Feature Article /
Jun 3, 2020

How to Build Knock-Out Decks, Patios That Homeowners Will Actually Use

Aerial backyard Sean Collinsgru shot

Courtesy Premier Outdoor Living

Plus, 9 products that will elevate outdoor living spaces

Feature-packed outdoor decks and patios were trending before the pandemic began, but as many Americans shelter in place, they have shifted from fun extras to game changers.

Business slowed down for Premier Outdoor Living during the start of the pandemic, but that lull only lasted a few weeks. “In the last month and a half, it’s been absolutely crazy,” Sean Collinsgru, the company’s founder, says. “They don’t know what the next year to two years of travel will look like. People want to invest in their homes and vacation there.”

Sean Collinsgru Outdoor patio stone

Courtsey Premier Outdoor Living

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Even before the pandemic, Collinsgru says luxury outdoor patios and kitchens were becoming popular. He started his career in building as a landscaper after college, but soon realized there is an opportunity in the market to bring a designer mindset to outdoor spaces. 

“The biggest thing is to design from a functionality standpoint first,” Collinsgru says. “We look at it like we’re building outdoor rooms.” Instead of getting multiple contractors to install each piece of the entertainment area at different times, his company designs it all, specializing in all-inclusive packages that include deck, patio, and landscaping. His five-person business went from doing eight projects a year to managing 15 to 20, and he expects to do $1 million in sales in 2020 thanks to that unique business model and social media strategies. 

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Collinsgru says that if builders want to create spaces that wow, giving homeowners a unique space that fits their needs is key. By keeping the project to one builder, Collinsgru says he can ensure that the decks, patios, and other features work with each other and fit with clients’ needs.

Deckorators Voyage Mesa Varied Plank Widths in Brown

Deckorators 

Available in five shades of grey and brown, the new Voyage Varied-Plank Composite Deck collection is available in three widths, 3.5 inches, 5.5 inches and 7.25 inches. The company claims that the composite surface is stronger, absorbs less moisture, and transfers less thermal energy. Builders can choose from grooved and solid-edge profiles.

“Especially with younger clients that just moved into their forever home, homeowners are really willing to invest into it without looking at how much they’ll get out of it when they sell,” Collinsgru says. “They want more features like outdoor kitchens, pavilion shade, fire pits, and lighting.” 

Some manufacturers are also seeing a trend toward clients desiring outdoor spaces that do more. “Homeowners are becoming more willing to invest in elements that will extend the use of their outdoor spaces past sunset and past the traditional outdoor living season,” the Trex Company, manufacturer of high performance wood-alternative decking, railing, and outdoor kitchens, says. These high-demand features include lighting upgrades, pergolas, water and fire features, and outdoor kitchens.

By approaching an outdoor deck or patio area with the same gusto as an indoor room, builders can create an oasis where homeowners can escape, whether it’s during a regular summer day or during a worldwide pandemic.

Tips for Top Five Trending Outdoor Features

wine beer cooler in composite wood

Courtesy Premier Outdoor Living featuring Deckorators

 

Give outdoor kitchens as much thought as indoor ones

Homeowners are no longer satisfied with dingy charcoal grills. Outdoor space design experts say there is a growing interest in putting large, fully functional grills, refrigerators, wine coolers, and other premium features into outdoor living areas.

“As the foodie phenomenon continues to thrive, homeowners are increasingly making room, both in their budgets and floorplans, for outdoor kitchens,” Trex says. “In recent years, outdoor cooking areas have evolved from stand-alone grills to fully appointed spaces with specialty appliances ranging from smokers and side burners to pizza ovens and integrated refrigerated storage.” 

Trex Outdoor Kitchen Cabinets black stainless steel

Trex Outdoor

With colorful powder-finishes and soft-close doors, Trex Outdoor Kitchens stainless steel cabinets offer the style of interior kitchens with the functionality and durability needed outdoors. Builders can specify cabinets in 3-inch increments from 9 inches to 48 inches and can be integrated with any outdoor cooking appliance. 

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Collinsgru says that his company incorporates these trending appliances into contemporary designs that consider how the homeowner will use the space down to the orientation of the kitchen: Does the homeowner want to face the party when cooking or have a more private area to grill? By answering these questions and using mixed materials, builders can avoid making cookie-cutter kitchens and instead deliver spaces that perform while adding personality. 

Update your style of pavilions, pergolas, and gazebos

Gone are the days of gazebos straight out of the Sound of Music. Now the younger clientele is looking for something a little more modern to keep them cool during the hot summer months. “We’ll go with an almost flat roof, something clean, simple, and modern,” Collinsgru says. “It’s not going to look like it’s outdated or anything like that. It goes with that simplicity.”

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Not only is the style changing, but overhead structures are not the only option for shade and to create the sense of seclusion. Privacy walls and other vertical installations are on the rise as well. “Inspired by home improvement TV and magazines, look for design-savvy, yet space-constrained homeowners employing inventive uses of screening, fencing, all-weather curtains, and lattice to maximize area and privacy,” the Trex Company says.

Equinox Louver Deck and Outdoor

Equinox Roof 

Homeowners can control Equinox’s contemporary louvers to provide shade, rain coverage, or to let in the sun depending on weather conditions. The louvers can be installed anywhere that allows its shades’ range of motion and are smart home compatible.

Design fire pits for maximum use

Fire pits are one of the most requested features at Premier Outdoor Living. Collinsgru recommends getting creative with glass and stone infills to bring a personalized look to the unit. Though wood-burning fire pits bring a pleasing aesthetic and inviting smell, a majority of fire pits that the company installs are gas ones with electric ignitions. 

“If you get a wood burning fire pit, you’re probably only going to use it when you’re out there for a whole night as it’s a big to-do to set it up and make sure it’s put out before you go inside,” Collinsgru says. “A gas fire pit will be used almost every day. If you go out for a glass of wine for 30 minutes, you just light it up and then turn it off when you go back inside.”

Paolo Lumacast outdoor firepit in white

Lumacast

Inspired by astrophysics, the elliptical Paolo outdoor fireplace can be custom-built in eight colors and four sizes. Accessories include a glass wind guard, a tank cover, and infills such as smooth stone upgrades.

Use Lighting strategically 

Azek Lighting Postcap White

TimberTech 

Compatible with 5.5-inch post sleeve and cap, the TimberTech’s Post Cap Light illuminates an outdoor space from the deck posts with a soft glow.The unit comes in a flat frosted white color and measures 8-.25-inches by 8.25-inches by 2.75-inches. 

Lighting might not be the first design details that clients think of, but it can transform an outdoor space. “Part of the art is painting with light,” Collinsgru says. “You strategically plan it out so all of the light works together to add depth. It is really a small portion of the overall budget, but it packs the biggest punch.” 

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Because most families use their deck or patio near or after dark, lighting is crucial to illuminate the space and highlight details that might be lost. Two of the main types of lighting that his company uses are uplights and string lights, which are trending in homes and businesses. 

Wood composite deck at dusk with lighting

Courtsey Premier Outdoor Living featuring Deckorators

Aesthetics follow function for decks

Have you ever seen a heavily curved deck? Collinsgru says don’t do it. As aesthetically interesting as that shape can be, it limits the functional space and makes it hard to furnish. Instead, maximizing usable space while choosing durable, composite materials will make a long-lasting entertainment area for all seasons. 

“We’re doing a job coming up, and they spent a lot of money on a patio four years ago,” Collisngru says. “It was not designed well at all, and it turned out they spent all this money on it but they never used it because they couldn’t fit the furniture on it.”

If the deck is created with the client’s everyday life in mind, it will encourage them to actually take advantage of the space you’ve built. 

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Cascadia AG Stainless Steel Railing

AGS Stainless

The Cascade Railing System is a 316 marine-grade stainless steel product that the company says is closer in price to aluminum or composite-material railings and accommodates a variety of top rail styles. Because builders provide their own top rail, the company says it saves the builder time and manufacturing costs.

Premier-Techo-Bloc-Everst-stone-slabs

Techo Bloc

The Everest Slab collection replicates the look of natural stone in four colors and three sizes in square and rectangular shapes. Available in 12 herringbone, linear, and modular layout options, the collection brings a contemporary touch to an outdoor design. 

Tandem Modular Block Belgard

Belgard Pavers 

Builders can use the interconnecting properties of the Tandem Modular blocks to reinforce higher outdoor walls and connect structural units by their tenon and mortise features.The blocks come in three sizes and can be used for freestanding and retaining brick walls. 

K-Bana azenco white louver walls

Azenco 

Big winner of the outdoor furniture category in the 2020 Vesta Awards, the freestanding K-Bana pergola with manual sliding louvered panels comes in nine sizes and multiple modular setups. Options include sliding louvered panels, fixed louvered walls, a louvered roof, and motorization.