Best Outdoor Projects: 5 Comparisons for Awesome Outdoor Living Spaces

deck design, deck material, outdoor projects

Whether you expect to sell your home this spring or just want to make your outdoor space more appealing, these comparisons can help you narrow down your options for popular home renovation outdoor projects. We’ll take factors like overall cost and potential return on investment (ROI) into account so you can decide which option is best for you.

Build a Patio or a Deck?

outdoor projects, patio vs. deck

Patios are paved spaces that create a more hospitable seating and lounging environment than bare ground, while decks are structures that, while they can be on ground level, provide an elevated perspective. When efficiency is your goal, patios are the better choice, but when you want to create something really spectacular in your backyard, a deck may be the better choice. This is especially true if your home is at elevation as you can get views and easier access to your outdoor space with a deck.

This efficiency breakdown is borne out in the cost breakdown for both renovation projects. If you want to build a patio or a deck, the patio is a much more affordable option, maxing out at about $4,000 on the high end. A high-end deck can cost $20,000 or more. In terms of return on investment, a patio actually does provide pretty decent returns of about 47.6%, which could make it a good last-minute project for homeowners who want to do some quick upgrades in preparation for a sale. When it comes to decks, it’s best to opt for wood rather than composite materials when you’re concerned with ROI.

Build an In-ground or Above-ground Pool?

outdoor projects, in-ground pool vs. above=ground pool

In-ground pools are permanent outdoor projects, and while they are typically associated with a more elegant look, some smart styling, including a raised deck around the pool’s perimeter, can make an above-ground pool look just as inviting, making this an impressive renovation to your backyard. When it comes to the cost difference of an in-ground vs above-ground pool, the difference in construction and permanence does make a big impact. With concrete sidewalks, safety fences and covers, the cost of an in-ground pool ends up being about $31,500 on average, while an above-ground pool with similar features will average just $8,300.

As far as a pool contributing to resale value is concerned, the climate and housing market where you live could be the biggest factors in determining whether you could recoup some of your cost. If your house is the only one on the block without a pool and you live in a very warm climate, it may well be worth it.

Fence Renovation: Install a Wood or Vinyl Fence?

outdoor projects, wood vs. vinyl fence

When it comes to fencing, vinyl is often the better choice because it doesn’t require nearly as much maintenance as wood and is a more durable material than wood overall. However, the initial budget could make the decision for you in the wood vs vinyl fencing debate, as wood is generally half as costly, with max prices for both averaging out around $10,000 and $20,000 on the high end for 209 yards, respectively.

Homebuyers’ budgets can also have an impact on which material is most likely to provide you an ROI. Vinyl fences tend to stay looking fresher and in better repair, and they’re also easy to fix when they become disconnected, which means you can quickly increase your curb appeal. However, if the list price of your home is low, it may not make sense to install an expensive fence.

Install Pavers or Concrete?

outdoor projects, concrete vs. pavers

When deciding between pavers or concrete, aesthetics may come into play. Brick-paved driveways and walkways are an elegant choice for exterior landscaping, but there’s a reason they aren’t more common: cost and upkeep. Concrete is not only less expensive but also more durable and easier to maintain. On the low end, you can spend $865 for concrete or $1,310 for pavers to cover 120 square feet. Though this is a project you could DIY in either case to save some money, it would take a whole lot of effort, especially if you’re paving over uneven terrain.

Like pools, the potential ROI for these outdoor projects could depend on your individual circumstances. A $5 million estate in a gated community would likely benefit from the addition of some elegant paver-lined paths rather than from plain concrete, while homebuyers looking for a bargain may not be willing to pony up enough to match your initial investment.

Lay Sod or Plant Seed?

outdoor projects, sod. vs. seed

Planting a lawn is one of the most popular outdoor projects, but is sod better than grass seed? It depends on what you need. Sown seeds take time to bear their fruit or, in the case of glass, their blades. Sod, on the other hand, is green and fresh from the moment you buy it. Since all the work of watering and waiting is already done with sod, it’s a lot more expensive at about $1.29 per square foot, while seed only costs about 24 cents per square foot.

The ROI difference between these two depends a bit on your timeline as the grass is a major factor in curb appeal. If you don’t plan to sell anytime soon, choosing a variety of grass seed that works well for your climate and light conditions is the better choice. However, if you plan to sell within the next month or two, sod is the better choice because a sod lawn quickly looks established and lush.


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