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Active Home: Stretch Out The Seasons

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Active Home: Stretch Out The Seasons

Photography, courtesy of Lisa Rogers

Trying to extend outdoor time in our seasonal climate, and squeeze as much living as possible out of our backyards, has become a national preoccupation. With the addition of fire pits, heaters, deep-seated sectional sofas, dining areas and lots of lights, it’s easy to accomplish.

ELEMENTAL FURNISHINGS

The quality of outdoor furniture has come a long way. There are far more durable and water-resistant options available, but good quality does cost more.

When it comes to frames, there are all-wood ones, like teak, ipe (an exotic hardwood) or treated pine, as well as ones that are a wood/metal mix that include solid aluminum, stainless or iron. Hardy resin/wickers inject a weathered Hamptons’ look.

Whatever style you choose, stick to a minimal colour scheme that complements your home. Turquoise and lime suggest a seashore theme, while green and red are pure Muskoka, and black and tan are fashionably uptown.

Consider your sight-lines when positioning furniture. When sitting, make sure your eyes rest on a pleasing view. If not, reconfigure.

If you don’t have a deck, balcony sized furniture can be arranged to create a similar experience. If you’re short on space, consider an expandable table and stackable chairs. Storing cushions and dining essentials can be a challenge, so incorporate a waterproof bench or a cubby by the back door. Keep extra throws on hand for chilly evenings.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS

Even the smallest water feature can add a soothing ambiance to an outdoor space. There’s nothing like flickering flames from an outdoor fire and candles. Depending upon your space, flameless candles may prove to be a safe alternative, or string small white lights through a tree or along a fence. Ethanol fire pits are a great option, but check first with your condo board.

Long gone are the days when you had to put a speaker in the window from your massive stereo system. Playing music outdoors is easy, and it sounds great. Tune into your favourite playlist through your computer, phone or Sonos speakers, but ensure that the neighbours don’t have to listen too.

CLANDESTINE MEASURES

Typically, an outdoor space is more private if you’re living in a low rise home, than a townhome or condo. Imaginative fixes to counter balance this concern include the installation of lattice or bamboo screening. Also, you can place boxwoods or ornamental grasses in tall, matching containers along the edge of your deck – they not only create privacy, but augment your deck-scape.

Umbrellas come in all shapes and sizes, and can be positioned to shade targeted areas. If space isn’t a concern, consider a a pergola. Not only is it an attractive architectural feature, but it can be fitted with a retractable canopy system and screened in to keep out pesky pests.

Take the time to smell the roses, listen to the birds and watch the sun set every evening by increasing the time that you spend outdoors this summer – and fall.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes, and has appeared on Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV, Flare TV and The Shopping Channel. Lisa is a regular guest consultant on City’s Cityline.

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Reno Expert: Picture-Perfect Patio

Reno Expert: Picture-Perfect Patio

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Reno Expert: Picture-Perfect Patio

by Jim Caruk

Create your own great outdoor space

With summer upon us, most of us are keen to spend as much time as possible outdoors. But is your own backyard an inviting oasis, or an overgrown disaster? If the ongoing real estate boom has taught us one thing, it’s that land is very valuable. As homeowners we should take advantage of every square foot we’ve got. Here are some ideas on how to turn your urban jungle into a slice of paradise.

OUTDOOR PASTIMES

The first factor to consider is what you like doing when you’re outside. Are you a gardener, a DIYer in need of a workshop, a consummate host looking for an outdoor entertaining area or, if you have the space for it, would your own private basketball net or tennis court be your dream use of the space?

My own backyard is built around an in-ground pool. Realtors and others will tell you that putting in a pool isn’t a good investment when it comes to resale value. But I wasn’t thinking about some future sale. I was interested in enjoying my house while I live in it. No need to drive north to a cottage when I can go for a dip at home.

SIZE MATTERS

Obviously, the size of your yard will be the main factor in determining how much—or little—you’re able to do. Case in point: when building permanent structures such as decks, sheds, and gazebos, there are usually setback restrictions—meaning they have to be a certain distance from the property line. (These projects may also require a building permit. Read “Deck Building Do’s and Don’ts” for more details.)


JIM’s PICK

 

Canada’s extreme weather is hard on exterior building materials. Which is why the durability of a composite deck board such as those made by Trex is such a good investment.

Photography courtesy of Trex


COOL SHELTER

The surrounding tree canopy also plays a role. If there aren’t many mature trees in your area you’ll likely need an umbrella or awning to shade your seating area. If you have lots of mature oaks or maples, you’ll have to consider lots of cleanup time for pools and patio areas. With evergreen trees, you’ll find yourself seasonally scooping up needles and pinecones. But they’re acidic, so you’ll have to carefully plan any other vegetation you plant to make sure they’re tolerant of that.

SEASON EXTENDER

To make maximum use of the space, consider adding patio heaters to your plans. Options range from gas firepits to stylish lamp-style models. Either type can be directly plumbed to your household gas service, or run on refillable propane tanks.

Finally, don’t forget that old cliché about good fences making good neighbours. Most municipalities have restrictions on how tall a fence can be. If privacy is a key factor in your planning, build a fence with solid, overlapping boards that run the full height of the divider instead of the ubiquitous lattice-topped designs.

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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Reno Expert: Solid Structure

Reno Expert: Solid Structure

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Reno Expert: Solid Structure

by Jim Caruk

The Do’s and Don’ts of Deck Building

If you’ve ever flown to Florida or southern California, you’ve probably noticed how many suburban backyards are dotted with pools. Here in Ontario, the recurring backyard theme is a deck. Whether they’re clad in natural wood or a composite product such as Trex, decks are outdoor extensions of our household living space. Many are simply a place to park the barbecue and a patio table but, increasingly, they’re loaded with bells and whistles that literally include a kitchen sink.

Since (most) decks don’t involve any wiring, plumbing, or overly complicated structural elements, building one is something a lot of DIYers are willing to tackle. But there are a number of common mistakes they make.

Generally speaking, if your deck meets any or all of the following conditions, you’ll need a permit:

a) The deck will be attached directly to the house

b) Will have a surface area of more than 100 sq.ft., or

c) The top of the deck boards will be two feet or more off the ground.

As part of your permit application, you’ll need to include your property survey and a drawing showing where the proposed deck will go.

Here are three key areas where DIYers—and some unqualified pros— make mistakes when building a deck.

Photography courtesy of Trex
Photography courtesy of Trex

RAILINGS

If the top of your deck boards are two-feet or more off the ground, you’ll need a railing that’s at least 3′ high around the perimeter. (If the deck is 6′ or more above grade, the railing will need to be at least 3’6″ high.)

The gap between the vertical slats— or pickets—has to be less than four inches. The idea here is to prevent a small child from squeezing through and getting stuck.

Another option is to use glass panels. These cost more than lumber would but give you an unobstructed view of the yard.

Built-in seating along the railing can be a great way to maximize space, but keep in mind that a building inspector will measure the railing height from the top of the seats. After all, the main point behind these rules is to avoid having a child—or perhaps tipsy adult—topple over the side and get hurt.

STAIRS

Again, if the deck is more than two feet off the ground, you’ll need stairs with a railing that meets the above-mentioned guidelines. The stairs themselves must be between 47/8″ and 77/8″ high, and 91/4″ and 14″ deep. The key to building stairs is that each one has to be the same height and depth as all the others. If not, you’ll find yourself stumbling on any that are out of line with the others.

FASTENERS

Even if you’re using a composite material such as Trex for your deck boards and railings, you’ll likely use natural wood for the framing. Typically, that means using pressure-treated (PT) lumber. But the chemicals used to make the wood rot- and insect-resistant can be corrosive to most building hardware. Make sure you use PT-approved screws and hangers. Also note that any framing members must be attached with nails, not screws. Screws do not have the sheer strength to support the load properly.

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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