4 Backyard Projects That Can Add Value to Your Home — These Ideas Will Give You Good Return on Your Investment

Take on one of these weekend projects and you could add a big sum of money to your property's value

a yard with a natural water feature
(Image credit: Richardson & Associates Landscape Architecture)

Getting property envy? Scrolling Pinterest endlessly looking for your dream home? I get it! Now we’re firmly in spring, homeowners all over the country are feeling the itch and on the hunt for fresh property beginnings.

But to get that dream property, you’re going to want to sell your home for the best price. We all know stylish kitchens and bathrooms are honeytraps for prospective buyers, but have you thought about how your backyard could boost your selling price?

Speaking to award-winning landscape designers, there's a plethora of backyard projects that can add value to your home without breaking the bank. Plus I’ve got all their insider secrets to achieving these looks like a pro!

a middle aged white man with a beard smiling to camera in front of evergreen trees
Eric Eisenmann

Eric has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois and has been with Brookside Landscapes since 2000. He enjoys the design and build aspect of the industry and the creative process of his designs.

1. Outdoor Living Spaces

an outdoor living room

(Image credit: Jennifer Hughes. Design: Richardson & Associates Landscape Architecture)

The sun is shining, the sky is blue – you’re having the cookout to end all cookouts. Life is good! But what barbecue is complete without an outdoor dining area to enjoy it in?

According to the experts, us Americans just love a backyard that can accommodate outdoor dining, and they’ve spilled the beans on the most sought-after designs.

‘An outdoor dining area is an extension of your home that is a very usable space,' award-winning landscape designer Eric Eisenmann at Brookside Landscapes says. 'But I think it’s much more than just an outdoor dining space, I think of it as an “outdoor living space”. Think of an outdoor kitchen or maybe simply a grill area with serving space and shaded dining space.’

‘Our designs also consider what you're doing after dining. You want some cushy seating to relax by a fire pit after you're done eating with the family, or a place to go out and play bags and recreate a bit after your evening meal. An outdoor living space is not just you spending time with your family in the evening but a place you can entertain.’

Eric’s top tips for creating the perfect outdoor living space: location, location, location.

‘We always place a dining or grilling area close to egress (access to your home),' he says. 'Choose a location with late afternoon or evening shade, because dining in full sun isn’t ideal. Also, think about keeping the “floor” of your outdoor dining space as close to the height of your house floor as possible.’

2. The All-American Lawn

A front yard with a well kept lawn

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're American, of course you obsess over our lawns. If we’ve learned anything from our parents’ generation, it’s that a good lawn is the foundation of every American yard – and according to Eric it’s one of the top items homebuyers look for in a backyard.

‘The American lawn is one of the things that defines the “American dream” home, however, it is one of the highest maintenance outdoor surfaces,' Eric explains. 'This is because of mowing, fertilization, weed control, water demands, etc. However, the benefits of a lawn as a recreational surface are unparalleled. Due to the high maintenance needs, rethinking the stereotypical American lawn is worthwhile. Groundcovers, other types of spreading grasses, gravels, permeable pavements, shrub masses, and perennial gardens, can all provide certain functions a lawn provides.’

But how do the pros approach lawn care? Eric’s number one rule: mow it high and mow it often.

Spring is also a great time to sort any bare lawn patches by over-seeding. Simply scarify your lawn to remove any moss or dead grass, then scatter seed over, water it well, and in 4-6 weeks those patches will be a thing of the past.

3. Water features

a natural garden water feature of natural stone gradually sloping alongside a patio

(Image credit: Brookside Landscapes)

A backyard should be a feast of all the senses, not just the eyes. Fragrant florals are a given, but according to Eric it’s a water feature that can really catch a buyer’s eye (or ear). ‘Homebuyers tend to love water features but are often scared of the maintenance. A correctly designed water feature can be very low maintenance. Water features are also calming by nature and they create pleasant background sounds that can help diminish unwanted sounds like traffic,’ says Eric.

If you’re thinking of boosting your backyard with a water feature, Eric has some pro advice. ‘These days pondless streams are becoming more and more popular,' he says. 'Pondless streams are safer because they reduce standing water, they are also lower maintenance. These can include some sort of spraying, bubbling, or any type of actual display but the fact that it's a confined system with no pond and underground storage is a key in reducing their maintenance.’

To make the most of that serene babbling brook sound, be sure to factor in falling water into your feature. Expert Eric explains ‘Falling water makes the most sound so make sure you have some elevation change in your feature or create some way for the water to drop.’

4. Plant Pleached Trees

A garden wall with a row of pleached trees

(Image credit: Alamy)

Nothing says relaxation quite like enjoying a nice glass of something in the backyard on a summer’s evening. But if your neighbors are peeping through the drapes, it might lose its romance! Privacy plays a huge part in a house price, and if you’ve done everything you can with fencing then pleached trees might be your ticket to boosting that sale price.

Eric advises ‘Pleached trees are typically used as a European feature in landscape design. These trees can make a very strong statement and they fit with a modern simplistic design style.’

However, to maximize their effect as some of the best privacy trees, Eric has some pro tips on what to look for in your pleached tree purchase.

‘You should look for a type of plant that is very twiggy, has smaller leaves, and can take heavy frequent clipping. Many tree species can be used for pleaching but again, trees that are twiggier, tighter, and have smaller leaves tend to work best. European hornbeam is a great plant for pleaching due to all those things. Certain shrub material grafted onto a standard, or a stem, creating a tree-like element can provide excellent opportunities for pleaching.’

Matilda Bourne