So many articles and videos cover outdoor kitchens lately that you would almost think that kitchens provide the total of outdoor living areas. That’s not true. Your outdoor living remodel can include an exterior version of nearly every room in the house. We suggest leaving out the bathroom, however, since outhouses don’t lend themselves to modern décor.
What should your outdoor living remodel include? Most living spaces outside of the home include a kitchen or cooking area, a dining area, and a recreational area. Which room you start with remains up to you.
Most single-family homes built today include a patio, but you might want to add to the cement slab design that prevails in most pre-fabricated homes. Let your outdoor living remodel include a glass patio enclosure that creates a sunroom out of your patio. If that notion doesn’t appeal to you, then consider adding a retractable awning that lets you cover or uncover the patio, so you can enjoy full sunlight when you want to and sit in the shade the rest of the time.
If your home did not come with a patio, consider adding one or building a deck. Either open-air option offers a flat, level area to place tables and chairs. A raised deck can also offer an enhanced view of the landscape.
Other design options include a pergola or gazebo. These exterior buildings don’t attach directly to the home. Instead, you site them a few yards away from the house.
Decks tend to offer the greatest amount of versatility in design since they can easily be built multi-level. This lets the homeowner separate the kitchen area from the dining area with a ramp or a couple of steps. Consider using a ramp design if you’re above the age of 60 years or have friends who use wheelchairs or mobility chairs. A ramp design enables them to easily navigate the deck alone, while steps would require two people to help lift the chair or one who knows the “bump down” method of backing one of these such chairs down steps.
When renovating, always think ahead in life, especially if you want to age in place, a term meaning live in your current home until death. As people age, some lose partial mobility, so building with a ramped deck design can make things easier in the long run. If you have young children, they will find walking up and down ramps easier, and you’ll already be prepared for the inevitable sprained ankle and its commensurate crutches with a ramped design.
When you choose to undertake an outdoor living remodel, you don’t just add a deck or patio. You update your home’s exterior to provide a more lovely view from the yard, just as you landscaped the yard to provide a nice view from the house. That means updating your home’s windows and shutters.
The windows overlooking the rear yard typically get overlooked because they don’t face the street. Homeowners tend to focus on curb appeal, but now you need to focus on yard appeal. Replace old windows with energy-efficient double- or triple-pane glass windows. These newer designs help lower utility costs by admitting less exterior air, so drafts don’t cause your HVAC to run constantly.
Adding shutters to the home’s exterior doesn’t just make it look pretty. Shutters offer real protection for a home, especially homes on coasts that regularly experience hurricanes and in areas of frequent high winds, such as the central mid-west of the U. S. and southern California. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and the Santa Ana winds can create broken glass in windows that erode their protection, but exterior shutters provide homeowners with a mechanism by which they can protect their window glass and the people inside the home.
Of course, every outdoor living remodel requires landscaping. Once you put in your patio, deck, pergola, or gazebo, you need to surround it with plantings. Consult with a local landscaping company to design a yard that offers erosion protection and beautification of your property.
In drought-prone areas, the landscaper may recommend a xeriscape. That won’t cost you extra. The term refers to a landscape that uses native grasses and plants that require little water. Every state offers gorgeous plants native to itself, so regardless of the flower colors you want, your state of residence likely provides a native flowering plant in that color.
Some individuals in the landscaping field specialize in trees. Your outdoor living remodel might require an arborist if you want to build a deck in an area of your yard with many trees, especially mature trees. The arborist may suggest transplanting seedlings or other small trees or bushes. Larger trees, you will either need to build around or cut down.
Many deck professionals offer designs that let you build around a tree or large rock outcropping. Their designs create a merger of the natural and built environments. These methods of building leave room for the tree to continue growing by leaving space on the sides of the decking surrounding the tree.
5. Tree Trimming
Your tree expert might work for a tree service or independently, but either can help you with tree trimming. Most deck designers counsel you to avoid having trees overhanging your patio, so make tree trimming of the trees near your new construction a part of your outdoor living remodel.
Tree trimming can help save a sick tree and it can make healthy ones look even better. The process works similar to pruning a plant or a rose bush but on a much larger plant. To find a reputable, experienced tree service, phone your local plant nursery.
6. Concrete Space
If you choose to install a patio as a part of your outdoor living remodel, you’ll need a concrete contractor. This individual can install your cement patio, plus put in a new driveway and walking pathways that connect various areas of the yard. Some yards require a retaining wall, something that the homeowner does not discover until they begin the process of planning their outdoor living areas with a landscape architect.
Consider adding cement paths featuring iridescent stones, seashells, or pebbles to create texture and visual interest. You can add nearly any small item to cement, so if you want a sidewalk featuring pennies, copper pellets, or something else, a cement contractor can do that for you. Consider your favorite things from the great outdoors and choose one to feature in the cement mixture.
7. Brick Work
Many older homes feature brick walls or carports. Make brick restoration a part of your outdoor living remodel to spruce up these lovely home features. If your home does not already feature brickwork, consider adding a brick-dividing wall between the yard’s fence and the patio or deck’s edge. This separates it from the recreational yard and creates a pleasing dividing wall that adds to the landscape.
Some homeowners choose brick as their patio material instead of cement. By creating a flat area of the yard, a homeowner can arrange bricks to create a patio without needing to cement it into the ground. Of course, they can use a mortar and a pestle to attach the bricks to one another if desired.
8. Hot Tub
Many outdoor living remodel projects include the addition of a swimming pool, a hot tub, or a Jacuzzi. A pool requires a professional swimming pool installer who can excavate the yard to create the recessed area for cementing in the pool. Most pool installers design swimming pools and patio areas, so you can choose to have a custom design done for your landscape.
Jacuzzis and hot tubs fall under the purview of hot tub installers. These smaller water play areas offer a respite at the end of a long day. In some landscape designs, the hot tub goes into the deck that abuts the home, but in others, the homeowner chooses to have it sited in a gazebo or toward the rear of the backyard to enhance privacy.
9. Pest Control
Presumably, once you complete your outdoor living remodel, you will spend lots of time outdoors. Call your local pest control once you complete construction of all landscape and hardscape areas, so they can prepare your yard for enjoyment. The same services that spray your home’s interior for roaches and mice, spray the exterior of the home to ward off mosquitos and gnats. They can also help you get rid of ant issues.
Most pest control companies also explain what you can do to keep the number of pests down to a low minimum. This includes keeping your yard clean, storing firewood away from the home, and maintaining a dry yard by filling in areas where rainwater collects.
Finally, make a fence that your neighbors cannot see through a part of your outdoor living remodel. Your local fence company probably offers a range of designs, but avoid chain link since everyone can see through it in both directions. While chain link fences do provide some security, they do nothing to block the street noise or goings on.
Choose a fence material that provides security and blocks the street view, plus your neighbors’ views of your yard. A privacy fence offers the greatest utility, whether made from brick, wood, or stone. Choose a design that complements your home’s exterior and blends in with your home’s main paint color and trim.
Many fencing designs let you add to the interior portion of the fence to use it for flower boxes or other uses. Not only does this add to the beauty of your yard, it can enhance your landscaping. Because flower boxes typically hold flower pots, you can pull these pots into your home when cold weather threatens, saving your plants and continuing to enjoy them in your sunroom or Florida room.
Transforming Your Landscape for Outdoor Living
Of course, you do not need to complete every project listed on this outdoor remodel list. Choose the projects that appeal most to you and that best suit your yard. Your landscape architect can help you prioritize projects and order the workmen so that you don’t need to duplicate work.
When you need to remake your backyard for recreation and dining, start with what matters most to you. If you love hosting cookouts, then focus on developing an outdoor kitchen first. This might include an oversized outdoor grill, an outdoor sink, and a stove designed for use outside.
If you prefer using your yard for recreation, consider installing a swimming pool, hot tub, or Jacuzzi. Surround whichever you choose with a deck to make entry and egress easier. Decide whether you want to locate these items near the home or at the rear of your lot.
If you have a family, also add recreation areas they would enjoy, such as a basketball net or Frisbee golf course. These options cost little to install but provide hours of fun. Other options, depending on your budget, include a tennis or pickleball court, horseshoes game, or badminton court.
To add a dining area to the yard, consider a table and chairs inside a gazebo. Picnic tables make great open-air alternatives. Patio tables and chairs offer options for patios or decks.
Regardless of the area’s type and use, you will need to add appropriate lighting to use the outdoor living areas at night. Start by installing ambient lighting on the deck or patio. An electrician can attach lights to the home’s exterior to provide the main light source.
Just like indoor lighting, your exterior living areas need ambient, task, and accent lighting. Once you have the porch lights installed, add deck lights and step lights. These smaller lights provide a safe pathway up and down your home’s steps and its deck levels.
Accent lighting refers to lights that chase away shadows in the edges of the yard. Small stake lights along the driveway and string lights in the yard’s trees and bushes fall into this category. Adding accent lighting helps create a cheery glow in the yard.