to landfills.
Portable metal fire pits are easy to find. They can be set directly on your patio, or you can build your own from materials you already have at home, such as brick, stone, or broken concrete. There are even tutorials out there on creating a DIY fire pit out of an old washing machine drum! Kiln-dried oak and hickory woods are the best choices for the environment as they burn well and have a lower emission than other woods. Seasoned firewood has the highest emission rating.
Outdoor Oasis: Water Features
Water is the essence of life, and the bird population will gladly thank you for the value-increasing improvement. Thoughtful design can passively support plants and trees, use household greywater and stormwater runoff, and help keep your yard cool on the hottest summer days. And, bonus - you can probably find everything you need to build your water feature in or around your home.
Adding a little river to your front flowerbed or side yard is both a beautiful landscaping addition and a sustainable method for managing rainwater. All you need is a shovel to dig out the river and some excess rock from around your yard. During the wet months, your river can drain water away from your home's foundation and to plants or storm drains. In the summer, you can connect it to a water fountain, pond, pool, or let it run dry.
A water fountain can be a modest bubbler meant to create a serene atmosphere or an extravagant and showy centerpiece. When added to the center of a cement patio or sunny yard, water fountains can decrease the temperature of the immediate area through a process called evaporative cooling.
Unlike river features, water fountains require a mechanical pump. That means this particular home improvement project may increase your electricity bill unless you choose a solar pump. And, if you live in a climate prone to freezing, be sure you protect the pipes well.
Ponds are beautiful additions to a landscape and your local wildlife - if you have space. Maybe you'll put in a koi pond to give your garden a little Japanese flair or build a pond into a treed area to create a cool picnic area.
It is important to note that living ponds with fish should be dug at least three feet to give the fish plenty of room. They should also be protected from freezing if you live in a colder climate. Keep an eye out, and you might notice other pond visitors, including birds, frogs, butterflies, and maybe even deer.
Standing water in ponds should be filtered or maintained regularly to protect wildlife and your family. To minimize maintenance, consider building a natural pond environment under the protection of a tree and line the edges with thirsty plants like hosta, butterfly bushes, and iris. You can also add plants that float on the water's surface to shade the pond further. Water lilies, lettuce, and hyacinth are excellent options that will help limit evaporation and keep the water fresh.
Even a small birdbath can make a big difference to your yard and wildlife. Freshwater is a treat for busy pollinators on a hot day, and it's so easy to set up. You can buy a ready-to-use birdbath or make your own from materials around your home. An old bowl, stone, rock, or molded cement can all be the beginnings of a beautiful birdbath. Just be careful to avoid reflective materials like metal that could turn your simple birdbath into a hot tub. It's recommended you clean your birdbath and refresh its water regularly to maintain a healthy environment for wildlife. Steer clear of chemical cleaners and stick with water and mild soap.
Why not spend some time this summer improving your landscape? You don't need a green thumb for rock or succulent gardens, and it's entirely possible to plant a simple perennial garden now that will thrive year after year.
Pollinator gardens are a gift to nature and beautiful addition to any sized yard. Learn which perennial flowers and flowering shrubs grow well in your zone and have at it! Wildflowers like yarrow, bluebells, lupine, and poppies are excellent choices. You can even cut flowers throughout the year to share with friends, family, and neighbors.
Edible Gardens: Vegetable, Fruit, & Herb
Edible gardens provide delicious homegrown food and excellent outdoor exercise for the whole family. And, working in the garden is a great way to get a little workout in! If you're thinking about starting an edible garden, you might consider incorporating flowers for larger crop yields and practice companion planting to support your plants proactively. For example, some crops, like corn, grow better if groundcover, like squash, shields their soil. Some flowers and herbs can even help keep bugs at bay.
Vegetable gardens and fruit orchards are excellent at encouraging picky eaters to eat outside the box. If you have kids, invite them to help plant and tend to your new garden and watch as they find a new excitement for peas, squash, and greens. You can even practice farm to table dinners by throwing your harvest right on the grill for a healthy, meal outdoors.
Rock & Drought Tolerant Gardens
Succulents, sage, salvia, rosemary, lavender, geranium, aloe, and artichoke are all extremely easy to grow for novice gardeners and desert areas. Nestle a few into a rock landscape for a maintenance-free garden.
Waste Not, Want Not: Compost Bins
A compost bin or pile is probably the simplest quick summer project ever. It's possible to build a compost bin with things you already have in under an hour and begin making your very own black gold. In the United States alone, we waste about 30-40 percent of our food supply each year. Food is thrown out when it goes bad, when we over-serve ourselves, when it's been left out too long, and even when it's simply not pretty enough to sell. Composting transforms all that food waste into glorious nutrient-rich soil that can be used on indoor plants, gardens, trees, and even on your lawn.
Compost bins can be built out of scrap wood, extra fencing, and discarded wood pallets. But, you don't even need a bin at all! If you'd rather get right to it, just create a compost heap in the corner of your yard. Some people shy away from composting because they think it'll draw bugs or smell, but a well-maintained compost pile doesn't smell at all. The key is to add lots of brown to your pile, which is another great way to reduce your home waste. Cardboard, paper, junk mail, grass clippings, leaves, newspaper, and egg cartons are all excellent "brown" materials to add to your compost pile.
What Will You Do With Your Summer?
Summer is the perfect time to complete a little home improvement project. Maybe you'll improve your home's curb appeal with a little landscaping, add a patio to increase the time you spend outside or improve the environment for local wildlife.
We'd love to hear about your summer projects. What has been your most successful? What do you hope to accomplish this summer? Share below!Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-04-29T17:08:15+0000
Laura grew up in the California suburbs, far removed from environmentalism, but nature always has a way. She uprooted her life in 2015, moving to the countryside of Washington to live a more sustainable and simple life on 12 acres. She and her fiancee are learning on the job as they attempt everything from gardening and natural pest control to eco-friendly building and home improvement.