Simple Home Improvements to Enhance Summer Vacation

Eric Savage/flickrSummer is a time to relax and take life a little more slowly … especially when the mercury climbs over 90 degrees. At the same time, the sunny season offers an opportunity to tackle household projects which were impossible when the ground was shrouded in snow. Here's a novel idea for you -- why not combine home improvement with relaxation? Take on a simple DIY project or two that will actually enhance your summer vacation once it's done.

Build a Simple Patio

You know you want to. It just seems like a lot of work. But putting together a dedicated patio area will help you enjoy your outdoor space so much more. It will also boost your home's curb appeal if you're thinking of selling.

Besides, a patio made of concrete pavers is fairly simple … and forgiving. Pavers are easy to lay correctly and if you do happen to make a mistake, just pick up the errant piece and reposition it. The important thing is to place the concrete pavers atop a well-designed base.

LAZY DIY TIP: Plan your patio layout to use only whole pavers, so you'll eliminate the need for cutting.

Shield Yourself from Sun

Yes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. That's why you need some form of protection from the sun's hottest rays when you're spending substantial amounts of time outside.

At under $100, a porch umbrella is the cheapest and easiest way to go -- you can stand it up, hang it, or slot it into your patio table. (If you choose the latter, make sure to secure against tipping over.) To shield a larger area, as well as offer protection against wind, bugs, or nosy neighbors, set up fabric screens or softly draped nets.

PROTECT YOUR HEALTH TIP: Look for umbrellas and screens that provide SPF protection. A rating of 25+ will block 96 percent of dangerous ultraviolet sun rays.

Add a DIY Water Feature

There's nothing like the sound of gently rushing water on a balmy summer's day to soothe you off to … zzz ... Where were we? Oh yes, installing a water feature will add a great deal of charm to your yard. The quickest DIY method makes use of a ready-assembled kit, and there are mini sizes to fit the smallest space.

If you prefer, you can get a bit more adventurous (and green as well!) by making your own from an electric pump and a repurposed container. Speaking of green, make sure that your fountain recycles its water, for conservation's sake. And beware of features with standing water. They may form a breeding ground for mosquitoes -- one sign of summer that is less than welcome in your yard.

Upgrade Your Outdoor Furniture

You may find that your porch or deck looks like an inviting retreat, but your outdoor furniture … not so much. Somehow stretching out on worn, lumpy, or even mildewy surfaces just doesn't feel as relaxing as it could.

One simple upgrade for lawn chairs and loungers is to replace the pads or cushions. Purchase ready-mades or get crafty and sew your own. Either way, you'll want to get fabric that is fade-resistant and washable.

For a more drastic redo, try refreshing your furniture with paint. Brush on for wood or metal; spray paint wicker, rattan, plastic and upholstery (yes! you can transform the look of your upholstery using paint).

SUCCESSFUL PAINTING TIPS: Match the type of paint to the furniture's material and look for UV protection. Make sure that all surfaces are smooth, clean, and dry before you begin to paint.

Laura Firszt writes for

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