A backyard is not just a plot of land, but rather an extension of the home. No longer is it enough to add a barbecue and a basic patio, homeowners often find they want to turn their yards into a room itself.
“People seem to be travelling less and investing in their home more,” says Maurice Meagher, owner of Archadeck of Nova Scotia, which creates custom-designed patios, decks, outdoor kitchens and more. “They want a place they can enjoy, not just a space for a barbecue. All of those things a homeowner puts inside their homes for entertaining they are now putting in their outdoor spaces.” Those elements include everything from outdoor kitchens to a separate dining area or a screened in patio or deck with seating and lighting.
Meagher says one of the biggest trends now for outdoor spaces is the use of low-maintenance materials, particularly those made from PVC. These materials often are made to have a natural or painted wood look, but they don’t absorb moisture or break down. Many of these products come with lifetime guarantees.
“They just need to be cleaned once in a while,” Meagher says.
As with any construction project, Meagher says homeowners should do their homework first and hire professionals.
“You need to rely on someone with experience and get an idea of what you want for function and design,” Meagher says, adding that homeowners should be aware that many outdoor projects require permits before construction takes place.
Once a homeowner decides on a design, there are lots of other elements they can add. Spas and hot tubs are popular not only for their entertainment value, but for health reasons, too.
Robin Wright, owner and operator of Arctic Spas Halifax says homeowners can expect to pay between $6,000 and $20,000 for a home spa. He suggests homeowners purchase a spa that’s appropriate for the local climate, as well as one that is energy efficient. Saltwater spas use fewer chemicals and are great for your skin. There are also ways to ramp up your spa experience.
“This year Arctic Spas has created an “app” for your phone where you can control you hot tub from the comfort of your home. Also you can stream music through your phone to your hot tub with a Bluetooth connection. This will be a hot seller this year. Lighting is also available in each individual jet, which is a nice mood setter,” Wright says.
Still installing a spa or hot tub is a job best left to the professionals.
“We do a “spa school” with you when we set the tub up. We show you how to operate the spa and balance your chemicals properly. So you don’t get a ‘curb-side’ delivery,” Wright says. “The other benefit is that if you buy from a local dealer, that dealer does all the service for you. So you’re not dealing with a second-party service for maintenance on the spa.”
For homeowners looking to install a sidewalk or ground-level stone patio, there are many decorative and durable trends available on the market. Jennifer Hall, the communications and marketing director for Shaw Brick, says there are a number of options for homeowners looking to create garden walls, retaining walls and freestanding patio walls. While many of these products are made from concrete, she says they are created to have a natural stone finish, particularly in grey and brown finishes instead of traditional brick red. That way they are aesthetically pleasing like stone, but offer the durability of concrete.
“Some of the best jobs are those that work with the existing landscape and making it the best it can be,” Hall says.
Pavers are also an increasingly popular option since they are easy to install and replace. If one breaks, there’s no need to replace the entire area as you would if it were made from asphalt. Hall says because of this feature, pavers offer a great return on the investment. Pavers, too, are a great do-it-yourself project, but Hall says some installation projects should be left to the professionals.
Homeowners looking for storage space for their outdoor spaces, no longer need to settle for unattractive sheds.
“For most of our customers it is important that their accessory building match the look of their house. This includes siding shingle and trim details,” says Steven Graves, with Graves Barns and Buildings Ltd. “Also, some people prefer a design that is totally different from the house. A wooden garden shed or two-storey workshop, for example.” Outdoor buildings also have many uses, including as a storage place for gardening tools, but also for entertainment for parties, as a yoga or exercise room or even for a place for band practice!
Graves says when considering outdoor storage and buildings, homeowners should be familiar with zoning and setback regulations in their area, as there may be restrictions on size and location. They should provide their contractor with a copy of the site plan, which will be required to obtain a permit. Contractors should also be made aware of any underground services such as wells, septic, electrical and gas lines to watch out for. The size of the building is also an important factor in determining the type of foundation that is required. Larger buildings may require engineered slabs or frost walls.
Again, the construction of an outdoor building requires certain permits and must follow rules. Often, building of these units is best done by the professionals.
“We provide anything from a basic shell to a fully finished interior. All of our units feature a sturdy wood floor or concrete floor and top quality construction materials. There is nearly an infinite number of exterior and interior finishes to choose from. The biggest feature that we provide is knowledge and expertise of a company that has been building accessory buildings for nearly 40 years.”
A pool, spa or hot tub will be a welcomed addition to your outdoor space – by the whole family!