by Brett Freeman
Watching nature begin its own annual remodeling project can create an urge in you to do the same. Or maybe you're just restless after spending winter indoors. Whatever the reason, springtime is for creating, and more and more homeowners are remodeling their backyards into livable spaces so they can spend more leisure time outside during the warm weather months. The following five projects can help accomplish that goal, and enhance the value of your home as well.
If you plan to enjoy the outdoors when summer heats up, a well-constructed deck or patio of the correct size is crucial to the outdoor lifestyle. Ask yourself the following questions before you begin:
• How will you use the outdoor space?
• Do you want to take advantage of a view?
• Do you need privacy for a hot tub?
• Do you want sunlight or shade?
• Do you need to safely accommodate small children or grandparents?
• Does the structure need to support heavy planter boxes or furniture?
• Do you have a design and layout that makes sense?
• What's the right deck or patio material?
While you're enjoying your new deck or patio this summer, consider the fact that you're increasing your home value at the same time. The Remodeling Online Cost vs Value Report 2007 projects that you can recoup a whopping 85.4 percent return on your investment if you decide to sell your home.
If you're feeling extremely ambitious, installing a swimming pool might just be the ultimate spring project. Today, you have more swimming pool choices than ever before--above ground or in-ground; gunite, vinyl, or fiberglass; and a wide range of colors and shapes. If that's not enough, accessories such as waterfalls and planters can help you create a virtual oasis that blends with your existing landscape.
With the advent of technology, cool pools are in. In a vanishing edge pool, water drains over an edge and into a hidden recirculation basin, giving the illusion that your pool is missing one or more walls. Though expensive, these pools can give your backyard a contemporary feel that many homeowners strive to achieve.
If you find it too difficult to escape the allure of seaside living, a zero entry pool might be more your style. Meant to simulate a shoreline, zero entry pools have a gradual slope as an entry instead of the traditional stairway. To complete the effect, try adding a little beach sand around your pool's exterior.
The trend over the past decade has been to create a living room in the backyard. Weatherproof upholstery, retractable awnings, and outdoor TV and stereo systems have made it easy to bring indoor comforts outside. And if you're living and eating outside, preparing and cooking your meals out there is the next logical step, right?
The first outdoor kitchens were all custom designs and way too expensive for most homeowners. But the popularity of outdoor cooking spaces, as opposed to just a gas grill, has led to many new and less expensive options. You can install a prefabricated outdoor kitchen with an island, gas grill, sink, and refrigerator in a day or two. Some units even accommodate a dishwasher and have enough cabinet space to store a second set of plates and cookware. You'll be able to cook outside until the first flakes of winter snow start to fall.
In the best of times, your lawn is green--uniformly green and weed-free. But is it also a strain on the environment and even…boring?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, lawn irrigation accounts for nearly half of all water usage among U.S. homeowners. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office declares that 39 states in the U.S. expect to face some degree of water shortage over the next decade. Many areas of the country are responding by establishing restrictions on when and how often you can water your lawn. This isn't to say you should tear out all of your grass, but there are a number of good reasons to consider replacing some or even most of your lawn with drought resistant landscaping.
Xeriscaping--the conservation of water through creative landscaping--can not only reduce water usage, but it can improve the look of your yard, adding color and variety to what was once a monotonous sea of green. Think of it as interior decorating for your outdoor living space.
Create a lush and colorful, low maintenance xeriscape by:
• Planning your design using low-water native plants in a variety of colors and textures
• Using appropriate compost, manure, and mulch
• Installing a properly designed and efficient irrigation system
• Fertilizing, pruning, and weeding
Xeriscape landscaping can free you from the garden hose and the lawn mower and give you more time to enjoy outdoor living. An added bonus, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects, is that a well-planned landscape can raise your property value from 10 to 30 percent.
During the dog days of summer, your outdoor paradise may be much more comfortable after sundown. For the sake of safety, you need lighting. For the sake of ambiance, you want that lighting to be subtle. You can accomplish both safety and subtlety with a low wattage lighting system. To avoid a glare, use ground-level and downward-pointing lighting to safely illuminate paths and stairs. You can also use a combination of uplighting and downlighting (spotlights directed up or down) to create a dramatic or natural moonlit effect.
Whether you decide to embark on one of these projects, or something completely different, you'll be glad that you invested in your home. To find local contractors, or learn more about any of these remodeling projects check out our other resources.
About the author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company.