Constructing Your Outdoor Living Space
Hardscapes like patios, BBQs, walkways, fire pits or fire rings add to your home value and enjoyment of your outdoor spaces. It’s easy to see why real estate appraisers say the value of your home is enhanced with a beautiful outdoor living environment, especially with our year-round weather. An outdoor living area that’s done creatively, with color and function adds tremendously to your home life as well as to the perceived value and desirability of your home and becomes not only an investment in your home, but an investment in yourself and quality of life.
Patios, BBQs, walkways, fire pits or fire rings are easily constructed and affordable projects that add to the livability of your outdoor space and the choice of construction material is vast. Patios and walkways can be constructed with concrete in standard gray or with added color and texture, but also with even more desirable materials such as pavers, flagstone, tiles and brick.
Pavers are the most popular patio material and are also great for walkways and driveways. They come in a huge selection of sizes, colors, patterns and textures that vary by manufacturer from a small “twinkie” size to a larger 18 x 18 paver. The great thing about pavers is their porosity, letting moisture pass through them. The pavers should be properly installed on top of AB gravel covered with a layer of sand and then compacted. Pavers can be used in combinations of patterns and sizes including circular designs, which are very attractive and are strong enough to drive a big truck on without crack or damage. There are even bull nose pavers used for steps and seat walls. So pavers are the material of choice at this time because of the variety of textures, colors and patterns, as well as durability and affordability. Pavers can also be tied into and easily used in other hardscapes like planters, BBQs and seat walls. They can be sealed on unsealed and if you choose to seal pavers, we recommend this be done prior to brushing the finish sand into the cracks, thus sealing each brick and not the seams which may show cracks as natural shifting occurs over time.
Flagstone comes in many earthy, rich colors ranging from white to dark brown and colorful rose, peach, rainbow gold and more. Flagstone is durable as a walkway or patio, but intended for foot traffic only. Use a single color or a combination of colors in a variety of patterns. It is sometimes constructed by laying the flagstone in a sand bed over a layer of AB gravel, but more frequently is set into concrete. Flagstone is fairly durable and needs to be sealed after installation to prevent staining and is commonly used for patios and walkways.
Tiles like ceramic, saltio and stone tiles such as travertine and cantera are better used as patio material. Ceramic tiles used for patio purposes should have texture and not be smooth or slick to prevent slips and falls. Stone such as travertine and cantera are also used. Travertine is a beautiful natural stone and highly desirable as a material choice at this time and come in several natural shades. Stone tiles need special care in that they need to be sealed after installation to prevent staining.
Brick as a patio and walkway material is fine. Brick tends to hold the heat more than pavers or stone. So, the microclimate it creates should be taken into consideration during planning. Also, brick is not as strong as pavers and there are limited color choices. The appeal of brick is of course that it is very traditional in its style and pattern choices. However, paver manufactures now offer brick-like pavers that mimic the look of real brick.
BBQs, wood ovens, smokers and outdoor kitchens have exploded in popularity all across the country and continue to maintain their appeal. They are built in various forms, the strongest is masonry but there is steel stud and concrete board BBQ construction also. For longevity, complete masonry construction is tops. BBQs, wood ovens, smokers and outdoor kitchens can be as simple or expansive as your imagination and budget allow. The structure can be finished with a variety of material from stucco, to faux or natural stone, to tile; the possibility for color and texture is endless. Various counter materials from flagstone, tile or stone can be used. Here again, be sure to seal natural stone to prevent staining. Features for outdoor kitchens abound like sinks, below counter refrigerators, dust-tight drawers, cooking burners and rotisseries. And don’t forget to add lighting–either standard or low voltage for evening cooking and entertaining. Smokers and wood ovens offer specialized cooking options and there are many designs to choose from with new design ideas showing up all the time.
Fire pits or fire rings can be wood burning or propane powered in various sizes, heights and styles with many different construction methods. Lava rock or fire glass can be placed over a propane-fired ring or you can have a true wood burning fire pit. Outdoor fireplaces are showing up also but many are propane heated rather than wood fired partly due to convenience as well as frequent no-burn days.
Seating areas are paramount for true enjoyment of your outdoor space. Additions like seat walls are easily added to landscape designs and can also double as retaining walls. Seat walls are generally constructed with masonry blocks or stack blocks and topped with bull nose pavers or other curved edged material for comfort on your knees as you sit. Bench seating of this type is visually tied to other hardscape designs through material choices. Standard and custom options in outdoor patio furniture abound and offer comfort paired with longevity and quality when purchased from a quality dealer.
Each of these elements when properly designed for ease of use, traffic flow throughout your yard, microclimate and other considerations will add tremendously to your outdoor enjoyment and value to your home.