The Daily Southerner —
If it's time to think about making some improvements or additions to your home, outside may be the best place to get started.
Exterior additions and improvements are high on homeowner's lists, according to the Better Homes and Gardens 2011 Consumer Preference Survey. Among the top ranking features people want in their next homes are decks or patios (84 percent), and low-maintenance exteriors (79 percent). When it comes to the top ranking living spaces people want, outdoor grilling or living areas come in at 67 percent.
So whether you want to make some improvements for selling your home, or just to enjoy for yourself, the planning experts at Fiberon, makers of innovative composite decking, railing and fencing products, have some tips to help you plan the perfect outdoor oasis.
Define the Space. An outdoor room could be the entire yard, or just a small part of it. Think about it having walls, a ceiling and flooring, just like an indoor room.
* Walls are vertical elements that help define a space, such as hedges, trees, lattice screens, raised garden beds, railings, a gazebo or fence to frame your space.
* Ceilings provide shelter and shade. Think of awnings, umbrellas and pergolas. Or use what's naturally there, like the branches of a shade tree.
* Flooring could be the existing lawn, a mulched pathway or a created floor such as a concrete or flagstone patio, or deck.
Decide the Elements. Once you know where your oasis is, it's time to figure out what needs to go in it. Here are some elements to consider:
Decking - A low-maintenance composite deck adds versatility and beauty that you can customize to meet just about any need. And it can pay, off, too. Composite deck additions are among the projects that recoup the most of their cost upon home resale, according to the Remodeling Magazine 2009-10 Cost vs. Value Report.
* When planning a deck, don't make the mistake of building one that's too small. Mark the area you want to use, then put your outdoor furniture in it to see if you have the space you need.
* Use an online planning tool to explore designs, materials, colors and accessories.
* Be sure to check on local building codes and permits needed before starting any construction.
Fire and Food. Use your outdoor room any time of day by planning a place to cook and eat.
* An outdoor kitchen can be as simple as a portable grill or as elaborate as your budget will allow. A DIY pizza oven can also be a fun way to enjoy cooking outside.
* Fireplaces, fire pits and chimineas bring coziness along with great function - and they help extend the outdoor enjoyment in cooler weather.
Accessories. Just like indoor room, outdoor rooms benefit from appropriate accessories. Make sure you plan for them in your budget as well as in your designs.
* Lighting - Landscape lighting, lanterns, candles or strings of white outdoor lights can all add beautiful ambience.
* Sound - Add pleasing audio with outdoor stereo sound systems, trickling water features or even just simple wind chimes.
* Color - Garden art, tablescapes, container plantings and fabric can put colorful finishing touches on your outdoor room.
To use a free, online Deck Designer, and to learn more about Fiberon outdoor products, visit www.fiberondecking.com.