Written By: Steven Kleber – Kleber & Associates
Homeowners have always enjoyed their outdoor spaces. After all, there are few things more quintessential to the American Dream then grilling hotdogs and hamburgers in a backyard on a starry summer’s night. However, the last two decades have brought outdoor living trends to a whole new level. What was once simply a back patio or deck is now an entertainment area, where homeowners and their friends and families congregate to socialize, relax and recharge.
A recent survey conducted by LightStream showed that 41 percent of homeowners intend to improve their outdoor spaces in 2019 – with patio, deck and landscaping projects topping the list. And, while homeowners thoroughly enjoy updated and enhanced outdoor living environments, few enjoy the time and effort it takes to maintain those spaces. A great way to alleviate this concern is to incorporate materials that require minimal upkeep.
Here are a few ways to transform an outdoor space to an entertainment area while minimizing maintenance.
Deck and porch railings. Although not typically a top-of-mind item when building or remodeling a deck or porch area, railings are an essential functional element. Deck inserts also allow homeowners to add a bit of personality and flair to an outdoor space. For porches, in particular, adding an attractive railing can significantly increase curb appeal. Luckily, homeowners can choose from a growing number of railing infill solutions, including several recently introduced options that bolster design opportunities while minimizing maintenance.
Fence Quarter offers deck and porch railing inserts that come pre-assembled and ready to be installed into existing posts and rails. Available in several design motifs, the inserts are constructed using weather and pest resistant lumber, and can be delivered pre-primed, pre-painted or natural. The inserts can be installed as a DIY project or by a professional, and are removable for easy cleaning and maintenance, which allows busy homeowners to spend their free time relaxing on their deck or porch.
Another option is designer railing infill. Railing solutions provider Feeney recently launched DesignRail® Panel Infill, which comes in a variety of materials and styles, including stainless steel wire mesh and laser cut, powder-coated aluminum panels in an array of colors. Both materials are long-lasting and resistant to challenging climates. The panels can be mixed-and-matched with other infill options such as horizontal or vertical cable railing, glass, and pickets to create a custom look.
Outdoor Kitchens. As more homeowners move toward entertaining outside, outdoor kitchens continue to grow in popularity. According to the Freedonia Group, by 2022, the number of U.S. households with an outdoor kitchen is expected to increase to 3.9 million. Moreover, the Home Design Trends Survey from the American Institute of Architects reports that outdoor cooking spaces top the list for the most wanted kitchen and bath elements.
To keep maintenance to a minimum, many homeowners choose outdoor kitchens with stainless steel cabinetry, which will stand up to the elements – including challenging coastal environments – over time while requiring only occasional cleaning. Some outdoor kitchen manufacturers offer powder-coated finishes in a choice of colors for even more protection and design versatility.
Outdoor kitchen countertops are available in a diversity of materials, including natural stone, tile and concrete. Natural stone is one of the most popular countertop materials, noted for both its beauty and ability to stand up to the elements. Granite is strong and durable, and comes in a wide range of interesting patterns and colors. It isn’t damaged by heat, and – when properly sealed – is resistant to stains, mold and mildew. Similarly, soapstone is heat- and stain-resistant while only requiring periodic treatment with mineral oil to enhance its natural luster.
Landscaping. While landscaping can certainly add both form and function to an outdoor space, it’s important to consider ongoing maintenance requirements. Opting to minimize the use of grass and instead add beds of mulch and easy-to-care-for native plants around the perimeter of a deck or porch area reduces the need for mowing, trimming and watering. In addition to being inexpensive, mulch helps to prevent weeds and – when it breaks down – fertilizes plants.
Another way to create a low maintenance landscape is to utilize potted plants and container gardens on the deck and patio. Not only do these self-contained greenspaces add a pop of color to outdoor spaces, but they can also be easily moved to other areas, as desired. Larger pots and containers can be placed on rolling stands for easy relocation when the homeowner is hosting a party. Highlighting native plants will reduce the need for water and help to preserve landscaped areas with minimal effort. Trellises made of wood or stainless-steel cable can also be used to showcase flowering vines, optimizing space while bringing a sense of coziness and charm to an outdoor area.
Outdoor spaces are meant to be enjoyed. Investing in ways to minimize maintenance on the front end can pay dividends not only in the short term but also in the long run, by making these spaces welcoming and worry free.