The Exterior

The Exterior

Chapter 10: The Exterior


In this final chapter, we’ll look at what you can do to liven up your exterior. We’ll start with landscaping both your front and backyard, which follow very similar rules to room design, including creating a focal point.



Of all the things you could do to bump up your resale value, looking after your landscaping is right up there at the top of the list. Doing simple things, like installing a winding stone walkway or a few flowering shrubs, can make all the difference. Additionally, infusing color and texture into the right places or building a deck or patio is the sort of investment that will net a healthy return for you. So, with that in mind, let’s see a few basic principles regarding landscaping.

The first thing you need to do is to study the climate in your locality. You should be aware of the average temperatures in any given season, the mean annual rainfall, the directions of the wind, and so many other meteorological factors. This will prove instrumental when you make important decisions later down the road. For example, if you’re wondering whether your new patio can fit on the east side of your house, it is worth knowing that that side might be getting bombarded with sunlight all through the morning, making an early morning breakfast there an unattractive prospect. The fact that a cold breeze of wind can easily put out your fire pit is another perfect case in point displaying how important it is to factor in your local weather.

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An important meteorological element you should pay extra attention to is rain fall. You see, it doesn’t only affect your plants, but it also can have a detrimental effect on the rest of the landscape. A simple way to see this is to observe that some solid surfaces shed water instead of absorbing it like a sponge. As a result, rain water ends up finding its way to the ground, carrying along with it toxic chemicals such as preservatives and metals. Once inside the soil, it isn’t long before they can contaminate the nearest body of water. Because of all this, numerous landscaping techniques have been devised to collect and filter rain water before allowing it to infiltrate our soil.

Just as you would in a room, you need to set a focal point, around which the rest of the elements in your landscape will revolve. The objective of a focal point in your garden is the same as it is in a room: to lure the eye and be the first thing people see. Also, like in a room, a focal point in your garden can be anything so long as it captures the eye. For example, you could use a unique plant, an odd bush, an ornament, an enormous boulder, or even a miniature tree. What matters here is that the focal point you settle on isn’t seasonal and won’t wither away come winter. It is worth pointing out that the focal point should mesh easily with the style of the garden, Zen or otherwise.

Another thing to look out for is that some features are so prominent that they force themselves on the viewer, regardless of whether you mean for this to happen or not. A large tree occupying the middle of your garden establishes itself as the focal point of the space. The best thing you can do is to accentuate the unique features of this de facto focal point through the use of bird houses or flowering vines for example.

When considering where to situate your focal point within your garden, you’re best bet is to do like the photographers do and follow the third to two-thirds rule. Simply put, avoid centering your focal point and have it placed in either the left or the right third of the space. A little tip to remember is that the nearer you are to the garden, the less prominent your focal point has to be.

Apart from picking a focal point, you also want to settle on the plants that will populate your garden. When it comes to the plants, choose them based on their suitability for your local climate and soil. Otherwise, you’ll have to contend with one of two options: you can either keep maintaining your plants and spending boat loads of money on them or leave them to wither and die, leaving an ugly sight in their place.

We mentioned above the importance of managing rain water in order to prevent toxic chemicals from seeping into the ground. However, that was only half a solution. The other half is to steer away from materials that need to be repainted or chemically treated periodically. You should stick to durable materials that do not rot naturally.

In the same vein of being environmentally conscious, you should maintain your landscape regularly as long as this maintenance is eco-friendly. If you’re wondering what that looks like, all you need is a broom and a brush and you can start dusting away.

Another important principle in landscape design is scale and pacing, and it might be the hardest one to master. It is responsible for making your garden appear cohesive without feeling drab. The trick is to use both repetition and variation simultaneously yet remain coherent.

One of the best ways to create boundaries in your landscape is through the use of retainers and rocks. This can help produce a clean, eloquent look, with well-defined path. You can also resort to evergreens such as boxwood shrubs in order to provide your garden with color regardless of the season.

Finally, should you decide to do this project on your own instead of hiring professional help, then be patient with yourself. This is a difficult project that is always dynamic and fighting against you, so to speak. After all, the soil beneath your feet is always moving, and the plants are growing at different rates. The best advice is to start small with a tiny patch of garden and go from there.



Your outdoor patio is considered by some to be a continuation of the living space inside your home. This view is further supported by the fact that patios are most often social hubs, bringing families and friends together.

The first thing to figure out is where you’d like to have this patio placed. You have countless options: trees could provide shelter for your patio, and housing a patio near a boulder could look great if done correctly. Deciding where to put your patio will be influenced to a great degree by your purpose for it. For instance, if you want to use the patio to host large parties, you need to find the requisite space for it. Conversely, building a patio just for you and the family means that a small intimate setting should be more than enough.

Once you’ve made up your mind about the location, you should begin to decide on the materials you want used. A patio close to the ground can benefit from recycled masonry, broken concrete, or pavers, depending on what you choose. You might also want to consider wood and recycled plastic and composite lumber. Here are a few important facts you should know about both wood and recycled plastic and composite lumber.

  • Wood - Wood used in landscaping applications is naturally rot-resistant, or it requires treatment from preservatives to prolong its life. Naturally, treated wood tends to pose an ecological threat to its surroundings, which is why you should seek naturally rot-resistant wood. Furthermore, untreated wood is recyclable and compostable. It is preferable to use wood in well lighted areas so as to dodge the problems posed by moss growth.
  • Recycled plastic and composite lumber - Recycled plastic is turned into decking, railings, and other elements. All the elements are produced in standard dimension. As for composite recycled products, they combine recycled plastic with sawdust and other products made from wood. Also, you can have pigments added to create colors in the material, hence cancelling any need for paint. Unfortunately, the plastic is weaker than wood, so you need to pay attention to the structural integrity of your patio when building and use more members.

The next thing to think about is the material you want to use for patio flooring. You have several options here but the most important thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need a material that is durable and weather resistant. Here are some of the options you can consider:

  • Natural stone - Stone is a great choice for patio flooring because it is hard wearing and resists the elements very well. It is available in many different varieties and doesn’t need special treatment once installed.
  • Wooden decking - When it comes to wooden decking, you have two options: composite and traditional. While real wood is to install, looks attractive and fits easily into the rest of your design, it can be quite expensive and requires regular maintenance. Composite wooden decking, on the other hand, doesn’t require as much maintenance and is cheaper in the long run.
  • Brick - Durable and easy to maintain, brick flooring is ideal for smaller patios as they are time consuming to lay because of their small size. They come in different colors and you can use them to create interesting patterns.

A critical element in any patio is its shading, which is largely contingent on the weather. The three main options you have to choose from are umbrellas, canopies, and gazebos.

  • Umbrellas - Available, yet variable in price, umbrellas can protect you from the blistering sun and the pouring rains, making your patio accessible to you all year-round. With umbrellas, what you pay for is what you get, so don’t be afraid to spend a little money to buy a durable umbrella. It will last you a lifetime if you look after it.
  • Canopies - Unfortunately, they are more suited for the summer than they are for the winter, which means that you’ll have to wrap them up come fall. The way it works is by being tied to the house or nearby trees and providing shade to the patio underneath it.
  • Gazebos - They are reminiscent of an umbrella but with a more fixed structure. You can build one yourself. All you need is four posts, a frame, and fabric that holds on to that frame. The beauty of gazebos lies in their ability to create an intimate setting, bordering on romantic. It’s a perfect option for families.

Another element you want to look into is your fireplace. Apart from where you’ll situate it, you want to figure out which materials you’ll use as well as what the final look will be. For example, you could have a fire pit that burns wood instead of a fire pit that’s gas powered.


Walkways and Paths

Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

If you put in the time and effort needed to design a walkway, you can produce a route that is both attractive and safe. Therefore, let’s see what you need to create this path.
Regarding materials, salvaged ones are usually the best option for patios as well as walkways. Here are a few materials you can look into.

  • Natural stone. Stone is one of the most popular materials used for walkways and fits perfectly into any type of landscape. Stone pavers come in different shapes, sizes, colors and finishes. They look very attractive when used for walkways and require very little maintenance. You can choose from different types of stone such as granite, slate, brownstone, limestone etc.
  • Poured concrete. It requires a lot of energy to produce, which generates plenty of carbon dioxide and other toxic gases into the atmosphere. Fortunately, the use of fly ash can mitigate against the negative effects of concrete, cement in particular. As for the finished product, it is very durable, and its surface is even, making it wheelchair accessible. Another drawback is that its impervious surface may allow rainwater to seep into the soil, and once the concrete sets, you can never alter its shape.
  • Broken concrete. Taken from demolition projects, it is available all through the year, and it is free. You can treat it the same way you’d treat stone or any other paver. Although it remains durable, the end product loses its even surface so coveted by wheelchair users. Fortunately, it is reusable and can absorb rain water.
  • Salvaged concrete. Similar to poured concrete, the impervious surface can lead to plenty of runoff water. The best way to remedy that is to look for concrete paving that interlocks while leaving enough space between the paves for water absorption. Its benefits are pretty much the same as those of broken concrete. The difference is that instead of producing an even surface, concrete paving is difficult to install on your own.
  • Recycled glass. They require much less energy than concrete, almost half. Over and above, they are very durable and made from nothing but recycled matter. They are also reusable and available. Unfortunately, they tend to produce an uneven surface.
  • Tumbled recycled glass. Taking recycled glass bottles, breaking them, and tumbling them creates beach style glass. They last till judgment day and are totally reusable. However, they do lose their aesthetic with time.
  • Salvaged clay. It can cause plenty of pollution during the manufacturing process, and removing the mortar off of the salvaged bricks can take up a lot of time. They are reusable though.
  • Wood chips. Making use of an urban waste source, you can have wood chips that are chipped on site. They are made from recycled content. Additionally, they can aid in weed control, plus they compost in the end. The fact that wood chips compost should indicate that they degrade over time.
  • Nutshells - Despite being used for fuel, they can be used for your pathway. The problems that arise here can be traced back to the availability of nuts and nut season.

Having wrapped up the materials used for your pathway, let’s see the types of pathways available.

  • Flagstone walkway - Flagstones add a sense of natural beauty to the walkway they are used on.
  • Gravel walkway - It is cheap and casual. Moreover, it gives you the versatility to make any path your heart can desire.
  • Paver walkway - As opposed to the gravel walkway, the paver walkway results in clean, handsome route.

Finally, whatever you do, be sure to light the pathway. The light will add a romantic feel to it as well as keep everyone safe at night.


By finishing this chapter, you have finished the guide too. We hope that you managed to benefit from its pages and found what you are looking for. The next part is the conclusion, which will briefly summarize all the main points of the guide along with leaving you with parting tips.



Throughout this guide we have seen how you can prepare for your home renovation, after which we considered the different rooms and saw what you can do in each one. For the sake of thoroughness, we discussed every room imaginable: the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room, the dining room, the bedroom, and any spare rooms as well.

Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Nevertheless, some advice stood out above others, and it is our job to reiterate some of the more important ones.

  • Always keep in mind the reasons you’re doing your renovations. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s easy for you to lose sight of why you started in the first place and get lost in the details. The bottom line is that you should always stay focused on the bigger picture.
  • Another issue that plenty of homeowners fall prey to is the matter of scope. They listen to whoever tells them those four fatal words: “while you’re at it…,” and pretty soon a project that should have involved only the kitchen has morphed and transformed into a behemoth engulfing your entire house.
  • The importance of planning ahead cannot be overstated. Not only does it help you reduce costs, but it also helps you anticipate how these renovations will affect you and your family. Additionally, a good plan is one that gets your entire family involved from the very beginning by making sure that your renovations take their wishes and needs into consideration.
  • A big part of renovating a house is giving it a certain style, dramatic flair if you choose. Therefore, you should make sure that this style is reflective of your personality and speaks of your character. Otherwise, your home might feel a bit alien to you.
  • It is worth remembering that you don’t have to remodel your house all at once. Instead, you can take it piece by piece and remodel different parts at different times. This can ease the strain caused by the renovation on your cash flow and lessen the disruption caused by tearing down walls.
  • Choosing a contractor is a critical activity that you don’t want to get wrong. After all, this is going to be an individual who will share your living space for the foreseeable future. Also, there has to be complete trust between the both of you for the sake of the job.
  • Speaking of professionals, don’t be afraid to hire them. You might think that by doing a job yourself you’ll save yourself some money, but some jobs will prove too difficult for you, meaning that the amount of time you waste trying to learn a new skill is time better spent doing something else. Moreover, you may do more harm than good, which will inevitably result in you paying more than if you had just hired the professional in the first place.

This guide is filled with many more pieces of practical advice that can save you a bundle when the time comes for you to renovate your place. Given that remodeling your house is an enormous investment, you want two main things: to lower the cost as much as possible and to increase your return on investment as much as possible. In this case, your return on investment will come in the form of enjoyment of the renovations plus the increase in your house’s resale value. The entire objective of this guide has been to help you achieve both these aims.

You now have a clearer idea of what to do and where to start. Everything should be downhill from there, and once you start your renovations, you’ll be done with it before you know it. So, roll up your sleeves and get to work because your dream home is well within your reach.

For a full list of chapters, click here.


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