Embrace your great outdoors

Make the best of the approaching warmer months by taking advantage of your own outdoor spaces

Today’s outdoor living spaces are becoming extensions of our homes, and each one is customized to make it the right space for our own lifestyle. Some homeowners are putting in large flagstone patios perfect for entertaining a huge crowd of friends. Others are building peaceful, airy sunrooms where they can feel the sun’s warmth while they relax with a good book.

When George Dickie started out in the sunroom business 25 years ago, most customers wanted small sunrooms that were separated from the rest of their home. But things have changed drastically, and now his customers are requesting large rooms that are integrated into their home. They’re using the spaces as bright, breezy dining rooms, family rooms, and living rooms – which quickly become a favourite spot in the house.

“These rooms offer so much increased light. Someone can come home after a long day at work, and they don’t even have to turn the lights on to sit and read the paper,” says Dickie, who is the owner of Creative Sunrooms.

Dickie says his sunrooms have highly-reflective roofing, which means they stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter – making them a comfortable place to spend time year-round.

“There’s often no wall between the sunroom and the rest of the house, and that’s been made possible because of advances in the glass and framing materials,” says Dickie. He explains that this makes a home’s floor plan look much larger, because you’re opening up the space.

Homeowners who want to open their sunroom up to the fresh air are in luck, because Creative Sunrooms is about to launch a new folding glass wall – which will give people the option to open up an entire wall to the outside. Dickie says they will also be offering huge sliding screens, which will allow people to “change up the design of their room quite significantly.”

Andrew Delorey, owner of Patio Screen Room, says many homeowners decide to add a sunroom after they retire, because they’re spending more time at home – and it quickly becomes their preferred spot to spend time.

“People tell us it’s the best investment they ever made, and that they should have done it years ago,” says Delorey. “We always say it’s a room you can technically do without, but it’s certainly a room you will use all the time and appreciate.”

Building a permanent outdoor grill, dedicating space for a firepit, or adding on to your home with a sunroom or patio screen room are all great ways to extend the use of your outdoor space.

Delorey says his clients appreciate that his sunrooms can be used year-round. In the warmer months, homeowners can enjoy the sunshine and warmth without being pestered by bugs. And on even the coldest winter night, they can sit comfortably in their sunroom and admire the starry sky.

Over at Archadeck, owner Maurice Meagher says our province’s limited summer season amplifies the need for a great outdoor space.

“When the weather gets warm, people really want to get outside and enjoy it in a good, functional space,” says Meagher. “A lot of people are putting in fire-pits so they can extend the season, and continue to use the area into the fall.”

Meagher says homeowners are also putting more focus on outdoor lanterns and lighting to add ambiance – and to make sure the space is functional long into the night. His clients will often separate their outdoor space into different areas – such as spots for growing vegetables and fruit, a designated dining area with a table and chairs, and a place with lounge chairs and recliners designed for entertaining.

“Long gone are the days when a deck or patio was just a little rectangle at the back of the house with a BBQ,” says Meagher. “The outdoor living space is viewed by people as a functional room, just like any other room in their home.”

“People are realizing that this is a really cost-effective way to extend their living space. It’s almost becoming a must-have feature in a home.”

When you’re beginning the design process, keep in mind that you’ll want a cohesive look. Meagher says outdoor living spaces should complement the home – not only in size and scale, but in design and material.

You’ll also want to choose products that will hold up well for the long haul. Low-maintenance deck materials are very popular now, because homeowners want a structure that isn’t going to peel and fade in the summer sun.

Kevin McGinnis, Manager of Innovation and Product Selection at Shaw Brick, says many homeowners are adding interest to their outdoor space using stone and brick. Whether it’s a winding walkway of pavers, a handsome brick retaining wall surrounded by flowers and plants, or a beautiful flagstone patio with a fire-pit for roasting marshmallows, he says these spaces have an incredible ability to rejuvenate the exterior of a home.

“If someone’s home is 15 or 20 years old, these updates can really freshen it up and give it a new look,” says McGinnis. “Plus, there’s a lot of longevity in brick and stone, and that works well for resale value.”

Adding brick to the exterior of an existing home can be an involved process, but McGinnis says there are a variety of lightweight veneer products that can give a home the appearance of brick or stone much more easily. The lumber framing still supports the walls of your home, and the veneer serves as a cosmetic layer on top.

“You see a lot of new homes with a layer of stone around it as an apron – for the first three or four feet – and then they have brick on top,” says McGinnis. “It’s all about combining more than one texture for a really unique look.”

Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke is a freelance journalist whose work regularly appears in many Atlantic Canadian newspapers and magazines, including The Chronicle Herald, Metro, Hub Now, Business Voice, Dugger's, Progress, East Coast Living, Bedford Magazine, and Southender Magazine. She also has several corporate clients.

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