14 Backyard Patio Ideas on a Budget (2024)

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You dream of a patio upgrade but don’t want to break the bank. Whether you have a big or small yard, we’ve got suggestions to revitalize your backyard patio. From spreading mulch to installing a paver patio, this list of 14 backyard patio ideas on a budget is intended for both the skilled and beginner DIYer (or, if needed, can be handed off to a professional).

Some people just need a quick fix, while others are willing to dedicate days, weeks, or months to bring their vision to life. With that in mind, we’ve sorted our suggestions into beginner, intermediate, and advanced upgrades so you can find the right project for you.

Table of Contents

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • FAQ about backyard patios
  • When to hire a pro

Beginner

These ideas could be a weekend project. It shouldn’t be too hard to obtain materials or get the project done, nor should it be too expensive. There are costly and cheap versions of every item, and you may need to hunt or plan for a while to find the perfect pieces for your budget and tastes.

1. Outdoor lights

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Let there be light! A little brightness can bring cheer, charm, and coziness to your outdoor space year-round. Lights also make your patio more usable at night, which is perfect for warm summer evenings.

String lights tend to be the cheapest and most customizable option, but you can also get hanging overhead lights, wall-mounted lights, table lights, and floor lights. Some floor lights go on top of the ground, but others may require installation to work. Consider whether you want the lights to be easily removable or permanent fixtures.

You can choose between plug-in or battery-powered lights depending on whether you have outlets nearby. Want something eco-friendly? Solar lights charge all day and come in all shapes and sizes. Only use lights designed to be outside, or they could break and become a fire hazard. Look for waterproof lights to make sure they can handle the weather.

2. Outdoor decor

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Even if garden gnomes aren’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of decor ideas to suit your tastes. Classy Greek statues? Cute animal sculptures? Abstract art? Decorative pots? All these could be found online or at your local garden store, street fair, flea market, antique shop, or thrift store. Pick a theme for a cohesive look or embrace the miscellaneous aesthetic.

Remember that the larger the statue, the more expensive it tends to be. If you have a minimal budget, you can either select a couple of big, more expensive statement pieces or several small, cheap pieces. You can save on shipping by buying locally.

Don’t see what you want or can’t find a reasonable price? Try making it yourself. Paint stones, collect shells, or create a DIY wreath to hang on the wall. Get a display shelf to show off your treasures.

As always, make sure the items are water and weather-proof. It might have a shorter lifespan if it’s not designed to be outside.

3. Patio furniture

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It’s time to upgrade from your ripped camping chairs and rusty metal table. Replace and rearrange furniture to create a space you’re excited to be in. Do you want an outdoor dining area? A place to watch the kids as they play? Think about your goals and write down the necessary items to make them happen. Look at material and style alternatives to see what fits your aesthetic and budget.

Maybe you need some organizing to feel better about your outdoor living space. Look for practical storage containers and shelving. You can also purchase furniture with built-in storage, such as benches with drawers underneath.

Not sure what you want? Here are some possible practical and decorative additions to your patio space:

  • Outdoor seating
  • Coffee table
  • Hammock
  • Porch swing
  • Decorative pillows
  • Outdoor rug
  • Dining table

Search secondhand stores, flea markets, and home goods shops for good deals and hidden treasures. You may just find the perfect piece you’ll treasure for years to come.

You could also refurbish your existing pieces. Paint old metal furniture, add new covers to lounges, and stain wooden tables. You can also repurpose some old indoor furniture by making it waterproof. It will likely cost less than getting new outdoor furniture, and you’ll save yourself the hassle of disposing of something with potential.

4. Mulch

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If your backyard has exposed dirt, why not cover it with decorative mulch? Mulch is any organic or inorganic material spread over the soil. It can provide aesthetic benefits, suppress unwanted plant growth, and enrich the soil (if it’s organic). Here are some examples:

  • Leaves
  • Tree bark
  • Pine needles
  • Straw
  • Aged sawdust
  • Compost
  • Gravel
  • Pebbles
  • River rocks
  • Landscape fabric

Place mulch around trees, bushes, lawns, patios, or stepping stones to create visual interest and contrast.

5. Greenery

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Speaking of plants, maybe you could use some more. Potted plants are a great way to jump-start your container garden. Container gardens are an excellent option for small backyards without planting space. You can easily rearrange or re-pot them anytime.

Pick from flowers, succulents, trees, and shrubs. Want practical plants? Plant tomatoes, herbs, and other edible plants so you can pluck fresh ingredients right outside your door. Edible gardens are especially useful if your kitchen is right by the patio.

If you have a bigger backyard, you could also do some simple gardening to make a prettier view. Many small flowers don’t require much digging and can be bought as seeds, sprouts, or full-grown plants. Succulents are an excellent low-maintenance option for hot, dry climates. Native plants generally require less maintenance than exotic plants. Go to your local nursery and ask what plants they’d recommend.

6. Paint or stain

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Maybe all your outdoor area needs is a fresh coat of paint. Peeling paint on your house or outdoor structures could lower the aesthetic appeal of your entire yard.

Repaint everything with the same color or pick a new color for some variety. Accent colors can make the details pop. You could even paint a mural to add a unique and personalized touch to your yard. Not confident in your artistic abilities? Try pre-made stencils to make the design process more accessible.

If you want your wood pieces to shine, wood stains will bring out their natural color and improve their lifespan.

These ideas might take a bit more time and money, but they could be worth it if you’re willing to put in the work. From backyard landscaping ideas to DIY projects, they all require some degree of elbow grease or assembly.

7. Pathways

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Maybe you need some landscaping to get the backyard makeover you desire. A path from your patio to your garden or around the house could make your yard more cohesive, especially if the materials match. Here are some ideas:

  • Dirt
  • Gravel
  • Stepping stones
  • Wood steps
  • Pavers
  • Bricks
  • Paved concrete

Installments of paver, brick, and wooden paths will take time and patience. Concrete paved paths are the most challenging option and are best suited for an experienced DIYer or professional.

8. Gardening

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You can take your gardening up a notch if you’re willing to get your hands dirty. Create a raised garden bed or plant trees, bushes, shrubs, and ornamental grasses in your backyard near your patio. These will all make your patio view more appealing.

Flowering plants can add a pleasant smell to the air and add seasonal variety to your yard. Edible plants such as apple trees let you taste the fruits of your labor when you relax outdoors. You can frame your patio with plants to help divide the space or create privacy. Trees could add much-needed shade, though they take many years to reach maturity.

Want to maximize space in a small patio? Vertical gardens are the perfect solution. You can use a variety of materials to create more room for your little green friends, such as

  • Trellises
  • Arbors
  • Ladders
  • Fences
  • Pallets
  • Stakes
  • Vertical planters
  • Hanging baskets
  • Window box planters
  • Recycled materials (old cans, bottles, crates, etc.)

Place your vertical garden on the patio or the yard’s border.

9. Fences

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Maybe your fence needs more than a paint job. You could replace, repair, stain, or decorate your existing fence or install a new one. If a pro is out of your budget, DIY fence kits are more affordable. You can also use fencing to partition parts of your yard, creating distinct and private areas to enjoy.

Maybe a pop of greenery is what you need to turn your drab fence into beautiful scenery. Creeping plants can look gorgeous on chain link, iron, vinyl, and wooden fences, but be careful; some plants damage fences and spread uncontrollably. Research any plant you’re interested in beforehand, so you don’t end up like Sleeping Beauty, surrounded and trapped by vines.

What about living fences? While some are complicated to create, others are simple enough to try at home. Hedges, shrubs, and evergreens just need to be planted in the right place, and lattice fences or panels can guide plants upwards to create beautiful green privacy. You will need time to see the fruits of your labor, though.

10. DIY Fountain

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Fountains may seem like the peak of luxury, but you can make simple water features at home. You can either buy a kit to assemble or create a custom container fountain. How can you do that? Get a water pump kit, put it together, and place it into whatever water-tight container you’d like.

You can get creative with river rock decorations, water plants, and stacked containers for a multi-level fountain. However, you will need holes to allow the hose and water to pass through the layers. You could also add a shishi-odoshi (Japanese deer scare fountain) to add more ambient noise and scare away unwanted wildlife.

Not up for the DIY project? You can always buy a small pre-made fountain.

11. Fire pit

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Wait, aren’t fire pits challenging to install? It depends. You can buy a free-standing metal one that you can easily place, move around, or store when not in use.

Building or assembling a fire pit can get tricky. DIY kits will be more expensive and take more time than ready-made ones. You can also build one from scratch using blocks or stones, but that’s a more advanced project that will take research and careful planning.

Advanced

Suppose you’re a DIY enthusiast and don’t mind putting in a bit more work, time, and money. In that case, these ideas could completely transform your backyard without professional help. You may need assistance from family and friends, but you can enjoy the final results together.

Though these ideas may be more expensive than those previously mentioned, it will almost always be cheaper to do these things yourself than to hire a pro. But remember, if you’re not confident in your DIY skills, hiring a professional can help minimize the risk of costly repairs and damages. Use your best judgment to determine whether your DIY skills are up to the task.

12. Hardscaping

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Want a complete patio makeover? Don’t have a patio at all? You’ll need to do some hardscaping. Choose your material, remove any plants or pre-existing materials, level the area, and get to work.

River rock and gravel patios are easy to install and low-maintenance. Bricks and paver patios will be more challenging to install since they take time, energy, and precision. However, they are much more customizable since you can choose many shapes and sizes. You can also put ground covers like moss between them to create a more natural look.

Concrete patios are the most difficult to do yourself. You’ll need to check if the ground is level, measure everything carefully, prep the area, then pour and level the concrete. There isn’t much room for mistakes since hardened concrete is difficult to fix (though not impossible).

If you’re happy with your patio surface, you can add other hardscaping details to complete the look. When professionally installed, retaining walls can cost thousands of dollars, but you can save money building them yourself. Rock, pavers, masonry blocks, and pressure-treated wood are all possible materials.

Again, retaining walls and paved patios are tricky DIY projects we don’t recommend unless you’re an experienced DIYer and have done extensive research. However, there is more straightforward hardscaping you can add, such as decorative rocks.

13. Above-ground pools

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Do you ever close your eyes and imagine lounging by a pool? With an above-ground pool, you can be. You can watch your kids while they play or take a dip while hanging out with friends.

While above-ground pools aren’t necessarily cheap, they are a great alternative to expensive in-ground pools, especially if you install them yourself. Shop around to find the best deals, as above-ground pools range wildly in price from under a hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. You should also consider whether you want a more permanent structure or a collapsible, easy-to-move pool that you can put away in the winter.

Use a stock tank, an easy set pool, or an above-ground DIY pool set. Some don’t even require tools to put them together. They come in various materials and patterns, such as plastic, metal, faux stone, and faux wood. Add themed decorations around the pool and patio to tie everything together.

14. Outdoor structures

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Decks, shade structures, and decorative outdoor structures can add elegance to your patio, and you don’t always need a professional to install them. You can find DIY sets for the following:

  • Pergolas
  • Canopies
  • Patio covers
  • Trellises
  • Floating or free-standing decks*

*Raised decks require advanced carpentry skills and are much more expensive and time-consuming to build. A professional will be able to create a safe and structurally sound raised deck for you.

Like with the above-ground pools, these will vary in cost and skill level required quite a bit. Carefully read instructions before buying a kit to make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew.

FAQ about backyard patios

How can I save money building a patio?

The best ways to save money while building a patio are to

Get materials on sale
Reuse materials from other projects
Work on a level area (this saves you time, materials, and labor dealing with uneven terrain)

What is the best material to put under pavers?

According to the Oregon State Extension, pavers need gravel as a base material, then sand on top. Place the gravel base on the excavation site, compact it, and install edge restraints so the pavers can’t move. Then you should lay a bed of sand for the pavers to sit in. Talk to your material supplier to find the best sand type for your project.

What can I put in my backyard instead of grass?

There are many grass alternatives you can use, but here are a few:

Ground covers
Mulch
Low-mow or no-mow grass
Artificial turf
Gardens (native plants, flowers, edible plants, etc.)
Gravel
Hardscaping

These alternatives could enhance or extend your patio area.

When to hire a pro

While all the beginner ideas are doable for homeowners, the intermediate and advanced suggestions may be out of some people’s comfort zones. There are a few reasons you might not want to take on these tasks yourself, including

  • Safety concerns
  • Lack of free time
  • Lack of confidence in your abilities

It could cost more in the long run to replace DIY work you’re not happy with than to hire a pro in the first place. If you’ve bitten off more than you can chew or feel overwhelmed by other life events, hiring a pro may be the best option.

What’s the point of a beautiful patio if your lawn looks lackluster? If you’re too tired to complete your yard work yourself, hire a pro to finish the job. Lawn Love connects you with professional lawn care so you’ll have more free time to do what you love, such as DIY projects or lounging on the couch.

Main Image Credit: Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of San Antonio | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

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Lauren Bryant

Lauren Bryant is a freelance writer currently based in the Pacific Northwest. In her free time, she enjoys long walks and baking. She excitedly awaits the day she can grow her own edible garden.

Posts by Lauren Bryant

14 Backyard Patio Ideas on a Budget (2024)

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