It’s Summertime, and the Outdoor Living is Easy

| June 1, 2017

An after picture of an expansive patio addition and cover and outdoor kitchen built by Traditional Outdoor Living.

An after picture of an expansive patio addition and cover and outdoor kitchen built by Traditional Outdoor Living.

A before picture of the original small covered patio.

A before picture of the original small covered patio.

These Ideas Will Keep You Outdoors, No Matter How High The Temperature Climbs

By Mara Soloway

It’s summer, which means it’s time to enjoy your backyard and entertain on the patio. While the mercury is already on the rise in our area, don’t let the high temperatures send you, your family and your guests indoors until more refreshing weather comes back. These cool ideas will help keep you outside day and night.

 

Trends to Watch

More and more people are remodeling their homes with greater emphasis on outdoor living spaces and low-impact design. Among the trends in the 2016 Best in American Living Awards (BALA) were three popular outdoor living concepts:

  1. Intimate Outdoor Spaces that are geared toward smaller gatherings, as opposed to the extended family-size backyards of the past.
  2. Indoor-Outdoor Convergence, which blurs the distinct line between two living areas by using floor-to-ceiling retractable glass walls and screens.
  3. Low-Impact Design incorporating sustainable, green features into landscaping design, such as using permeable pavers and native species.

 

New Products and Ideas

Dan Bawden, CAPS CGP CGR GMB, who is president of Legal Eagle Contractors, Co. and the national chairman of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers, is using several types of environmentally friendly products in the design and construction of his clientele’s outdoor living spaces.

Green countertops that work outdoors. “Some are so-called green because they are Cradle to Cradle Certified, meaning that from the time raw materials are sourced to the time it’s manufactured and delivered, it’s done in a very energy efficient way with all recycled materials,” Bawden said.

Not every countertop brand, whether eco-friendly or not, is suitable for use in outdoor kitchens. According to Bawden, most quartz tops don’t perform well outside, due to binders used to keep all the granules together. Fading and warping are among the problems.

He recommends brands that use different colors of recyled glass, such as Icestone and Vetrazzo. Bawden also likes countertops by Paperstone that are a composite made of recycled paper and petroleum-free resin that becomes waterproof and is quite durable.

Bawden also likes the natural, warm and friendly look of bamboo countertops and that bamboo is a sustainable material. “The bamboo is bonded with exterior grade, eco-friendly glue with the endgrains appearing on top so that they look more like a butcher block than bamboo flooring,” he said.

Fuel-efficient grills. Those who grill outdoors can now be more environmentally friendly with infrared burners that use less gas and have a shorter cooking time. “What’s interesting is that the nicer grills have a searing feature – an infrared, tubular light bulb – that sears your food. Once you turn that function off, you continue to cook it the rest of the way as you normally would,” Bawden said. “This is 25 percent more fuel efficient and also saves cooking time.”

Bawden said the Big Green Egg grill is very popular despite its expense. The grills are shaped just as their name describes them, with a mottled texture outside and porcelain material inside that provides better heat insulation. “You use natural lump charcoal as fuel, which is made from recyled wood, making it even more energy efficient,” Bawden added.

Outdoor furniture and rugs made from recycled material. Loll Designs offers modern outdoor furniture made from 100 percent recycled plastic milk jugs. About 400 milk jugs are used per Loll Adirondack Chair. The company even recycles its recycled materials into other useful products.

Bawden suggests eco-friendly area mats, such as those by Home Infatuation, for outdoor seating arrangements of small groups, or near the pool for people to step on instead of the hot concrete.

“Some that I thought were the most interesting are made of plastic drinking straws in pretty patterns. They are easy to clean, can live outside without fading, are more comfortable on your feet than the scratchy natural fiber ones and can visually anchor a seating space,” Bawden said. In the case of mats, bamboo doesn’t hold up as long as polypropylene.

 

Decks and Patios

Patios and decks by themselves add to the sense of having a backyard getaway. Adding a kitchen brings a new dimension to that concept. According to the NAHB, numerous factors go into your making your choice. For example, decks can be a more affordable option than patios, but concrete, while more expensive, tends to be the sturdiest material with the lowest maintenance needs.

Patios also support weight better. Have a professional contractor check where you plan on building your outdoor kitchen. While most can support the added weight of appliances, you may need to add structural support.

If you have a rough backyard terrain, a raised deck may end up your best choice.

“One of the times we recommend building a deck is if people have a patio made of big concrete squares that have gotten cattywampus,” Bawden said. “If they’re on a budget and don’t want to have it jackhammered out, building a deck over existing concrete, if it’s stable, will save costs.”

Bawden notes there are low-impact building materials for both decks and patios. For patios, the permeability of paver stones helps the water table. They are also budget-friendly.

No matter what the type, wood decks require maintenance, as swelling and warping will occur over time. Using composite and vinyl decking reduces the amount of maintenance required.

“We have pretty much stopped using pressure-treated wood for the top surface of decks; instead, we use it for support framing underneath,” Bawden said. “For top surface we use recycled material choices. Azek, TREX and Fiberon are popular choices that come in a variety of colors and last a long time. The composites made of sawdust, wood chips and plastic are very stable, and don’t warp and crack like wood.”

The down side of composites is the cost, which can be significantly higher, particularly if coordinating railing and balustrade systems. “While composites all cost more, they offer zero maintenance for something like 20 years. A wood deck will warp in about five years.” Bawden built a deck in his own back yard using composite materials.

 

Additional Outdoor Kitchen Concepts

Coverings. Bawden finds that most people prefer some kind of cover over their outdoor kitchen, but care has to be taken regarding smoke from cooking. A fan hood with a stainless steel vent hood through the roof is one solution.

One consideration is how dark the nearby interior rooms will become if a roof is added outside. “We always put in high quality skylights when covering the back patio area. We like roof windows made by Velux. They are not a plastic bubble, but are two-paned insulated glass that really let a lot of light through without heat gain. The interior rooms get lit, and it looks and feels better,” Bawden said.

If the homeowner doesn’t want to cover an outdoor kitchen, they will need to have high-quality equipment covers to protect stainless steel components, including drawers and sinks, that will otherwise tend to get rusty. Not covering an outdoor kitchen is an obvious reason for using weatherproof materials for countertops, cabinets, and other elements.

Outdoor sinks. An outdoor sink makes prepping and cleaning veggies an easy task. However, it can be tricky and can add $3,000-5,000 to run the sink into a drain line because it involves trenching through the back yard to the sewer line, according to Bawden. “While it sounds expensive, it is the best practice,” he said.

Lighting. If you eat or entertain into the night, you’ll want direct light for the kitchen’s work area so you can monitor the progress of what you’re cooking. Softer lighting works well for socializing areas. For an outdoor kitchen project Bawden is using a mix of lighting: dimmable LED lights for the general area, directional lighting over the grill, and, for effect, a row of LED ribbon lights to softlight sidewalk and grill area.

“In Houston, we are really seeing an uptick in outdoor kitchens and patio cover projects! With all the electronics in our lives today, people crave new spaces and new ways to gather for good old-fashioned family time and relaxation,” Bawden said.

 

For more information on home building and remodeling topics, visit the National Association of Home Builders website (nahb.org).

 

A covered outdoor patio and kitchen from Legal Eagle Contractors.

A covered outdoor patio and kitchen from Legal Eagle Contractors.

 

Texas Custom Patios created this covered outdoor living space that complemented the home’s architecture.

Texas Custom Patios created this covered outdoor living space that complemented the home’s architecture

 

Texas Custom Patios created this covered outdoor living space that complemented the home’s architecture.

Texas Custom Patios created this covered outdoor living space that complemented the home’s architecture.

 

Texas Custom Patios added kitchen/bar and fireplace/lounging areas in this outdoor space.

Texas Custom Patios added kitchen/bar and fireplace/lounging areas in this outdoor space.

 

This addition from Legal Eagle Contractors/My Design Team creates shaded seating and a full outdoor kitchen.

This addition from Legal Eagle Contractors/My Design Team creates shaded seating and a full outdoor kitchen.


Category: Home Improvement

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