Posh Backyards: Tips for Every Budget on Ways to Spend More Quality Time in Your Yard

If a home is your castle, the backyard should be pretty magnificent as well
BY Bill Lindsey TIMEJanuary 29, 2022 PRINT

Your home is likely to be the most valuable asset you own, in addition to serving as the center of family activity. When it comes time to plan upgrades, think outside the box, literally, by considering what outdoor upgrades you might want to add. Many upgrades are made with an eye toward increasing property value, which makes sense, but another perspective is to improve your quality of life now and in the coming years. All of the suggestions below can be done by experienced DIYers at costs ranging from maybe $1,000 to many thousands, but bringing in a licensed contractor is always worth considering to help prevent any “Uh oh, how’d that happen?” moments.

Lynx Grills
(Courtesy of Lynx Grills)

Outdoor Kitchen: Fire Up the Grill!

Backyard cookouts are popular among everyone, but having a dedicated gas-powered grill takes you several steps above the charcoal briquet and rolling grill level.

A gourmet-quality outdoor kitchen or barbecue setup opens many opportunities for entertaining friends and family. It can be as simple as a barbecue grill and a food prep table. Or you can create a true kitchen, outdoors, complete with a sink, food prep areas, refrigerator, grill, and a range. Stainless steel and tile are the preferred materials in order to survive exposure to the elements. Because you’ll need electricity, water, and possibly a source of natural gas, it’s best to consult with a licensed contractor who will abide by all local building codes for safety and longevity purposes. Combine the outdoor kitchen with a pool, putting green, or observatory, and you may find it getting used for every meal. Add a table and chairs to make your backyard cookouts the envy of the neighborhood.

(Courtesy of Envyscapes)

Putting Green: Make Tiger Woods Jealous

Playing 18 holes requires a big commitment of time and effort, driving to and from the course, but a backyard putting green lets you practice when it suits your schedule. You’ve got a small lot? Not a problem, as you can transform a neglected side yard into a small but fully functional putting green with one or two holes. The larger the available area, the more holes and the more challenging you can make the “course.” If you have enough room and a big budget, there are firms that can create a PGA-level short course for you. For smaller areas, you could install greens that include a few holes and hazards using either real grass or synthetic grasses that provide a bounce just like that of your favorite course. DIY kits are an option, but due to the need to usually move a lot of dirt and ensure proper drainage, you may want to consult with any of the many firms that specialize in home courses and greens.

Best of all, you don’t even need to be a hardcore golfer to enjoy having your own putting green.

Outdoor Sauna
(Courtesy of Medical Sauna)

Outdoor Sauna: Feel the Heat

Those who have experienced a sauna at a hotel, spa, or gym know the bliss of dry heat loosening muscles and creating a pore-cleansing sweat that leaves your skin radiant. The good news is you can enjoy the health benefits anytime by adding a sauna to your home. Dry saunas are the type most commonly chosen for home use; these use heated stones to produce heat, and by pouring water on the stones, steam is created. A steam sauna uses a steam boiler to produce steam in a tiled room; this type can be a bit daunting for a home installation.

Swim Spa
(Courtesy of Master Spas)

Swim Spa: Come On In, the Water’s Great!

A backyard, in-ground pool always seems like a great idea at first, but all too often these pools tend to be under-used, especially in an area with cold winters. Another obstacle can be a small lot or one that doesn’t allow easy access to construction equipment. A possible alternative is a ready-to-install pool with features such as powerful jets to provide swimming resistance, bio-magnetic therapy systems, or heated spa sections that can be used even if it’s snowing. Another plus to these pools is the relative ease of installation compared to traditional in-ground pools, and smaller size, which allows installation even on a small lot and translates into easier maintenance.

(Courtesy of Observatory Solutions)

Home Observatory: Starry, Starry Night

Standing outside using a portable telescope to look at the moon and planets—and scan for UFOs—is OK a few times, but in the winter, stargazing sessions will probably become less frequent. Before you think of a huge, hulking building on a mountaintop, there are actually smaller, much more approachable options. There is a variety to choose from, but the basic setup is a fiberglass standalone dome with a motorized, rotating telescope mount and a motorized dome opening. Add your own telescope, and you’ll have the best seat in town for a cosmic light show.

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Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.
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