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Are you thinking of “remodeling” your second living room – the one outside in your backyard?

Then you’re possibly planning to add new furniture, install a fire pit, and maybe set up a big-screen TV on the patio as well; according to a recent online survey of homeowners by Houzz, the home improvement Web site.

That survey coincides with what Mark Wentland of CYC Landscaping, also told us about the outdoor living trend in Arizona. “People are definitely using their backyards in many new ways from what they did 10 years ago,” according to Wentland. “The backyard always used to be considered a nice amenity for your home, but now homeowners expect to have an outdoor area where family and friends can gather, entertain and cook dinner.”

Here are some changes homeowners request when CYC remodels their yards. Wentland, whose office is in the southeast valley, also suggested what might work and what might not:

1 | An outdoor kitchen with dining or seating areas nearby

Kitchens have gone from being simply an area with a barbecue grill to an entertainment island. There are often counters with bar stools sheltered under umbrellas or ramadas. Free-standing barbecues have been replaced with permanent grill structures with a barbecue fitted inside. If the grill should get old and decrepit, you can take out the old and replace with a new grill. They can be powered with a propane tank or natural gas from a line that also supplies the house. Grills can be located on the edge of a ramada but not under covered patios attached to a home.

2 | Fire features

Fire pits tend to be more popular than fireplaces. Although fireplaces can be a beautiful focal point for a yard, fire pits are usually less costly and allow more people to gather around the flames. “Years ago, we built a lot of fire pits surrounded by concrete benches,” Wentland said, “but people weren’t comfortable sitting on benches. They prefer seating with cushions on the back. Outdoor furniture is much better looking and well-built now, and most homeowners prefer to buy that.”

Fire features are generally powered by natural gas or propane as are barbecues. No one is building wood-burning units anymore because of no-burn restrictions. Newer fire pits are linear shaped or curved and are much bigger than in the past, according to Wentland. They are also built so that they can be viewed from inside the house as well to add a festive note for special events.

3 | New choices underfoot

Concrete pavers and/or travertine tiles are often used to replace the old decking around swimming pools and the paving under covered patio areas.

4 | Shade structures, including ramadas and patio covers

Wentland also suggested that sometimes homeowners don’t need something as large as a ramada and might just prefer to plant a good shade tree.

5 | Electronic entertainment

Installation of outdoor television sets has become almost a necessity. There is also big demand for speakers outdoors to provide background music for entertaining and dining.

6 | Improved lighting

Good outdoor lighting is a must for outdoor living. New systems of LED lighting will use far less power than the old lighting you might already have.

7 | Outdoor misting systems

“They’re still a big thing for summertime enjoyment of your patio,” he said. “But buy commercial grade misters. The ones that hook up to the garden hose won’t work.”

Wentland recommended having a master plan before a backyard remodel begins. He also advised homeowners to be just as careful about hiring a landscaper or backyard remodeler as they are about hiring a remodeler to do work inside a home.

“Make sure that the landscaper/contractor has a physical address,” he said. “Check out their license on the Arizona Registrar of Contractors Website. Be careful about the contractor’s promises. Lots of the contracts that we see given to homeowners are poorly and vaguely worded. There should be no doubt about what you buying.”


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