9 Next-Level Outdoor Upgrades

Kelly Reilly
Written by Kelly Reilly
Updated December 27, 2021
people lounging under pergola on home patio next to pool
© Thomas Barwick/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Take your outdoor space from OK to oasis with a few strategic improvements.

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If you find yourself heading straight to the deck after you log off for the day, spend your weekends kicking a soccer ball around the yard, or the neighbors just know to show up at your house for Fire Pit Fridays, then you might be primed for some next-level outdoor upgrades. Your landscape serves as an extension of your home, so why not treat it with the same level of love? Here are nine ways to seriously enhance your outdoor living spaces.

1. A Permanent Fire Pit

Nothing says summer like roasting s’mores with the kiddos or having late-night heart-to-hearts with friends around a crackling campfire. But if that inexpensive metal fire pit you bought in your early 20s has been mistaken for a rusted-out trash can and creates volcanic amounts of ash every time you light it, there’s a simple solution: upgrade to a built-in fire pit. You don’t need a ton of DIY prowess to build your own fire pit, or you can have a fire pit installed. The average fire pit costs $300-$1,400 to install.

© Jon Lovette/Getty Images

2. Stone or Brick Edging

You thought the unpleasant task of putting down rubber edging was a one-time deal when you did it several years ago, but now it’s starting to peel, crack, and even pull up thanks to unwieldy tree roots. If you’re ready to level-up your edging and never have to pull up or put down rubber strips again, opt for permanent, damage-free (and better looking!) stone or brick. You can edge your flower beds and lay your own brick edging in a weekend, or contact a landscaper near you. (PS: Get 10 edging ideas.)

3. A Raised Bed

Whether you’re a lifelong green-thumber or just want to give growing veggies a try, it’s safe to say vegetable gardens can start to look less than stellar as summer’s hot days drag on. Give your garden an aesthetic boost, deter rabbits and deer—and bonus: make planting, harvesting, and weeding easier—with a raised bed. It only takes a couple of hours and some basic tools to build your own raised bed, or you can purchase a pre-made kit at many home improvement and garden centers.

© Sara Monika/Getty Images

4. An Attractive Retaining Wall

Perhaps you have a portion of your yard that turns into a mudslide after every downpour, or maybe there’s a steep hillside where grass absolutely refuses to grow. The solution? A retaining wall. But we’re not talking about the dingy gray cinderblocks you see on roadsides. Create a wall out of limestone, stone veneer, brick, or another natural material that enhances the look of your overall landscape. The average retaining wall costs around $5,600, but will vary depending on size, location, and materials. (Want help? Find a retaining wall contractor near you.)

5. A Pergola or Retractable Awning

If your patio feels like lava during the hottest parts of the day and a flimsy deck umbrella just isn’t cutting it, spring for a pergola or a retractable awning for on-demand shade. You’ll be able to host barbecues no matter the heat, with zero worries of turning into a lobster. Your skin—and your guests—will appreciate the protection. The average pergola will run you about $3,900.

6. A Brick or Stone Walkway

If you feel like you have a local mudjacker on speed dial or your crumbling concrete walkway makes you cringe every time you come home, it might be worth it to stop making piecemeal sidewalk repairs and replace the whole thing with brick or stone. You’ll not only create instant curb appeal, but also add value to your home and reduce the amount of regular maintenance.

7. Non-wooden Deck Railings

“I love staining deck railings,” said no one ever. Eliminate this messy, frustrating, time-consuming task altogether with attractive, maintenance-free glass, cable, or aluminum railings. When all you have to stain are the horizontal surfaces, deck upkeep becomes a simple Friday afternoon activity instead of a weekend-long slog. Chat with a decking pro near you to learn more about your options.

© Jacky Parker Photography/Getty Images

8. A Natural Habitat

If there’s a part of your lawn where traditional turfgrass or landscaping just isn’t taking, stop working against Mother Nature and embrace your yard’s natural habitat. Whether it’s a rain garden, prairie restoration, collection of woodland plants, or a desertscape, recreating what your yard would be if it wasn’t developed can result in less maintenance, less mowing, and an all-around more attractive landscape.

9. A Water Feature

You may think gorgeous water features are reserved for sprawling estates, but there are many types of water features you can install in your backyard. Whether you want the soothing sound of a fountain, an eye-catching koi pond, or even a small waterfall, a water feature will instantly enhance your yard’s ambiance. The average water feature will set you back about $2,600, but you can purchase a DIY kit for as little as $450.

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