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  • Writer's picturebret021

Outdoor Living

We asked Josh Barry, owner of Freedom Contractors, how to get the most of your outdoor entertaining space.

There has been a trend toward outdoor living spaces. Why is this trend growing and why did it start? Has COVID impacted the industry?

The home is the new castle. Since the lockdown, our average customer has spent more time at home than ever before. Also, with real estate booming in Colorado becauseof an influx of residents from California and other states with tighter lockdown restrictions than Colorado, as well as low interest rates for home refinancing, we’ve seen projects get larger and more ornate as our customers look to add more square footage, custom features, and personalizing touches to their outdoor projects.

What should people considerwhen thinking about outdoor space design? What are some of the common mistakes people make? Often times, people search online forums for information about pricing out their outdoor projects. Any online pricing resource likely has not been updated for current market conditions. The COVID pandemic has changed the entire world and every market therein has been affectedin some way. Also, with rapid inflation in today’s market,construction projects cost much more than they used to. I always suggest that customers get 2-3 bids for each of their home improvement projects and avoid forming unrealistic expectations about what their work might cost prior to seeing pricing from a reputable professional.
Also, another common mistake I see is homeowners not maximizing the amount of square footage that they can utilize in their projects. With most home improvement projects, the demolition and initial costs of the project are fixed regardless of whether a homeowner decides to rebuild a small space or replace a small space with a large one. Often, more square footagecan be had for only a slight increase in pricein the grand scheme of an entire project. I try to encourage customers to “buy once, cry once” and avoid wishing that they had done more with their project when they had the chance.

What are the most important elements of outdoor living designs? How do water and fire features figure in to the design?

My first question to a potential customer is “what do you want to do with the space?" Function is key when considering the design of an outdoorliving project. Any homeowner should consider how often they entertain friendsand family in their outdoor space, as well as what purposes they want their outdoor space to serve. For instance, I will design a deck off of a master bedroom much different than a deck that is being used as the primary outdoorentertainment space for the entirehome.

Fire and water features often add functionand ambience to a structure. Fire features are key gathering spaces where friends and family can warm up after the sun has set or even hang out in fall and winter to watch Sunday football and enjoy the seasons. Water features create soothing noiseand change the feel and look of any outdoorspace.

How much should light play a part in the design aspect of the space?

Lighting is very important, not only for safety, but also for the after-hours enjoyment of outdoor space. Adding lighting features can drastically improve the function of patio covers and decks. Adding up-lighting to landscaping projects can allow a home to be viewed completely differently at night than in the day time.

What are some of the new features and technologies that have spawned due to the demand for “the next cool thing”?

One of the huge changes that we have made as a company is the switch from framing decks with lumber to steel. While the price of lumber has been extremely volatile since March 2020, the quality has gone down. Pricing and access to structural steel has remained relatively stable. Steel joists also last far longer than wood joists without rotting, warping, twisting, etc. Though there’s more labor involved in framing with steel-framed decks, our customers are happy to pay the price for a structure that will stay perfectly flat forever.

In 2021, every one of our customers is looking for a maintenance-free outdoor space. In addition to steel framing, we also use Deckorators Voyage composite decking and high quality, powder coated aluminum railing in all of our projects. The only maintenance required for any deck that we build is routine cleaning. Aside from that, every material that we install should last for decades of enjoyment with virtually no fuss or trouble.

What are the upkeep expectations for outdoor living spaces here in Parker?

Our average customer expects minimal to no maintenance in their outdoor living spaces. This is why the use of modern materials is so important when designing these spaces. Where wood and other traditional materials have rustic appeal, they fall short of products like modern composite decking, railing, and siding. Homeowners should keep in mind that staining and painting are considerable expenses that must be taken into account when considering between conventional materials like wood and newer, more expensive, but maintenance-free, components.

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