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Creating a Livable Outdoor Space for Your Custom Home

These days it’s not unusual to find our self pinned to the TV screen in time to catch the reveal of this weeks ”fixer upper”. I’m sure you enjoy seeing how easily they make it look when converting each “tear down” home into a priceless beauty. One of the things I find most interesting is that todays’ homeowners are putting as much weight on developing livable outdoor spaces as they are on some of their interior rooms.

It’s true. Nature is calming, and creating tranquil backyard sanctuaries seems to be on everyone’s mind. A great backyard can be a place to relax, play or entertain. So where do you start? That may differ for each of you depending on your personal likes and design preferences but below we’re offering a few tips that might get you started.

Patio or Porch

Let’s start with the basics and clarify the difference between a patio and a porch. Believe it or not, people still confuse the two. So, what’s the difference? A patio is placed directly on the grounds’ surface and is created in concrete, stone, tile, pavers or another hard surface. The great thing about a patio is you can carve them into any shape you want and with so many types of stone and pavers to choose from, the final design is left to your imagination. Get really creative by adding a sitting wall, fire pit, wood pizza oven, or even stylized pergola for shade.

In comparison, a porch is generally a raised surface in wood or vinyl with railings and a staircase for easy access to the backyard. You can choose a pressure treated wood for your porch, but most are opting for an engineered polymer material like Azek Decking ( ). Manufactured wood substitutes come in a variety of colors and styles including tropical selections and earth tone colors. This product stands up to harsh weather, resists mold, mildew and moisture damage, resists scratching and fading and requires less lifetime maintenance. Whether you choose wood or an engineered product, your cost will vary. Saving a few dollars may seem wise, but we suggest that you don’t bank your entire decision on cost alone. Make your decision on the product that integrates best visually with the lines and style of your custom home and its landscape design.

Create a Second Living Area.

When properly designed, an outdoor space can add usable square footage and increase the value of any home. Design a space that is convenient and easily accessed from the main living area of your home. The easier you can access the space, the more you will use it. Add a roof and ceiling fan to create a more weather resistant area. The comfort you will gain from these additions will extend the spaces seasonable use. Check out where you can find outdoor lighting and ceiling fans that are available in many styles. When chosing furniture, choose pieces that blend well with your interior décor and for longevity, make sure you chose fabrics like Sunbrella ( ) that are designed for the outdoors and resist fading.

Fireplaces and Firepits for your Custom Home

Fire pits are a common element in backyards across the U.S., adding the perfect gathering place when entertaining. Pits can be integrated seamlessly into your patio design or you can choose one of the many freestanding designs available at any outdoor home center like Lowes or Home Depot. Spice-up the surrounding area with seating and colorful cushions for visual interest and comfort. If you’re looking for a true fireplace with a “family room” feel, talk with a contractor about a custom built design with a chimney. These can be created with a traditional wood-burning element or with a gas insert. With many styles available, it’s a great idea to check out the designs on Pinterest and start a board with your favorites, giving your selected custom homebuilder a place to begin.

Outdoor Kitchens

If grilling is something you love, then you may want to consider investing in an outdoor cooking space. These spaces are often found in an area that is covered and can be properly ventilated. Include a built in grill, wine and beverage refrigerator, and ample storage that’s custom designed and topped with a counter that can withstand light and temperature changes. Choose materials like concrete, granite, and tile and avoid manufactured materials like Quartz and Corian, as they may fade in the harsh sunlight. You may want to consider something fun like one of the many brick pizza ovens. These small, and sometimes portable units are often the highlight of the party when entertaining. If you’re looking for a high end unit, plan to spend upwards of $5,000.00 for the unit and it’s casing or if you prefer a more portable and affordable unit, review some of the units available on this website

Water features add a calming effect

Why do we all flock to the ocean? A lot of it is the affect it has on our senses. The sight, smell and sound of the water is what draws us. Create this same soothing atmosphere by adding a waterscape to your outdoor design. A swimming pool is often the first thing that comes to mind when we think of water, but waterfalls, streams, ponds and fountains can transform a boring landscape design into something Home and Garden worthy. Each water feature can be landscaped and tailored to your individual tastes and constructed to fit seamlessly into the space you’ve already created. Adding an element of nature can create the tranquil and soothing environment you’ve been looking for.

Pulling it all together

To wrap things up, when making a decision on how you will approach your backyard transformation, we advise you to start by doing your homework.

  • Review any HOA or land restrictions and be sure to remain within the guidelines allowed for your property.

  • Check for any land building restrictions such as those that exist in critical areas along the shoreline.

  • Start looking at pictures and properties in your area. Decide what you like and don’t like. Cut out images and keep a copy to give to the contractor at your initial meeting.

  • Interview several contractors and get estimates on your job.

  • Select the best, licensed and bonded contractor for the job. Utilize his knowledge and expertise to save you time, energy and building costs down the road.

  • Make sure that the proper permits are obtained.

  • Build and enjoy the backyard oasis you’ve always dreamed of and enjoy it for years to come!

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