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Recommended features of outdoor living space/patio?

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  • Recommended features of outdoor living space/patio?

    ~3 years out of residency with stable family/professional life and in our "forever" home. We are looking to add an outdoor living space and are just in the early stages of getting design ideas/quotes for construction to begin ~1year from now. We live on ~0.5 acre lot. Due to good financially planning, we do have some money to spend and really make it our own but at the same time don't want to overspend (50k? 75k 100k?...not sure general idea how much it'll cost). Enjoyment is much more important to us than appreciation or increase in property value. We live in Pennsylvania so we probably would not use it year round. We also have no interest in a pool. For those who have gone through the process, I'm curious your thoughts and recommendations to some of these questions, or any other suggestions in general?

    -Patio vs Decking (Trex?): wife is leaning towards patio but still undecided...or even a combination
    -Maintenance: we're willing to spend more up front to minimize routine maintenance down the line. Any suggestion for materials or tricks to keep annual maintenance to a minimum?
    -Pavilion or not: these look impressive and provide coverage from the sun but are they worth the extra cost and hassle. For those that do have them, would you do it again?
    -Fire pit vs fireplace....and direct gas line, propane or wood burning
    -Outdoor Kitchen: is it worth it to have an outdoor kitchen vs just an impressive grill. If yes to outdoor kitchen, what are your most/least used features...counter space, mini fridge, etc... Any specific grill recommendations...I've heard the EVO flat top grills are really nice.
    -Lighting ideas
    -Drainage: we have significant drainage issues in the backyard (lots of the neighborhood does) so this is what prompted the backyard renovation to begin with. Any best systems to address this?

    Any other suggestions/ideas would be appreciated





  • #2
    Sink is really handy for entertaining.

    Automatic irrigation.

    Large flat paving stones for taking out the garbage.

    French drain dealt with swampy dirt in the rainy season.

    Music hookups, with view and sound privacy.

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    • #3
      A few thoughts:

      ...this could be a 3k and home depot weekend project too.

      ...if you have 100k to blow, you might just buy a new house that doesn't have drainage, and does have a nice outdoor area already.

      ...all the PA folks I know... went with a patio. If they needed stairs down to the yard, they added those.

      ...You might do things in phases, and see what you actually use. Some pavers, and a propane fire pit, and some chairs are a pretty big increase in outdoor space, without much cost. If you'll really use all the time, a piped gas line isn't cheap, but perhaps worthwhile. If you really like the smell of wood smoke, then wood. More work though.

      ... Adding low power solar lights to the edges will likely help it feel larger, and less creepy at night. Adding to shine upwards on trees can be a nice touch too.

      ...Consider a portable bluetooth speaker, or add on to the house speaker system and mount speakers on the house. if you do really go for the pavilion, a speaker might be well used there too.

      ... some umbrellas or large canopies might be an option.

      ... I wouldn't add any cooking stuff unless you really really want it. You have a pretty nice kitchen inside - buy a cute drink cooler to set outside. Several new grills/smokers are wifi enabled if that's your thing.

      ... you might make sure your wifi reaches the entire yard.

      ... if you don't have ideas, or don't a really really clear idea, I'd suggest you open Houzz and look at "outdoor patios" or something. We've found that to be a great source of ideas.


      ... enjoy the summertime!!!!

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      • #4
        We had some ideas before we did ours. I would highly recommend you guys sit down and decide what you are trying to do and how you will think you will use it. Then I would get a few bids and talk about what you want with these people. The company we ended up using had so many good ideas that come from building these things for a living. We adopted most of the changes and ideas.

        We had drainage issues and we had a French drain system that connects to all the downspouts as the drain comes around the house to the road. That took care of all the drainage problems.

        I would recommend a covered patio of some kind. Did you consider just building an enclosure around the patio so you can use it year round? We use our sink all the time when outside. It's great for food prep or just washing your hands when outside. Have you seen the outdoor infrared heaters? I've seen great outdoor fire pits and fire places. I think it depends on your space. If you like to grill, then decide on gas vs charcoal (green egg) or both. If you are going to entertain family events out there, then lots of counter top space for cooking is vital and then lots of seating.

        In the end, what we do in Texas though is probably very different than what's a good idea in PA. The possibilities are so endless that you really have to decide what you want.

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        • #5
          I have a very nice brick paver patio with a 3 tier fountain in the center. The sound is very soothing and it can be heard inside. Get some nice furniture and an umbrella.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Hatton View Post
            I have a very nice brick paver patio with a 3 tier fountain in the center. The sound is very soothing and it can be heard inside.
            I think that would make me want to pee every 5 minutes.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by TXDoc21 View Post
              In the end, what we do in Texas though is probably very different than what's a good idea in PA. The possibilities are so endless that you really have to decide what you want.
              Understatement for sure.
              Most depends on your intended use. Is it personal or for casual entertaining and how many? The seating is probably the most important. Then the eating arrangements (plate in lap or side tables and beverages.
              Then decide how to supply food and beverage.
              It can be a chore stocking and outdoor entertainment area and the subsequent clean up. Sound and TV? Bug and mosquito control is a consideration in backyard settings.

              I would stick with the barbecue setup tables and umbrellas unless you are planning on gatherings. That requires seatings as well as food and drinks stocked outside. We use ours both ways (breakfast or dinner on the patio means food inside). If you don’t have water, you will have a constant flow inside. We can seat 12 at 2 patio tables and another 8 on patio seating. But the focus is pool deck with 3 waterfalls.

              We actually have foldout utility tables for serving either from barbecue or cooked inside. Medium cooler for beer, wine, water, wine. Trash can if you have a group. They need a place to drop stuff. Bathroom access needs to be thought out. We have a pool bathroom door on the porch.

              How you really plan on using it. Don’t build a castle your going to use occasionally. The back of the house does not impress the Joneses.

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              • #8
                One other thing, we started with easy chairs and side tables but that was really annoying for anything other than reading and cocktails. The upgrade to a bistro table was one of our best.

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                • #9
                  I have a fire table on my deck and love it. If you get a table make sure to buy the wine-guard 😉 Uses a gas line or propane. I use the propane tanks because they’re easy. But if you’re digging already an underground gas line makes sense.
                  My parents have a wood fire pit on their patio and never use it because it’s smoky and requires tending when you’d rather be talking with your guests.

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                  • #10
                    My FIL is tangentially involved in construction. He strongly dislikes outdoor kitchens with built in grills. Any problem with the grill and you’re stuck. When I went looking at houses, I saw more than one built in gas grill with a nice gas grill next to them. Sink and counter space would be nice though.

                    I have a high end Weber. You can spend a lot more on other grills, but I can’t imagine getting any better quality or enjoyment out of it. Mine is 3 years old, and other than the accumulated grease, you’d think it’s brand new. Lights immediately, burns hot, nothing rusted/corroded.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by VentAlarm View Post
                      My FIL is tangentially involved in construction. He strongly dislikes outdoor kitchens with built in grills. Any problem with the grill and you’re stuck. When I went looking at houses, I saw more than one built in gas grill with a nice gas grill next to them. Sink and counter space would be nice though.

                      I have a high end Weber. You can spend a lot more on other grills, but I can’t imagine getting any better quality or enjoyment out of it. Mine is 3 years old, and other than the accumulated grease, you’d think it’s brand new. Lights immediately, burns hot, nothing rusted/corroded.
                      I agree with the comments about gas grill built ins. Have to plan to spend money on the repairs. Look at Blaze grills have a good warranty I hear.

                      Big green egg all the way for high end grills!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by eyecandy View Post
                        I have a fire table on my deck and love it. If you get a table make sure to buy the wine-guard 😉 Uses a gas line or propane. I use the propane tanks because they’re easy. But if you’re digging already an underground gas line makes sense.
                        My parents have a wood fire pit on their patio and never use it because it’s smoky and requires tending when you’d rather be talking with your guests.
                        If you want a fire pit look at a Solo Stove. It burns wood and after the initial burn it turns smokeless (air holes vent out the bottom. You can sit right next to it without inhaling smoke. It’s great.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TXDoc21 View Post

                          I agree with the comments about gas grill built ins. Have to plan to spend money on the repairs. Look at Blaze grills have a good warranty I hear.

                          Big green egg all the way for high end grills!
                          I feel like the big green egg is a status symbol. I have several friends with them but they also all have a gas grill which it seems like they use more often for convenience.

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                          • #14
                            We chose pavers instead of synthetic or wooden deck. We grill and BBQ frequently, with charcoal. The ember can damage decking if not careful. It is more convenient to have both propane and charcoal grill, like the ceramic Big Green Egg that was mentioned. We actually have two ceramic smokers/grills; two different sizes of Kamado Joe's. One for smoking, and one for grilling at gatherings. Build in propane grills are usually not worth it. If the outdoor kitchen is custom build, it is actually easy to just leave space for off the shelf propane grills or space for ceramic grill. I elected for custom built stainless steel cart.

                            For the fire place, a natural gas line is more convenient. We made the mistake of not running a gas line and use propane tank. It was too tedious to use the propane tank; it's constantly running out of fuel! An outdoor sink would also be helpful.

                            Since there would be plenty of digging with pavers, it is only a simple matter to install French drains and run some power lines. Install some outdoor power outlets for things like lighting, rotisserie, pellet grill, refrigerator, etc.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by CalMD View Post
                              We chose pavers instead of synthetic or wooden deck. We grill and BBQ frequently, with charcoal. The ember can damage decking if not careful. It is more convenient to have both propane and charcoal grill, like the ceramic Big Green Egg that was mentioned. We actually have two ceramic smokers/grills; two different sizes of Kamado Joe's. One for smoking, and one for grilling at gatherings. Build in propane grills are usually not worth it. If the outdoor kitchen is custom build, it is actually easy to just leave space for off the shelf propane grills or space for ceramic grill. I elected for custom built stainless steel cart.

                              For the fire place, a natural gas line is more convenient. We made the mistake of not running a gas line and use propane tank. It was too tedious to use the propane tank; it's constantly running out of fuel! An outdoor sink would also be helpful.

                              Since there would be plenty of digging with pavers, it is only a simple matter to install French drains and run some power lines. Install some outdoor power outlets for things like lighting, rotisserie, pellet grill, refrigerator, etc.
                              Purchasing a backup propane tank made me feel more comfortable than any emergency fund I have at Marcus.

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