Home and Garden Special Section: Summer: The perfect time for outdoor improvements to your home

Published on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 by Kelly Sullivan

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Creating family spaces

For Bob Christianson, owner of Pacific Building Center and True Value Hardware, this time of year means paint and plants.

“People are outside painting their houses and working on their lawns and garden,” Christianson said.

That families are spending time outdoors means summer is finally hitting the Pacific Northwest, and now is a good time to start home improvement projects. Small remodeling projects or additions can make your home more enjoyable, while increasing its value and functionality.

Randy Davis with Faber Construction in Lynden said interest in small home projects, such as remodeling a deck or installing a hot tub, have picked up significantly in the past few years, especially after the downturn in the economy.

Instead of buying new homes, people are customizing the ones they have for different reasons. Davis said some people are just looking for additions that will increase the property value of their home. Others want to improve access to family spaces and activities, whether relaxing on the porch, watching the kids play in the garden or enjoying time outside by the fire pit.

Improving a lawn

Robert Welch, manager of Mt. Baker Landscaping, has been in the business for six years. For landscapers or gardeners, summer is when business really picks up as area residents replace lawns, redesign gardens, landscape around their patios or add sprinkler systems.

“People often call me when they want a new look or they can’t maintain a green lawn themselves,” Welch said.

Welch said to get inspiration for a project, check out landscaping and home improvement magazines. As simple as it sounds, he recommends looking at pictures to help decide what you want or do not want added to your home. He also recommends researching the companies before you choose one to work with and get referrals from others.

Welch has been hired to completely re-do projects that had not originally been done properly. Knowing what you are getting from a company is as important as knowing what you want, he said.  

Building on your backyard

Davis said what has changed the most about remodeling outdoor spaces are the materials being used and technology that has developed. Instead of old cedar decks, flexible, more affordable, longer-lasting materials are available.

Depending on the size of your project, Davis recommends starting now. Permits for large-scale outdoor work can take up to two months to be approved, while some smaller project permits can be acquired sooner.

He also advised knowing exactly who you are hiring. Knowing the company’s reputation and asking for referrals is very important when it comes to selecting the right contractor.

After hiring someone, ask for a “soft bid,” he said. This means you will be getting a less-exact estimate for cost of materials and labor in the beginning, but you’re not likely to get as huge a surprise at the end. The contractor will keep track of labor hours and expenses during the job, so you’ll know at all times what the project is costing.

Incorporating latest trends

Bold colors, front porches and deck spaces are the big trends this season.

For homeowners, 80 percent have said a patio or front porch are “must haves,” according to a survey of residential architects by the National Association of Home Builders.

“What’s old is new as the front porch is once again a popular place to connect with your friends, family and neighbors,” said Kathy Krafka Harkema, spokesperson for Pella Windows and Doors. “Plus a patio offers a secluded spot to grill, entertain, kick back and relax.”

Adding interest to outdoor areas

• Mix furniture – Coordinate inside and outside seating to increase social activities in both areas

• Add color – With painted walls or accents, or with accessories such as rugs or outdoor pillows

• Install a fire pit – Besides feelings of nostalgia, a fire pit can provide a nice common area for the backyard

• Illuminate your space – Adding strings of light in the bushes or on the sides of paths can make the outside inviting long after dark

• Create water fun – Install a built-in sprinkler for children

• Build raised garden beds – Give each family member their own plot for growing their own vegetables or flowers