Stay Sane Mom Founder
Published in House, Renovation & Repair on June 28, 2019
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Most of the time when you think “home improvements” or “redecorating” your mind immediately goes to the interior of your house, updating the outside can have just as much of an effect and an impact on your life.
If you do it right, you can even turn outdoor space into useful, livable square footage, giving your kids extra places to play and you a little bit more space to spread out. For those of us who have transformed completely unlivable and non-kid-friendly backyards into actual, useful space, we can testify to just how crazy of a difference it makes to just be able to open your back door and let your kids run free.
What a stress reliever!
Unfortunately, some outside renovations can get pretty expensive. This list gives you my top 10 ways to upgrade or update your houses outside areas without breaking the bank. Most of these are incredibly inexpensive and can be done by hand, it just takes a little bit of creativity (and maybe some patients from the kiddos).
Without further ado...here’s my top 10 list of cheap and easy home exterior updates.
Unfortunately, there is no substitute for a regular hosing.
Whatever landscape, Hardscape, or other type of scape you have outside, it needs to be cleaned, weeded, de-bugged, and otherwise sanitized on a regular basis.
We always joke in our household that we water our astroturf more than some people water their actual lawn. However, the simple act of taking three minutes to hose off all the leaves, bugs, and dog hair makes it look like a model home, far more than we actually deserve for the level of effort we put in.
Make it part of your cleaning routine to hose off (or leafblow) your porch, driveway, and lawn. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.
Also, while you're hosing things off you will be the first to notice when stuff breaks or needs fixing. Getting on maintenance problems while they're still little problems will help prevent big problems from ever occurring.
Vanity, thy name is Windex.
If the inside and outside of your windows need a good clean, nothing is cheaper or easier than taking 10 minutes (or 40, if you want to be super thorough about it) to make them shiny and new.
You will then have a clearer view of your yard/garden/outside areas over the summer, and they will be less of an eyesore when viewed from the outside. Bonus points if you can make your kids (or spouse) pull a Windex bird on any glass doors. I’ve done this a few times and NOTHING is a bigger self-esteem boost.
If you want to take it up a notch, you can even clean and paint your walls if they need a little TLC.
Bonus Points Options: If you were planning on giving the outside of your home an upgrade, you might want to opt for a vinyl siding installation if you haven't already done so. Not only is this easy to maintain and clean, but it's weatherproof and moisture-resistant too. Still, no matter the surface of your home, give it a power wash if dirt has built in, and get on top of any repairs to protect from further damage.
Whether you're just switching out your front porch lights for something prettier and more environmentally friendly (these bad boys are my personal favorite) or you want to add something more decorative, Updating your lighting is one of the quickest, cheapest, and easiest ways to change the exterior of your home.
This not only is pretty, because better lighting at night can make your house look homey even when the sun isn't shining, but if you get environmentally friendly or motion sensor lights, they can also be incredibly practical as well.
If you really want to go the extra mile, you can get some decorative outdoor string lights (which are different from and way classier than Christmas lights, just check out the pictures) to turn your backyard into a truly magical place. These are fan favorites all over Pinterest, but I was shocked at how cheap they actually are. You can even get ones like these which are solar powered, so you don't have to worry about the extra electric bills.
Although it's a job hated by many, get on top of any weeds you may have.
Just break out some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease (and use natural methods to dispose of them). Mow your lawn too, and then water and fertilize it often to keep it looking fresh and crispy green. These are also all great opportunities for child labor...I mean giving your kids chores.
Look after your flower beds too, filling them with healthy and vibrant flowers that you can buy freshly grown from your local store, and take steps to maintain anything currently growing. And consider giving your garden the landscaped look to improve its appearance, perhaps taking a cue from these beginner tips if you haven't taken steps to enhance your garden's design already.
One of the things that really make your house look gorgeous but isn't actually that hard to do is to build a stone walkway up to your front door. This sounds like it could be incredibly labor-intensive, but if you block off a day to do it yourself and get the correct materials from Home Depot, it's actually not that ridiculous to fathom.
These are especially appropriate if you have a colonial, tutor, or cottage style of house.
At the very least, you should give your driveway a good power wash to remove any dirt and debris that has accumulated over the last few months.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can also use a sealer to fill any cracks, as well as a natural weed killer to get rid of any weed that has pushed through the cement. If you have the confidence to do so, you might also repave your driveway, especially if it has become worn and damaged over time.
Alternatively, you could always hire somebody to do this for you if you don't have the skills to manage this. Take a look at these modern driveway ideas for inspiration, and then consider the options available to you to give this outside area of your home a more welcoming feel.
I am a huge fan of decorative lighting. Early on in our homeowner journey, I made the wonderful discovery that even mediocre plants look slightly magical when properly lit. If you line the path to your front door with solar-powered torch lights (like these guys), you can make a huge difference on your house’s “classy factor” without making it any more high maintenance.
Not everything has to scream Vegas like this mildly over-the-top craziness, but having tasteful lighting, even backlighting or spotlighting that illuminates your best landscaping features without even being seen, can make a huge difference.
Let me preface this one by saying that I have nothing that resembles a green thumb. In fact, none of my body parts are green.
I could kill a cactus.
(Okay, I have killed a cactus.)
The best decision we ever made was to replace the grass and colorful (and incredibly hard to maintain) flowers that came with our house with astroturf, decorative rocks, and very hard to kill trees.
Now, instead of having to spend gratuitous amounts of time maintaining our landscaping or pay ridiculously high landscaping bills every month, our entire yard can be cleaned and look like new in one 10 minute session with the hose.
Even if you don’t want to install astroturf everywhere, you can convert a patio, deck, or a portion of your yard into an always-green wonderland with a cuttable (aka can be shaped however you want) astroturf mat like this handsome fellow.
An added bonus is that astroturf cannot get my kids muddy, the lack of ground-level flowerbeds means there’s no dirt for my toddler to spread on her face like war paint, and if our giant, nasty dogs have an accident somewhere it can be easily sanitized back to kid-friendly levels in very little time.
Even with my disclaimer about not having a green thumb, I occasionally like to attempt not to kill plants.
Plants are pretty after all, and growing your own vegetables is something every child should experience, no matter how inept their mother is a gardening.
My advice here on having easily maintained and kids friendly plants is to opt for containers that are off the ground and that separate your attempts at growing things from your other landscaping. This means things like window boxes for flowers or elevated planter boxes for larger attempts at gardening.
This way, you can get a step stool for your kiddos to help you Garden when you want them to, but they won't get into it when you don't.
No matter what else you have in your yard, you should always have one place you can let your kids run free. They love the freedom outdoors and it's a wonderful alternative to having to load them all in the car to go to the park, beach, or other non-home recreation area just to get their zoomies out.
Many yards come with features that just aren't kid-friendly, but that doesn't mean that you can't create a separate area just for the kiddos.
We used these guys to cordon off the area in which our dogs go to the bathroom so that we have a “kiddie zone” that still looks classy, but is totally temporary and can be taken down if we ever need to use our full yard for anything.
I can't possibly describe the amount of freedom I feel every time I can just open the back door and let them run without worrying about what they might accidentally step in.
I can't advocate this change forcefully enough!
And there you have it, folks.
These (reasonably) simple steps will freshen up your home's exterior, give you greater pleasure when you're enjoying your house’s outside areas, and improve your property's curb appeal to boot.
Let us know what you think and if you have any further suggestions to add to the list!
Founder | Contributor
Liz is a wife, mom, blogger, coder (and unabashed digital nerd), PhD student (and huge psychology geek), workout masochist, and occasional human being. She founded The Stay Sane Mom after marrying into the role of stepmom to a preteen girl (and Instagram addict) and shortly thereafter having her first bio kid (now a toddlernado supreme). Her goal is to provide tools and support to help other capable, sleep-deprived, soul-hungry moms master their domains so they have the time and energy to be more than just 'mom'.
Stay Sane Mom gives support to the over-worked, under-slept, marker-stained, soul-hungry moms of the world, so they can be more than just "mom".
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