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16 Patio Decorating Ideas on a Budget

Discover 16 ways to decorate your patio on a budget, from choosing the right outdoor rug to creating a DIY stock tank pool.
16 Patio Decorating Ideas on a Budget

Making Your Patio Space Your Own

It's summertime and the patio living is easy. As the days get longer and the weather warms up, many people look forward to spending time outside in their backyard. However, if your patio is just a bare concrete slab, that's not a very appealing place to hang out for hours every day.
If you want to upgrade your backyard, but don't have a ton of money to spend, don't fret. There are tons of patio decorating ideas on a budget. Here are 16 of our favorites:
  1. Paint or stain your deck.

    One of the main tenets of home improvement is that paint is one of the most affordable ways to upgrade a room. This is also true for outdoor spaces, especially if you have wood features like a deck or fence. If your deck is looking a little dingy, you can upgrade it by giving it a good scrub, stripping it down, and restaining or repainting it. While this project is a bit labor-intensive, it's very easy (just time-consuming), and it doesn't require a lot of materials. Make sure to start this project during good weather so the deck has plenty of time to dry.
    Restain Your Deck: If your deck is looking a little dingy, you can upgrade it by giving it a good scrub, stripping it down, and restaining or repainting it. While this project is a bit labor-intensive, it's very easy (just time-consuming), and it doesn't require a lot of materials.
  2. Power wash your patio.

    If you have a stone or concrete patio rather than a wood deck, you can still give it a facelift with a proper pressure washing. This machine blasts a thin stream of water at extremely high pressure, scrubbing dirt and grime right off your stones and mortar. Expert tip: do be careful with the pressure washer, as the water can be strong enough to cause lacerations and other injuries if not used properly.
  3. Think in 'zones.'

    When deciding how to redecorate your patio or backyard, it's best to think in zones. For example, you'll probably want a dining area with a larger table, and maybe another space for more casual lounge seating. If you have kids, you might want to leave room for a playset or trampoline. More elaborate areas might include a fire pit, a vegetable garden, or an outdoor bar. Think about how you want to use your backyard and the different activities your family does, and then sketch out a plan that designates different zones. You can use this schematic as a starting place to figure out what items you will need.
  4. Take stock of what you already have.

    The key to redecorating any space on a budget is starting with what you already have. Look through storage spaces like basements and attics for any items you can use. You might be surprised by what you already have on hand. Even if something isn't in the greatest shape, consider whether you can give it some TLC and make it usable again. For example, as long as your metal patio furniture is structurally sound, you can clean it and repaint it to give it a whole new look. Pillows can be recovered with waterproof fabric to make them appropriate for the patio. Get creative and brainstorm as many ways to repurpose things as possible.
  5. Decide on a focal point.

    Picture showing backyard ocean focal point
    If you have a small space, decide on one element that you want to be the main focus of your backyard or patio. Some ideas include a fire pit, an outdoor bar or a paved garden with walkways. Choose your focal point and if you're going to splurge on one thing, make it this feature. You should invest in something that you will be able to use for years, and preferably in all seasons. (For example, a pool is great, but in much of the country you can use it only a few months out of the year, so it can be an expensive endeavor.)
  6. Upgrade your patio sets.

    Every backyard or patio needs some kind of furniture. After all, you have to sit somewhere. If you haven't already, invest in a quality patio furniture set that will hold up to the elements and last you for years. Look for durable materials that will stand the test of time, like coated metal or treated wood, and choose a versatile and comfortable design. If you're having trouble deciding on a focal point (see the step above), you can't go wrong with making a classy patio set the star of your backyard show.
  7. Spruce up the yard with some plants.

    Plants are a fantastic way to add some life and color to your backyard. If you want flowering plants, opt for perennials—which rebloom each year—instead of annuals, which must be replaced each spring. Make sure not to overplant, as full beds won't give the plants enough space to grow and soak up the sun. Plus, more space equals fewer plants, which keeps costs down. If you live in a drought-prone area, look into xeriscaping, which uses drought-resistant plants in ways that save water. If you're not sure what plants would do well in your backyard, take some pictures and consult an expert at your local nursery.
    Plants Add Life & Color - Plants are a fantastic way to add some life and color to your backyard. If you live in a drought-prone area, look into xeriscaping, which uses drought-resistant plants in ways that save water.
  8. Consider inexpensive paving materials.

    If you don't have the budget or the inclination to landscape the entire backyard, paving just some of it with affordable materials can remake the space. Look for less expensive materials like concrete, gravel, brick, and manufactured pavers. If you like the look of stone but can't afford it, you might be able to find concrete faux-stone for a lower price. And if you don't already have a patio in your yard, you should consider creating one so that you have somewhere to put that new patio furniture set.
  9. Add some stepping stones.

    Another great way to fill up your garden is to create a walking path with some stones. Not only will this keep people from stepping all over your grass and plants, but it will also break up the greenery and provide some visual interest. If you're on a budget, opt for concrete stepping stones or other affordable materials. Also, look for tutorials that will teach you how to DIY your own outdoor stepping stones. Even if you don't want to create a full path, you can still use paving stones to dot your flower beds and add some visual contrast to the greenery.
  10. Incorporate lighting

    Mood lighting can really upgrade a patio and create a fantastic ambiance for entertaining guests. Outdoor string lights are always a solid choice. They can be hung from ceilings, walls or wrapped around objects. You can also get free-standing lanterns that hold candles or electric lights for extra illumination. If you choose to use real candles, be careful with them around wood furniture and other fire hazards, and keep an eye on them if you have kids or pets running around the yard. Additionally, opt for a citronella candle if you want to keep the bugs at bay.
    Woman hanging lights on patio
  11. Purchase some tablecloths and throw pillows.

    One of the most inexpensive and least labor-intensive ways to freshen up your patio is to update your tablecloths, seat cushions and throw pillows—or add some if you don't already own them. These items can give a completely different look and feel to your patio and add a much-needed pop of color, for not a lot of money. If you don't want to replace your existing items entirely and you're handy with a sewing machine, you might be able to reupholster your seat cushions and throw pillows with brand new fabric. Make sure to get a water-resistant, outdoor fabric that won't mildew at the first sign of humidity.
  12. Get an outdoor rug.

    Another easy way to add color and texture to your space is an outdoor rug. For maximum impact, put it in an open area where you can see the entire rug—on the patio floor in front of some lounge seating is a great option. There are many styles of rugs to choose from, so do your research and weigh your options before making a decision. Be sure to measure your space and choose the correct rug size. If it's too large or small, it can make the space look awkward. While it may be tempting to throw an old rug outside, this usually isn't a good idea because indoor rugs are not made to be moisture-resistant in the same way that outdoor rugs are.
    Get an outdoor rug.
              Another easy way to add color and texture to your space is an outdoor rug. For maximum impact, put it in an open area where you can see the entire rug—on the patio floor in front of some lounge seating is a great option.
  13. Protect fabric items.

    While outdoor fabric items are made to resist elements like sun, wind and water, you probably don't want to leave them out in a downpour. Try to make a habit of bringing them inside when you are finished using the patio. If you don't have room to store everything inside, you can also get an inexpensive waterproof plastic container and use that to store items like seat cushions and throw pillows. Make sure to choose a rugged model that will stand up to the elements and not get worn down quickly.
  14. Make a fire pit.

    Patio with Fire Pit
    As we said before, a fire pit is an excellent addition and focal point for your backyard. You can buy a pre-made one that can be moved around the yard, or build a permanent fire pit using stones. Be sure to check local ordinances if you plan to install a permanent pit in your backyard. If you like to spend time on your patio in the cooler months, it might also be worth investing in an outdoor heater to keep you warm while you are outside. This is an especially smart choice if you have a large patio or backyard that can't be warmed by a single fire pit.
  15. Create some shade.

    Though you'll usually want to soak up the sun in your backyard, creating some shady spaces can help you beat the heat when needed. Going back to the idea of zones, try to create at least one sheltered area where you can retreat from the sun's rays. This can be as simple as putting an umbrella over your patio table, or you can get fancy with retractable awnings or a pergola (a latticed wooden “ceiling” on four legs). And never forget nature's best shade protection: a sturdy old tree with big leaves and wide branches. Trust us; your skin will thank you for keeping it safe from the sun!
  16. Add a water feature.

    Water features are a unique addition to your yard. You can make a simple one with a few materials like flower pots and a water pump, or buy a manufactured fountain that perfectly suits your patio decor aspirations. If saving electricity is crucial, look for a solar-powered water feature. If you've always wanted a pool, but don't want to deal with the effort and expense of installing a real one, you can create an inexpensive small lounging pool with only a stock tank and a simple pool pump.
    Add a Water Feature: Water features are a unique addition to your yard. You can make a simple one with a few materials like flower pots and a water pump, or buy a manufactured fountain that perfectly suits your patio decor aspirations.
    These patio decorating ideas on a budget will help you upgrade your backyard without making a big dent in your bank account. You might be surprised to see how little money it takes to give your patio the makeover it deserves!

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