New Year, New Yard.

5 easy outdoor upgrades to consider for your home

We’ve all heard the saying, “New Year, New You!” But what about your yard? Could it use an upgrade? A facelift? A full transformation? We all want our outdoor spaces to impress, but a full landscaping overhaul can be a daunting prospect. Luckily you don’t need to go all-out to achieve attractive results. Just like making a resolution to lose weight or get in shape, taking small steps is a great way to get started on your backyard makeover. You’d be surprised how much a modest change can improve your yard’s overall look. If you want to add a little curb appeal to your home and start getting those comments and compliments from your friends when they visit, check out these easy DIY projects that will make a big impact.

1. Stepping stones

You’ll love how easy this is to do! All you need are some decent sized pavers (at least a couple feet across) or even better, some pieces of stunning natural flagstone. Simply place the pieces on the ground with about 18 inches of distance between their centers to match the average person’s stride. Rounded pieces will give you a softer look, while angular ones will help modernize a space. Random mixes of shapes and sizes communicate a more relaxed, informal pathway.

Cost: Natural patio flagstone like our best-selling Gold Quartzite flagstone only costs $5-$10 per piece. Pavers vary based on size and type, but generally cost the same or slightly less than natural stone. But keep in mind: natural stone lasts longer, doesn’t fade and adds more value to your home.

Decide which areas of your yard you’d like to connect with stepping stones, or use the pathway to draw visitors into different areas of your garden. Choose the stepping stone style you want and get to work!


Natural Stone Fountain With Contours2. Fountain or Water Feature

Don’t worry – a water feature doesn’t have to be an elaborate, multi-level waterfall. While not the cheapest of projects, standalone fountains can be a one-day installation job and provide an additional relaxing ambience with the sound of trickling water. Why not have a garden accent that provides both visual and audible pleasure? You’ll thank yourself for years to come.

Fountains are made of concrete, fiberglass, resin or other manufactured materials, or cut from of real stone for a richer look. When you choose a fountain, pick up a reservoir and pump at the same time (Southwest Boulder locations and most home improvement stores carry everything you need in one place).

Cost:  Faux basalt fountains are around $200, real cut stone pieces like stone bowls and balls start at $250, and gorgeous one-of-a-kind basalt and onyx pieces can be well over $1,000. When budgeting for any fountain project, factor in about $125 for equipment. Solid stone bird baths start around $250 depending on size.

To make adding a water feature even easier and cheaper, go with that bird bath instead of a fountain. The bird bath will still look great as a display item in your yard (in addition to attracting local birds) and doesn’t require any setup other than filling it to the brim occasionally. Fountains and bird baths are both great focal points for an outdoor space; you can’t go wrong!


3. Boulder Fix

You’ll be amazed at how this simple addition completely changes the dynamics of your yard. Boulders anchor a landscape and provide points of interest around which to plan further development. And the great news is you only need a few boulders to make a big statement; one boulder may even be enough. Now, we also aren’t necessarily talking 6-foot-high monuments here. Do-it-yourselfers can choose “2-man” boulders that are 1 to 2 feet in diameter. Keep in mind that if you are installing boulders yourself, even small rocks can weigh between 75 to 100 pounds and require a dolly to install (rent or buy one from your local rock yard or home improvement store).

Cost: If you do install yourself, the cost of this project doesn’t have to be enormous. For example, one of our 1-foot Grey Cresta boulders is only about $10, a two-foot one is $39, and even a 3-footer will only set you back $99. But remember, that 3-foot boulder will require more labor to install, since it can weigh more than 1,500 pounds!

Boulders come in two basic shapes, round and angular, and a variety of colors. We recommend choosing an odd number of boulders for your yard; check out our blog post on how to choose boulders for more detailed instructions on a project like this.

4. DG Pathway

Best in backyards, a decomposed granite pathway is a fantastic DIY project to undertake. It also happens to be one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the look of your yard. Decomposed granite, also known as DG, is literally that – granite that has broken down into fine particles. It holds together better than dirt, especially when a stabilizing element is mixed in, and provides a great walking surface with a uniform texture and color. Many different colors of decomposed granite are available, so visiting a Southwest Boulder rock yard to compare them in person is a great way to get started.

Cost: One cubic yard of DG covers about 135 square feet of surface, and isn’t pricey: our popular and inexpensive Desert Gold DG sells for about $60 per cubic yard.

If you’re ready to try this weekend project, check out our step-by-step guide to installing a DG pathway. We’ll help you avoid common mistakes like installing too close to front doors, where DG can be tracked in and cause damage to hardwood floors.

Fresh Groundcover

5. Fresh Groundcover

Adding mulch or rock groundcover is a fast and inexpensive facelift for your yard, and there are many ways this quick fix can be applied. Use mulch or rock ground cover to freshen up the top layer of planters, add a rounded border around trees, surround ground-based plants, or cover entire areas of your garden or yard. Add a layer of pebbles just around the base of a tree or covering the surface of a planter for an instant improvement to the look of your yard.

Use an economical wood-based mulch or a crushed rock, or upgrade to Mexican Beach pebbles for a refined look. Our go-to wood mulches are Supreme Walk-On Bark and Gorilla Hair Mulch; move up to Montana Bark Nuggets for a longer-lasting solution.

Cost: Mulches are typically around $70 for one cubic yard, which covers about 160 square feet. Southwest Boulder rock yards don't require a minimum product amount for mulches or ground cover, so just tell us the area you need to cover and we’ll measure to match. Crushed rock like our California Gold goes for $5 - $10 for a 40-pound bag, or purchase it in bulk to cover larger areas. Popular and attractive Mexican Beach Pebble is a little higher end at $20 for a 40-pound bag; use it strategically at accent points to stretch your dollars.

Don’t forget – there are other benefits to adding a layer of ground cover to your yard: moisture retention, weed prevention and insulation! You’ll end up watering less as the groundcover slows evaporation and helps protects your plants against weeds.


Getting Started

Taking the first step is always the hardest part of any transformation! All five of these projects are accessible for DIY enthusiasts and can be done in a weekend, so don’t delay - pick your favorite and get started. Feel free to give us a call at 877-792-7625 if you need any help deciding which of these outdoor upgrades would be right for your backyard. Let us know which one is your favorite, and share your project photos with us on social media – we’d love to see your new yard!

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