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Ways to enjoy back yard living

 

If you want to enjoy your back yard, here are a few ideas to extend the comfort of the indoors to the outside

The standard deck and grill setup in back yards has given way to more elaborate settings. Extending your living areas to the outdoors is easy and, in many cases, economical.

Before you begin a major overhaul in the back yard, think about what you want to achieve and set a budget. Draw up a grid to scale and begin playing around with your wish list.

Some possibilities include:

-Gazebo
-Trellises
-Outdoor kitchen
-Covered picnic area
-Game/activity area
-Flowerbeds/garden
-Re-circulating pool with waterfall
-Landscape/hardscape
-Privacy fencing
-Lighting

Base your overall design on where you live and how you want to spend time in the back yard. You may want to incorporate a firepit for colder temperatures and if you live in a warm climate, think about installing a misting system. If you have an extended rainy season, then a covered gazebo with sheltered path leading from the house will be a welcome addition.

Think ahead about storage solutions as well. Will you need space to store chair cushions, game equipment, and grilling utensils? Many storage products can do double duty as extra bench seating. Before adding any large-scale buildings or extra plumbing or wiring, check the necessary building codes and neighborhood covenants.

Begin with the landscape and treat it as the base of your plans, much as you would begin with flooring selection inside your home. Evaluate your hardscape areas as well: walkways and deck areas. You can add pavers to create winding walkways or a gravel base in the activity/eating areas.

Next you can select the space for flowers, a vegetable garden, and potted greenery. When you shop for planters, think of them as garden sculptures. One large pot can create a dramatic focal point. Concrete planters are inexpensive and might be a perfect fit in strategic locations.

If you want to add a water feature keep in mind that mosquitoes will become a problem unless you incorporate a re-circulating pump. Waterfalls are popular and, along with fish such as koi, can control insect breeding grounds.

When your back yard design is complete, you will be spending more time outdoors, so lighting is a critical aspect. Combine ambient lighting, such as twinkle lights and votive torches, with task lighting, which includes solar walkway lights and bright downward lights around all activity areas. Many built-in grill units have task lighting built into the islands and into the grill lids as well.

Trellises and gazebos offer shaded respite from summer sun. Fast growing vines, such as the five-leaf akebia (chocolate vine), will give you a quick start. You may need a more permanent roofing solution, however, for rainy seasons and winter months.

Outdoor heating options include wood-burning fireplaces, ceramic heaters, and standalone pits, including chimeneas.

Not least is furniture. Tables and comfortable chairs come in a variety of materials and styles. Teak tops the list of high-end quality furniture that also features endurance. Prices for teak are a little higher for the initial purchase, but with proper care, may very well outlast other choices.

Wicker has changed since the days of wobbly, mildewed chairs. Today's wicker is synthetic and weather-resistant. It's easy to clean, too - just brush out the dirt and wipe down with a soft cloth and household cleaner.

Resin and metal patio furniture are also available in a wide range of styles and prices. Throw on a few cushions made with outdoor-proof materials and you'll have an instant outdoor oasis for the entire family.

If your fencing needs updating, think about installing a 6-foot privacy fence. You can purchase manageable sections at the local home improvement store for a reasonable cost. Now is also the time to either add to or update your deck. Replace screws and warped boards, add a new coat of water sealant, and you're ready to entertain any time of day or night.

Remember to think creatively when designing your back yard retreat. It should reflect your taste and style and it will quickly become a functional and much-used area of your home.

 

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