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The Worst Backyard Landscaping Ideas

As landscape contractors, often we see homeowners and designers making critical design mistakes during backyard remodels that can end up removing functionality and resell value. The backyard of your dreams can become a nightmare by making the following creative decisions.


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worst backyard landscaping ideas

In our line of work, we're constantly visiting and assessing backyards and we've come across many backyards with awful layouts. From poor planning to sketchy execution, your dream backyard can quickly become non-functional with just a few design mistakes. We think these landscape designers should be sent to live in the backyards they designed as punishment. :)

Common Mistakes Backyard Designers Make

One of the biggest mistakes made is choosing fashion over function. Creating an attractive and eye-grabbing landscape layout is important, but if the additions are not practical you may end up doing more harm than good. You can accomplish a high-functioning backyard makeover on a budget by avoiding the following mistakes.

Creating Backyard Designs that are Not Walkable

Sometimes we see that more complex backyard designs will not provide walkways that make sense. To offer your family the best functionality, ensure there are no design elements that are obstructing the pathway. You don't naturally walk around in rectangles, so creating obstacles in the backyard is not ideal. During the planning stage, make sure that there is a sufficient walkway to each area that will also blend together as a whole. 

Not Accounting for Privacy Needs

When planning your outdoor space and considering different backyard landscape ideas, incorporating privacy is key. Without it, you may run the risk of having a spa in clear sight of your neighbor’s upstairs window or creating a living area that leaves them vulnerable to your sounds and activities during the day and night - not to mention them being able to see what you’re up to easily.

For this reason, taking measures to ensure privacy in landscape design should be considered right off the bat. This will give you the opportunity to pick an appropriate spot for every feature while simultaneously establishing effective ways to obstruct views and dampen noise. Avoid unwanted feuds and noise complaints! 

Opting For Features that Deteriorate or Require Constant Upkeep

Keep in mind design features such as fountains, ponds, or garden boxes will require consistent upkeep and maintenance. Water features specifically can be quite a pain to keep in good shape and half the time they don't work correctly. Mold and mildew growth is also a concern in these areas and often they become more of a burden than an enjoyed add on. 

Outdoor water features (1)

Also, selecting finishings that require upkeep during backyard design updates will add to your workload and may not be worth it. For example, we don't typically recommend Stucco walls or siding. It's a porous material that stains easily and can crack, requiring regular maintenance and cleaning. 

Adding too Much Concrete or Hardscape

With today's modern design theme being so popular, we are constantly seeing homeowners and backyard designers go way too far with concrete. While the use of concrete slabs and stone creates a sleek and stylish look, overkill of this is not practical for a family to utilize.

You'll hear us mention this multiple times throughout this article, but resell value should be top of mind during any major renovation project. Turning your backyard into a bachelor pad is not recommended, because this will be the only buyer you'll attract in the future. Finding a balance between hardscape and grass is the name of the game. Covering up the entire space with cold hard concrete will remove the coziness and functionality that many seek out during the home buying process. At the end of the day, one of the biggest mistakes you can make during backyard renovation is failing to be family-friendly. 

Worst Backyard Design Ideas - Too Much Concrete

Elaborate Backyard Designs That Don't Match the Home

A quaint old-fashioned home will look odd with a bunch of modern design elements in the backyard. When planning a landscaping design for your home, it is essential to consider how it fits with the architecture of your house. Certain elements may work well with one style but not at all with another. For example, a brick patio may appear out of place in front of a home that has Mediterranean-style architecture, while paving stones would look much more appropriate. 

Sectioning the Backyard into Smaller Areas

When trying to elevate the look of your backyard, it can be easy to want to go all out and create a multifunctional lawn. However, if the space is chunked into many small sections you may be left feeling like you have less space once the renovation is complete. You'll also find that these smaller spaces offer much less usability, and it can be tricky to provide walkways to all the areas. Finding a balance between hardscape and grass is the name of the game, and can be a tricky decision. 

design and price backyard renovation online

Making the Backyard Layout Symmetrical

We see this all the time. Homeowners or landscape designers will sketch a perfectly even design on their backyard landscape design tool. While this look is typically desired, it's not practical in most backyards. Creating perfect symmetry in an irregular space is nearly impossible and can cause many hiccups throughout execution often leading to dissatisfaction with the end result. To fully maximize on your space, don't worry about symmetry as much as a practical and useful design. 

Backyard Landscape Design Tool

Overkill of Added Features

Many think that if they're not cutting corners or completing a backyard remodel on a budget, there's nothing to worry about. On the contrary, overkill is one of the top mistakes made by homeowners and backyard designers.

You can absolutely lower functionality and sales value by adding too many features. It can be tricky to narrow down your priorities when considering backyard landscape design ideas, but it's important to leave room to breath. Make calculated decisions when it comes to walkways, lights, planters, and water features to ensure that the backyard is still practical and not overwhelming. 

Implementing Too Many Pebbles or Gravel into Landscape Design

Gravel or pebbles can be nice in small amounts and will help fill the space if you're looking for a cheap backyard makeover. However, keep in mind this ground cover is very abrasive and provides little functionality outside of aesthetic or decor. When considering resell value, gravel or pebbles in excess is not ideal for families or pets. 

Too much Gravel Backyard Design Mistake

High Cost & Low Value Backyard Design Examples

There are many backyard design elements that are high cost and provide little added value to the home. While it's very exciting to make backyard updates and enhance your space, remember you're not in a backyard makeover contest. Not all high cost additions are necessary. 

Often homeowners will install permanent features similar to those seen in commercial settings. Constructing permanent elements is necessary in commercial spaces to deter theft, but is not needed in residential backyards. In fact, permanent design elements in your backyard can end up making your home more difficult to resell. Prospected buyers prefer the freedom to make their own choices, so adding permanent fixtures is not the best choice. Instead opt for fixtures that can be removed if needed.

Commercial grade features that are not applicable to residential yards include:

  • Permanent Benches
  • Raised Planters 
  • Fixed Fire Pits
  • Permanent Pergolas Instead of Umbrellas or Awnings
  • Elevations or Dual Levels
  • Creeks or Ponds

Common Backyard Renovation Mistakes - Permanent Fixtures

There are also a few backyard creative elements that are high cost/low value and can pose safety risks. Not only can a few glasses of wine lead to a lawsuit from friends, installing these elaborate additions may also deter prospected buyers in the future. The following backyard renovation ideas are not recommended for safety reasons: 

  • Floating Stepping Stones
  • Marble Surfaces
  • Sunken Seating Areas

Establishing Priorities During Backyard Design and Renovation

When planning a backyard redesign, it's important to keep your priorities straight before jumping into execution. We've seen many cases where homeowners invest a big chunk of money into complimentary features such as expensive tile or colored gravel but forget to run low-voltage conduits for lighting in the area. Also, if irrigation lines aren't properly supplying trees and planters with water you may be stuck watering manually. Our numbered list below will help you understand your priorities to ensure nothing is overlooked. 

  1. Utilities & Lighting
  2. Surfaces
  3. Plants and Vegetation
  4. Added Design Features

Build a Backyard That can be Improved Over Time

The best way to improve your backyard is to invest in utilities. This offers the capability to continue making improvements over time if needed or desired.  Don't overload the space with features that won't be used or benefit the functionality. Investing in utilities also creates much more freedom for you in the future or for prospective buyers to utilize the space how they'd prefer.

Artificial Grass Recycling

Think Ahead to Maximize Value

As mentioned earlier in this article, resell value should be a consideration when doing any type of backyard renovation update. While you may think now that this is your forever home, life happens quickly and things are constantly changing. Keep in mind that some design elements are not practical and can really hinder your ability to sell the home. There should be a balance of hardscape and soft scape to create a functional lawn for a future buyer. The following features should be avoided if possible: 

  • Drops or Multi-Level
  • Blocked Separations
  • Heavy Boulders
  • Invasive Plants
  • Creeks, Ponds, Fountains 
  • Any Type of Design Overkill
  • Excessive Hardscape

We hope this article helps you steer clear of common backyard design mistakes we see made daily by professional landscape designers. When done right, a backyard renovation becomes an extension of your home and is useful for the whole family AND future buyers. Ready to get your backyard makeover started? Request an estimate below to speak with our experts! 

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