What’s New in Your Backyard?

The planning process is one of the most exciting parts of a home renovation project, and with social distancing keeping us indoors, now is the time to dream big and get ready.

Whether it’s a basement makeover, a pool addition or even building a new house from scratch, here are some tips to get started:

FACTOR IN YOUR LIFESTYLE. Think about your priorities and lifestyle. Do you work from home without a proper home office? Do you enjoy cooking and entertaining? Is your backyard living up to its potential as an extension of your home? Asking these kinds of questions can help you determine the most beneficial focus for your next project.

EDUCATE YOURSELF. Take advantage of this extra time you have to learn about materials, processes and new innovations. You can make smarter purchasing decisions by finding out the answers to key questions, such as: Is this material mold-resistant? How long will it last? Is this a passing fad or will it stand the test of time?  

CONSIDER SUSTAINABILITY. Products and materials that reduce your carbon footprint don’t just help the planet, they’re often better for your wallet, too. When doing your research, look for energy- efficient appliances, windows, walls and more to build a greener home that will last longer and save you money in the long run.

DISASTER-PROOF YOUR DESIGN. The pandemic has taught us that sometimes the worst can happen. From natural disasters to fires and flooding, we need our homes to offer as much protection as possible. Whether you’re planning an extension to your home, pools and spas for your backyard or a custom-built home, insulated concrete forms from Nudura are a smart investment. An eco-friendly alternative to traditional materials like wood, ICFs are disaster resilient, designed to withstand wind, fire, tornados, and more.

BUDGET FOR SMART SPLURGES AND SAVINGS. Budgeting is one of the most important parts of the planning process because you want to spend your hard-earned money wisely. With the rise of the staycation, more and more homeowners are turning their backyards into their own private oases. The centerpiece of many such retreats is a refreshing and inviting pool. Whether above-ground or inground models, pools make for welcoming spots to enjoy warm days and nights. A new pool can quickly turn a yard into the “it” spot to spend vacations or cool off at the end hot summer days. While pools are often the focal point of a backyard, many homeowners want their pools to blend seamlessly with the rest of their yards. When transforming a backyard that includes a pool, homeowners should consider a few factors to ensure each afternoon spent poolside is as safe as it is fun.

SAFETY FIRST. Although the goal may be to soften the lines of the pool and/or create sight barriers that will provide some measure of privacy for swimmers, homeowners must put safety above all else. Before any decorative touches are added, it is important to surround a pool with a slip-resistant surface and fencing (many communities require fences be erected around pools). Consult with a landscaping contractor, who should be knowledgeable about safety codes, or speak to the permit-issuing department at town hall. There should be a list of requirements to ensure pool placement as well as any surrounding touches are legal and within code.

NONSLIP SURFACES. Concrete, brick and pavers and decking are popular materials used to surround a pool. Installers can make recommendations on materials and finishes, but one suggestion is to choose a rough finish. Pool water can make surfaces slippery. Concrete that is stamped or scarred provides extra traction than a smooth surface. The same can be said for brick patios and pavers. Avoid smooth stones or pavers with shiny surfaces, as these may only increase the risk of falls. Homeowners who have chosen wood or composite decking to surround a pool should talk to their contractor about nonslip protective coatings. Such coatings typically are acrylic-based liquids applied like a paint or sealer. Some composite decks may be crafted with texture or a built-in coating to reduce slipping. In addition, use nonstick mats on decks and patios to provide a little extra footing where people enter and exit the pool.

MULCH AND STONE. Homeowners often prefer some combination of mulch or stone to serve as a transition between the pool, concrete or paver hardscape and the lawn. Stone may be more practical for those with inground pools because it will not easily blow onto the water surface. With an above-ground pool, mulch or stone can do the trick, serving as a barrier so that pool water does not overly drench the surrounding lawn or damage grass after exposure to pool chemicals. Mulch and stone also will provide drainage from water runoff from the pool and rain. Another advantage of having an additional barrier between the pool and lawn is that lawn clippings will not be shot into the pool when mowing. Stone and mulch can be dressed up with statues, lawn ornaments and tolerant plants.

FINISHING TOUCHES. Plants can provide the finishing touches for a poolside landscape. Homeowners should keep in mind that pools are not often shaded from the sun, so plants placed around the pool will need to be sun- and drought-tolerant. Succulents, such as aloe and jade, may work, as can the perennial shrub yucca. Moderately growing grasses will offer a privacy barrier. Keep trees and flowering plants far enough away from the pool’s edge so they do not contribute to debris that falls into the pool, which can complicate maintenance. Also, flowering plants may attract insects and other wildlife that may interfere with your enjoyment of the pool. It’s better to create a friendly environment for wildlife further away from the pool. Homeowners who need some advice planning the landscaping around their pools can rely on the expertise of landscape architects as well as employees at lawn and garden centers. Pool companies may work with landscapers and offer recommendations to people unaccustomed to working around pools. Our backyards are some of the best places to spend the summer months, especially if you’re practicing social distancing and are tired of being cooped up indoors. Fortunately, it’s possible to transform your outdoor living space into a secluded, open-air retreat.

BRING THE INDOORS OUT. We often hear about bringing the outdoors inside, but the reverse is also true when designing a luxurious extension of your home. Homey, lived-in touches can take your outdoor space from sterile and unfinished to cozy and inviting. Think patterned throw pillows, fluffy blankets for chilly evenings, outdoor rugs, colorful lanterns, and decorative accessories like painted terracotta pots or metal tins.

INVEST IN COMFY FURNITURE. What’s the best part of your living or family room? Chances are it’s your comfortable couch or recliner. To recreate the same feeling, splurge on some soft furniture that will make you want to stay outside for hours reading a book or working remotely. It doesn’t have to break the bank either — you can DIY a cozy lounging bench with reclaimed wood and hand-sewn cushions with outdoor stuffing and fabric.

ADD A RELAXING POOL OR SPA. Water has a calming effect and is often linked to our favorite memories at the cottage or on vacation. A pool or spa can help transport you somewhere far away without leaving your home. A pool can help you and the kids get some exercise while swimming laps, while a spa can soothe tired muscles after a long day hunched over your laptop. To reduce energy costs and increase longevity, consider using Nudura insulated concrete forms, which provide superior insulation. ICF pools also can be custommade to accommodate any design, making them a very versatile and efficient way to build pools.

GO WILD WITH GREENERY. Live plants can help you feel connected with nature, and tending to them can help you feel relaxed yet productive during isolation. A vertical garden can add visual interest, while trees and shrubs can provide shade and character. Aromatic herbs like lavender or rosemary offer pleasant scents and can spice up your cooking. And don’t be afraid to cut some flowers from your garden to place in vases or pots for beautiful finishing touches. H

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