Adding Play Areas To Your Yard

Watching the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo just might inspire you to add more playtime to your own routine. While achieving Olympic-level skills maybe beyond the reach of most of us, adding a place for sports in your backyard may be possible — and might encourage you to get outside more.

Simple first steps might include setting up a permanent spot for table tennis, adding some games to your pool or buying a trampoline. More permanent installations can range from setting aside a spot for bocce ball, horseshoes or a putting green to installing sports courts for everything from badminton and tennis to basketball and hockey.

Focus on Family Fun

Taking the time to haul out the bocce set, move the pingpong table outside or string up a badminton or volleyball net is easy enough to do for an occasional activity. But if your family really loves a specific game, why not make it a permanent part of your landscape?

Table Tennis 

A standard table will work but you will need a table that is designed for outdoor use and a smooth, flat space to put it on. If you remove the net it can be used as an outdoor dining table or serving counter. 

Lawns are fine, although you’ll may need to contend with a sprinkler system. A cement or stable paver patio or a spot with crushed stone or firmly packed decomposed granite will also work.

Regulation size for a pingpong table is 5 feet wide and 9 feet long. Extra clearance is needed on each side, with a recommended total space that’s 11 feet wide and 19 to 20 feet long.

Beach Volleyball

Practice your spikes, dives and bumps with a dedicated sand court for beach volleyball. The court could sits along the back of the yard, tucked out of the main outdoor living space but close enough for spectators to cheer on the players.

A popular size for the actual backyard beach volleyball court is around 26 feet by 53 feet. With additional clearance, you’ll need 49 feet by 70 feet feet total. You can go a bit smaller, though, if your space is limited. Just be sure you have enough room to make some plays.


Badminton lovers can turn a formerly grassy spot into a permanent badminton court. But if a landscape overhaul isn’t in the works, grass is still a fine badminton surface. Keep it trimmed so you can move easily across it. Other options include a smooth, soft surface of crushed stone or concrete, although the latter can be hot.

A regulation badminton court is 20 feet by 44 feet. You should also plan for enough room to take at least 5 steps backward at each end and two to three steps to each side.

Shuttlecocks are very lightweight and can easily travel in directions you don’t want them to, especially if it’s windy. Situating the court away from your neighbors’ yards can save you trips to retrieve them.

Bocce Ball

Bocce, once known mainly for its popularity in Italian communities, has become a game for all. If you’ve become intrigued, adding a bocce ball court may be easier than you think.

While an official bocce ball court should be 13 feet wide and 91 feet long, you can have just as much fun with one tailored to fit your yard. You can find courts that are as small as 6 feet wide and 22 feet long, although most backyard courts are about two-thirds the size of regulation play.

The key to a good court is a flat, level surface, whether it’s made of concrete, crushed stone, sand or oyster shells. You don’t want anything to interfere with the trajectory of the balls. Adding a short, solid barrier of wood or concrete around the sides will keep things in check. Hang a tape measure nearby for checking the distance between balls so you can settle disputes.


A game of horseshoes feels leisurely and forgiving, as opponents take turns tossing a horseshoe, or the modern equivalent, and get points for coming close. It’s also a game of precision, both when tossing the horseshoe and following the rules of scoring. 

If that sounds like a great mix of relaxation and skill, then adding a spot for a game may be just what you need. While a place for two stakes set 40 feet apart on a grass, gravel, sand or decomposed granite surface is technically all you need, adding a permanent sand pit, generally 36 inches by 48 inches, ensures you always have a spot for a quick game.

For safety’s sake, spectators and others, especially children, should stay well away from the players and not distract them while they’re pitching, the official term for playing. The players should also pay attention to their surroundings before pitching.

Sports Pool

Minimize the endless repetition of Marco Polo with water versions of dry-land games. Include a net for pool volleyball and a basket at one end for shooting hoops.

Other options? Set a water polo net at each end of the pool, divide into teams and see who can score the most points. Or add a twist to a popular lawn game with inflatable cornhole bowls so you can test your tossing skills while you’re treading water.

As with any swimming-related activity, safety comes first. Keep an eye on swimmers, especially if there are solid objects in the pool.

Workout Setup

A no-longer-used basketball court is a prime spot for working out without having to head over to the gym. 

An outdoor gym is ideal for mild-weather climates, but if your weather is more finicky, you can always add an overhead structure. No matter where you are, you’ll want a level and soft surface, such as mulch or mats, underfoot.

Kid-Centered Gymnastics Training

Let your kids channel their inner Simone Biles with a play area that goes beyond the standard jungle gym. Try a climbing wall, swings, bars and a rope structure. Synthetic turf provides a soft landing spot, although rubber mulch and play sand will also work.


Trampolines are fun. They’re also a sneaky way to improve your coordination and balance and strengthen your core muscles.

It’s easy to add a trampoline to your yard. You just need the room (some are very small) and a flat surface, ideally with some cushioning. Good choices include rubber mulch, wood chips and artificial turf. You can even install a trampoline that’s level with the ground. They are far less obtrusive, but you’ll need to include the same safety features as with an above-ground trampoline.

Wherever your trampoline goes, a net is an important safety feature. You can bounce higher than you think, and the net protects you from flying off and hitting a hard surface, even if you’re at ground level. Anchor the trampoline to the ground whenever possible.

Climbing Wall

A backyard climbing wall can challenge and entertain kids and adults alike. As a bonus, it can serve as a decorative addition to a fence or wall of your home or act as a landscape focal point.

The finished width and height depends on your space and how elaborate you want to make it. A shorter wall is great for kids to get started; a larger wall can give adults more options. Whatever you choose, consult with a professional to be sure the wall is solid, sturdy and safe for everyone.

Another safety concern is what you will land on, because the odds are good that at some point you’ll fall. Rubber mulch at least 3 inches thick is a good choice, as are sufficiently thick rubber mats. Again, consult with a professional before making a final decision.

Putting Green

Let your lawn do double duty as an at-home putting green for practicing tricky lies and chip shots. While home putting greens were once a rarity, they’ve grown rapidly in popularity in the past few years.

Even a relatively small yard can be big enough to add a single hole; many home greens are around 500 square feet. You can adjust the design to fit the shape of your yard and how you plan to use it.

If you want a golf course feel, closely trimmed grasses such as Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) and annual bluegrass (Poa annua) fit the bill. A more maintenance-free choice would be artificial turf. Add a hole or two, and you’re ready to play.


You could add a full-size hockey rink to your backyard if you have the room and the requisite freezing temperatures. But if you just want a simple spot to practice your shooting skills, then think of a miniature ice surface built into the deck. Its walls are tall enough to keep the puck inside without ruining the view. While the purists may decry the feel of synthetic ice, a very high-quality choice can come close enough for a small home installation while also easing the logistics of making and resurfacing natural ice.


Tired of your driveway basketball games, where you have to be careful not to trample the nearby landscape or let the ball go into the street? Dedicating part of your yard to a made-for-basketball court will make heading out to shoot a few hoops a lot more fun.

Depending on your backyard size and your basketball devotion, you can go with either a half court or a full court. In either case, you’ll need 50 feet for the width. The length can vary; while an NBA court is 94 feet long, many homeowners opt for 90 feet for a full court and 47 to 50 feet for a half court. Concrete is the best surface choice, although you can find outdoor tiles that will work. Personalize the look by adding your favorite team’s logo in the center.


A home tennis court may sound like the landscape of a great estate, but it may be more feasible than you think.

Finding enough room is the first step. Plan for a total space that’s 60 feet wide and 120 feet long for the court and required space on all sides. The width of a court designed for singles play only will be about 9 inches less, but you’ll still need the length. There are a number of surface possibilities, including grass and clay, but concrete is a durable choice for home courts, and asphalt is a good choice as well.

Take a look at the how the sun moves through your yard before you decide on a final location and orientation. You don’t want to have direct sunlight in either player’s eyes. You might also want to add a backboard so you can practice even when a partner isn’t available.


Pickleball came into being in 1965 when an unused badminton court, a supply of pingpong paddles and a Wiffle ball were cobbled into a game to relieve an extreme case of family boredom. It’s now a fast-growing sport, with official equipment, rules for playing and tournaments — but it remains a low-key game for all ages with the same laid-back vibe.

The pickleball court itself is 20 feet by 44 feet — not surprisingly, given the game’s origins, the same size as a badminton court. You’ll want some room on all sides, so plan on 30 feet wide by 60 feet long. As with most courts, concrete is a preferred surface, followed by asphalt.

You can even play on grass, although the bounce of the ball will change. And if the court itself is slightly smaller in size, most people won’t care. The idea is to have fun.

Multiuse Play Area

A backyard court can do triple duty as a spot for basketball and roller hockey, with a tennis backboard thrown in for good measure. Outdoor lighting means the court can be enjoyed even when the sun goes down.

Basketball courts are a logical starting point for a multipurpose surface. It’s easy to add the nets and the markings for tennis, pickleball and badminton. Adding weatherproof boards around the court and flooding it with water can turn the summer fun space into a hockey or skating rink in the winter in cold-weather climes.

Side-by-Side Setup

Careful planning and a willingness to try something new can let you squeeze more than one sport into your yard, while still having a space that looks great.


How To Grow Fruit Trees

Growing your own private orchard is more feasible than ever. For one thing semidwarf and dwarf trees are readily available, and pruning techniques can keep even standard-size trees at a manageable height — letting you add more trees to a smaller yard and keeping the fruit within easy picking reach. You can also find already-grafted trees with numerous varieties on one trunk. Hybrids are stretching the boundaries of requirements for both cold hardiness and chill.

There are a few caveats. Fruit trees aren’t totally trouble free. You will need to provide sufficient nutrients and deal with occasional, or more than occasional, pests and other problems. It may take some time before your tree produces. Fruit trees do best when planted in the fall, winter or early spring, depending on your climate.


It’s hard to go wrong with an apple tree or two in your yard. Apples hold their flavor well both on the tree and once they’re harvested. They’re great to eat fresh and are a standard addition to a lunchbox, a staple for cooks and a standout as the basis for any number of tasty desserts.

You can find a tree for Hardiness climate zones 1 through 9. They can be grown as traditional trees or espaliered along a fence or wall.

Other things to keep in mind: the type of apple you want (crisp, soft, tart, sweet), when you want to harvest (from midsummer to late fall), disease resistance and pollination needs.


When it comes to versatility, plums give apples a run for their money. For a fruit tree, they’re surprisingly hardy. They’re less prone to diseases than others, they don’t grow as rampantly as peaches, and they need less water than many other fruit trees.

Choose from a Japanese plum, such as the well-known Santa Rosa, for Hardiness zones 4 through 9; a European plum, such as Stanley, especially if you live in an area with late and rainy springs or in zones 3 through 9; or a hardy hybrid for the coldest climates. Japanese plums may also need a second tree for pollinating.

Plums may be relatively easy, but they still need some care. This includes fertilizing, pruning and dealing with birds’ stealing the crops. They also can take up to five years before they start producing fruit.


Landscape tree or fruit tree? With an apricot tree, you don’t have to choose. These generally smallish trees have a great shape and unusual bark, lovely foliage and fruit that can’t be beat for its delicate flavor.

Of course, you need to be able to grow an apricot tree to get these benefits. It’s not so much that they can’t handle the cold — they’re surprisingly hardy — but they flower so early that the potential fruit crop is easily decimated by frost, and they don’t really handle rainy springs. Their primary Hardiness climate zones are 7 to 9, but if you’re daring, try them in zones 4 to 6 in a protected spot.

Apricots need general fruit-tree care but are somewhat less needy than other fruit trees. You’ll probably need to thin the fruit and prune annually, but the good news is that they’re a good choice for options like espaliering. Be prepared to harvest immediately once the fruit ripens, as it doesn’t hold well on the tree. But the fruit is well worth the trouble.


Sweet or sour, cherries are near the top of the list of most people’s favorite fruits. The trees are also beautiful themselves, especially when blooming every spring.

Sweet cherries, from Bings and Lapins to Rainiers and Vans, are the ones you can eat fresh. These trees grow in warmer climates, generally Hardiness zones 5 to 9, although if you’re in the warmest climates, be sure you have one that is designated “low chill.” They also can be temperamental to grow and slow to fruit at first.

Sour cherries may not tempt you to eat them off the tree, but they’re great for baking and preserves. They’re also hardier, doing well in zones 4 to 8, and less problematic, including almost never requiring fertilizer once they’re established.

Peaches and Nectarines

Fresh, fully tree-ripened peaches and nectarines are an experience not to be missed. Their flavor seems to define summer. If you live in zones 5 through 9, this experience can be yours.

Peaches and nectarines are grouped together because nectarines are simply a fuzzless type of peach. The number of peach varieties available to home gardeners is almost overwhelming; nectarines offer somewhat fewer options, but there are still a lot to choose from. There are varieties with white flesh and those with yellow flesh, and for some people that difference is major. You can have fruit from early summer into fall. There are varieties for eating fresh and others that are better for canning. There are even some with unusual shapes and “nonpeach” colors.

Peaches do require lots of care through the growing season, including watering sufficiently, maintaining a good feeding program, thinning, pruning and preventing pests and diseases.

Plum Hybrids

Plum hybrids are rapidly becoming the darlings of fruit lovers. These fruits have the best aspects of their respective parents. The apricot-plum hybrids got the ball rolling, but now you can find hybrids that combine plums with peaches, nectarines and cherries, and it seems like there are many more to come.

Plum hybrids need the same climate conditions as their parents and much of the same care, including water and fertilizer needs, pruning and preventing pests and diseases. Check with local nurseries to see what will do well in your area.


For home gardeners, pears fall into two categories: European and Asian. European pears are the familiar “pear-shaped” fruits that are an autumn staple. Asian pears, sometimes called apple pears, are round, fragrant fruits with a flavor that seems to explode in your mouth. Both can claim a place in a home garden.

European pears grow well in Hardiness zones 3 through 9, though they generally need considerable winter chill. They’re beautiful, long-lived trees that tend to be large, although dwarf and semidwarf varieties are available. If you opt for a European pear, you’ll also need to be sure you have a pollinator nearby. Your biggest problem, and it can be major, is the tendency to develop fireblight, which can easily get out of control. The biggest challenge besides disease is harvesting: Almost all European pears need to be harvested early and left to ripen off the tree.

Asian pears are best for zones 5 through 9, where temperatures don’t drop too low. They’re smaller than their European cousins and easier to keep in check. They also have a long harvest season, with the bonus that the fruit can stay on the tree until ripe.


Talk about a long-lasting fruit. Even after the leaves have fallen and been raked up, you can still find persimmons hanging on to the tree. Even better, persimmons tend to be naturally smallish trees, ideal for today’s smaller gardens. Japanese or Asian persimmons are probably the better-known trees, growing well in Hardiness zones 6 through 9, but there are native American persimmons and hybrids that combine a smaller size with more cold tolerance for gardeners in zones 4 through 9.

Persimmons also have a reputation for being very tart. It’s true that some astringent or soft Japanese varieties live up to their name in that regard. These have to ripen and soften completely while still on the tree to be palatable. But other Japanese varieties as well as American and hybrid persimmons are nonastringent, sweet while they’re still firm.

No matter which type you choose, you’ll find them ornamental trees that are generally unfussy and easy to care for. They’re also relatively immune to major pests and diseases. Your biggest problem may be trying to determine just when to pick the fruit.


This garden gem is often overlooked. After all, who really knows what a quince is? But once you make its acquaintance, you’ll be charmed, especially if you’re looking for a trouble-free fruit tree for a smaller yard in Hardiness zones 4 through 9. It is slow growing, is naturally small (for a tree), requires little pruning, seldom develops problems and rewards you with softly colored spring blossoms and bright fall fruit. In fact, you needn’t even grow it as a tree; it can be trained as a shrub or grown in a container.

Of course, there is the question of what to do with the fruit. It’s decidedly more tart than its apple or pear cousins, but cooking it will soften the sting. If you’re really adventurous, try using it as a base for candies.

The one thing you do need to be sure of is that you buy a true fruiting quince. Flowering quinces abound; you may have to search a bit for one that will provide you with fruit.


Citrus is not an option for everyone. Citrus trees grow best in Hardiness zones 8, 9 and 10. In other zones you’re probably limited to containers that you bring indoors, or at least into a sheltered space, in winter.

But if you can grow citrus, you’re in luck. First, you’ll have an evergreen tree with intensely fragrant blossoms and delicious fruit that can stay on the tree for long periods. Then, these are some of the most fuss-free and low-maintenance trees around. They’re more drought tolerant than other fruit trees once they’re established. Pruning is fairly minimal, but you can shape them to whatever form you want, from container to bush to tree to espalier. They’re fairly free of pests and diseases. Probably your biggest problem will be protecting them from freezing.

And your options are many. Oranges and lemons are the most common choices, but also consider growing limes, mandarins, grapefruits, kumquats, citrons and pomelos.


Switching Your Garden To An Organic One

Ditch the chemicals for a naturally beautiful lawn and garden, using living fertilizers and other nontoxic treatments.


The foundation of a healthy landscape is healthy soil. This is the mantra of many landscape architects. An organic garden relies heavily on compost, because it’s the best method of returning decomposed organic matter back to the soil. Compost tea, manure tea or broken-down compost from your yard waste bin will work magic on your plants.

Other ways to help create a healthy soil ecosystem include the use of organic fertilizer, like fish emulsion and adding mycorrhizal fungi to your soil. The fungi benefit plants by helping them to absorb more nutrients. It’s a natural process that you can foster in your own soil to help your garden thrive.

Living fertilizer. White clover (Trifolium repens) is a nitrogen-fixing low ground cover plant that adds nitrogen to the soil. It does well in nutrient-poor soils and can make a lovely lawn addition. Add clover to your lawn and let the bees and pollinators have a great time.

Clover is very easy to maintain and looks good. Adding a “living fertilizer” like clover contributes to a healthy soil that is rich with nutrients.


This is the obvious first place to consider reducing chemical applications. Lawns make up a large percentage of North American homeowners’ landscapes. Who doesn’t love lounging on a lush lawn, and it’s a great surface for kids and pets to run around on. 

Lawn Aeration and Thatch

You may need to aerate your lawn to allow for some oxygen to reach the upper crust of soil. This will improve the soil tilth under your sod and is usually necessary if you have been using synthetic chemicals and fertilizers for several years.

One way to evaluate if your lawn and the soil below are acting as a healthy ecosystem is by looking at the amount of thatch collected under the grass blades. Thatch is the dead, brown grass blades that are meant to break down into the soil. There should be some thatch in your lawn, but not a buildup of more than 2 inches. A buildup means that your grass is not properly breaking down into the soil. Establish a healthy soil ecosystem and the thatch will begin to break down into the soil to feed your lawn.


Mowing has a huge impact on the health of an organic lawn. Setting your mower to a higher height that allows the grass to grow longer will actually help shade out some weeds.

There are mixes of grasses called “no mow” and “low mow” that combine several species of grasses that perform and look great on an infrequent mowing schedule.

You also have the option of completely reworking your lawn into a short-grass meadow of sedge. Carex grasses that are native to your region can be densely planted and allowed to grow long to provide a very nice natural look. This type of alternative lawn has been growing in popularity as more gardeners are discovering the beauty of long grasses.

Mulching Your Lawn

Let your lawnmower mulch the grass clippings. This means that the grass clippings are added back to the lawn to break down and feed the soil. For this to work properly, your lawn has to be able to break down organic material. Only start to mulch your grass clippings once you have aerated and established a healthy soil in your lawn, and there is only a small amount of thatch present.


Trees and Woody Shrubs

Do you regularly have a shrub that is diseased or a host to pests? One of the easiest ways to get a pest-free landscape is by using natives. Native plants do not come under attack like the nonnative, ornamental varieties. You can add native plants yourself or do a major overhaul by working with a designer who specializes in native plantings. 

The same principles for building healthy soil apply to trees and shrubs. Be sure to collect your leaves and clippings to add to the compost pile. Adding the dead organic matter to your pile, letting it decompose and then adding it back to your soil is a way to mimic the decay-growth cycle of nature.


Weeds are a nuisance to the home gardener. Eradication of weeds can be a constant battle. The key is to be one step ahead of those pesky plants that sprout up in the most undesirable places. Weeds can be hand pulled or removed with hand tools so they are fully dug up.


There are many, many beneficial garden insects. Learn to differentiate between the good and bad. An influx of a pest is typically a sign of an imbalance in your landscape. Solve the imbalance organically and you may have fewer issues over time as your landscape becomes healthier.


Talk with a landscape maintenance company about switching to an organic plan. The lawn-mowing, weed-removing business is very competitive, and your hired company will want to keep you as a client. Communicate that you want to transition to an organic plan. If your current company is unable to provide organic service, find somebody else. 

Landscapes and gardens are always a work in progress. There will be a give and take as you discover how to succeed with your garden organically.


Best Materials for Patio Furniture

With patio furniture, you can extend your indoor style to your landscape or try something completely different. You can mix and match for an eclectic feel. One important consideration, no matter your style, is how well your furniture will hold up to your weather conditions, including moisture, hot sun and strong winds.

More expensive pieces tend to be of better quality and longer-lasting, but don’t use that as your only guide. Check out how well each piece is made and educate yourself on the pros and cons, as well as the care issues, for different materials. If you’re finding secondhand pieces, which can be great bargains, evaluate them with the same eye.


Wood has long been the go-to option for outdoor furniture. It’s long-lasting, it can handle different weather conditions and it’s wonderfully versatile when it comes to style. You’ll find everything from traditional wood benches and tables to contemporary wood pieces.


Sturdy, long-lasting and readily available. It doesn’t absorb heat like many other outdoor options. It adapts to any design style. Many options are resistant to mold, decay and rot and repel water and insects. Teak is a good choice for seaside locations.


Good-quality pieces can be expensive. It requires some yearly upkeep, especially if you don’t want the pieces to weather. May succumb to rot and decay earlier than expected if placed on soft ground or grass without protection. Can splinter and crack in harsh weather.

What To Look For

Wood that is naturally resistant to mold, decay and rot and, ideally, is water and insect repellant. Teak, cedar, old-growth cypress and redwood are the most familiar of these woods, but other options include acacia, eucalyptus and the tropical shorea woods.

Test For Solid Construction

Check for dowels or mortise and tenon construction or hardware made from stainless steel or brass, or that has been treated to be rustproof.


Oil or stain the wood and seal it yearly if you don’t want it to weather to a silvery gray. If you’re painting your wood, use a paint with UV filters to protect from the sun. If possible, cover pieces or bring them inside in winter.

Wicker and Rattan

Wicker and rattan outdoor furniture give your outdoor space a classic country or beach-style look — as long as you keep it under a cover. These natural materials, along with similar options like bamboo and natural grasses, can’t handle prolonged exposure to sun and rain.

If you want to move your furniture to a more exposed outdoor location in summer, seal the wicker with wood furniture sealer or marine varnish (test first in an inconspicuous spot to be sure you like the results) or with tung oil to help preserve it. Painting is another option; finish with marine varnish to help seal the surface.

The good news is that new synthetic options, often called “all-weather wicker,” look like the real thing but will easily handle outdoor conditions.


Inexpensive, lightweight and easy to care for. Style options range from traditional to contemporary. Natural materials can also be painted. Wicker look-alikes made from resin are a good choice for seaside locations.


The natural materials will deteriorate with exposure to weather. Strong winds may topple or move lighter pieces.

What To Look For

Solid construction, thick weaving and no fraying or gaps, especially on used pieces. Check how comfortable it is and if you will want cushions.


Vacuum up crumbs and dirt periodically. Wipe surfaces with a cloth or soft brush dampened in a mixture of water and dishwashing detergent. Rinse with cold water. Check periodically for how well the material is holding up. If you seal your furniture, reapply once a year. Cover or store indoors in winter.


When it comes to easy-care furniture, aluminum is at the top of the list. It’s tough enough to stand up to almost anything Mother Nature can throw at it and requires almost no maintenance. It’s also less expensive than many other options. Hollow or tubular aluminum furniture is lighter and less expensive than cast aluminum and generally offers more style options. Cast aluminum, which is sturdier and more expensive, is also usually more traditional in style.


Inexpensive, lightweight, naturally rustproof and highly durable, especially when coated with a finish. Pieces are available in a wide range of styles and finishes. Cast aluminum is very durable. A good choice for seaside locations if wind isn’t a problem.


Hollow aluminum is not a good choice for windy areas. It can retain heat from the sun. You also may need to add cushions for comfort.

What To Look For 

Strong construction and a minimum of welds or joints in longer sections; stainless steel or other rustproof hardware. Powder-coated finishes are the most durable.


Clean periodically with a mild soap and water. Cover during winter for added protection, or bring indoors.

Stainless Steel, Steel and Metal

Stainless steel and galvanized steel furniture bridges the gap between aluminum and wrought iron. It’s a good compromise between the two when it comes to its weight, being heavier and less prone to being bounced around than lightweight aluminum pieces but not as massive as wrought iron. Styles range from retro metal chairs to modern design in a wide range of colors.


Sturdy, durable and easy to care for. You’ll find pieces available in a wide range of styles.


Steel conducts heat and can become hot to touch. You may need cushions to offset this, or just for general comfort. You will need to apply a protective finish every year or two to galvanized steel furniture if it hasn’t been treated.

What To Look For

Tight construction and smooth joints. Non-stainless steel pieces should be powder-coated to prevent rust.


Clean with a mild soap and water, and rinse with water. Add a protective finish every year to steel to protect against rust.

Wrought Iron and Cast Iron

If you want furniture that can stand up to strong winds, then iron is the way to go. Both wrought iron and cast iron are remarkably solid and also add a sense of historic graciousness and beauty to your space.

Wrought iron, in particular, is known for its ornate, decorative designs. Wrought iron is best used where it can be sheltered from the elements, but you can find rustproof pieces or add a protective finish.


Solid construction and classic styling. Very long-lasting. Powder-coated pieces are rustproof, although you will need to touch up any scratches.


Heavy. Will need periodical rust prevention and possible touch-up paint to stave off rust. May need cushions for added comfort.

What To Look For

Choose welded pieces that are solid with smooth finishes. Powder-coated pieces with UV resistance provide the best durability. Test any springs or moving parts to be sure they function well. Check the weight to be sure you can move the pieces.


Wash with a mild soap and water, and rinse to clean. Let it dry thoroughly. You can also apply a wax finish to smooth surfaces and baby oil or mineral oil to other surfaces for added protection. Oil moving parts and springs once a year. Apply rust protection and any needed touch-up paint periodically. Bring inside or under shelter in winter.

Modern Man-Made Materials

Plastics, polyethylene, resin and fiberglass — whatever they’re made from, synthetic options have come into their own as outdoor furniture. They can hold up to almost any weather conditions, although strong winds may be a challenge for lightweight options.

Available colors are almost limitless. When it comes to looks, some choices are unabashedly synthetic; others mimic other materials almost exactly, from Adirondack chairs to futuristic lounges. Many are also made of recycled materials, making them eco-friendly. If you’re at the seaside, look for furniture made of HDPE (High Density Polyethylene).


Extremely low-cost options make it easy to “furnish” your patio or garden without spending much. Materials are extremely durable and style options seem endless. Synthetic replicas of natural materials may be almost indistinguishable from the real product and hold up better to wear and tear. High-end options may be individualized.


Plastic resin and PVC aren’t as long-lasting. The lower-end products can be flimsy and colors can fade.

What To Look For

Pieces that don’t wobble or look poorly made. Options with UV protection will last longer, as will higher-end furniture. Check fit to be sure they are comfortable.


Check with manufacturer’s directions, but you can wipe down most pieces with a mild soap and water, and rinse. Store to protect from harsh winter weather and to minimize fading.


Tips For Increasing Your Home's Value

These suggestions for decorating, remodeling and adding storage will help your home stand out in the market.

Unless you are designing your forever home, you are probably concerned with resale value when discussing renovations big or small. A home is often a person’s largest asset, so design upgrades are not only an aesthetic decision but a financial one as well. Here are some design tips that have been the most beneficial in helping houses stand out from the pack.

Make the Room Feel Bigger

Selecting and placing furniture that fits the scale of the room can go a long way in making the space feel larger than it actually is. While the actual square footage of a house will, of course, directly affect the price, perception is a powerful thing. If you can make a room feel more spacious, buyers will likely see more potential in the house.

Not Everything Has to Be New

Don’t be afraid to keep a home’s traditional elements. It’s impossible to please every potential buyer by selecting one particular style or trend; staying honest to the home’s roots can pay dividends.

Add Custom Closets

A large, functional walk-in closet will add value to any home. It’s a luxury that really excites potential buyers. Prices for installing a custom closet vary widely, but finding an affordable solution that still has a high-end look is not too difficult if you do your research.

The Kitchen Is King

If you’re going to spend money on your home, you’ll get no better bang for your buck than in the kitchen. Whether you’re an avid cook or more likely to order takeout on your way back from work, you use the kitchen for eating, drinking and storage. Even minor upgrades, such as updating light fixtures and hardware, will add value to your home.

Storage: The More The Better

There is no such thing as too much storage. It’s important to provide ample storage for multiple purposes. Under the stairs is an ideal area for pullout storage for tall items like ladders that won’t fit in standard-height closets.

A Fresh Coat of Paint Can Do Wonders

Painting is the most cost-effective way to freshen up a space. Freshly painted rooms feel updated, clean and crisp, without leaving a major dent in your wallet. When selecting paint colors, try to avoid anything too bold, as neutrals tend to be a safer choice in homes for sale.

Try to Be Energy-Efficient

Buying a home comes with many other costs beyond the sale price: closing costs, moving fees and energy bills are just a few examples. Try to offer potential buyers energy-efficient options. They can be as small as CFL or LED lightbulbs or as big as installing solar panels on your roof.

Bathroom Updates Provide a Big Return

Bathroom upgrades are second only to kitchen updates in providing a great return on investment. Since bathrooms are usually the smallest spaces in the home, a little bit can go a long way. Consider replacing outdated vanities, changing light fixtures and updating hardware.

Hire a Professional Organizer

It’s amazing what a little help can do. A professional organizer can help you create a clutter-free home. The money spent on hiring a pro for just one day will pay off when potential buyers see an organized home that feels larger and more manageable. Buying a house can be stressful, especially for first-time buyers. It might be subconscious, but a well-organized space may help to lessen that stress.

Add Curb Appeal

First impressions count. Keep the front yard tidy, water the plants and do the updates that need to be done. Peeling paint and cracked exterior walls do not make a good first impression. If you’re adding new plants, try to select ones that are low-maintenance.

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