5 Over-the-Top Outdoor Improvements for DIYers

outdoor2(BPT) – A beautiful backyard has become a suburban status symbol much like a brand-new car in the driveway. Upgrading your outdoor space is not only uplifting, it’s practical, too. A great backyard expands your living space, enhances your enjoyment of your home and can boost resale value.

Anyone can plant some flowers or put in a patio. To truly take your outdoor spaces to the next level, though, look to projects that offer a big “wow factor.” Many are well within the capabilities of most do-it-yourselfers. You can find detailed instructions online, and all the tools you’ll need are at your local American Rental Association member rental store. Here are five warm-weather projects to turn your backyard into an enticing oasis this spring and summer:

1. Create a fire pit area

Metal fire pits and chimineas are available in home improvement stores, but to create a truly memorable outdoor experience, consider building your own fire pit. Rather than simply being another portable accessory cluttering up your outdoor space, a built-in fire pit becomes an ambience-boosting design element in your yard. To create a fire pit, you’ll need a good-sized circle of level ground in your yard, tools for digging, stones or bricks for construction, and implements for hauling sand, stone and bricks.

2. Plant a vertical garden

Gardening is a popular summer pastime, one that can fill your yard and home with beautiful blooms, lush greenery and nutritious, low-cost produce. If you don’t have a great deal of room for a spacious garden plot, or if you want a garden that’s more visually striking than raised beds or containers, consider a vertical garden. Virtually any unadorned outdoor wall can accommodate a vertical garden. Depending on how you choose to affix plants and containers to the wall, you may need to rent nail guns or construction-grade staple guns.

outdoor3. Add an outdoor kitchen

Cooking and eating outside are among the great joys of warm weather, and outdoor kitchens are a popular improvement to outdoor living areas. You have many options for creating an outdoor kitchen, from building a simple frame and sliding a standard gas grill into it, to a more elaborate stone installation complete with an oven and multiple burners. You can save money by using online guides and renting tools to build your own backyard kitchen.

4. Build a dedicated space for napping

What’s more relaxing than napping in the shade with a soft breeze as your blanket? Constructing a wooden swing, suspended bed swing or a wooden hammock can be an easy weekend project that requires the rental of only a few simple tools. When you’re done, you’ll enjoy testing the fruits of your labor with an afternoon nap.

5. Set up superior seating

Anyone can buy some patio furniture and put it on the deck, but built-in seating takes outdoor relaxation to the next level. Adding built-in seating can be as simple as building a wooden frame along a deck railing and adding plush cushions, or as elaborate as creating a sunken pit from field stone and patio pavers. Look online for inspiration and ideas that will fit with your space and design tastes.

Whatever project you decide to tackle, renting the tools you’ll need is a cost-effective way to get the job done without overspending. Plus, when you’re done with the tools you won’t have to worry about finding somewhere to store them. To find a local rental store, visit www.rentalhq.com.

Dress Up Your Floors With Top Tile Trends

tile 1(BPT) – If you are renovating any area of your home, it may be time to try something new-such as bringing tile into main living areas in addition to your bathrooms and kitchen. New designs, styles and technologies are making tile the most versatile and accessible flooring material.

“Tile has always been durable and easy to maintain,” says Kevin McDaniel, director of product development and design services for The Tile Shop, which sells tile and natural stone at more than 100 retail showrooms across the country, from Arizona to New York. “Tile has a long life span and classic good looks, making it a favorite flooring of choice wherever homeowners need a floor material that’s both practical and beautiful. Even more design options are available now, making tile a smart floor surface in virtually any room of the home.”

Homeowners, builders, designers and product developers are thinking outside the box when incorporating tile into renovations and new builds. From bringing tile flooring up the wall, to using the same tile flooring across multiple rooms, to using water jet technology, they’re working with tile in non-traditional ways. Here are some top tile trends to consider for your interior design project:

1. The look of real wood with a rustic finish. Many of the larger-format faux wood tiles mimic the look of real hardwood floors. Less expensive and more durable than real wood, these tile floors are practical yet beautiful choices for active households with children and pets. Details evoke the character of real wood, right down to the nails. “Rustic faux wood is making a huge splash because of its warm, earthy coloring and unusual time-worn finishes such as aged paint, a finish hard to achieve with real wood. I foresee it continuing to be a very popular design trend,” McDaniel says.

2. Those longer tile planks. While standard square tile sizes will always have their place in home d├ęcor, rectangular tiles – otherwise known as planks –tile 2 are gaining popularity. New 12-by-24-inch tiles are a hot choice in bathrooms and 6-by-36-inch tiles or 8-inch by 8-feet planks (often in wood-grained looks) are a favorite for living areas.

“Using longer planks can help smaller spaces look larger, and create an appealing consistency across multiple rooms,” says McDaniel. “While consumers may be familiar with traditional tile shapes such as square or hexagon, these longer tiles offer exciting new design flexibility.”

3. That poured concrete look. While concrete is a trendy design material right now, it’s not practical for every household or application. New tile styles create the look of poured or stained concrete at a fraction of the cost, and with all the durability, versatility and ease associated with tile. Tile options range from long rectangular 8-by-18-inch or 12-by-24-inch planks to 18-by-18-inch squares. Tiles are rectified-the edge is cut completely straight-and grout joints are very narrow to further create the look of seamless concrete.

4. The warmth of heated floors. While heated floors were once a luxury option for homeowners, they’re becoming increasingly mainstream. Tile lends itself to radiant heat beneath the floor. The Tile Shop carries a full line of accessories, including thermostats, which can control the heat in any floor in your home. This includes both the shower floor and shower benches.

5. Unconventional grout and tile design ideas. Using a high-contrast grout color can make the floor pop, and it’s a tactic that works well with mosaic designs. Choosing the right grout color is just as important as the tile you select. Also popular is the concept of mosaic designs that mimic an area rug within a larger section of tile flooring and create the look of custom art within the floor.

Shopping for tile designs and inspiration is easy when you visit one of The Tile Shop’s local showrooms or visit www.tileshop.com.