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Lighting, seating, fire pits transform backyards

Backyards are popular in summer. Would you like to make yours a haven to enjoy by yourself, with family and with friends? Well, read on.

Since the economy doesn't allow us much leftover spending money, backyards have become the vacation of choice for many. Don't have to spend money on gas to drive there. Don't have to spend money on hotels when you get there. Don't even have to put your newspaper and mail on hold while you're gone. Just open the door and there you are!

So how do you make your backyard a relaxing and fun refuge? According to the experts, good lighting, fire pits and good seating and/or dining spaces are essential. And don't forget the grill.

OK, so making the backyard a wonderful haven will cost some initial dollars, but it will be there for you year after year, so think of it as an investment, right?

Here we go ...

Make the deck inviting. A crumbling, messy deck isn't pretty. If your deck is made of wood and still in very good condition, go ahead and sand it and restain it. If it needs more repair than that, you might consider replacing it with a wood-alternative deck that won't be needing that sanding and restaining every year or so. Some of these wood-alternative decks come in colors, too, so you can select one that fits your decor. Be careful with color, though. Neutral usually works best because an intense color might become annoying over time.

Is there space in the backyard for a mini-kitchen? A complete outdoor grilling station can cook a full meal, and this full meal can be prepared while you and your family and friends are enjoying that wonderful backyard. It won't even seem like work.

How about seating? For a comfortable outdoor haven, you are going to need to get rid of those folding patio chairs. They work in a pinch, but they certainly don't make for that backyard-haven thing we're going for. Select seating that is comfortable, and be sure the seating is of your liking and not simply something that is on sale. Sales are important, but don't be drawn into purchasing simply by the price tag. Remember that you are creating your own personal vacation spot. Select furniture that is waterproof and won't need sanding and staining or painting on a regular basis.

Even some summer evenings can get cool. Invest in heat features such as fire pits. There's nothing like a controlled fire in your own backyard to enjoy on a regular basis, and it can extend your summer into cooler nights in the fall.

Well, what are you waiting for? Summer is here, so go out and enjoy it.