Chances are, you have been spending a lot of time in your own backyard lately.
Over the last few months, with recommendations that we stay home as much as possible due to reduce the spread of Covid-19, backyards have become a place where most people have been spending their time swimming, playing and relaxing. You may have even gained a new appreciation for your outdoor areas and might be looking to make some changes or improvements. Renovating your outdoor area can seem like a daunting task, however. The process can be tricky and you may not know exactly where to start.
Lots of factors go into creating your dream outdoor space. Although the idea of a complete revamp sounds enticing, you need to be realistic about what can and cannot be done. First and foremost, know your layout and recognize what may not be able to change, such as existing shrubs and trees. You want the new space to be a place to eat, relax, and have fun, but also be an extension of your yard. Deciding on a goal, determining your budget, and knowing what the space will be used for—and the frequency of its are things to consider. Also, knowing what works well in our Florida climate is very important.
Because all of these ideas deal with both the exterior of your home and yard, the changes will require review and approval from your homeowners’ association. So be sure to check with them and get their approval before hiring a contractor.
With that in mind, here are some popular ideas to help inspire you and steps to take to help take your backyard to the next level, no matter how big or how small you want to go.
A big trend in outdoor areas has been installation of outdoor kitchens. They expand your living space and allow you to cook, eat, and entertain in your own backyard. They’re especially popular in Florida, where we’re able to spend time outside year-round. Outdoor kitchens, however, are not ideal for all spaces. Since you’ll need space for proper ventilation, full sized appliances, and counter space, they’re better to be placed in larger and more open areas.
Harbor Links resident, Victoria Johnson, moved into her home three years ago. Having a large outdoor area where her family and she could spend time together and entertain was a must-have. Their back area was large and did include a pool, but was outdated. They decided to redo the patio by installing a grill, a sink, and a fridge. “It was ideal because it gave us more room to store food, gave us additional counter space, and prevented us from walking back inside every time we wanted to eat outside,” she said.
When deciding on an outdoor kitchen, it’s important to make sure the materials you use are tough enough to withstand the elements, but still require low maintenance. Especially in Florida, where they’ll be subjected to high humidity and rain, durable waterproof materials, such as marine-grade plywood and polymer are ideal. For appliances, rust-resistant material such as #304 stainless steel should be used.
Flooring material should also be taken into consideration, since you’ll want something that can be resistant to grease stains and withstand heat.
You will also need proper ventilation. If your outdoor grill is placed under an enclosed or semi-enclosed structure, then you will need to install a vent hood to control the smoke and grease and prevent combustion. If you’re installing new vents, make sure to check that that are up to code. If you’re replacing existing vents, check that they don’t need to be completely redone in case the county has recently adopted new codes. In Victoria’s case, the gas was already connected. However, due to new codes they did have to redo the vent on the roof, increase the vent size and install an additional vent through the wall. Though it can be tedious, it is definitely a worthy investment. “We spend so much more time outside now,” Victoria said.
Pool Installation and Upgrades
Pools have practically become a necessity in Florida, and have been a godsend for many parents during recent months, with kids being home from school since March. Pools have been a popular investment for those whose homes don’t have one, and lots of upgrade options exist that can take an existing pool to the next level.
If you’re thinking about adding a pool to your property, consider several things before taking the plunge. Setting your budget, deciding on your preferred type of pool, and finding good, reputable contractors are key in establishing whether or not you’re ready to have one installed. Many factors go into the installation of an in-ground pool, which is most common. There are different material options such as fiberglass, vinyl, and concrete, as well as water options. Saltwater pools can be more expensive to install due to the saltwater generator; however, the maintenance on a saltwater pool requires much less time and cost than a chlorine pool.
Deciding on the design and shape of your pool should be determined by its main uses. When Michael and Chelsea Moffa moved into their home in The Fords, the patio deck just consisted of a small, outdated spa. With three children, they definitely wanted something functional for them to play in. Yet they also wanted something that they could use for entertaining guests. Instead of a traditional pool, they built an L-shaped pool with a sun deck and built-in barstools.
Adding enhancements to a new or existing pool can also give it a fresh and unique look. In the Moffas’ case, they added a rock wall with waterfalls and fire pits along the sidewall. They also redid their screens with panoramic screening instead, which opened up the space and didn’t obstruct their view. “It is just the best sitting outside with the sounds of the waterfall and watching all the birds fly by,” said Chelsea.
Lighting can also make a huge difference. Yana Moreland and her family moved into their home in 2012 and although they loved the home itself, the outdoor area was disheveled. It was largely bare for the longest time, Yana said.
After redoing the deck and installing an outdoor kitchen, they decided to put in a pool last year. They met with a home automation company in South Tampa who added controlled pool lights and a sound bar that can both be controlled from an app on their phones. “We wanted it to be more of an oasis,” Yana said.
One thing to keep in mind when putting in a pool is the amount of time it takes to install. Typical pool installation can take several months to complete, depending on the complexity of the design. The Morelands’ pool took about four to five months to complete, while the Moffas’ took about six to eight months, start to finish.
Budget-Friendly Upgrades and Small Space Ideas
Unfortunately, Westchase and some surrounding neighborhoods are not known for their large backyards. If you have a smaller space that needs sprucing up or already have your dream backyard but would like some finishing touches, there are lots of achievable ways to do that. They include lighting, outdoor rugs, and outdoor cushions. Just be sure to use items that are outdoor-friendly, waterproof, and rust-proof.
Fire pits have become a popular backyard addition. They can be an easy DIY project by layering stones in a circular pattern. They can also be built-in to your deck space or store bought. Although they’re more ideal for the cooler temps, fire pit tables can control the level of flame so they can be used for ambiance purposes or for keeping the area warm, while also doubling as a coffee or dining table.
One of the easiest and most budget-friendly yard improvement options is a no-brainer – plants and flowers. Bridges resident Marcy Sanford has always loved gardening but only has a large screened-in patio and no backyard space at all. “In mid-March, I had about 15 potted plants and herbs,” she said. “Now I’ve got more than 50.”
For those with yard space, refreshing your yard by planting different plants and adding fresh mulch or rocks can make a huge difference without much cost or effort.
Although taking on an outdoor renovation, no matter how big or small, can be a task, it’s worth it in the long run. It can provide a good mental break and act as an escape from reality without having to go any further than your own backyard.
“Whenever I feel like I’ve been stuck inside for too long or need a break from work, it is nice to be able to go out on the lanai and check on all the flowers,” Marcy said. “Even watering them, which takes about 30 minutes, is kind of a meditative experience.”
By Brie Gorecki
2020 Home Improvement Guide Summaries
WOW thanks the following home improvement specialists for helping to bring you the Home Improvement Special. The listings on these pages represent paid advertisements in conjunction with the Home Improvement Special. Paid advertising is not an endorsement by WOW, Inc. Interested residents should contact the businesses and ask all relevant questions prior to engaging their services.
A Superior Plumbing
A Superior Plumbing Solution provides quality, on-time, 24-hour residential and commercial plumbing services. Proudly serving Westchase and the greater Tampa area since 2004. Your satisfaction is guaranteed! Westchase resident.
Tired of that faucet or slow toilet? Purchase them at your favorite Home Improvement store and I will install it professionally. What could be easier?
Make your dreams a reality with Anderson Aluminum. Specialists in shingled insulated roof systems. We offer screen rooms and pool enclosures.
Anytime Plumbing of Central Florida, Inc. provides service 24/7/365 for all your plumbing needs. Day or night, we do it right! Call anytime! Lic #CFC 1425923.
Authentic Concepts Kitchen & Bath Design
Let us design your dream kitchen or bathroom then bring it to reality with our full kitchen and bathroom remodeling team. www.AuthenticConceptsDesign.com.
The trusted interior and exterior painting professionals for over 20 years in Westchase. Call us for a prompt and professional quote.
We are a painting and pressure washing contractor with over 2,000 projects completed in Westchase. Interior and exterior. Sherwin Williams approved.
We do painting; you do life. Interior and exterior, residential and commercial painting. Call for your free proposal today.
DesignCraft Kitchen & Bath
Whether you are seeking a completely custom solution or merely updating a tired and run-down space, we are true professionals that care. www.DesignCraftKitchens.com.
Done Rite Roofing
Serving the entire Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater-Pasco areas for over 18 years. Done Rite Roofing is an approved applicator of Lifetime roofing products and workmanship warranties.
Specializing in bathroom and kitchen remodels and all of your “honey do” needs! Owned and operated by Pat Ely, a Florida-certified building contractor.
Charles Rutenberg Realty
From kitchens and bathrooms to lighting and landscaping, our team of experts know the renovations that give homeowners the greatest return on investment.
Green Thumb Nursery
Family owned and operated for over 69 years! When you need to know, call on the nursery and landscape design professionals.
Hanson’s Pressure Washing
Family owned and operated. Serving all residential pressure washing needs in the Westchase area. Contact us today for a free quote!
Leo’s Cleaning Service
We clean carpets (2 room minimum), tile and upholstery and offer pressure washing. We have served the Westchase area for over 25 years and appreciate your business.
Lynch Plumbing is family-owned and operated, proudly providing residential plumbing services to the Tampa Bay area for the past 30 years.
Serving you since 2004, specializing in residential remodels and additions, interior and exterior painting, roofing and other specialty services, including carpentry, flooring and pavers as well as handyman projects.
MY Shower Door, Tampa/St. Pete
An award-winning, nationally acclaimed company, serving the whole Tampa Bay area with the highest quality, frameless shower enclosures. State licensed and fully insured. www.myshowerdoor.com. Lic#=SCC131151356/SCC131151357.
Add safety and energy efficiency with impact resistant windows and doors. Locally owned and operated. Call today for your free estimate.
SCM Roofing is here to help with all your roof replacement needs this summer! Mention this ad for your free roof inspection!
Screens ‘R’ Us
Energize and enjoy your outdoor space. From single panels to full rescreens, we will help you rejuvenate your outdoor space to take full advantage of your screened patio.
Direct importer and distributor of premium quality flooring and hardscape products. Our extensive product lines consist of travertine, marble and porcelain. With an on-hand inventory of over 5 million square feet.
With more than 40 years of experience in the roofing industry, our team is ready to help you find the roofing solution that fits your need.
Tampa Bay Air Conditioning
Let us help keep you warm all winter and cool all summer. Specializing in service, repair and installation for all makes.
The Painted Caterpillar
The Painted Caterpillar offers a home improvement experience like no other. From concept to creation, we bring your visions to life. Like us on Facebook!
The Screen Guy
One call for all your screen repair needs! From a single screen panel to an entire three-story re-screening. There is no job too big or small!