Trends in patios, porches and decks

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Deck with outdoor kitchen

We Atlantans are blessed with more warm-weather months than cold, and it would be a crime to not take advantage of it. There’s something invigorating about relaxing in the fresh air, sunshine and sounds of summer—but it all starts with the space. Patios, porches and decks offer innumerable options for customizing your outdoor living area. Here are today’s top trends, just in time for some pre-summer improvements.

Cooking al fresco
The grill is a summertime icon and a mainstay in outdoor living areas. It seems only natural, then, that outdoor kitchens have become so popular. And they have. “Homeowners love to entertain family and friends outdoors,” says Leslie Wheeler, communications director for the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), www.hpba.org.

But don’t start stressing over your budget at the mention of adding a second kitchen to your home—outdoor kitchens can but don’t have to be as extensive as those indoors. “An outdoor kitchen can be as simple as a grill and prep area to a full-fledged kitchen equipped with refrigeration, grill or smoker (or both!), additional burner or ‘searing station,’ sink and prep areas,” Wheeler says, adding that costs can range from $300 for a simple grill to $50,000 for a complete outdoor kitchen.

The beauty of cooking outdoors is that you’re not missing out on the fun, slaving away by the stove inside on a gorgeous day. Or even if it’s not a perfect day outside, it can still be more enjoyable to whip up something under the open sky. According to the HBPA, 62 percent of grill owners are now cooking outdoors year-round. Which leads us to the next trend…

Year-round use

Who says outdoor living areas can only be enjoyed in warm weather? Homeowners are finding ways to extend the season of use for their patios, porches and decks by including a fire feature or heaters for added warmth and ambiance. Wheeler estimates that fire features can range from $200 for a simple, wood-burning fire pit to $5,000 for a masonry or gas fireplace.

“Some of the most popular patio products today are fire features,” she says, explaining that an array of options are available for not only the style of the feature, but also the fuel, as well: fireplaces can be bio-fueled, gas-fueled or wood-burning.

But you don’t always have to huddle around a fire to keep warm. Outdoor heaters have become a popular request in patio, porch and deck projects of late, says Rick Goldstein, registered architect and co-owner of MOSAIC Group [Architects and Remodelers], www.mosaicgroupatlanta.com. “We have completed seven or eight projects using heaters in the last couple of years,” he says. “The heaters are usually placed up high to give better overall distribution of the heat.” The cost of installing heaters is, on average, $2,000-$3,000, depending on the number and size of heaters.

Chameleon lighting
Now you see it, now you don’t… This might be what crosses your mind with the latest trend in lighting for patios, porches and decks. Many of today’s outdoor fixtures are being manufactured as part of structural elements—such as deck posts, half-walls or stair risers—so that they “disappear” during the daytime, when they’re not lit. These fixtures provide just the right amount of light to accentuate the design of your outdoor space, but not too much to glare into the neighbors’ yards.

Room with a view
Whether it’s due to landscape elevation issues or space constraints, patios and decks being built higher than ground-level are boasting something most other outdoor living spaces can’t: an incredible view of the horizon. Norm Shafer of Duradek Georgia, www.duradek.com, points to rooftop decks, noting that they are “fast becoming a cherished commodity in new-home developments.

“No longer a feature restricted to urban centers or coastal regions, roof decks are being included in major suburban developments,” he says. “Roof decks allow homeowners to enjoy private outdoor space without the requirement of a large property.”

To further maximize the view from these high-level outdoor living spaces, Shafer says that view-through railing systems are also a rising trend. “For the best in view-inspired railing systems, topless glass railings offer the most unobstructed view while still providing a secure perimeter and a wind barrier,” he says.

The comforts of home
It’s not called an “outdoor living space” for nothing—you’re supposed to feel comfortable enough to relax and enjoy the space for long periods of time. So forget that plastic patio set you bought on sale years ago—it’s time you upgraded to something more comfortable. Imagine your indoor living room, only outside. Now you’ve got the picture.

“Outdoor furniture manufacturers have brought all the comforts of indoor furniture outdoors,” Wheeler says. “Deep cushioned seating, lovely colors and an array of throw pillows are available. The design trend is to make the transition from indoors to outdoors seamless.” 

Check Your Deck

In honor of national Deck Safety Month (May), here are some items to check to ensure your deck is safe and secure:

❍   SPLIT OR DECAYING WOOD
    Check supporting structures to make sure wood is still sound. Check decking and railing for splitting or decay.

❍  FLASHING
    Flashing is a metal or plastic guard that directs water out and away from the house. It’s installed where the deck and house come together, keeping moisture and debris from collecting between the house and the deck’s ledger board. Check to ensure flashing is in place and secure.

❍  LOOSE OR CORRODED FASTENERS
    Fasteners include screws or anchors used in the support structure, ledger board, decking and railing. Look for loose connections, sagging joists and wobbly railings.

❍  RAILINGS AND BANISTERS
    These should be secure. Push on them to be sure there is no give. Also, check to be sure they are high enough.

❍  CLEANING AND MAINTENANCE
    Clean away any leaves and debris, as these can be slippery and promote mildew.

❍  GRILLS, FIRE PITS, CHIMNEYS, HEATERS AND CANDLES
    These features can create a warm and cozy deck atmosphere, but make sure any source of fire or heat is safely placed away from other surfaces and that the deck surface is protected by a non-flammable pad.

❍  LIGHTING AND ELECTRICAL
    Be sure all lighting is working. Clean any light covers to allow maximum light to shine through, and trim any plants or tree limbs that may be blocking light. Be sure all electrical outlets, appliances and features are up to code, in good condition and childproof if children are present.

❍  OUTDOOR FURNITURE AND STORAGE
    Test all outdoor furniture to be sure it is sturdy. Avoid placing seating right at the edge of the deck. If you have a swing or hammock installed, test the chains and ropes to be sure they are secure. Consider installing childproof latches on any storage boxes and benches.

❍  SURROUNDING TREES
    If you have tree limbs hanging over your deck, have an arborist regularly check the health of the tree to ensure there is no danger of decaying branches breaking and damaging your deck.
Information provided by Fiberon, www.fiberondecking.com, and the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), 
www.nadra.org.

Trend: 3D Renderings
Thanks to technological advancements, you can see a realistic 3D rendering of your contractor’s design before the project has even begun. “Some people have difficulty visualizing what a project will look like when it’s completed,” says Rick Goldstein, registered architect and co-owner of MOSAIC Group [Architects and Remodelers], 
www.mosaicgroupatlanta.com. He adds that these 3D renderings are not only a benefit for the homeowner—they benefit the architect as well: “It’s easier and less expensive to make modifications off the detailed renderings than it is after construction is underway.”

Just Like New
Old, unkempt wooden decks are an eyesore, and they decrease the value of your home. But now, you can revive your worn-out deck with a simple refinishing product—like DeckRevive, www.gulfsynthetics.com, or DeckReform, 
www.deckreform.com—at a fraction of the cost of rebuilding. These deck-coating products can be applied right over your deck surface, providing a durable, long-lasting finish that requires little maintenance.

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