Think Spring Spruce-Up, Inside and Outside

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – After years of landscaping their backyards and installing patios for entertaining, homeowners are turning their focus to the entrances of their houses.

It makes perfect sense, says Excel Lawn Care and Landscaping co-owner Kevin Naples,.

“When you come home, people want their front door to look nice and have some good landscaping and lighting around it. That’s what people want,” he says.

Customers are eschewing concrete walkways, stoops and retaining walls, turning instead to stone pavers, he adds, even mailboxes built into walls or columns. In between the constructions of stone, foundation planting is becoming more common as people plant vegetation that can be admired year-round – evergreen and flowering shrubs, perennial grasses and colored mulches.

For lawns, organic fertilizer is primed to take off in popularity this year, says Delliquadri Lawn Maintenance & Landscaping’s Tom Bergagna, after being introduced a couple of years ago.

The mixture Delliquadri uses, Holganix, is a liquid combination of microorganisms and molasses sprayed on lawns.

“It doesn’t give you the quick green like [traditional nitrogen spray] does, but it makes the soil healthier, which leads to a better lawn,” he says. “It’s all for the sake of the environment. There’s just less risk as opposed to conventional herbicides. We’ve had really good results with it.”

Moving up from the ground, shaker siding – styled to look like overlapping pieces of wood that hang vertically, rather than stretched the width of the house – has been on the upswing, along with stone accents along the base of a house, says Advantage Windows & Siding owner Anthony Testa. Triple-pane windows, more energy efficient than standard double-pane windows but more expensive, are also in greater demand, he adds.

To reducing the climbing and related maintenance homeowners should perform, gutter covers to keep leaves and other debris out are picking up traction. Sam Fargiorgio, a marketing manager for Leaf Filter, says its products are becoming more popular every year and sales for the company reached $89 million last year nationwide.

“It’s really simple and there’s not a lot of changes to it from year to year,” he says. “It’s vinyl over surgical steel mesh. That’s all it is.” The biggest factors in someone’s decision to get Leaf Filter are his age and the time it takes him to clean the gutters.

Lighting can also be used to accentuate architectural features and landscaping, says Edison Lighting landscape manager Jack Beggs. Right now, people commonly use “uplighting,” where lights are planted near the foundations of their houses and illuminate the exteriors.

“It’s more of accent lighting than floodlights. It’s soft and you can use it to highlight architectural aspects of the house,” he says. “You can show off details and expand the stature of the house at night. In addition to helping with security, it also increases the aesthetic appeal more so than just security floodlights.”

Such floodlights are no longer necessary, thanks to wireless and infrared security cameras, says James Fisher, vice president of sales for Smart Solutions. The industry standard for security cameras today are wireless systems that can be connected to smartphones, he explains as he takes his smartphone out of his pocket.

“I can control all of my light switches and all of my locks,” he says as he hits a button to lock his doors at home. “There’s a ‘good night’ setting that turns on my security system, turns the lights off and turns the temperature down in my house. And it’s all with one button.”

Inside a home, kitchen work appears to be the trend this year. At Zinz Construction and Restoration, the top three items are vinyl tile, quartz countertops and new styles for backsplashes, says estimator Nathan Toy.

For cabinetwork, microwave shelves seem to be in greatest demand, he notes, as people look to free up counter space.

In kitchens and baths, he continues, vinyl tile is the top choice recently because of two factors: ease of installation and the fact that it’s waterproof.

“It’s perfect for kitchens and baths. Even in basements, people are having it put in,” he says. “And because it’s so easy to install, if something does happen, you can have it pulled up and reinstalled really quick.”

Above the sink, glass backsplashes are making a comeback, Toy says, noting the cyclical trends in his industry.

“They’re shying away from metals and stones behind the sink. People want to dress it up a little more with colored glass and tile patterns,” he says. “This is what it’s all come back around to.”

In living spaces such as bedrooms, basements and family rooms, pellet stoves seem to be popular both as a form of decoration – many come with options for metal trims and inserts that can be swapped out – and climate control, observes Adrian Stoltzfus at Millstone Farm & Garden Center.

The store in Columbiana added the Harman Stove brand last year and has sold about 40 since, Stoltzfus says. The stoves use wood pellets as fuel rather than logs cut to size. The pellets have the advantage of being treated to burn cleaner than normal chunks of wood. Prices of Harman heaters range from $3,000 to $4,000.

“They all come with built-in thermostats, so you can set it to exactly what temperature you want,” Ricker says. “It’ll shut itself off and reignite all on its own, without you ever having to touch it once you set it. Some people do use them for more decorative purposes but a lot of what we sell are just people using them as a whole-basement heater.”

Backup generators increasingly have become
top-bellers at Good’s Electric, owner Daniel Good says, as are QuietCool fans that pull air from outside a house to cool living spaces. For many customers, the fans have lowered their summer electric bills, he notes.

“Instead of dollars per hour for air conditioning, it’s cents per hour,” Good says. “If you pull that air in all night, it can cool the whole house down and during the day the air conditioner will have to run much less.”

During the summer, more families are spending more time outdoors, leading to a rise in the number of patio projects for VTF Landscape. Those projects tend to include built-in grills and fireplaces, along with tabletops and bars, says Dean Bofenkamp.

Unlike the front of their homes, where customers are beginning to shift away from concrete, Bofenkamp says concrete counters are becoming the norm in backyards, largely because of how much can be customized.

“You can do any shape and any color, Bofenkamp explains. “It can have a stone type look to it or have it completely flat. We’ve put in a big block O for an Ohio State fan. Plus, you can get any color to have it match your house or your patio.”

With patio fire pits, adds Mark Wheeler of Wheeler’s Fireplace & Grill, glass fire pits fueled by natural gas are the new normal. They use a tempered and tumbled glass available in a plethora of colors, he explains, and while they are more expensive than standard natural gas-fueled pits, customers have been raving about them.

“They absolutely love them,” he relates. “When we brought them in, we knew they’d be beautiful, but we didn’t think about how good a conductor of heat this glass is. It radiates heat out more, so not only do they look good, but they warm about a 15-foot radius.”

Almost all landscaping and home-maintenance companies agree there’s no right or wrong when it comes to style or décor, just what a homeowner wants. And with more options for customization on everything from garden statues to garage doors, customers can get nearly anything they want.

To address that trend, many companies have widened their offerings. Later this year, Edison Electric and Landscaping will open its “Garden Boutique,” featuring decorations for outdoor living spaces and flowerbeds.

“Lots of people want something unique,” says Edison Electric and Landscaping’s Beggs. “There’s a lot of stuff out there and, at big box stores, it’ll be the same kind of stuff all the time. We want to bring in unique items that are going to last a long time. It’ll be stuff that highlights certain part of or even be the focal point of your space.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.