Budget-friendly backyard ideas you can DIY to upgrade patios, pools, decks, sheds, landscaping, and back porches for an outdoor oasis.
Over the past nearly 10 years, between our backyard and friends’ porches and patio areas, Robert and I have tackled a lot of DIY backyard ideas on a budget to make outdoor spaces an extension of the home for entertaining. A pool party cookout backyard movie night with people we love is just our happy place.
So I thought it would help to share all of our favorite small outdoor decorating tricks and large DIY upgrades to help you create the ultimate backyard retreat.
Outdoor upgrades don’t have to cost thousands of dollars. Some of the simplest projects like hanging solar lights, adding mosquito repelling plants, repurposing old patio furniture, and adding shade with dreamy outdoor curtains can turn a basic backyard into a little slice of paradise without breaking the bank.
Here are some backyard patio ideas and DIY projects for decks, porches, pools, sheds, and landscaping ideas you can try yourself.
Use this guide to learn How to Hang Outdoor String Lights Anywhere in a Backyard.
Add functional light and ethereal ambience around fire pits, porches, pools, trees, patios, and anywhere else you can think of in your outdoor living spaces. One little strand of string lights can add so much wow-factor to a small backyard.
If your backyard gets steady sunlight, consider installing a few solar powered pendant lights to hang in trees, under pergolas, or suspended above patio dining tables.
There are lots of budget-friendly solar powered lighting options out there, and they won’t increase your energy bill since they don’t tap into your electricity.
3. Pea Gravel Patio
Using pea gravel is one of the easiest DIY patio ideas on a budget.
If pouring a new concrete patio or adding pavers isn’t an option, roll out landscape fabric, secure it with stakes, and spread pea gravel to create an inexpensive patio area.
Skip buying pea gravel in bags from the big box hardware store and visit a local landscape supplier instead to get it in bulk for less than retail prices. Most suppliers will deliver it to your house so you don’t have to worry about lugging gravel bags from the store.
We made this hidden beer garden in an unused, secluded area of our yard using leftover gravel and an old vintage table set we refinished ourselves.
This DIY painted concrete patio and pool deck we did about 3 years ago is still holding up great!
If pouring new concrete is too expensive for your budget, it’s a good alternative. Mix in a grip additive to make concrete surfaces anti-skid for safety.
Yes, you can paint vinyl siding! Just be sure to use a specialty vinyl siding paint as not just any paint will work.
It’s a great solution to extend the life of your siding if you’re not ready to replace. It has been nearly 4 years since we painted our shed siding, and we’re so happy with how it has held up.
Make sure your fence line receives enough sunlight to charge solar powered fence lights, but it is so nice to have an illuminated backyard perimeter, especially during backyard cookouts at night.
7. Plain Outdoor Rug Upgrade With a Stencil
Add some interest to a basic outdoor rug with paint! If you have a vinyl cutting machine like a Cricut or Silhouette, you can create a stencil to make this DIY floral block print rug.
Or get creative with painters tape and brush on stripes or a plaid pattern instead. You can update outdoor throw pillows with paint too!
You can get mosquito net LILL curtains at IKEA for just $7 per pair! Hang them on your back porch or pergola with cheap tension rods and Command hooks.
Sew white painted fishing weights into the bottom of the curtains to prevent them from blowing around in the wind. They’re functional for keeping bugs away but also look so airy and beautiful!
We love these solar landscape uplights in our yard that have been going strong for 2 years so far!
They turn on automatically at dusk and last until about 11pm and look every bit as good as professionally wired landscape spotlights.
This DIY stone fire pit took just two days to complete (including the stone edged pea gravel seating area), and we couldn’t be happier with the end result.
It’s the perfect conversation area snuggled in blankets on chilly evenings as we roast s’mores and hot dogs over the fire with friends and neighbors. This backyard project idea isn’t just for looks; it’s one that creates lifetime memories.
11. Garden Edging Stones Around Flower Beds
If your backyard landscaping is lacking a little oomph, garden edging stones can do the trick to make plants around flower beds look like a professional landscape design. Add mulch and the contrast creates an immediate night and day difference.
We got our edging stones from a local landscape supplier (called Tremron Munich Stone in Sand).
This is not the cheapest of the DIY backyard project ideas on a budget, but it certainly cost way less than if we would have hired it out to a contractor. Here’s how we used a customized Toja Grid pergola kit to create the backyard pool cabana of our dreams.
We love using it as an escape from the sun while enjoying the pool or for dining al fresco in the evenings.
Tip: Use hollow structural posts to make the pergola much easier to build yourself.
Don’t give up on your old, worn out wooden patio furniture before wiping it down liberally with teak oil! It’s amazing how much oil that dry wood will drink up, and the end result is like good as new.
Keep an eye out on Facebook Marketplace or other classifieds to see if there are any wooden patio furniture pieces you can rescue with a simple bottle of teak oil.
If your family loves playing games in the backyard, installing a DIY bocce ball court is a great project to do that can also double as a horseshoe pit. Just make sure to rake it smooth before busting out the bocce ball set again.
In case you haven’t played before, bocce ball is like a cross between shuffleboard, croquet, and bowling.
Before tossing an old grungy outdoor table, try this method to clean a glass patio tabletop and paint an outdoor table frame.
You might be able to stretch out your dining furniture a little longer or use it on a secondhand find to make it look new again.
If you live in the American South, you’ve probably heard of “haint blue” paint used on many porch ceilings in the Lowcountry to keep the haunted spirits away, according to folklore tradition.
Whatever your beliefs in “haints”, it’s a simple, beautiful way to add charm to a porch. We used the color Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue.
My dad is a raised bed gardening MASTER and has been planting vegetable gardens with high yield results for over 30 years in his backyard and set them up for us and other family members over the years (his love language is definitely Acts of Service).
So he shared all of his masterful gardening secrets in this DIY raised bed garden tutorial. I’ve seen with my own eyes my entire life how well his process works!
Whether you have old patio furniture for seasons’ past in your backyard or found some old outdoor cushions secondhand that you want to revive on the cheap, simply using concentrated vinegar and a pressure washer to remove pollen, mold, and mildew can make them look sparkling new!
You don’t need any specialty outdoor furniture cleaner. The best part is it’s totally eco-friendly and you probably already have it in your pantry.
A $5 shower curtain liner and some bungee cords make a great DIY outdoor movie screen in a pinch! You can see How to Set Up a Backyard Movie Night on a Budget here with lots more tips and 100 Best Outdoor Movies to Watch for a Backyard Movie Night if you need ideas suitable for a cozy outdoor date night or a big crowd.
20. Cover Damaged Patio Pavers With an Outdoor Rug
If you have a small patio with cracked concrete or unsightly pavers but don’t have the time or money to fix it, just cover it with a pretty outdoor rug instead.
We did this 1-day renter-friendly patio makeover for a friend behind her townhouse and covering the damaged patio with a rug made it so cute! It was a great way to make the space feel like an outdoor living room.
If you don’t have the space for a real fire pit, set up a tabletop fire pit s’mores station instead! Most are designed to fit inside of an outdoor table with an umbrella hole or you can make it yourself by drilling a hole in a table you already have using a hole saw bit.
The end result creates the perfect amount of glow and an interactive snack for cozy evenings in the backyard.
If you don’t feel confident enough in your DIY skills to build an outdoor kitchen from scratch but you don’t want to hire a contractor to do the job either, you can use a modular kitchen using a kit instead!
We’ve had our RTA outdoor kitchen for nearly 2 years and have been very happy with it so far.
23. Repurpose a Potting Bench Into an Outdoor Bar
If you have a potting bench but like to entertain, clear off the dirt and plants before a cookout to repurpose it as a mini outdoor bar for guests to make their drinks.
I found lots of items on this potting bench mini bar at the thrift store to repurpose as serving containers:
- Wooden rack for bottle storage
- Rattan basket for a napkin holder
- Ceramic basket as a citrus bowl
- Cutting board for prepping drink garnishes
Keep an eye out and you’d be surprised what you can thrift to use as cheap backyard entertaining pieces.
If you have an HVAC unit or other unsightly appliance in your outdoor living space, you can conceal it by placing these privacy fence panels around it!
It’s such a small change that makes such a huge improvement to the overall backyard experience.
If you’re planning a summer cookout, have a couple of lawn games set up for guests to enjoy while the food is cooking or so guests who don’t know each other can have an easy ice breaker.
See The Best Yard Games for Backyard Barbecues for our favorites.
26. Add Plants That Keep Mosquitos Away
Anything helps to prevent getting eaten alive! Try planting these around your backyard.
12 Mosquito Repellant Plants
- Lemon Grass
- Bee Balm
- Floss Flower
27. Update Old Planters With Leftover Spray Paint
If you don’t like the look of your old planters or happen to find some at the thrift store that are the right shape and size but not the right color, it’s nothing a little spray paint can’t fix.
See how to make these Faux DIY Concrete Planters With Spray Paint
28. Hang UV Protected Outdoor Curtains
These outdoor curtains totally work to reduce the heat! We always feel about 10 degrees cooler by the pool when we pull these curtains shut to get a little shade in our DIY pergola cabana.
At less than $22 per pair for 96″ length (at the time of this post) they’re quite a steal and come in 10 colors. I was worried they would get dirty easily, but I only have to wash them twice per year. They repel mildew really well! We use these rope tie backs and eye hooks with buckles to secure them to pergola posts.
29. Turn Large Planters Upside Down to Use as Side Tables
If you have a large planter you’re not using, flip it upside down to repurpose as an outdoor side table! It’s the perfect height beside an Adirondack chair.
We love using these genuine old oak barrel planters as side tables to set down our drinks while hanging around the fire pit.
30. Add Potted Faux UV Protected Plants in Extreme Heat
If plants and flowers always seem to die on your watch (the gardening skills are lacking over here too, no judgement), UV protected plants are a great way to get the look of potted plants that will last outdoors in the blazing sun.
I removed this fake outdoor fern from its base and placed in a planter that was more my style. We have a few of these fake palm plants around our backyard pool too because real ones kept dying from getting too much rain and too much sun.
If you happen to have scrap wood lying around (or access to old pallets), build a window planter box or two.
They add so much charm and curb appeal! We added a couple of window boxes to our backyard shed, and it instantly made the building look adorable.
32. Plant Perennials
If you’re going to grow flowers and plants, you might as well choose ones that will give you the most bang for your buck with perennials that will return again year after year.
Most Popular Perennials to Plant
- Ornamental Grass
- Russian Sage
33. Use Tiki Torches
These table top Tiki torches are the BEST because they double as a mosquito repellant while also adding a cozy glow to the tabletop. They’re available in a wide variety of styles and colors to stay true to your decor too.
34. Use Multifunctional Garden Stools
If you need a lot of function in a small outdoor space, garden stools are the workhorses that can do it all.
- Use them in a conversation area for flex seating
- Push them together to use as a makeshift coffee table in the middle of seating
- Use them beside chairs as side tables
- Use garden stools with storage capabilities to keep items stored away from the elements
I styled them on my parents’ front porch to work as tables or seats.
Favorite Storage Garden Stools
You can fake the look of Serena and Lily by creating a faux driftwood paint finish on outdoor furniture! Be sure to seal it well to protect it from harsh weather. It’s a great way to extend the life of outdoor patio tables.
Frequently Asked Questions
First, work with what you already have by cleaning it up – cutting the grass and removing weeds from the garden. Then, think about how you want to use it. Do you have kids? Maybe look for a secondhand play set on Facebook Marketplace (people sometimes list them for free as long as you’re willing to haul them away). Do you want to use it as a conversation area? Consider building a fire pit. A strand of string lights can add a lot of cozy ambience for about $30.
Grow vertically with hanging baskets, wall-mounted flower pots, or a trellis on an exterior wall of your house. Choose patio furniture that is multi-functional (like an outdoor sectional dining set). Keep storage in mind like furniture that has hidden compartments. Or consider a small water feature.
Pea gravel is the best option to create a patio on a budget. Stake down landscaping fabric, spread pea gravel on top, and create a border with larger rocks. Then, you can set your patio furniture on top of the pea gravel for an outdoor entertaining area.
It’s hard to believe we’ve done this many backyard projects over the years, but they have all added up to create outdoor spaces our family thoroughly enjoys!
They really do create opportunities to making the best memories with loved ones. (The one thing on our outdoor project to-do list this year is to add an outdoor fireplace on our back porch to replace the empty mini fridge niche that’s still there.)
Don’t ever feel defeated about your backyard if your budget is tight. The best investment you can make is with your time and a little hard work while getting creative with a few DIY backyard ideas. Think of ways you can make your outdoor space work for you using what you already have.
In the end, it will become one of the best decisions you ever make for your home.