How Much Does It Really Cost to Renovate Your Outdoor Space?

·8 min read

There’s nothing like being cooped up at home for a year to inspire daydreams of the ultimate entertaining spot. And with summer fast approaching, those visions likely include building an inviting, outdoor oasis. Unfortunately, when it comes to home renovation work of any kind, it can be difficult to align starry-eyed visions with budget realities.

The good news is that the price tag of an outdoor renovation project is in many ways in your hands. It will be based largely on what you set out to create and how you decide to accomplish the work. Options range from embarking on a DIY effort that costs around a few thousand dollars to hiring professionals to create something with luxury-style glam on a much larger budget.

Ed Gohlich

“You can spend $500 to $2,000 for simple DIY improvements like fixing the lawn, planting shrubs, or building a pea gravel or concrete paver patio. You could also place a premade metal firepit in this price range,” says Andra DelMonico, lead interior designer for Trendey. “For homeowners who are looking to do a complete overhaul, expect to spend $10,000 or more.”

So just how much will it cost to realize your outdoor renovation goals for summer 2021? Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular outdoor projects and the price you can expect to pay.

Marion Brenner

Cost of Firepits

Firepit installation tops many to-do lists this year and for good reason. This type of outdoor improvement is not only fairly straightforward and budget-friendly, but firepits also provide a great place for social gatherings in the COVID-19 era.

“People want to be able to spend time with friends and family, but given the current circumstances, additional and outdoor spacing might be needed. Firepits offer a safe way to still spend time with your loved ones while staying warm and cozy around a fire,” says Thomas Jepsen, CEO of Passion Plans, a homebuilding platform that provides consumers with everything from blueprints to construction advice.

Cost guide Fixr says the average cost nationally for a firepit project is about $850, with the range being anywhere from $300 to $1,400 on the low end and $5,000 to $10,000 on the high end. In Jepsen’s experience, the starting price is closer to about $1,000 for such projects, and that estimate doesn’t include the cost of laying pavers around the firepit or the prep work that must be done to create an attractive outdoor space overall.

“In a lot of instances, the firepit itself can be constructed by someone wishing to do it themselves, although using a pro will ensure that it’s done better and that there aren't any problematic materials being used that shouldn't come in close contact with a heat source as significant as a fire,” says Jepsen. “However, when it comes to laying a tile floor, or a paved one around it, it's generally best to hire a contractor so that the foundational work can be done properly.”

When you add in the cost of hiring a professional to do at least some of the work, you can expect to pay around $2,000 for your firepit project, Jepsen estimates.

Kathyrn Gamble

Outdoor Kitchen Cost

Why limit your outdoor entertainment possibilities to a firepit, if you have the space (and the funds) for something more, such as an outdoor kitchen? These are an incredibly popular project for summer 2021. “Many homeowners want an outdoor space they can show off and entertain guests with,” says Richard Lee, owner of Texas-based Lee Brothers Construction.

A typical outdoor kitchen includes cabinetry with granite or concrete countertops, a barbecue grill, a sink, an outdoor refrigerator, and a prep area, says Lee. The entry-level price tag for an outdoor kitchen is about $7,500 to $15,000 depending on the appliances you select. (Fixr says the national average cost is about $13,000). Luxury outdoor kitchens can easily set you back $65,000 to $100,000, depending on the size.

To construct an outdoor kitchen on a budget, consider connecting it to your home so that running electricity, gas, and water hookups will be less expensive, says Lee. You can also minimize costs by not constructing any sort of canopy over the outdoor kitchen.

Philip Harvey

Cost of Landscaping

Creating an inviting outdoor oasis should at a minimum involve making the landscaping visually appealing, says DelMonico. Although landscaping details and prices vary wildly depending on the scope of the project and size of your yard, DelMonico says that for between $1,000 to $5,000 you can buy plants, grass seed, and trim trees. If you have between $5,000 and $15,000 available, your landscaping project could include laying sod, trimming trees, and purchasing a variety of plants. The price ticks up to anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 if you add hardscaping to the list of items already mentioned.

While that might sound like a lot of money, landscaping is definitely a project that pays off. “Landscaping upgrades can net an 83% return, making it a smart investment,” says DelMonico.

Werner Straube

Price for In-Ground Pools

Installing an in-ground pool is not going to be cheap. In fact, according to Justin Goldman, CEO of RenoFi, a platform that connects homeowners with renovation loans for remodeling projects, it’s often the most expensive item on outdoor to-do lists. “The minimum cost of an in-ground pool is $45,000 to $50,000, not including basic maintenance costs,” says Goldman.

There are numerous variables contributing to that price tag, including two expenses few people consider: topographic survey work and stormwater management. “Accounting for these things can add anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 to your total cost,” notes Goldman.

Kevin Dalzell of Dalzell Group says pools have become the most popular request for the community of Encinitas, California, and prices for installation are now as high as $80,000 to $100,000 for a 20-foot by 40-foot pool with a spa.

The price you’ll pay is impacted by the depth of the pool, accessibility to the area, and length of plumbing and gas lines that need to be run to the pool, says Dalzell. Additional considerations include plaster finish versus pebble tech finish, and whether the pool requires a deepened footing because of proximity to a slope or bank. And if you have your heart set on a sleek, stylish infinity edge pool, plan to tack another $35,000 onto the price tag.

Keller and Keller

Patio and Deck Prices

Patio and deck projects are flexible when it comes to price, making them accessible to many homeowners, says Goldman. A simple, small concrete patio can be less than $5,000, while a more complex, unique, or stone patio project may cost from $10,000 to $35,000. “Materials can drive up the price as well—with concrete being the cheapest and fancier tiling being more expensive,” says Goldman.

The upshot is that the 2019 Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling estimates you'll get a 69.1% return when selling the home, at least when it comes to deck projects. “Plus, a deck gives you an outdoor living space to increase enjoyment of your property,” says DelMonico.

Getting Started on Your Outdoor Renovation

From estimating costs to deciding what to include, outdoor renovations can seem overwhelming. Tessa Isett of Neil Kelly Company, one of the largest remodeling firms in the Pacific Northwest, suggests the best place to start is thinking about your pain points. “What’s not working currently? What would you like to improve?” says Isett. “And then make your dream list; what would you ideally love to do?” And don't be afraid to present your entire wish list to a designer, as you'd be surprised what a professional can make happen.

You'll also want to think carefully about the look and feel you want your outdoor space to exude as well as about what you’re looking for personally. Finally, keep your home value in mind as you ponder outdoor renovations. “Don’t overinvest in the backyard if the home’s size and value can’t support it,” says DelMonico.

As part of this consideration, think carefully about the project scale. In other words, large backyards can support a full outdoor kitchen, but a small yard might only support space for a grill. Similarly, a large backyard can likely accommodate a full outdoor living room with couches and a coffee table, while a small patio might do better with a café table and chairs.

Timing Your Outdoor Renovation

Finally, the timing of your outdoor project matters when it comes to cost, says Goldman. Prices for labor and materials historically increase over time, so the improvements you're eyeing in 2021 are not likely to get any cheaper next year or the year after.

“If you talk to anyone in the general contracting world, they’ll tell you prices only go up, they don’t go down,” says Goldman. “If you’re going to do it, now is the time.”

What’s more, if you see yourself staying in a home for perhaps 20 years, and you put off investing in major outdoor upgrades until year 10 or 15 when perhaps you have more of a nest egg or home equity, remember you’ll have less time to enjoy your investment. Plus, waiting years to make improvements means you’ll ultimately spend more money to get the work done.