Outdoor living spaces extend the elements of interior décor and design beyond the four walls of a home. Once reserved for luxury homes, homeowners in all tax brackets have enthusiastically embraced the concept, typically as remodeling projects.
Benefits of an Outdoor Living Space
Outdoor living spaces serve to maintain or enhance property value, helping to position a property in a weak market. They also offer a place for homeowners to entertain, relax, and efficiently increase usable space.
Maintain or Increase Property Value. Some real estate experts feel as though outdoor living spaces make a home more attractive to potential buyers. Value may be increased about 10-20%.
Entertain. Outdoor living spaces provide property owners additional areas to entertain, while enjoying the outdoors. As with all forms of entertaining, food preparation is an integral part of outdoor living. With an outdoor kitchen, all the necessary components for entertaining are located outdoors; it can also keep a house from getting too warm when cooking.
Relax. Homeowners are spending more time at home now than they ever have before, creating escapes at home, so called “stay-cations.” Construction of an outdoor living space has even been touted as a way to save money since less money is spent on entertainment outside of the home.
Increase Usable Space. Valuable square footage is gained in terms of functionality. It certainly is an efficient and affordable way to expand a home. Outdoor living spaces usually cost 50% of a traditional addition. It is important to note that an outdoor living space does not affect the total living area of a home since it is not heated or cooled.
Components of an Outdoor Living Space
Outdoor living spaces often mimic interior space. These spaces should be in close proximity to the house; otherwise, it will not get much use.
Floors. The floors of outdoor living spaces range from simple to complex. Samples of flooring include grass, gravel, stone, brick, wood, concrete and concrete variations (stained, scored, washed gravel), tile, slate, and travertine. The price range is quite wide, from cheap to expensive.
Ceilings. Outdoor living spaces may or may not incorporate an overhead component, providing protection from the elements, as well as maximum usage. They can provide relief from precipitation, create shade/decrease glare, and protect from sun/heat.
Outdoor Kitchens. Today, outdoor cooking is more than just a grill. Additional components include: side burners, hoods, prep areas, refrigeration, sinks, and dry storage. The elements of outdoor cooking can be portable or permanently set.
Grills. Grills may use charcoal, liquid propane or natural gas.
Side Burners. Side burners are popular options in outdoor kitchens. Food can be cooked in an alternative manner than grilled.
Ventilation (Hoods). Mechanical ventilation of the cooking area is essential if the outdoor living space is covered by a roof.
Prep Area. This work surface area should be large and near the cooking area. Common materials include granite, quartz, marble, concrete and tile.
Refrigeration. Compact under-counter refrigerators designed for outdoor use allow storage of food and drink.
Sink. A sink added to an outdoor living space adds much convenience to the area. However, it adds tremendously to the cost and complexity of the project. Running water and the drainage of spent water becomes a major issue due to many local building codes.
Dry Storage. Space for storing utensils, paper goods, and cleaning supplies is essential to any outdoor kitchen. Even trash receptacles are highly coveted. Stainless steel drawers and cabinets are commonplace. Wood cabinetry may also used, but must be treated for outdoor use.
Dining. An area where the meal may be enjoyed is complementary to an outdoor cooking space. It is essential that the dining area be away from the grill so that odors and smoke not spoil the dining experience.
Lounge. Any lounge area must be large enough to accommodate seating of at least two or more chairs; larger areas may accommodate outdoor couches and loveseats. In this area, many homeowners include television sets with cable and/or satellite connections, as well as DVD players.
Water Elements. Water elements in an outdoor living space create a visually stimulating and relaxing atmosphere. These traditionally include waterfalls, fountains, pools or ponds. A newer component appearing in outdoor living space is outdoor misting systems. These systems blow a fine mist of water into the air, cooling the outdoor temperature.
Fire. A fire component adds ambiance to an outdoor living space. It also enables the outdoor space to be used night or day/ year round. Fire components include fireplaces and fire pits.
Outdoor living spaces allow homeowners to entertain and relax at home. Furthermore, usable space is increased at a fraction of the cost of a traditional addition. Astute real estate professionals will be able to recognize the different components of an outdoor living space and determine that value is enhanced (or at least maintained) for single family residential homes that have this amenity.
Kris Guidry is a real estate educator at Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, LA.
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