Take stock of outdoor amenities In the spring, focus shifts to decks, porches and other exterior features


March 30, 1997|By Karol V. Menzie and Randy Johnson

PEAR TREES AND forsythias are blooming, daffodils and tulips are poking leaves out of the ground, all the bare patches in the lawn are clearly revealed -- it's finally spring and that means it's time to think about decks.

Not just decks, of course: It's time to take stock of your spring, summer and fall plans for being outdoors and decide what kind of structure would make it all more pleasant.

"We're always doing decks," said Janice Strauss, a partner at Ashley Custom Homes. "Except in our least expensive projects, we do it all the time."

Planters, benches, trellises and diagonal decking are among popular deck options these days, she said.

A lot of people who already have a deck now want to enclose it, said Ron Nodine, of American Renovator Inc. in Hamilton. Old-fashioned screened porches are making a comeback, he said, but people are also going for "three-season rooms," that are enclosed with screened windows that can be opened to the outdoors.

And some people whose sites allow it are returning to old-fashioned terraces and patios. "Decks were a hot item a few years ago," Nodine said, "but now people are going back to masonry-type patios. They say, 'Everybody has a deck, I want something different.' "

Strauss said Ashley customers "occasionally" ask for patios. "Especially with a traditional brick home, they want pretty brick pavers," she said. Charles Aud, owner of CEA Contracting Inc., said he loves the look of traditional front porches, with the idea that they used to be the places where people sat to socialize. "But people are more private these days," he said, and they want their outdoor spaces in the back.

He, too, has seen an increase in requests for traditional patios, especially with brick pavers. People used to just pour a concrete slab, he said, "but brick has a look, I don't know if you'd call it richer, but it's a more natural look."

Decks are still big items with townhouse owners, said Debby Coughlan, marketing director of Pulte Homes. "They see it as a way to get outside and meet neighbors and have barbecues."

But in the custom-home area, she said, "We're getting a lot of requests for sun rooms and morning rooms."

Patio options

Pulte's new community of Terra Maria in Howard County offers three patio options, and includes landscaping and walkways.

"It's more of an English garden effect," she said, noting that customers are as concerned about lots, siting and other exterior amenities as they are about the interiors of their houses. "These exterior living elements help tie the home to its surroundings."

Brick walkways and arched bridges are also popular, several remodelers and builders said. Some people are using them to connect or extend existing outdoor spaces.

So, when you're out there raking up those leaves that didn't quite make it to the curb last fall, and trying to figure out exactly where you put those tulip bulbs, you might start thinking about how to make the yard itself more of a "living room."

Karol has plans to tear down an old corrugated-metal garage and use the slab to build a potting shed/storage space, a small screen room, and a little patio with planters.

New structures

The current garage, besides being very ugly and not accessible to cars, separates the yard from the woods in the ravine behind the property. The new structures would be shingle-sided (as the house was originally) and the screen-room floor and the patio would be brick, more natural materials that tie the space to the outdoors.

Many of these exterior elements can be do-it-yourself: walkways, patios, even decks. In the next couple of weeks, we'll be talking about how to build some of these projects.

Randy Johnson is a Baltimore home-improvement contractor. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail us at homeworlark.net, or write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

Pub Date: 3/30/97

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