It isn’t too early for homeowners to plan their outdoor kitchens, patios, pools, and waterfalls. The arrival of March means the busy season has begun for members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc. Now is the time for homeowners to make their remodeling plans and select their contractors, if they want their outdoor areas to be ready for entertaining this summer. Association members provided the following trends and tips to kick start the season.
“Outdoor rooms have gained in popularity in the last few years,” said Michael Manke of LandCrafters, Inc. in New Berlin. “Furniture, lighting, rugs, and accessories that give you the feeling that the garden is truly an extension of the house are in demand.”
Milwaukee/NARI members listed popular features for an outdoor area.
• Fireplaces. “Fireplaces can range from a kit to a custom masonry fireplace with materials that match the style and construction materials of the house,” Manke said. A full-size fireplace is often striking and becomes the focal point of an outdoor living area.
• Fire Pits and Bowls. Fire pits are a popular alternative because they’re portable. Homeowners have the option of running a gas line to it as a starter, having a gas fire pit with artificial logs, or having a natural fire pit with no gas hook up. Greg Peterson of Extreme Exteriors, Inc. in Big Bend mentioned fire bowls as another popular option—they’re often more decorative than a fire pit and come in a variety of diameters and heights for wood, natural gas, or propane fires.
• Water Features. “Water features are huge — everything from a small pond to a dramatic waterfall,” Peterson said. According to Manke, “Water should be a part of every garden,” and the benefits of a water feature are far-reaching—from the soothing sounds it creates to the birds and wildlife it attracts. “Water can be designed to fit with the style of the garden or the surrounding architecture. Water features come in all shapes and sizes, from municipal fountains to a tiny bubbling rock in a backyard.”
• Outdoor Kitchens. Peterson said, “Refrigerators, sinks, pizza ovens, outdoor blenders—almost anything you can think of can be made for outdoor use, and the grill is usually built right into the counter so there are serving areas on both sides.”
Countertops are a little trickier outdoors where they’re exposed to the elements. Peterson said, “Granite can be used, though it’s porous, and will stain.” Instead, he recommended Lannon Stone. “It’s a big stone, really smooth, and sealed. It’s significantly less costly than granite, all natural, and the seal offers protection.”
Jim Smukowski of J&J Construction Lake Country in Dousman said, “No longer is a deck only a pressure-treated structure. There are composite materials, PVC, stone, tile, and different wood types available for use on decks and rails.” Spindles also come in a variety of styles and materials.
Peterson’s favorite outdoor structure to give protection from the weather is a pavilion. “It’s like a gazebo with different types of roofing,” he said. “It’s usually tongue-and-groove so on the inside it looks really nice. Although we can use cedar shake, we usually shingle the top to match the house.”
Manke likes retractable canopy systems. “They can be designed into any overhead structure. There are waterproof and water resistant fabric options. They’re designed to be wind resistant and come in a wide range of colors,” he said.
Smukowski has worked with several types of outdoor structures. In one of the company’s recent projects, a raised deck was built with a living area below. “It’s an excellent way to ensure the availability of outdoor entertaining,” he said. “It also affords the ability to incorporate increased outdoor lighting and even ceiling fans.”
Awnings are a popular choice for shade and protection from light rain, while the unique look of a pergola can enhance a home’s landscape. Smukowski said, “When constructed of natural material, it can create a relaxing, park-like setting or add to the enjoyment of a play area.”
There are options for entertaining in small backyards too. Peterson said the best trend is to surround the patio with a seat wall. “These are retaining walls about 21-inches high that go around the perimeter of the patio. They provide plenty of guest seating and make a small area efficient.”
Manke emphasized using proper design to make a yard appear larger through the use of focal points or a diagonal design. “With small yards, it is fun to explore what happens in side yard spaces,” he said. “These spaces are often forgotten, but in smaller yards you can utilize narrow areas to achieve surprising results.”
“Now is the good time to be planning,” Peterson said. His to-do list for homeowners interested in an outdoor remodel is to attend consumer shows, get estimates from a handful of contractors, and get on the list to remodel with your favorite contractor. “If you don’t plan now, you’re going to be down on the list. Once spring hits, all the contractors get really busy, and if you don’t plan for it now, your remodel might not get done until autumn.”
As for the physical start of the project, Manke explained that the start time for landscaping construction varies from year to year in Wisconsin. “Some hardscape projects like retaining walls and paving can get started earlier than some planting projects, which need dryer soil conditions.”
Although it varies based on the work being done, usually the frost needs to come out of the ground and the soil needs to dry before production crews start.
The design process, on the other hand, takes place year round. “Ideally, contact landscape designers a season in advance,” Manke said. “A great time to contact someone is in fall for a spring project.” The process begins with analyzing the site, taking photographs, working on the design and budgets, and getting the project scheduled for enjoying as much of the outdoor season as possible.
For more information, visit www.milwaukeenari.org.
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- CTS Adds Montie
- Dr. Paula Traktman Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology
- Dr. Mary Horowitz Inducted into Association of American Physicians
- Better Business Bureau Urges Donor Caution After Tornadoes
- Garden Revitalization Educational Series with Melinda Myers at Boerner Botanical Gardens runs May 21 through October 5
- Melinda Myers To Present Free “Late Spring Rejuvenation for your Landscape” Seminar at Stein's in Wauwatosa on Sat., June 1
- Milwaukee/NARI’s Nine Kitchen Storage Solutions
- Assurant Health ranks on southeast Wisconsin Top Workplaces list
- Trinity UCC to Host Annual Church Picnic and Outdoor Worship
- Trinity UCC to Host Annual Church Picnic and Outdoor Worship