Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

How to Improve Outdoor Living in Your Yard

By: Danny Lipford

Watch this video to find out how to enhance outdoor living by getting the most out of your yard, including:

  • Outdoor Kitchen: How to set up an outdoor kitchen on your porch, deck, or patio.
  • Grills: What to look for in a gas or wood grill, and how to maintain and clean it.
  • Shade: How to bring shade to your yard by installing a shade arbor, extended roof, retractable awning, or water misting system.
  • Water Features: Options available for water features and fountains to enhance your backyard experience with the soothing sound of falling water.
  • Sound Systems: Weatherproof outdoor sound systems for your yard that mimic the look of rocks or other natural features.
  • Insects: Using area repellents to keep mosquitoes and other insect pests from bothering you in your yard.
  • Lawn Care: Electric robotic lawn mowers and propane powered string trimmers to make your yard care more eco-friendly.

Read episode article to find out more.

Print   Video Transcript

Danny Lipford: This week we are digging into all the stuff that makes the great outdoors great. So don’t go anywhere if you’re looking for ways to get more fun from the time you spend outside those four walls.

This week we’re looking at a few things that you can do outside of your home to really enjoy the great outdoors. Now for most people, the centerpiece of their backyard is their grill.

Now, it can be as simple as a gas grill, like I have here. But I tell you this activity is so popular, that people are dedicating part of their patios or decks and spending a fair amount of money to create fairly elaborate outdoor kitchens.

The first issue to consider with an outdoor kitchen is where it will be located and the key factor in this decision is whether or not it will be under cover. Most folks opt for a roof whether they add one or plan the space under an existing one.

But if you’re under a roof you should really consider the smoke that invariably comes with cooking over a fire. A vent hood may be a good idea for both comfort and safety reasons.

Even undercover the components have to resist the weather. And the cabinetry is a real dilemma here. You can build custom cabinets out of treated plywood and coat them with paint but they do require some upkeep.

For low maintenance and a really clean look, check out this stuff. It’s called Perma-Panel and it’s a polymer-based material that’s molded with the color through and through so that it can be fabricated into cabinetry and doors of any style.

Of course most of the appliances and fixtures are stainless steel so they can take the elements. And that usually includes the grills, which are most often gas models. But that’s not the fuel of choice for the hard-core barbeque lovers like my friend Neil Price.

Neil Price: When you have a gas you don’t get the advantage of the flavors that you get out of several types of hardwoods—hickory, oak, pecan—depending on what type of flavor you’re trying to get in your meat.

This is a much larger grill that we use in competition cooking. But you can get the same effect of that at home on a much smaller grill, through the use of various hardwood charcoals.

The hardwood charcoal is real hardwood that has been charred; it will get hotter quicker and retain its heat longer. But the flavor of the food with charcoal is going to be affected by the type of wood that you’re using. That’s something else you miss with gas.

Danny Lipford: Neil also recommends using starter sticks to light the lump charcoal, instead of lighter fluid, which can leave food smelling and tasting like petroleum byproducts.

To get the most out of cooking with charcoal, a ceramic cooker, like the one popularized by the Big Green Egg, is the way to go. Because these appliances use charcoal and a grate they can be used as an ordinary grill, but the insulating properties of ceramic and its ability to maintain a constant temperature, make them much more versatile. It’s kind of like having an extra oven on the patio.

No matter what type of grill you have, it’s a good idea to keep it fairly clean. Now some of the hardcore guys, like Neil, will tell you that they don’t want to clean it at all because that adds a little bit of seasoning to what ever they cook.

But for me I really like to keep the grates nice and clean. Now, the best way to do that is while it’s still warm, use your wire brush to knock off just as much as you can. But on a gas grill like this one it’s a good idea, once a year, to really get in there and thoroughly clean it, and that requires a little disassembling.

Before you start you may want to cover up a bit: yourself and the surroundings. The components like these cooking grates can get pretty messy, and it just gets worse when you let them soak in a little liquid grill cleaner. My grill uses ceramic plates to shield the burners from drips. And these have obviously done that job well. A wire brush works real well to break that stuff loose and clear the ceramic.

Finally, I can remove the burners themselves, which have less grease on them but plenty of corrosion from the combination of heat and moisture in the grill. Besides brushing and scraping off the rust, it’s a good idea to make sure that all of the tiny burner holes are nice and clear. A toothpick is the perfect tool for this.

The remaining crud in the grill box has to come out as well, and a wet dry vac is the ticket to do it fast. After scrubbing and rinsing the grates, I’m ready to start putting the pieces back together again. After cleaning, it’s a good idea to light all the burners and let the grill cook for a few minutes to burn off any residue that might be left behind on the grates.

Now, we have told you how you can feed your troops, now we’ll show you how you can keep them nice and comfortable in the great outdoors. First, let’s check in with Joe with this week’s Simple Solution.

Joe Truini: Painting doors is always much easier to do with the doors off the hinges. What I like to do is set the door horizontally on a couple of sawhorses. That allows you to apply the paint and the paint won’t run and drip off the surface. But once you get one side painted what do you do, you can’t just flip it over and rest it on the sawhorses.

So here’s the trick, take two three-inch drywall screws and drive them through the end of the door leaving about an inch, inch and a half of screw sticking out.

Then, come down on the other end of the door, and just drive in one screw right in the center. And again leave about half of it sticking out, this is the pivot screw. Now, I’ll show you why they call it the pivot screw.

Pull the sawhorse out, and rest the screw head right on the top of the sawhorse. And then you come down here and use these two screws as handles. Pull out the sawhorse a little bit, and just rotate the door. See that, how easy that is. And you just set it again, the screws, right on top of the sawhorse. Now you have the freshly painted surface underneath and this clean service ready to paint right now.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at different ways to make the time that you spend outside a little more enjoyable. Now we’ve already looked at the most important thing—keeping everybody fed. Now it’s time to look at how to keep everybody nice and comfortable.

Providing shade is a great way of doing that, especially during the summer months. And this is a great way to create shade. It’s a simple shade arbor and it’s particularly nice when you have mature vines like this that completely surround the area, providing you all types of nice flowers and a nice comfortable environment. Now, there’s a lot of other ways that you can create shade just like this.

Extending the roof line of a house works well to create needed shade outdoors, but this is a large expensive undertaking that requires serious planning and design skills to tie into an existing structure.

Another option that requires less of an investment is an awning, because it attaches directly to the house without any major alterations. The retractable versions offer a little more coverage and some have motorized mechanisms to extend and retract the awning.

Still the arbor is the most flexible and do-it-yourself friendly shade option, because it only needs to support itself and the greenery that covers it. The design should give the plant something to climb on in summer but also look good if they die back each winter.

A misting system will offer cooling almost immediately. These things work on the simple principle of evaporative cooling when water evaporates from liquid to gas it uses up energy or heat, which leaves the area around it a little cooler.

You often see these in commercial applications like restaurants, which have outdoor seating areas. But the most simple of the do-it-yourself systems work on ordinary household water pressure, costs less than 100 bucks, and can be installed in less than an hour.

Some kits, like this umbrella, come ready made with misting nozzles so that all you have to do is connect them to a water hose and turn them on. The only cool a small area and they tend to be more effective when the humidity is low. But even when the humidity is as high as 80% they do offer some relief from the heat of summer.

Using water in a misting system is a great way to keep things a little cooler in your backyard, but you can also use water to create a very soothing environment. We are at a place called Garden Creations and with me is Kim Hatchett who helps a lot of homeowners pick out the right water feature. What are some of the things that homeowners need to consider?

Kim Hatchett: They need to consider the style of home that they have, so that the fountain will coincide with that décor. They also need to consider the area, the size of the area.

Danny Lipford: Okay, I guess you don’t want one that’s too large for the backyard, huh?

Kim Hatchett: Right. And you don’t want one that’s too small in a large backyard.

Danny Lipford: It might seem a little dinky in the backyard.

Kim Hatchett: Right.

Danny Lipford: Now, as far as what you have to have to have a water feature, I guess really you have to have a water supply from the stand point of filling up the basin once it’s installed. But you really don’t have to have steady water flow do you?

Kim Hatchett: The pumps are all recirculating, so once you fill the fountain or basin with water, you are good to go.

Danny Lipford: Ok. But thinking of installation, this thing looks like it would weigh a couple tons.

Kim Hatchett: About 5000 pounds.

Danny Lipford: Oh, boy, now are all of them that heavy?

Kim Hatchett: No, they’re not– this is cast stone. The majority of them are cast stone, which is traditional, but we also carry cast aluminum and fiber stone as well.

Danny Lipford: Oh, a lot lighter then.

Kim Hatchett: A lot lighter.

Danny Lipford: Now, one of the things you will have to have—electricity. Water and electricity, they don’t mix, so make sure that you follow your instructions when you’re doing your wiring. If you’re not comfortable, then get a master electrician to take care of that part of your water feature.

Now, everybody is going to ask about maintenance. Now, just how maintenance intensive is a water feature?

Kim Hatchett: They’re pretty maintenance free, as long as you keep the debris out of the water and keep the water level high.

Danny Lipford: Okay, but if you have fish in there. I guess that’s a little bit of a different story.

Kim Hatchett: It is. It is going to require some different equipment.

Danny Lipford: Who needs fish? All you need is this nice soothing sound. This is something you can have in your backyard that can really create a very soothing environment. Another way to get that soothing environment is with music. Home entertainment expert Brad Sunberg has installed more than a few professional sound systems for outdoor spaces. So, he has a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Brad Sunberg: The first mistake a lot of people make is they’ll take two speakers, put them on either side of the porch and have that shoot out to the yard and hope that’s going to do it. But even us standing here talking, you can hear there’s traffic, there’s just more noise in an outdoor environment than there is in your family room. So my approach is always to do a perimeter around the whole yard.

If the client can afford four speakers or six speakers, even eight speakers. The more speakers I can get out there, the more I can disperse that sound and get away from loud audio screaming on the porch and you can’t hear it out on the other side of the yard.

One of the things that I like to do is give a sense of stereo wherever you are in the yard. I’m going to go left right left right left right all the way around the yard. It’s a simple little trick that we do, but if you do it right it’s pretty incredible how the sound just works wherever you happen to be.

Danny Lipford: Boy, a place like this certainly can give you a lot of ideas to use around your home. Now so far we’ve looked at ways to keep your family from getting hungry, ways to keep them nice and comfortable and other ways to create a nice soothing environment.

But, boy, all of it requires a fair amount of work. Coming up we have a few gadgets that will make even that a little more comfortable. But first, our Best New Product of the week.

Jodi Marks: There are dozens of paint choices out there, but this Freshaire Choice paint is not your typical run-of-the-mill paint, because it’s completely free of volatile organic compounds or VOCs.

A lot of paints claim to have no VOCs, but what they don’t tell you is that some are added back in once the color is mixed. But check this out; this is what makes Freshaire so unique.

This packet of tint dissolves right into the paint, without releasing any VOCs. And what you end up with is a rich, no-VOC paint that goes on smoothly and covers flawlessly and dries in minutes. Even the label is made from 75% recycled content and printed with soy ink. The can itself, you guessed it, is made from recycled materials.

It’s been tested by the Green Guard Environmental Institute, comes in 66 different colors, has a lifetime warranty, and is just as dependable as any other paint. You can actually smell the difference.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at different ways to really enjoy the great outdoors. And, we’ve looked at a lot of ways to keep everybody comfortable around your yard, like misting systems to keep them cool, and also creating these very soothing environments in your backyard with water features and music. And of course you have to eat, so we looked the grills and several different outdoor kitchens.

But, no matter what you’re serving, your guests are not going to be happy if they’re getting bitten by mosquitoes. There’s a lot of different ways you can repel those mosquitoes. Of course there’s always been the sprays, but let’s face it, it’s not very nice to have all that spray all over you, and it does kind of smell a little bit.

Well, a lot of people are finding out about this type of gadget. It’s an area mosquito repellent. And basically, this one is powered by a small butane cartridge and it uses a little repellent pad or mat right on top. The mat will last about four hours and the butane cartridge around 12.

It’s perfect for a 15 by 15 area like this. It will repel up to 98% of the mosquitoes. This one even has a little lamp that you’re able to turn on that is powered by a couple of little batteries there. So, this is a very attractive, it’s not like some big thing sitting in the corner of your yard that’s not very attractive. This one works and looks very nice.

Now this is a great gadget for getting rid of mosquitoes. But let’s face it, if you want have a nice looking backyard, it will take a fair amount of work. Well, Allen has a couple gadgets that will make that a little easier.

Allen Lyle: The best gadgets are the ones that do all the work for you. And of course when it comes to a nice manicured lawn, beautiful cut grass like this. You’ve got to admit this, nothing is cooler than your own robot.

This is a LawnBott, and of course, they’ve been around for a little while that this is the next generation, it’s the evolution. Underneath this puppy you can see it’s got a very sharp blade here. Starting it up is as simple as the control panel back here.

Here’s how it works. You have got this perimeter wire that you’re going to lay down. Put down with some stakes, and you’re going to put that around the perimeter of your yard. That’s all you need to do, that’s the most work you are going to do with the LawnBott.

Once it goes through it’s set up, you’ll hear the blade come on and it is very quiet because it is battery powered. You can hear it, it just started up. Here’s what’s new about it—lithium-ion batteries. That means it is going to last a little bit longer. You can get an option of actually upgrading to four batteries in there. There’s two to start with.

It has its own programming. It learns, if you listen to it as it goes over some of the grass, the motor goes down conserving some energy. Higher grass, it comes back up. Watch this, it’s smart enough to know what it bumps into and turns around, so the blade is not going to cut you. Really cool.

Here’s what’s really nice about this. It’s going to last for about 3000 plus square feet on one charge before it remembers that it needs to charge itself, and it will go back. You don’t even have to recharge it, how cool is that? Just sit back and watch it work. The one thing I did not tell you about the LawnBott is that it’s very green. There is no gasoline, it will only cost you 10 bucks a year to operate.

But just because you have a LawnBott, that doesn’t get you off the hook for yard work. You’ve still got to do all of the trimming and the edging. So, here’s our next gadget. It may look like just a regular string trimmer, but it’s not.

First of all, it’s a four-stroke motor, we’ve told you that those are pretty good for the environment. But, instead of burning gasoline and oil mix, this one runs on propane. That’s right just one little bottle of propane you can pick up pretty much at any hardware store. And because propane burns completely, burns more efficiently, there are zero emissions from this unit.

Now, think about this, and this may be hard to take, but believe it or not there are over 100,000 gallons of gasoline spilled each year just when people are trying to do their yard work.

So think of all the gasoline that can be saved with one of these. Here’s something else about this. Ready for this? Listen. That’s it. It’s running right now. Can you believe that, how quiet it is? And it does have the thicker string at the end, so it’s very, very well made. It’s also exclusive to Lehr, because they do have a patent on this technology. And if you think this is green, well you should check out what Danny’s got.

Danny Lipford: The simple way to think Green is to make it easy, which will encourage you to do your part. Recycling newspapers is a great place to start, and it’s probably the most common paper product in your home that can be recycled.

But it’s not necessarily that easy to keep the papers from becoming a big mess. Stacking the papers isn’t that tough, but bundling them and getting them to the curb for pickup can be a bit of a chore.

An easy solution is to take two pieces of string or twine, about four feet long, and place them in an “X” pattern on the bottom of a little red wagon, with the crosshairs in the center of each stack.

When you have a tall enough stack, bring up the loose ends and tie up the bundle. When you have two bundles, you already have them tied and in the wagon for easy transport to the curb.

Allen, it never ceases to amaze me what you’ll do to get out of a little bit of work.

Allen Lyle: I’ve got a robot cutting my grass, I’ve got the eco-trimmer making that easier. All I need is a hammock and some iced tea.

Danny Lipford: Hey, that’s a pretty good thing for a day like today. What about some of the other things we looked at. What did you think?

Allen Lyle: The misting system, I loved it. Especially for this time of year, using that 15 to 20-degree difference, man that will be great.

Danny Lipford: What about a water feature? We looked at all those different water features. Did you get inspired a little bit to maybe position one here in your backyard?

Allen Lyle: You want me to get a water feature? I think I’ve got that handled here.

Danny Lipford: Okay, grilling. You’ve got to have a grill. And I know we looked at some outdoor kitchens, we looked at several different grills. What’d you think about that?

Allen Lyle: I don’t really have room for the kitchen out here. But the ceramic cooker, my neighbors got one, he just left. Give me a hand, will you?

Danny Lipford: Oh, boy. Well, thanks for being with us on Today’s Homeowner. We’ll see you next week. You crook, you.

Next week we begin a two-part project to create a great new room with a view.

If you would like to purchase a DVD copy of this week’s show visit our website at dannylipford.com, or call us at 1-800-946-4420.



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