As the weather gets warmer, our thoughts turn to the outdoors, this year perhaps more than ever. Our yards have become an extension of our work from home office, an oasis to chill out and relax, and a safe space to visit with friends and family. Last summer, my hammock was a spot to unwind, contemplate my garden and my future, as well as a comfortable place to use my laptop or read a book. When the sun got too strong, I moved to the table, adjusting the umbrella to give me needed shade. These simple amenities made such a difference.
Adding a patio or deck with more room for outdoor seating is the ticket to making the most of your yard, whether for your private enjoyment or as a space for entertaining. A patio or deck is a “great place to sit and have drinks and talk. It’s very convivial,” says Sandy Bueti of Bueti Brothers, Inc. “You can socially distance, set up separate tables. Even elderly people can feel comfortable. You also don’t have to worry about ticks, so it’s an advantage over lying on your lawn.”
Last year, “because people were spending a lot more time at home, there was a big uptick in demand for decking,” says Donald LeBlanc of Just Decks in Pleasantville. “Manufacturing slowed down, so we had to be creative in getting materials. The demand exceeded the supply, and prices of materials were phenomenal, out of control.” Still, this did not deter most people from adding welcome outdoor spaces. He is hopeful raw material costs will come down this year.
Trends in decking are changing, with cedar decks becoming a thing of the past, replaced by easy to maintain composites or “very high end exotic hardwoods such as mahogany, ipe and palolape, ” said LeBlanc. Neither ipe, from South America, nor palolape from Asia “need any maintenance unless you’re trying to maintain the color,” he said. Mahogany, while beautiful, varies in grade and requires substantial maintenance. His company uses only sustainably harvested woods.
Both Bueti and Le Blanc caution that decks and patios are subject to setback and other requirements, so you should work with a licensed contractor who can help you acquire all needed permits.
They also recommend starting projects as early in the year as possible, especially given the increased demand.
Fire pits are continuing to grow in popularity. Whether you opt for a one-of-a-kind model hand built by a mason or a ready-made metal portable model, either provides a fun spot for the entire family to roast marshmallows and make those time-honored treats, s’mores. They also keep you warm come fall, extending the outdoor season.
Another way to extend the season is with a screened porch, says Bueti, particularly if you add a fireplace. Screened porches are also welcome in the hot summer months when mosquitos are biting. He joked that when you are out on a screened porch, it can be hard to get company to leave, “Hours go by, you feel so protected,” he said. These days, as we edge closer to normal life, that’s a welcome problem to have.