By Ann Robinson & Annie V. Schwemmer
The official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted six more weeks of winter this year. Here along the Wasatch Front, however, we are wondering what winter? Well, whether or not Phil’s prediction will prove to be true, now is the time to plan your spring projects.
Along with the normal spring-cleaning, you may want to consider adding some of these exterior remodeling projects to the list.
BEFORE: This west-facing deck was awkward and uncomfortable to use in the summer months. (Dan Barton, Renovation Design Group)
AFTER: The newly remodeled deck also enhances the yard with a better connect from the deck to the yard. (Trina Knudsen)
Spring is a great time to spruce up the front porch (if you have one). Obviously, a nice cleaning and a new paint job would do every front porch some good. New hardware for the door, new address numbers and a new planter are also easy ways to make the front porch space look fresh and new.
Many clients come to us to add curb appeal to their home. Part of an exterior update commonly involves updating, enlarging or adding a front porch. A front porch is the visual focal point of a house, but it also serves a practical purpose. A good front porch should have adequate space to comfortably accommodate several guests with a roof overhead to keep them out of the weather.
Any time you are planning a curb appeal update, we suggest trying to look at your house objectively. When you drive up to your house, try to imagine it isn’t your own. Look at what needs to be addressed. Walk up to your porch as if you were a stranger, a guest or the mailman. Is it awkward? Are you protected from the elements? Do you have to back up off the porch when someone opens the screen door? Such questions can help you decide if it is time for a porch remodel rather than just a porch spring-cleaning.
Remember, planning comes before construction. A front porch significantly impacts the look of a house. Don’t just wing it. We have seen too many houses with front porch updates or additions that don’t match the style or blend with the proportions of the rest of the house; in such cases, there is still a significant impact, but it is unfortunately negative instead of positive.
An architect can help design a front porch that works with the style of the house to add beauty as well as functionality to your home.
Patios, decks and backyard living
Exterior side and rear yards do not directly impact curb appeal, but opportunities abound in these spaces to impact your lifestyle in the warmer months and views from the interior of your home throughout the year.
Clearly, if you have an exterior space that is welcoming and usable, then you will spend more time outside enjoying the spring that is hopefully coming soon. Well-designed and well-constructed outdoor spaces result in a net gain in the usable square footage of your house, adding value both to your appraisal and daily life style.
We generally think of “patio” as a space that is “hard-scaped,” meaning constructed out of materials such as concrete, stone or pavers. Patios are flush with the existing grade or ground level. Spring projects for patios would include a serious cleaning, possibly with a power washer. The landscaping at the edges should be neatly trimmed as well. Updates could include the option of changing the color of an existing slab. We don’t recommend paint (which will eventually chip), but there are stain products available that could provide a new look for an existing area.
Decks are usually constructed above the existing grade and must be constructed out of materials that can withstand sun, rain and snow. Traditionally, this meant cedar or redwood. Today, we have more options ranging from additional natural materials (exotic hardwoods such as ipe) to synthetic materials (such as composite decking). Real wood will have considerably more upkeep than the man-made products. This will involve cleaning, staining and sealing which will ideally be done on an annual basis.
If you haven’t attended to your wood deck in a while, this will be an excellent goal for this spring. Decks are expensive, and bringing one back to life is definitely a wise financial move.
Backyards can hold all sorts of adventures these days. Consider the range of activities that includes options such as swimming pools, hot tubs, fire pits, trampolines, swing sets, climbing sets, slides, playhouses and tree houses, among others.
Spending a dark winter evening on the Internet contemplating opportunities to upgrade your outside living areas is a good way to brighten up our minds and spirits. Don’t forget Houzz.com and Pinterest to whet your appetite for improving your curb appeal and outside living design.
Because people these days tend to think of outdoor spaces as outdoor “rooms,” there is now a wide selection of products based on typical interior furnishings that are suitable for use outside. This includes all kinds of rugs and furniture, as well as entire kitchens that can be constructed to stand up to the elements. Winter is a good time to explore these possibilities as well.
If what you have is not up to par, then decide if you need to clean it up, spruce it up, add to it or replace it. When planning a new backyard, think in terms of how you will and want to use the space. Do you want to have bigger outdoor gatherings? Would you use your yard more if it had more shade in the summer months? Are you wanting secluded, patio retreat for two? Do you dream of a play area for the grandchildren? Does the indoor/outdoor connection between your house and yard need to be strengthened?
Whether you are analyzing your front or back yard, there is always room for improvement. Expand your horizon to look beyond the seed catalogs as you consider your yard and curb appeal. Spend some time planning now, and this spring will be the most productive you have had in years.
Happy planning and try to enjoy our last six weeks of winter!
Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com