backyard builds

Backyard Builds star on how to get the most out of your outdoor space

Brian McCourt is a trusted contractor, design expert and real estate flipper. Co-host of HGTV Canada’s Backyard Builds, he helps homeowners turn their backyard wastelands into dreamlands, with breath-taking custom builds. Tune-in for new episodes on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV Canada.

It looks like we’ll be spending a lot more time at home this year, and our outdoor spaces are giving us the opportunity to get the vitamin D we so desperately need. While things are slowly opening up and we are entering the new normal, having an exterior space that still fits under the staying at home umbrella is all sorts of appealing. Here are five backyard tips to get the most out of your outdoor space this year.

Keep up with the upkeep

Exterior wood can last more than a century if properly maintained. That said, small problems become big problems when they aren’t dealt with right away. When you see paint cracking or peeling on wood surfaces (windows, doors, railings, posts etc.), it means they no longer have protection against harsh elements. Bare wood is vulnerable to rot and insect damage, which can significantly reduce the life span of your exterior wood surfaces. So use this time to examine all of your exterior wood. If you spot a problem, address it. Keep calm and keep on the upkeep.

Save time and have it delivered

When I was 11, I started my own lawn mowing business by delivering ads to my paper route customers. I was the top earning 11-year-old in our little town at five bucks a lawn! I have vivid memories of the properties I dreaded most — the bumpy, squirrel-dug, mogul-like “lawns” consisting of 99 per cent weeds, one per cent grass and about zero per cent fun to mow. So please, I beg you, don’t let your lawn go into disarray. Levelling out the pot holes in your yard with rich soil and new seed has never been easier with cubic bags of soil delivered right to your home. No more ripped bags of earth to clean up in your car and the best part — no plastic bags.

Weed control

No shocker here — little weeds turn into big weeds in what seems like an instant. Beyond the unattractive, itchy, super growth of weeds, they also take nutrients out of the soil, leaving your plants a bit hangry. The best defence is a good offence, right? Nip them in the bud early in the season, and do a monthly weeding session with a beer, cocktail or some other bevvy to make it seem more fun than it actually is. Landscape filter cloth, mulch, river rock and other ground cover defences can mitigate the frequency of weeds popping up.

What goes up must come down

Nice weather hits and you find yourself extra motivated to get your backyard set up and accessorized for the season — me too! The part that isn’t as fun is packing it all up in the gloomy chill of the fall. It is always a good idea to assess the time you’ll spend winterizing your space before deciding what to purchase and set up in the spring. So before you place those orders for all that new outdoor furniture, determine what you can actually store and what will need to withstand the elements six months from now.

Outdoor DIY

Give it a go. Try a project within your skill level and feel good about staying home to work on it. Turn scrap wood into an outdoor table, turn coffee cans into a vertical garden or make planters out of leftover paving stones. I’m a big fan of upcycling items that would otherwise head to landfill. Use your mind instead of your wallet and get a little more out of your backyard this year. If you don’t know where to start, head to for some step-by-step videos!

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