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Home Improvement Guide 2007
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Creating a 21st century patio

Today's patio is more than simple barbecue space.

A round Weber grill on a concrete square worked well in the 1950s and 1960s, but today's homeowner is looking for much more than simple barbecue space.

According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, outdoor living in the 21st century means bringing all the comforts of the indoors outdoors. In order to bring the indoors out, homeowners need a cooking appliance, a table and chairs for dining and a hearth product to extend the season.

This entire "leisure lifestyle" industry is now a $6.2 billion industry, up 5.4 percent compared to 2002. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2005, one-third of nearly $150 billion on home remodeling went towards outdoor living areas.

"Our clients are making their outdoor space a No. 1 priority since it expands their family living area as well as their entertainment space," says Marion Gorski, a senior designer for JR's Creative Landscaping of Naperville, Ill. with over 36 years of experience designing residential patio and landscape areas.

Before any work is even begun, Gorski feels homeowners must ask themselves a few questions.

Key patio-planning questions:
How do you envision the area? Will it be used for cooking, entertaining, quiet space, play space for children or sunning? Are you looking for privacy from other homes? Would a fireplace or fire pit allow you the extended use of the area for evenings or cooler seasons?
How big do you need it? How many people are in the family, and how many friends and neighbors would you like to accommodate?
When will it be used? Will the area be used mornings, afternoons or evenings?
What is your budget? What spending parameters have you planned for your project?

Before any work can be done on the project by a designer or a handy homeowner, it is crucial to know the elevations from entry and exit points, property size and local codes. This will help you determine the materials that can be used, howmuch space is permitted and how the correct design will harmonize with the home.

Material choices
Factors to consider when selecting materials include not only your budget but also the cost of cleaning, sealing or repairing through the years.

Many homeowners still select concrete as their material of choice for their patio. "Today’s concrete patio is as unique as its owners. Modern stamping, texture and coloring techniques complement any landscape and provide a touch of individuality to the back yard," says Jim Peterson, president of The Concrete Network in Yucaipa, Calif., publisher of a Web site that covers the concrete industry. "Across the country, companies that specialize in concrete patios are seeing an enormous increase in elaborate outdoor living spaces -- all kinds of hardscaping and landscaping projects, including decorative concrete, are quickly emerging as the new material of choice for today’s patio."

Peterson notes that many homeowners are combining concrete with other materials such as brick, tile or flagstone. In addition, wood, steel or copper dividers can be used as control joints to help prevent cracking.

Some homeowners prefer decks to either concrete patios or pavers. According to Gorski, today’s homeowners don’t want to invest the time or effort involved in staining wood decks so they are looking for other materials to use. There are a variety of looks available in synthetic decking. "Today’s resin, all types of plastics or fiberglass -- which have no wood in them at all --give a wood appearance and have the texture of wood. Although it’s initially more expensive to install than an actual wood deck, these materials are an early investment versus continuous maintenance."

Natural stone, such as limestone or bluestone, is still used today on custom projects. Although timeless in its appearance and resistant to the elements, natural stone has its limits regarding installation, budget and material costs.

-- Posted: April 4, 2007
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