Whether they’re bright blue, muted gray, or classic metal, those garbage cans and recycling bins out front can torpedo your curb appeal before buyers even set foot in your house. Add the icky smells and other associations with garbage, and buyers might crinkle their noses just by the sight of the cans alone.
“Think of yourself as a buyer looking at a house. How would you feel if there was a garbage can there? I don’t think I’d feel too good,” said top performing real estate agent Pete Veres of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here, we’ve rounded up several ideas for hiding garbage cans when you’re selling your house. (Naturally, these work for recycling bins, too.)
1. Work with your fence and the layout of your property
Veres points out during his initial consultation spots to hide garbage cans outside in the fenced backyard—someplace “as discreet as possible” but also easy for sellers to move the cans for trash pickup.
A lot of his clients’ homes have side-gated entries, where the house’s or garage’s wall tucks in a bit, and wooden fences. Behind the fence and against the side of the house is better than out front.
“The biggest thing we try to do is eliminate the garbage cans from being seen at the front of the house, and then if there are people walking around the house, put [them] in a location that’s not going to block a view or block a feature,” he said.
2. Put the bins in the garage, then get them out of sight
The garage is another option, especially for showings and for photos that your real estate agent might use to show your property at its best.
Stowing trash cans in the garage—once they’re empty, of course, so that they don’t stink up the place—has the added benefit of giving the impression that the house is spacious, said Julie Dana, an interior decorator since 2002 and owner of The Home Stylist, an interior decorating and staging business in the Buffalo, New York, area
Potential buyers tend to think “you must have an issue with storage if you have to have things out.” (That’s why she tells clients to stow their kitchen and bathroom trash cans in cabinets under the sink or in a closet.)
That said, you don’t have to look at the cans in the garage, either.
- Rig up a tension rod and curtain as a room divider, or craft one like DIY-er Helen Hou-Sandí did with IVAR side units from IKEA ($12 each), IKEA fabric, brass hinges, and a staple gun.
- For a sturdier solution, try the Sterlite Four-Shelf Cabinet in flat gray ($84) from Walmart, which doesn’t dent, chip, or rust.
- DIY-ers also might appreciate a cabinet with a tilt-out door, such as this woodworking project or a repurposed one.
3. Buy or create an enclosure
If your fencing or garage doesn’t lend itself to hiding trash cans outside, you can put them behind an outdoor enclosure or within a storage shed.
- The Suncast Outdoor Screen Enclosure at Walmart ($79) has steel posts with a powder-coated finish that anchor into the ground and four resin panels to arrange.
- A set of Huntersville Privacy Screens at Wayfair ($94.99) also has posts that anchor into the ground as well as a curved top.
- Want a more subtle look? The Willow Tri-Panel Trash Can Cover from Plow & Hearth ($69.77) weaves natural willow over a durable steel frame.
- To tuck away your garbage bins, the Store-It-Out Midi Resin Horizontal Outdoor Storage Shed at Target ($136.99) has wide-opening doors to store pool toys, pet accessories, and other items as well as garbage cans.
- The Cypress Shop Double Door Wooden Locker Storage Shed is made of solid fir for longtime use (Amazon.com; $199.99).
- Leisure Season’s Horizontal Refuse Storage Shed also is made of weather-resistant solid wood that’s stained and finished with a protective coating and includes lockable doors and a lid to keep out curious critters. (Amazon.com; $474.86).
Feeling handy? This Old House has an online tutorial about how to build a wooden storage shed for two 32-gallon trash cans that includes flip-open lids and bifold front doors.
4. Use a partial fence
If you don’t have suitable fencing or want a shed, camouflage your trash cans with a combination of a piece of lattice or fencing arranged at a right angle to your house. Place some potted plants, climbing plants such as wisteria, or shrubs such as wax myrtle on the street-facing side for even greater curb appeal.
- Try the Veranda Dover Vinyl Privacy Fence Panel from Home Depot ($129.99), the Veranda White Vinyl Lewiston Arched Lattice Top Fence Gate from Home Depot ($160.40), or the Dura-Trel Sunburst Vinyl Lattice Arbor Trellis from Walmart ($99.57).
- Not fond of the white vinyl look? Try the Fiberon WoodShades Rustic Cedar Composite Spaced Picket Fence Panel ($69.98) or Severe Weather Pressure Treated Pine Fence Panel ($42.65), both at Lowe’s. Cut each to the width you need.
- Modinex makes several decorative composite privacy panels in a variety of patterns that can attach to posts you place in the ground. Starting at $54 at Wayfair.
- Want more than a vertical panel? The Äpplarö bench with a wall panel and shelf from IKEA ($119) is pre-treated with semi-transparent wood stain. Display or hang potted plants from the slatted wall while hiding your trash cans on the opposite side (and perhaps the garden hose inside the bench).
- DIY-ers such as Camelot Art Creations and Serendipity and Sunshine each created a short fence to hide garbage cans outdoors using wooden pallets. Add a flowerbox or flowerpots to the street-facing side for a sprightly touch.
- You also can build a trashcan screen out of fence boards and posts, such as the bloggers at Everyday Laura and A Beautiful Mess.
5. Camouflage with plants
If you have a lush yard already, use the greenery to your advantage and tuck your trash bins alongside or behind shrubbery. You also can plant some shrubs as a fence or use container plants.
- Hydrangea (quickfire or bloom struck varieties) grow quickly in a number of colors and are an affordable way to hide air conditioners, says KG Landscape Management of Minneapolis, Minnesota. There’s no reason a few can’t hide garbage bins outside too.
- Dogwood (fire dance or arctic fire varieties) also are cost-effective and can provide full coverage.
- Evergreens such as pyramidal boxwood or arborvitae add height and texture.
Whatever option you choose, prospective buyers are bound to appreciate the effort. One person’s trash might be another person’s treasure at a community yard sale, but your home is on the market, you don’t want unsightly garbage bins to take the shine away from your yard’s best features.