In these uncertain times, it is difficult to know how the summer of 2020 will play out.  Will we be able to travel abroad or to another state? Will we travel by plane or train at any point over the next six months? Will we even be able to go “down the shore”.  With warmer temperatures forecasted to roll in over the next few days, we are all getting the itch to go outside. But what are we going outside to do? How do you make the most of your own outdoor space to provide a “staycation” experience?

Considering that the average trip to Disney for a family of four ranges somewhere between $4,500 and $6,500, it may be a good time to consider investing in your outdoor space instead. A backyard renovation can provide enjoyment and comfort this year, and for years to come.

Creating your staycation backyard can be fun and can be a great family project. Of course, this is based on the fact that you have a backyard and somewhat of a budget to spend on improving it. Whether your budget is small or large, there are ways to make it more comfortable and inviting.

To start, give your backyard a thorough cleaning. Trim hedges, bushes and take away debris that may have gathered over the winter. Check around the foundation of your home to make sure there are no cracks or damaged concrete, pavers or stucco. If there is damage, consult with a licensed and insured masonry contractor to get it repaired.  Continuous neglect could lead to water damage, both inside and outside your home.

If access to your backyard is through a front yard gate, consider creating a walkway or path using pavers, stepping stones or flagstone. It not only provides a nice aesthetic; it also provides function. If you have a patio door that leads to your backyard, consider placing some potted plants outside to decorate the back entry to your home.

Consider an outdoor kitchen if your budget permits.  This is a great way to entertain outdoors and limit the amount of traffic inside when hosting family get togethers. Outdoor kitchens can be built to suit your needs.  There is no limit to the design flexibility, as the structure of the kitchen can be customized to include any appliance you want, like a grill, refrigerator, warming draw, sink or even a pizza oven. You can also select the type of masonry finish and countertop for your outdoor kitchen.

For those on a budget, you can create a masonry outdoor grilling area that only houses the grill, but provides additional counter space and a cabinet underneath to house cleaning tools and grilling utensils. If you are on a limited budget, consider a prefab barbeque island available in most big box stores.

Not everyone likes the blaze of the sun, so if you’re yard gets a lot of it, consider a good adjustable sun umbrella or fixed awning.  These types of shading can be opened or closed within minutes and can adjust to your needs as the sun rises and sets.  If that is not in the budget, consider a durable pop up tent which can be anchored into the ground and secured.  This can provide a great area for shade and even outdoor dining.

Make a place in your yard for games like cornhole toss, basketball, volleyball or croquet. If your space or budget is limited, consider making a small area for batting practice or purchase a giant version of Connect 4, Jenga and Chess/Checkers that are reasonably priced.  This could provide great fun for children and adults alike.

The nicest addition to any backyard is a pool.  A place to cool off and relax on a hot summer day. However, an inground swimming pool can run between $20,000 and $75,000 or more, depending on the decorative finishes you include. If you are looking for the same cooling benefit, an above ground pool can be more cost effective, while offering versatility in size, shape and finish.  If you have a small backyard, install a 10’ round above ground pool or add a jacuzzi.  If you have a larger space available, a larger rectangular shaped pool can be a more cost effective option.

If you are lucky enough to afford an outdoor speaker system, it is a great way to complete your outdoor oasis.  If on a limited budget, a portable bluetooth speaker is the perfect addition to the backyard. Just connect your phone and music will keep you rocking all summer long. Ideally, try to find something that’s waterproof in the event you use it near water or your pool.

Adding a television to your backyard oasis can be a little overkill, but if you can’t miss a ball game on a nice summer weekend, there is nothing like sitting back outside to watch your favorite team with a nice cold beer. If your budget is limited, consider purchasing a retractable outdoor projector screen and a moderately priced projector.  With today’s streaming services and Bluetooth capabilities, you can transform your phone to an outdoor entertainment system.

If you’re the outdoorsy type, consider purchasing a sleeping tent and a couple of air mattresses to make your backyard a campground.  Grab some flashlights, some bug spray and some good camping stories and you have a great night under the stars.  Tents come in a variety of sizes and can fit the whole family.

When considering a backyard renovation, the first step is to get inspired. Look at designs and get some ideas from Houzz or search images of staycation backyards. It really is a thing!

As with any home improvement, make sure you utilize a licensed contractor, make sure to ask for a written agreement that details the job, the cost and the payment schedule, and make sure to get a guarantee in writing. Be wary of contractors, that try to ask for full payment before doing any work.

Giuseppe Noto    Stellar Home Improvement Inc.

(646) 352-3453