Do you remember, as a kid, counting down the days until summer? The sun setting late, days spent riding bikes with friends, and- of course- dinner straight from the grill.
In our home, the yard became the living room as the weather warmed up. Between sidewalk chalk and the slip n’ slide, I’d barely slowed down enough to eat lunch.
I’ll be honest, I can’t wait for our two youngest to start creating their own memories outside. They’re just getting to the age where they can start running around- and they already love spending time out on our deck.
But, as a parent, the backyard needs a little more than a sprinkler to keep the magic alive. Chasing a kid around with a can of spray sunscreen is no easy task- and over the last couple of years? I’ve learned a few design changes can go a long way in transforming a backyard into a place everyone can enjoy.
Is your yard looking too much like an overgrown playground and not enough like a place where you’d host your own friends?
Are you always saying you should invite the neighbors over…but never do because you just don’t have a good space to gather?
Creating the ‘living’ space you want in your backyard is something we all start to think about as it warms up. Today, I’m sharing some inspiration on turning the backyard into your summer living room (all guaranteed to be kid and adult approved).
#1: Decks Really Make a Difference
Grilling weather is here. You’ve got your “Kiss the Chef” apron out…but you’re still wheeling your grill out onto the driveway. It works. Kind of. There are a few problems, like…
…remembering to move the car and then hauling everything out of the garage to set up…
…there’s nowhere for anyone to sit, so the rest of the family is inside glued to the TV…
…and your spouse isn’t too happy about you walking through the house a half dozen times to get to the kitchen while you cook.
Maybe it’s time to build a deck that makes life a little easier. Especially for you.
A deck creates a clean place to cook and eat while you, the chef, stay a part of the action. While the kids run around the yard or your neighbors play bags, you can keep dinner cooking and join the conversation.
Ready to build the perfect deck for your family?
When it comes to decking materials, the three most important things to consider are:
- How the deck’s materials are going to stand up to weather (durability)
- Your Budget (of course!)
- And how you want to use your deck (because this is YOUR home!)
What should you build your deck out of? First, think about the climate. The average lifespan of a wooden deck is 10-15 years- but only if you choose the right material and maintain it. We’re homebuilders in Pennsylvania and rain is our BIGGEST challenge when it comes to designing exterior builds that last.
Setting your budget is also key. If you’re looking for a one time expense and minimal upkeep, it’s best to invest more upfront in materials that last longer (we’re talking composite lumber).
And usage? How you want to use your deck is also important. What kind of outside activities do you enjoy? Do you have pets? Little kids? All of these questions can affect your decisions on both materials- and design.
In April’s Ask Vern, Vern breaks down the pros and cons of using pressure treated lumber vs. composite materials for your deck. Read more about what he recommends here!
Inspiration for Your Deck Design
Is your goal to get your family outside? Looking for a deck that will extend your living space?
Before settling on a deck design, make a list of how you want your deck to work for your lifestyle- and start gathering design inspiration.
Personally, I’m a fan of wrap around decks.
Wrap arounds build on to two or more sides of your house and are great for creating multi-use spaces outside. I love the idea of having an area that can be an outdoor dining room:
A reading nook
A place to hang bird feeders:
…pretty much everything…in one tidy spot.
Another bonus? Wrap arounds are a major selling point for future buyers. Planning on downsizing once your kids move out of the house? A wrap around deck not only gives your family years of enjoyment now- but also increases the value of your home when you list it.
It’s always good to think ahead, right?
If you already have a deck but want to expand it or re-tailor it to your lifestyle, we can help! At Martin Carpentry Inc, our team loves helping you design your perfect deck just as much as we love building it.
#2. Great Patio Improvements
Does your home design lend itself more toward a patio than a deck? Or, maybe you have an existing patio you’d like to see upgraded?
Patios are more DIY friendly than decks so it’s common for homeowners to have some sort of a patio built by the previous owner when they move in.
Unfortunately, most DIYers don’t get beyond adding a firepit when laying their patio. Understandable- laying brick and stone is a lot of work!
So here’s the problem: when you only have a firepit or fireplace as your source of light…it means you have to build a fire if you want to enjoy your patio after dark. What happens if it’s sweltering in the middle of August…or you’ve run out of split wood?
Chances are your patio is getting passed up for Netflix again!
The solution? Adding a few upgrades, like lighting and visual features, can transform a normal patio into a space you enjoy all summer.
First, let’s talk lighting.
You don’t have to tear up your yard to get great lighting to your patio (or deck!)
If your patio is close to your home, or near a shed or garage with electrical access, we can help you install an outdoor electric drop for picture-perfect overhead lighting. (Talk to us here!)
Trade secret: Commercial grade string lights, the type you see on restaurant patios, aren’t much more expensive than the kind you pick up at Target or Amazon. And while you need a safe exterior electrical drop to plug them into, they last for season after season, storm after storm, maintenance free. Definitely worth the upgrade!
Solar options have come a long way in the last few years, too. If your patio is covered with a pergola, or you’re looking to add some safety lighting to your deck without running electrical, solar lights are worth considering.
Take a look at these mission-style solar accent lights:
You’ve Got the Light. How About the Water?
When placed on your patio, water features upgrade your existing patio to R&R retreat without taking up much space.
Self-contained, solar powered fountains are great for small patios. But it’s hard to argue with these beautiful, bigger built-ins:
Again, if your patio is adjacent to your home, installing features like this might be easier than you think. Talk to us about finding the best way to add outdoor water or electrical to your home’s exterior.
#3: Sunrooms Bring the Outside IN
Sunrooms are designed to give you the best of both worlds. Watch the kids running around in the sprinkler while knocking out our monthly schedule on my laptop? Sign me up.
Let’s be honest, with more of us juggling dual income households and running our own businesses on the side, the “work from home” trend is likely to become the new norm for a lot of us even after the 2020 quarantine is over.
But why trade one boring office for another?
If we’re going to be at home, working or not, we want spaces that are
- Full of light, but protected from the elements
- And perfect for both work and play
Sunrooms do all of this and more.
Work From Home? Your Sunroom Office Awaits.
Has #wfh become your new hashtag? Is your office now remote?
If you’re spending more time at home- maybe it’s time to invest in your latest “office”.
Can you turn your existing patio or deck into a sunroom? It’s possible- but you should speak to an experienced contractor before deciding if this is the route you want to take. When a retrofit goes wrong, especially in Pennsylvania, you could be inviting water damage to the main structure of your home.
But even if you don’t have a patio, sunrooms can be built on as a beautiful addition. Private, temperature controlled, these rooms are perfect offices for those work from home days when you need a creative space to focus.
Sunrooms can also become a well-loved entertainment area. Overflow for Super Bowl parties and Thanksgiving dinners, a tv-free place for board game nights, and a place for little ones to “camp” inside under the stars.
If a sunroom is out of budget, a screened-in porch has many of the same benefits. Check out this article and dive into our take on screened-in porches vs. three season rooms here!
Get Ready for Summer
Discover the possibilities of a summer upgrade by talking to our design team here. We don’t just build houses, we live in them. That means I understand what it’s like to want a house that not only looks great, but makes living in it fun.
One of my favorite things at Martin Carpentry Inc is when a potential client comes to us with an idea- and we work together to fit that dream into their lifestyle.
We’d love to bring your dream to life. Schedule a call with us today and let’s get started!