In certain areas of the country, outdoor living spaces have always been popular. Marion McGrath of Jonathan McGrath Construction, in Longwood, Fla., says that almost all the remodels the company does have some outdoor feature. “It’s mostly about views to outside with decks and porches for eating and entertaining,” she says. “For lake-front homes, it ties into sea walls and docks.”
Most homeowners want a complementary outdoor room or space with structures that blend with the existing house. Jack McGrath prefers a lanai with an unobstructed view of the water, so he works with his engineers to maximize openings.
Don Mason, owner of Don Mason Builders, in Amarillo, Texas, says that, in the past, outdoor spaces usually only involved deck builders. “But now, because outdoor structures have become a larger feature, general contractors are doing more outside work,” he says, noting that many have roofs that must tie in to the existing or remodeled roof.
Chris Ebert of Normandy Builders says that his clients in Hinsdale, Ill., want to maximize their brief three months of summer. Many of his projects are in newer subdivisions built on farmland without mature trees, so his clients want both privacy and shading.
Ebert says that a covered outdoor structure is a cost-effective way to create a more interesting roofline and dresses up what is often a simple box. Addressing outdoor space during the design stage, he says, is an opportunity to expand the sale.
When a client came to Ebert for a family room addition that would require removing the existing deck, he thought it provided an opportunity to create a more interesting outdoor space. “After the exterior of the addition was built, and before the deck went in, I studied the views to find the areas that needed to be blocked for optimal privacy,” he says.
Ebert also spent a lot of time with the clients to ascertain how they would use the new outdoor area, addressing what they didn’t like about the original space, and asking about the number of people they would host, placement of the grill, and flow from the existing kitchen. “I like to have different areas that work for multiple uses and that allow the homeowners to move things around,” he says. “I also like to create interest by installing steps at an angle.”
Jack McGrath is a big believer in formal plans. “We build it on paper before we physically build it,” he says. “It helps you work out the bugs before you start.”
Mason says that for outdoor spaces, orientation is a key consideration. “The best patio is one that faces the south, so the sun passes over rather than being in your face in the morning or evening,” he says. Also, in his locale, siting the patio so that the house blocks the prevailing southwesterly winds is important.
Mason says that outdoor rooms also require working with a landscape designer or pool installer to coordinate placement of larger structures and to hide equipment.
—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.