Amazing DIY Backyard Transformation on a Tiny Budget

4 Materials
3 Months

When I bought my house, it was every inch a fixer-upper. It had lived a maintenance free life for the past 20 years. One of the many big projects to tackle to turn this house into a home was the backyard.

This is the story of turning a rotted wood deck and overgrown backyard into a beautiful outdoor living space. All DIY, and done on a tiny budget, you can see more photos and
BEFORE: The original cedar deck was rotting and slippery. Overgrown shrubs took over most of the usable backyard space.
The side yard was choked with weeds.
DURING: To start this makeover project, the old deck had to be removed. It was ripped up by hand, displaying just how rotted the underlying structure had become. Debris was taken away by a junk removal company.
With the old deck gone, the space was smoothed with just a rake and a shovel. Instead of replacing the deck, pavers were used to edge out the perimeter of a new gravel patio.
The patio area was filled in with pea gravel, moved from the front yard to the back with a wheelbarrow (and help from the dogs).
Pergolas were built at both ends of the new patio space, to create a little shade and more privacy.

(You can see more DIY tips about how these were built on the Single Girl's DIY website: Beautiful and Affordable DIY Backyard Makeover.)
Tiered steps were built from the sliding glass door to the new patio area, using engineered decking material on a wood frame.
AFTER: A binding material was applied to the gravel to make a solid, yet water permeable surface. The overgrown shrubs were cut back or removed, opening up a beautiful outdoor living space.
Extra touches such as a bistro set and swing were added to maximize use of the space.
The side yard that was once choked with weeds was turned into a nook perfect for roasting marshmallows on a summer evening.
This backyard was completely transformed, on a tiny budget.

I hope you feel inspired to tackle your own big project. It makes such a difference in turning a house into a home.

Suggested materials:

  • Pavers
  • Pea Gravel
  • Gravel Binding Product  (
See all materials

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Single Girl's DIY

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 10 questions
  • Patti Smith
    on Aug 6, 2017

    What "material" were you referring to for "A binding material was applied to the gravel to make a solid, yet water permeable surface."?
  • Kori Miller
    on Aug 6, 2018

    Looks great! What were your final costs? I'm specifically interested in the pergola with the swing. Thanks!

    • Single Girl's DIY
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Hi Kori. I was lucky to find the swing in the clearance section of my local Lowes. It was just $10. You could probably expect to pay $75 - $100 for the pergola materials, with the lumber, concrete, and fasteners.

  • Cindy Rubin
    on Apr 6, 2020

    Can you tell me where you got the plans or how you figured out how to make the stairs? The 'building' company we used said they could do it, but it's not as good as yours looks. They don't have the angles meeting cleanly and there are some gaps etc.

    • Single Girl's DIY
      on Apr 6, 2020

      Hello, Cindy. Sorry your builders had a hard time with the stairs. That's so frustrating. I created the design myself. Starting with a rectangle, I angled the front corners 45-degrees. This means the decking boards should be cut at 22.5-degrees on a miter saw. The frame has to be squared up well as you build, or the angled joints don't fit together well as you put the decking on. I just pulled out my old plans to see if they might be detailed enough to share and be useful, but I'm afraid they're mostly just my scribbling. I hope your builders are able to fix their work, and create something you're happy with!

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