How To Create an Outdoor Room on a Budget

by Reader Contributors

DIY Landscaping for Less photo

Want a beautiful outdoor space without overspending? Our frugal readers share their tips for creating an outdoor room that is both inviting and affordable.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
My family loves to spend time outside in the summer, but all we have is a simple flat deck behind our house. I see all those beautiful outdoor rooms on the home shows and get big dreams, but we don’t have a lot of money available right now. Is there any way to create an outdoor room on a budget?

How Can You Create an Outdoor Room on a Budget?

We asked our frugal readers this question. Here are the money-savings tips they shared for creating an affordable, inviting outdoor space.

Transform Your Deck Area

I am a home stager and always work with clients on a budget. You can have your dream deck area very inexpensively!

To give your deck a softer look, you can purchase an inexpensive area rug or even a sisal rug that you can stencil some pretty chevrons or botanicals on. For some height and privacy around the deck perimeter, plant various ornamental trees in large pots or hang large ferns. New deck furniture cushions are easy to make with some indoor/outdoor fabric that is on sale. Make a few throw pillows with leftover fabrics. A few inexpensive citronella candles should keep the bugs at bay.

You may also want to check Pinterest for deck/outdoor furniture made from old pallets. It’s easy and almost free! Once you are done, enjoy a cold lemonade on your new deck space.

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Outdoor Rooms Are Easy with PVC Pipe and Tarp

We were able to make an outdoor room off our deck by buying PVC pipe and a cheap tarp. You use the PVC for the poles and tie the tarp on with nylon rope. The only trouble we had was making sure the rain was bumped off the awning when done. This lasted for two years until we moved and then we constructed a new one at the new house.

Add a Gazebo

Gazebos make wonderful outdoor rooms. They can be put on decks as long as you fasten them down. Stores put them on sale this time of year or you could build one yourself.

Use Indoor Furniture Outdoors

Thrift stores sometimes have “end of the month” sales that are fabulous. My local Salvation Army does this. If you can afford a couch or a couple of chairs, cover them with complementary colors of blankets or sheets to create a pleasing look. Put tarps over the furniture if it rains. At some point, you can just haul them away. With luck, you could create a beautiful room for cheap.
Janna in Oregon

Cover Deck for Instant Room

Covering your deck creates an instant room. Although we have a shade cloth covered pergola over our deck, we wanted to add more shade.

Deck sails are a bit expensive, so we used 6′ x 15′ drop cloths to give more shade to one part of the deck. We kept them natural, but you could dye or paint them if desired. We strung coated steel cable the length of the pergola and attached it with turnbuckles to sturdy eyes, so we could get it taut enough to minimize sagging. I ran a simple folded hem down each selvedge edge of each drop cloth. (Be aware that they are not all exactly the same length and some have joins in the center, so inspect them before you sew.) The side hem added strength to the edges. I placed pinch clips (for cafe curtains) evenly spaced along each edge to attach them to the cable.

When shade is not needed, I can slide the clips up close to the house, and I can remove them completely in winter. They will get discolored from moisture, but usually clean up in a thorough washing with bleach for at least a couple more seasons.

If you do not have a pergola, you may be able to use the same technique to attach the cables to posts in the ground or a fence opposite. Make sure you find or install something on the house that they can be securely attached to because there will be a significant amount of stress from the weight of the fabric and tension of the cables.
Marsha in Sunny California

A Place To Laugh and Talk

I just used a little money and some creativity to create my outdoor room on a budget. I love my outdoor room at my back porch. It has two open sides. I have a love seat that is worn out with parts of the foam showing. However, with a large colored sheet from Goodwill, I covered it and made two cushions from one old pillow and covered them with material that I found on Freecycle. Everyone loves to lounge on it.

I also have flowers that bring more color and pleasure to the area. Birds and butterflies stop by. I also have container garden pots with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, green beans, etc. It’s surprising how much can be grown in a small place. I also have an old card table that I exchange the tablecloth with the season changes in this area. I love to have cut flowers sitting here. It is a wonderful place to drink a glass of iced tea, laugh, and talk about your day.

Reviewed July 2023

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