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Home Remodeling Market Moves Outdoors

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The attention paid to patios, porches and sunrooms has grown tremendously in recent years, thanks to do-it-yourself websites and home-improvement TV shows.

And like the houses featured in such programs, outdoor living spaces are getting bigger and better. The marketplace has been flooded with new materials and styles for everything from stones to seat cushions. The only limit, it seems, is a budget.

“You can easily get into $10,000 or $15,000 for a patio, fire pit and kitchen,” says Scott Jones, vice president of Youngstown Propane. “That’s not average. You can spend less. But if you contract it, be prepared to spend that, easy.”

Donald Kushner, owner of Kushner’s Garden & Patio in Poland, has seen some DIY projects near $25,000, some including water walls, built-in TVs and bars with beer taps.

In Butler, Pa., Nesbit’s Landscape Supply once shipped $250,000 worth of natural stone and supplies to a contractor, says owner Jeff Nesbit.

“A small patio with landscaping can be $10,000. And then you get up to the hundreds of thousands,” says Jack Beggs, the landscape manager at Edison Landscape & Deck Lighting. “It all depends on what you’re using and what projects you’re installing.”

Almost every project has a fire pit and outdoor kitchens are the No. 2 request, although Beggs notes that the scale of such projects varies greatly. One might have a refrigerator, sink, large countertops and a spacious grill, while others might be simply a small cooler and grill.

“Most people who’ve hosted Thanksgiving know the one room where everyone gathers. It’s the kitchen,” says Paul Hagman, president of RBF CoLab Architecture and Design. “Even with an outdoor kitchen, it still gives that space to gather and talk and socialize.”

Each year, Hagman notes, the American Institute of Architects surveys its members about the trends they see. In 2016, the association noted that while outdoor spaces continue to be popular, members are seeing a rise in transitional spaces such as sunrooms and three-season rooms. Since it’s not exactly an outdoor space or an interior one, it serves a purpose somewhere between the two. It can be heated in the winter, providing an extra room, or can be opened up in the warmer months to provide an outdoor atmosphere.

“It’s usually attached to the house on one side and a true outdoor space where there’s a grill or hammock or water feature,” Hagman says. “It’s nothing new to have transitional spaces. But these are blurring that line between indoor and outdoor. It may have an outdoor kitchen or a TV. So while it’s an outdoor space in that sense, it doesn’t really qualify as a porch or patio.”

The trend toward outdoor living space picked up mostly in the past decade or so, all agree. It used to be, says Youngstown Propane’s Jones, that you could count on one hand the number of built-in grills his store sold in a year. Now, those are one of his top sellers and there are dozens of options.

Even outdoor furniture has come a long way in the past decade, adds Kushner.

“It’s getting more comfortable. The materials are more outdoor-friendly. They last a lot longer and cushions dry faster,” he says. “A lot of companies are gearing toward outdoor furniture.”

For construction materials, natural stone is always the priciest, but many alternatives have arrived in supply stores. Artificial stones are common and come in an abundance of colors and textures, as do bricks for retaining walls.

In Butler, Nesbit’s carries stone veneers that offer the same look as natural stone, but are less expensive and easier to install.

“Manufactured stones are made of a lightweight aggregate that are half the weight and maybe an inch thick that can be hung on the wall,” Nesbit says. “Right now, if you see stone, it’s probably 90% manufactured. Natural stone is really only for the elite at this stage of the game if you’re talking about facing.”

Even with authentic stone, Hagman adds, there are options at nearly every price point and for every project.

When it comes to designing an outdoor space, the most important questions are about the owner. More and more, all agree, people are using such spaces as an extension of their houses rather than separate areas. And just as no two homes are designed or decorated the same, so it is with patios.

Some are looking for a simple DIY project to accommodate a few friends while others want something to host family get-togethers. Even where furniture and appliances are placed comes down to personal preference, Hagman says.

“Some people want their friends to be part of the cooking, if we’re talking outdoor kitchens, and some want to be the chef and have their friends way over there,” he explains. “The way people use a space has an impact on everything.”

At Edison, the design process takes up to a month – two weeks is average, Beggs says – to work through the measurements, layout, materials and logistics of upgrading or installing a patio. Once that’s done and Edison workers and subcontractors have left, that isn’t necessarily the end of the work. The landscape and lighting company added its Garden Boutique last year, offering everything from pots and planters to fountains and statuettes.

“It’s the little things that you can add to make it more homey, to make it your space. It’s something people are seeing a lot of more of, which makes it more popular,” Beggs says. “There’s nothing worse than having a patio you’re not happy with because you won’t use it.”

The outdoor living trend, Jones says, started in warm-weather climates such as California and Florida where an outdoor space could serve year-round as an additional room. As the trend spread to the Midwest, where an outdoor space might be used only a few months of the year, the purpose took on a different importance.

“People are inside so much during the winter that when the weather does start to break, they want to get outside and get fresh air and feel the sunshine,” Kushner says. “They’re tired of being in the house so after a long day’s work: They’ve got this comfortable area in a nice environment.”

Pictured: Jack Beggs of Edison Landscape & Deck Lighting.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.