clock menu more-arrow no yes

Best Yard Before and Afters 2010

You submitted thousands of remodels, then voted on your favorites. Here are the top-rated yard and garden transformations from This Old House's 2010 Reader Remodel Contest

Your Great Outdoors

You've amazed us once again. When we asked you to submit your remodel projects for our third annual Reader Remodel Contest, more than 1,300 of you responded with renovations that showed just how talented and hardworking you all are. Here's a look at 12 of your top picks for yard revamps chosen by TOH editors and your fellow readers.

After you've seen these out-of-this-world projects, enter your own yard makeover at Your Old House.

A Yard as Grand as the House: Before

Who: Nicholas K.

Where: Haddon Heights, NJ

When I moved into my Victorian house, the yard consisted of mature trees, patchy grass and a boring row of hostas. It was barely a yard and certainly not a proper garden befitting the Grand Lady that was the house. I began digging as a form of therapy and I discovered that each new bed required loads of soil, compost, and Belgian block edging.

A Yard as Grand as the House: After

Who: Nicholas K.

Where: Haddon Heights, NJ

My partner used his design skills to refine and formalize the garden's structure without disturbing existing mature plantings. The main space is organized into three rooms, defined by grass, brick, and bluestone—punctuated by stacked stone raised beds. The hardscaping was done by a contractor. Now the house has a proper garden.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself

Cost: $25,000 to $50,000

Front Yard Makeover: Before

Who: Greg C.

Where: New Bedford, MA

We purchased a 1951 Cape Cod. I've always liked older homes but felt like this home did not have a lot of character or curb appeal.

Front Yard Makeover: After

Who: Greg C.

Where: New Bedford, MA

We planted a mix of perennials and evergreen shrubs. Then we replaced the front door and columns with the help of a carpenter. We finished off the renovation by peeling back the vinyl siding and repainting the original shingles, then had a new roof put on. Now I feel like the house has some character.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

Total Yard Revamp: Before

Who: Richard N.

Where: San Mateo, CA

I designed the garden to create three distinct areas with an English garden theme. The patio area was an outside room, a play area for my son and lastly, the vegetable patch.

Total Yard Revamp: After

Who: Richard N.

Where: San Mateo, CA

First I removed ten of the eleven trees. After rotor-tilling the entire plot, I seeded the lawn and put in raised beds. Then I added the patio area, repurposing the soil removed from this area to elevate the back of the garden. I built a dry-stacked stone wall around the patio with Arizona sandstone and installed low voltage lighting and a three-zone watering system.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

12 Pallets Worth of Pavers: Before

Who: Jim M.

Where: Coventry, RI

We purchased a new home in 2005, and I knew exactly what I wanted—concrete pavers for the patio. Over the next two years, I worked weekends finish the elevated paver project.

12 Pallets Worth of Pavers: After

Who: Jim M.

Where: Coventry, RI

After outlining the size of the area, I built the three walls that would support the patio. I backfilled them with stone and gravel and let them sit for one winter. I planned ahead for underground low voltage lines, and the landscape lighting they would power as well as a small fountain. My favorite part of the patio is the circle kits, charcoal colored edges and the unique overall shape and design.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

Victorian-Era Landscape: Before

Who: Diana K.

Where: Bloomington, IL

To preserve an 1894 Queen Anne house, for which demolition was imminent, we purchased and moved the house to vacant lots in 2004. Excavation for the new foundation and re-grading of the lots resulted in a yard void of all plant matter but full of brick and concrete from prior building demolition on the site.

Victorian-Era Landscape: After

Who: Diana K.

Where: Bloomington, IL

We have incorporated key elements of Victorian garden design into our landscape by creating expanses of manicured lawns decorated with perennial plantings, an annual carpet bed and a cutwork parterre with a large fountain at its center. The interior of the parterre beds are planted as vegetable gardens. In a nod to the original house design, we installed a paver in grass patio where a very early side porch had once been.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

Our New Urban Yard: Before

Who: Sophia M.

Where: Somerville, MA

We're reminded of living in the city daily. Underneath the mud and weeds in the yard, we found tar. An out-of-control tree, its root systems, and other large bushes smothered the yard and blocked the sun. A prior owner built a raised bed to conceal thousands of pink bathroom tile buried in the back yard.

Our New Urban Yard: After

Who: Sophia M.

Where: Somerville, MA

We removed the trees, dug out the root systems and tar, removed the pink tile and the overgrown bushes, installed a new fence and added a storage shed. I hired a hardscape company to install stone and build raised beds along with a built-in fire pit and grilling area. After that, we put down sod, planted a dogwood, hydrangea, espalier apples along with perennial beds and a vegetable and herb potted garden. Solar sconces keep the yard lit at night.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

Mother's Day Retreat: Before

Who: Alisa M.

Where: Rifle, CO

I loved this one little corner of the yard since we bought the place 5 years ago. Before construction, I would stand by our fence and admire the view from all angles—it's especially beautiful at sunrise.

Mother's Day Retreat: After

Who: Alisa M.

Where: Rifle, CO

My son cleared out the floor area; my husband built the pergola; I installed the irrigation system, and my daughter helped me plant the perennials and trees. We aren't the only ones who are drawn to this spot; there are hummingbirds, butterflies, toads, lizards, and a whole host of friendly visitors.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself

Cost: $500 to $1000

New Patio Off the Master Bedroom: Before

Who: Jenna D.

Where: Burbank, CA

My husband and I live in a tiny 709-square-foot home. After giving the inside a full makeover, we were still itching for more space. I made drawings for a patio space and called in our go-to handyman to help execute the plans.

New Patio Off the Master Bedroom: After

Who: Jenna D.

Where: Burbank, CA

First we built a roof by nailing waterproof marine fabric to wooden beams, creating shade but still allowing light to pass through. We replaced a window in our master bedroom with a French door and had a custom wooden bench built up against the fence to house all of our yard tools and serve as seating for outdoor gatherings. Next came a fan with lighting, speakers connected to our stereo system inside, a few yard lights and a wall mounted outlet.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

Picking Up Where We Left Off: Before

Who: Debra C.

Where: Hingham, MA

Fifteen years ago, my husband and I built a brick patio, planted two ginkgo trees and a small boxwood hedges around the perimeter. Over the winters the boxwoods struggled, and they died and last year, so we decided to remove them.

Picking Up Where We Left Off: After

Who: Debra C.

Where: Hingham, MA

We decided to add onto the existing patio and built a stone wall about 5 feet high in front of the space. We had our old table, chairs, and lounge chairs reconditioned and bought some new furniture. Overall it was a lot of work but very rewarding.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

A Low Maintenance Garden: Before

Who: Jodi G.

Where: Laramie, WY

When our family first contemplated purchasing this house it looked kind of sad and abandoned. But that was nothing compared to what it looked like mid-summer with no yard maintenance and a lot of rain! We got lucky that year and were able to complete most of the basics for the landscaping that first year.

A Low Maintenance Garden: After

Who: Jodi G.

Where: Laramie, WY

Now, five years later, we have a yard full of established perennials, shrubs, bulbs, a great vegetable garden and new deck. We have a yard that is beautiful, easy to maintain, requires little water and is full of color and texture year round—not an easy task in a zone 4 climate.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

What I Learned from TOH: Before

Who: Catherine R.

Where: Nashua, NH

My husband owned a two-family Victorian house for many years before we got married. We decided to move there a few years ago and convert it back to a one-family home.

What I Learned from TOH: After

Who: Catherine R.

Where: Nashua, NH

We cut back the growth and etched out a garden and compost area with cinder blocks. We also used bricks and sand to make a walkway around the garden. We found someone to build a pergola for the grape vines. The yard had a slope to it, so we used sand to build a raised patio. The old cobbles used for the retaining wall originally came from Cambridge MA, and we learned how to lay the bluestone and brick from This Old House videos.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

Safe Backyard for Kids: Before

Who: Jennifer C.

Where: Baltimore, MD

When we bought our house, the back yard hand no landscaping. Trees had been removed years before leaving major lumps and potentially sprained ankles. When we had our first child we wanted to make the yard a safe place for him to run and play.

Safe Backyard for Kids: After

Who: Jennifer C.

Where: Baltimore, MD

When I was 8 months pregnant with my second child, I suddenly lost our baby girl. My stepsister, as a bereavement gift, designed a beautiful deck and landscaping for our back yard that also included a remembrance garden for our daughter. My husband built the deck and pergola, and I planted all the plants and shrubs. We now have a new baby girl and both children now have a beautiful back yard to run and play and we have a deck to relax and entertain.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

Star of the Show: Before

Who: Lynn Boughton

Where: Brooklyn, MI

When my husband and I moved into our home, we inherited its sad, lonely shed. But while planning the side garden, I saw that this little 12-by-12-foot outbuilding had potential as a focal point.

Star of the Show: After

Who: Lynn Boughton

Where: Brooklyn, MI

We added a porch with a reverse gable roof. Then we installed salvaged cottage windows, and topped it off with a split cedar shake roof. Everyone wants to spend the night in this little gem!

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000