Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Demand for outdoor living spaces has increased for six consecutive years

The trend is to make outdoor living spaces as comfortable, convenient and creative as inside the home.

Written by By Michael C. Upton

Gone are the days of webbed polypropylene and aluminum patio chairs and resin lounges.

The trend is to make outdoor living spaces as comfortable, convenient and creative as inside the home.

“We are seeing a lot more flexibility for our clients chasing ideas you might have only ever seen on TV,” said Matt Breyer, president of the North American Deck and Railing Association.

The organization develops international partnerships for the professional development, promotion and growth of the industry.

Outdoor living spaces have become a sprawling extension of the house. Although simply putting on a deck may have been be a status symbol of the past, the average sizes of decks are growing and often incorporate multiple levels.

“There are less of those ‘builder boxes,’ ” Breyer said, who has more than 20 years of experience, most of it with Breyer Construction & Landscape LLC, 314 Arlington St.

His residential remodeling company places an emphasis on designing and building outdoor living space.

More and more indoor amenities are making their way outside, such as TV, a fireplace (not a fire pit) and kitchens (not a grill setup). According to the American Institute of Architects, demand for outdoor living spaces has increased for six consecutive years.

Why is that? Start with the big picture and work down.

‘Dreaming first’

“Start with dreaming first,” Breyer said. “Start with big ideas to find out what you want your end result to be.”

Homeowners planning on creating an outdoor living space should consider how the space will to be used and whether the gatherings are small or large. Is there a need for a children’s area, free of hazards?

“The big picture of how a homeowner is going to use the space boils down into some of the features and materials,” Breyer said. “Then you can start thinking about accent lighting or floodlights where they may be needed.”

Consider pets, too, Breyer said.

Hire contractor

After compiling ideas for the dream outdoor living space, many homeowners skip hiring a contractor or designer and proceed directly to the budgeting stage. Expect an experienced contractor to ask questions about the project.

“Start forming that relationship early in the process,” Breyer said.

A contractor or designer can provide options, such as using different materials, to help meet a budget. Always read reviews and referrals from sources outside the contractor or designer’s sphere of influence.

Guildquality.com is an independent contractor referral site providing real reviews of mapped projects nationwide. The site offers an overview of feedback on set criteria, such as contractor knowledge, quality of materials and value.

The right designer will have access to other professionals needed for the job, such as deck builders, outdoor kitchen installers or experienced electricians.

In any major home project, the budget is always the biggest hurdle.

“The greatest challenge to overcome is not to create compromise that will have long-term disappointment,” Breyer said.

The balancing act is to build without cutting corners, fit the project into the customer’s budget and meet the long-term goal for the space. Breyer suggests the possibility of creating an outdoor living space in stages over a period of years. For example, a deck can be built with enough support to hold a roof structure that may be added later.

“There’s a lot of times where we will create a big design, but we will build it in stages,” Breyer said.

Breyer estimates that half of the jobs he works on are long-term projects built in stages.

“We have seen greater interest in multiple electronic device (use),” Breyer said. “The demand for outdoor outlets has become a greater requirement for outdoor living design.”

Whether it is a charging station, outlets for portable appliances or space for a smart fridge, the use of electricity should be considered in the design stage. Breyer has not seen a lot of demand for outdoor internet-capable appliances in the local market, but does note that some high-end users around the country may want items such as outdoor refrigerators to communicate via internet.

“Here in Berks County, we are a little more conservative,” he said. “A fancier television that is internet-connected may be less critical than just having an outlet to plug in existing television.”

Outdoor televisions vary greatly in cost but are usually more expensive than their indoor counterparts. A 32-inch base model Mirage Vision G Series Outdoor LED TV starts at $1,050, while a 84-inch SunBriteTV Pro Series could add $25,000 to the project’s budget.

An alternative to an outdoor TV is a portable projector with an outdoor screen, which can be included in the space design.

Needing shade

There might be nothing more annoying to your guests than having to fight the glare off the outdoor TV. Shade comes in handy.

John Rohrbach, general manager of residential sales at Overhead Door Co. of Reading, Muhlenberg Township, has been selling retractable shade awnings for 15 years.

It is a seasonal business with most purchases happening from March through August.

According to Rohrbach, prices remain consistent throughout the selling period, with a chance of manufacturer incentives later in the summer.

“You might be able to get an extra accessory or two in the package at no charge,” Rohrbach said. “But, honestly the awning costs are pretty consistent year-round.”

Professionally installed retractable awnings cost anywhere from $2,000 for a manual model up to $5,000 for a large, deluxe motorized unit with accessories.

“They are not a permanent structure, so in November through January, when you want to have natural light and warmth coming into your house, it’s (retracted),” Rohrbach said.

Over the years, there have not been many technological advancements in shade awnings. The biggest change, according to Rohrbach, is the incorporation of remote controls over hardwired controls for motorized awnings.


Like an awning, pergola, or a roof, landscaping also can provide shade, privacy and color.

“Landscaping is incredibly important, because it fills in the gaps and finishes the picture,” Breyer said.

Landscaping adds soft, subtle touches to the outdoor living space. The University of Florida contends that temperature, light levels and wind are greatly affected by the trees and plants in a landscape, all things to consider when creating an outdoor living space.

The National Association of Landscape Professionals recognizes the trend of increased interest in outdoor living spaces and suggests that landscapes should be built for living, playing and working to bring function and form for a quality outdoor experience.

Contact Michael C. Upton: specialsections@readingeagle.com.

Source: http://www.readingeagle.com/sections/article/demand-for-outdoor-living-spaces-has-increased-for-six-consecutive-years

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