Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

How to Make Your Backyard Family Friendly

By: Danny Lipford

Watch this video for some tips on how to turn your backyard into a kid’s paradise and make it more enjoyable for the whole family by adding:

  • Privacy fence
  • Play set
  • Hot tub
  • Pool
  • Vegetable garden
  • Storage shed

Read episode article to find out more.

Print   Video Transcript

Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re renovating the outdoor family room, the backyard. You know, the place where we work and play together, and since everyone uses it, we’re going to make it a family friendly backyard.

People are always talking about the joys and trials of home ownership and one of my favorite parts of owning a home is not the home itself, but the property around it. Whether you have that small lawn with the cute little picket fence or you have several wooded acres, there’s just something neat about taking care of that property and adapting it to your family’s lifestyle.

Now, the front yard of most homes is kind of that formal offering to the world but the backyard is where you can really get comfortable. So, this week we’ll look at what’s involved in developing the family friendly backyard.

Now, one thing you might want to consider is to fence in your backyard, that way you have a little more privacy and you can keep the kids from getting out on the street, but one thing you need to pay particular attention to is your gates.

If you have a gate, traditionally, your latch will be right about waist level and that’s a perfect height for those kids to come up and unlatch the gate and make a run for it. A real easy way of solving that problem is to buy another gate latch and position it very high to where the kids can’t quite get their hands on it, and get out. It’ll keep the kids nice and safe and in the backyard.

But when they’re in the backyard, hey kids will get bored pretty quick so they need something to occupy their time and a little sandbox is pretty good for small kids, but they’ll get bored with that pretty quick and they may ask for a play set. I guarantee you they will sooner or later.

And when I was a kid I remember the old swing sets, they were metal, they had those metal posts, and really all you had were just a couple swings and maybe a slide, and it kind of got boring after awhile. Plus, being out in the weather and it being metal it would rust quite a bit and wouldn’t look very good after awhile and eventually could even be unsafe to be used.

Now, a few years later they developed some of the plastic molded type that were for more small children, and they could easily outgrow them but they looked pretty good out in the yard and they would hold up to the weather fairly well. But nowadays people are looking for more and more and that’s why this has become so popular.

Wooden play sets that are so versatile and so many different options, you kind of customize one to exactly what your kids like. This one has the slide on this side, a raised area with a cover over it, an area that you can climb up, and also all of the swings are different sizes for different kids.

You’ve got for larger kids, smaller kids, and even little infant swing set over on that side. So very versatile, a lot of different options but what are some of things you need to consider when you are thinking about buying one of these?

Lee Jordan: We believe the most important thing to consider when shopping for a play system is to find a play system that your children will grow into, not out of. Numerous times we go into people’s backyards and carry in a play system, such as this right here, and open the back gate and there’s already a smaller play system in the backyard that their children have outgrown.

So we really encourage you to shop as if your children are 10 to 12 years old right now. Of course all children like swings and they like slides and those are going to be typically on all swing sets.

Some of the things that we can do to enhance that is add monkey bars like on this system over here, we can add higher levels, what we called penthouses. You know these systems are built to where you can add on to them as the children grow.

Danny Lipford: Lee’s company installs most of the sets they sell to their customers but this is certainly one of those things you can do yourself, if you have a few tools and a little time.

Many of the kits you’ll find in the home centers now even include precut lumber, except for the larger pieces, like long four by four’s, which you can buy separately.

However, it a good idea to round off all the edges of the lumber and sand any rough areas to avoid those nasty splinters. In any event it’s all about the kids having fun, and they’ll let you know what they like:

Molly: Sometimes I like to pretend that I’m on a pirate ship.

Raven: I like to climb the wall because if I ever want to grow up and I want to climb mountains, it’ll give me experience how it would be.

Kia: I like the swings because they make you go high, and if you’re hot you can cool off over there.

Aubrey: The telescope is pretty cool, makes you look very far away, probably a little bit farther than a regular one.

Danny Lipford: Well, I think I might just talk to Lee about getting a job testing some of this equipment, it sure looks like a lot of fun. Hey, if you’re building one yourself, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is what kind of wood to use. Now, Lee’s company uses either cedar or redwood, which is a good weather resistant species of wood, but you can also use pressure treated wood.

But if you use pressure treated wood make sure the treatment doesn’t contain arsenic or chromium and of course any this type of wood can be stained. But if you are using treated wood, you’ll need to wait and let it weather a little bit before you apply the stain.

Another thing to consider when you are positioning your play set out in your yard is to have plenty of space all the way around it, six feet should be considered a minimum between the play set and anything adjacent to it.

Now, if you’re building it yourself let the kids help you. They love contributing to a project like this, and if you’re buying one that you’re going to have built at your house by someone else, make sure they have some input on all the different options that you are putting into this elaborate play set.

Hey, I think I’ll try this thing out a little bit while you check out this week’s Simple Solution.

Joe Truini: The only thing I dislike more than digging fence post holes is digging the fence posts out once the fence post has been in the ground for awhile and you need to relocate it. In this case, we have a four by four post that I need to move and the problem is often that they are set in a concrete footing.

I don’t believe this one is, but even if it’s not it means digging a rather large hole to get it out. Here’s a simpler technique I’ve used in the past and it works really well.

Based on one of the oldest tools in the world, a lever and a fulcrum. First I start by making a fulcrum by stacking up some concrete blocks and I attached a couple of wooden cleats to the side of the post.

You want the bottom of the cleat to be slightly below the height of the fulcrum. Then you just take your lever, in this case it’s a 2-by-4, you can use a 2-by-6 as well, slip it underneath, you notice the 1 by 4 will just keep from slipping out.

Then with a little bit of pressure, this one is stuck. There we go. Once it breaks free you can push it all the way out. Once it’s loose you can usually pull it by hand. There you go, now how easy was that? Now it’s a simple case of moving the fulcrum down and starting on the next post.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at what’s involved in creating a family friendly backyard. Well, one element everybody in the family will agree with is adding water to your backyard. Now, you might think of a swimming pool, but they can be fairly expensive to have installed in your backyard and a little expensive to maintain.

A hot tub takes up a lot less space and only cost about $100 a year for the chemicals in order to maintain them. Another thing that a lot of people are surprised with is that you only have to drain a tub like this about three times a year and refill it, so you’re not really spending a lot of money on water.

But the thing you have to be very cautious about is that they weight a lot. So you need to make sure you have an adequate foundation, whether it’s a concrete slab like we have or if you’re putting it on a wood deck, make sure that’s it’s supported enough underneath. You may have to add a few extra piers under it to support the heavy concentrated weight of a tub like that.

Now if you want to have a really nice yard it is going to require a little bit of maintenance. As maintenance free as you can make it certainly will allow you to enjoy your backyard more instead of spending all your time working on it, but in order to maintain it you’re going to need a few tools and a little bit of equipment. Lawnmower, a few shovels, rakes, maybe a ladder, well you need a place to store those.

If you don’t have some type of storage in your house, then an outbuilding or a shed is really a necessity for a family friendly backyard. So we’re about to put together an eight by ten storage building that comes in a kit and it’s made from steel reinforced plastic panels and it should be virtually maintenance free. That’s just what we need in the backyard.

And before we do anything though, we’re going to need a little foundation work here, and that sounds like a good job for Tim. What you need for this kind of building is a stable flat level surface. So a concrete pad or pavers would do the trick but the ground here is a little uneven so that will take a lot of work and effort.

Instead, Tim is building a platform with treated lumber that can be supported and leveled with concrete blocks. After that, plywood is attached to the top side of the framework to create the surface for the shed.

Laying out all the pieces so you can identify what you need first is a great way to start this kind of project. And for this shed from Lifetime that means the flooring panels. Besides keeping out all of the moisture and creating a treaded surface these pieces also secure the wall panels in place.

Each panel locks into the floor and the adjacent panel before screws are used to complete the connection. Because these plastic panels are reinforced with steel they’re plenty rigid but not too heavy. It’s a pretty simple process where one section builds on the previous one as the shed goes together. And though these guys are pros, this is the kind of thing you can do yourself in a few hours on a Saturday.

This storage building was so easy to assemble that thankfully they didn’t need my help, and it only took just a few hours to put it together. And these things are designed that almost any homeowner that will read the instructions and have just the few basic tools can assemble this.

And look what you end up with, a fairly sizable space here. Plenty large enough for a lawnmower, shovels, rakes and this particular one has a number of accessories that makes it even better to store as much as you can in here. Just like this shelving unit that assembles very easily, and goes right in to predrilled holes. You have this, you have this and you have a few hooks over on this side, it makes a lot of sense.

Now another thing that is very important is getting a little bit of natural light into the storage room. You have a window here and this particular one also offers a little ventilation by raising up and we also have a vent on either end of the storage building, that’s real important. This can get really stuffy in here.

Natural light though is important, having the window, and this particular one has four skylights at the top because most of the time you’ll have a storage building that’s positioned a fair distance away from the house and that makes it very hard to get electricity to it and providing artificial light.

And this particular one actually has a battery operated push light that will provide a little illumination inside if you have to come out to your storage building in the middle of the night to retrieve something.

Now, this is one option for storage around your home. Of course you can also buy a storage building that’s completely built, and then they can bring it in on a trailer but you need to make sure that you can get in and out of your backyard easily or they can bring it in, in pre-fab panels and put it all together.

But the one piece of information you need to make sure that you know about is how far you have to set back the building off your property line. Some cities will require 10 feet, some 15 feet, some more than that. Also you need to check with your neighborhood restrictions to see if they require a particular type or style of building or if they’ll let you have a storage building at all.

But, you know, if you have a nice storage building like this and you have a nice yard like this there’s no excuse to have a nice riding lawnmower like the one that Emilie’s featuring on this week’s Best New Products.

Emilie Barta: When you think about using professional tools around the home you think about work right? But this is one tool that in my opinion is more about fun. This is the i1000 series zero turn lawn tractor from Cub Cadet.

Now, in the past only the professional lawn services used a zero turn radius tractor, and you know what they look like right? You have the two levers on either side of the seat so you basically have to relearn how to drive. But this is designed just like your traditional lawn tractor with a steering wheel so there’s no learning curve whatsoever. You can turn on a dime and trimming around flower beds and trees has never been easier.

You want to know why I like it? It’s because it drives like a sports car. One hand steering and the easy to operate foot petal means cutting the grass is as simple as taking a Sunday drive. Now you can add attachments to make the i1000 a more versatile tractor no matter what season it is. You know what? If only I could get one with an MP3 player.

Danny Lipford: A family friendly backyard comes in all kinds of different sizes and shapes and the activities that families enjoy in those backyards can be very different as well.

Now, earlier we looked at different play sets and boy that will keep the kids busy for hours and hours and very healthy for them as well. And also a nice organized backyard is a good idea so the different storage options we looked at, the storage buildings, will allow you to have that nice, neat backyard.

But what about an activity that the family can really enjoy together and the children can learn a few things along the way? Well, that’s exactly what a family garden can provide for your family. Now this one, well it’s a pretty good size and also a lot of work.

The homeowner here spends hours and hours getting these type of results but you can still have a very pleasant garden experience with a very small part of your backyard.

Actually, we were in California recently and visited with actor Ed Begley, Jr. who grows a lot of vegetables for his family in very small raised beds right in the middle of Los Angeles. Now Allen’s decided to try his own garden experiment with his daughter Savannah.

Allen Lyle: Savannah and I decided to start our garden from seeds in a little mini greenhouse tray. Now, even something this simple is interesting with kids.

Do you know one of the first gardens I ever did I planted radishes?

Savannah Lyle: Which are onions.

Allen Lyle: No, they’re not onions.

Savannah Lyle: They seem like it.

Allen Lyle: But you know what?

Savannah Lyle: What?

Allen Lyle: Do you know what manure is?

Savannah Lyle: Yes.

Allen Lyle: OK. Well, this little garden I did was only probably about as big as this table, very small thing, and I put a whole bag of manure in it.

Savannah Lyle: Eww.

Allen Lyle: They were the hottest radishes you have ever eaten.

Savannah Lyle: Cow poop. Everybody knows that.

Allen Lyle: Getting kids involved in growing a garden may also help improve their diet. So does this mean you’re going to start eating vegetables?

Savannah Lyle: OK.

Allen Lyle: We’ve got that on tape. And if they’re not careful along the way they’ll learn something, too. When you plant seeds in the ground and you just kind of plant seeds, once they start growing you have to go back and thin them out, and pull plants out. And this way, it’ll all be ready for us to plant right in. And do you know the best way to keep birds out is?

Savannah Lyle: Scarecrow?

Allen Lyle: Not a scarecrow.

Savannah Lyle: Bird feeder?

Allen Lyle: A scarecrow might work, and actually that’s part of it. Yeah, you can put a bird feeder somewhere else, and they’ll go to that.

While the seeds are germinating, I’m preparing the ground with a few amendments to get it ready for the little sprouts, which are ready in just a couple of weeks As I plant them I’m adding a little fertilizer to give them the jump start. Then, it’s just a matter of watering and waiting. But apparently we did too much waiting and not enough watering.

Savannah Lyle: You killed it!

Allen Lyle: Yeah, and you remember that the first time you bring a boyfriend home. All right, I’ve got an idea. We’ve got to plant more seeds.

This time, we planted our sprouts in containers, so we had a smaller area to manage. That makes everything easier. Getting the soil right, planting, watering. And it seemed to work, because in no time we had a great crop of vegetables. Now, if I could just get her to eat some of them. While we admire the fruits of our labor, why don’t you check out this week’s Ask Danny.

Maureen: What sort of thing should I look for in a safe play area outside for my kids?

Danny Lipford: Well, I’m glad you are making safety a focus here because thousands of children are injured every year on the home playground equipment. So you need to make sure to include a few safety features.

Certainly you don’t want to set up a play structure over any concrete but keep in mind that grass will lose its ability to cushion a fall through normal wear and erosion so you should have at least 12 inches of mulch or sand all the way around the equipment.

You also want to check for any dangerous hardware like open S-hooks or any type of protruding bolt in. And be sure that any elevated surfaces have guard rails to prevent falls and make sure those guard rails or ladder rung openings are either less than three and a half inches wide or more that nine inches to keep your child from being trapped.

And check for any sharp points or edges in the equipment. Now, look out for any tripping hazards like tree stumps, roots, and rocks. And finally always keep an eye on those kids.

This week we’ve taken a look at some projects that can make your backyard more fun and functional for the whole family. As with most family projects, some are more fun than others and they often have varying degrees of success, at least as far as the project itself is concerned.

But if the goal is spending time together to make home a little nicer place for everyone, then your project is probably a success even before it’s done. The smiles and laughter will tell the story. I would’ve just loved to have a play structure like this in my backyard when I was growing up as a kid.

Hey, I hope you enjoyed seeing a few of the elements that you can put together to create your own family friendly backyard. But you know no matter what you do to create that type of environment in your backyard is really all about the process.

The process of getting together with your family and your kids and building something like this or at least selecting all of the different options that you have and planting a garden is always a great way to spend some time, even if you don’t have a green thumb like Allen.

Hey, I hope you enjoyed this week’s show, and I hope I see you next week here on Today’s Homeowner.

Next week we’re creating a great new kitchen for a home that’s almost a century old.



Comments

Please Leave a Comment

We want to hear from you! In addition to posting comments on articles and videos, you can also send your comments and questions to us on our contact page or at (800) 946-4420. While we can't answer them all, we may use your question on our Today's Homeowner radio or TV show, or online at todayshomeowner.com.