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Are you vacationing this 4th of July weekend?  Or having a “Staycation in your own backyard space?”  Below is an article written by Sam Hickey, Owner of Creekstone Outdoors.  It was published in the June 2011 Issue of Texas Builder Magazine.  What do you think?  Do you prefer a real vacation this holiday weekend or a “Staycation?”

In today’s world, we find ourselves increasingly attached to
our laptops, PDAs, cell phones, smart phones, internet, etc., and it is
increasingly more difficult to “get away from it all.”  The stresses of our everyday lives paired
with a struggling economy have made outdoor living areas a primary choice as
people decide where to spend their construction dollars.  The popularity of “staycations” has increased
as well, contributing to people’s desires to have resort-style backyards they
can regularly enjoy.

“Outdoor Living” is an extension of the living area into the
backyard.  At one time, a swimming pool
was by and large the only element homeowners considered for their
backyards.  However, today’s backyards
regularly include fireplaces, fire pits, pizza ovens, pergolas, built-in bench
seating, outdoor kitchens, stand-alone patio covers, bathrooms, water features,
and more.

An outdoor fireplace or fire pit is becoming increasingly
popular as people design their entertaining areas.  The ambiance of a lit fire as you cook and
entertain can set the mood whether you are trying to entertain or just
relax.  The fireplace is more commonly
built in conjunction with a patio cover or pergola to help create the
full-service living room outside.  The
fire pits are a great addition to an open air seating area in a backyard and
are instrumental in helping stir the conversation and storytelling.

Today’s patio covers are much more than a shade area to
protect us from the sun, rain and heat.
Entertaining outdoors wouldn’t be complete without a full array of music
and television.  RF, radio frequency,
remotes are a practical alternative to leaving high-dollar electronic equipment
outside.  By back feeding the low voltage
connections from an indoor location, a homeowner simply needs only the remote
and an outdoor television to watch the big game or listen to their iPod
outside!  This eliminates the challenge
of finding a good location for stereo receivers and cable boxes while also
helping to minimize equipment replacement due to being exposed to the elements.

Stain grade v-groove or bead board ceilings are a fantastic
look and help create a warm feeling when used to dress up a patio cover.  Available in many different wood species,
such as pine, cedar, or cypress, a stained ceiling can help create the ultimate

Outdoor kitchens’ recent popularity has spurred an increase
in the availability of component options.
Previously, an outdoor kitchen was typically referencing a built-in
grill.  Today, an outdoor kitchen
commonly consists of a built-in grill, side burners, power burner, sink,
built-in ice chest and refrigerator.
Other items that are beginning to make their way into people’s backyards
are warming drawers, ice makers and ovens.
In addition to basic appliances, other conveniences such as enclosed
door and drawer units, trash can pull outs, paper towel storage and cutting
boards are commonly incorporated to make the outdoor kitchen full service.  A chef’s kitchen can easily be constructed
outside with the availability of appliances on the market.

Pizza ovens have started to gain traction here in Texas as
well.  A masonry constructed pizza oven
is a timeless conversation piece and a great backyard focal point.  Besides, who doesn’t want the ability to cook
pizzas in three minutes?  Typically, a
pizza oven is built along with an outdoor kitchen, bar area and/or seating

The ability to use their outdoor living area all year long
is the main reason to install outdoor cooling and/or outdoor heating
systems.  An outdoor cooling system can
be as simple as ceiling fans or a misting system, or as extensive as a
dedicated air conditioning system.  A
mini-split system is typically a great choice, since they are typically small,
highly efficient, and can offer heating as well.  A free standing gas or propane patio heater
is also a popular choice.

A bathroom in the backyard is another great addition to help
ensure the homeowner doesn’t have to leave their backyard.  Whether it’s free standing or built off a
patio cover or the house, it is one of the main conveniences that a homeowner will
need to create the ultimate outdoor living area.  Although usually a half bath, consisting of a
sink and toilet, an exterior rinse-off shower is a great addition for backyards
with a pool.

Previously, a pergola, shade arbor or trellis was used as a
small shade structure or backyard accent.
Many times, they can be the primary outdoor living area.  Whether they are attached to another
structure, such as the house, or freestanding, there are endless options and
designs for this type of cover.
Different wood species such as treated yellow pine, western red cedar,
or cypress can help achieve different looks along with painting or
staining.  Another component that has
increased pergolas’ popularity is the use of polycarbonate roofing sheets to
create a fully roofed shade arbor.
Polycarbonate roofing is available in a variety of thicknesses and
colors, one of which is bronze, which is similar to a tinted window and
provides some UV protection as well.  Due
to its low profile and the ability to use on a low-slope application, it’s the
perfect combination with a pergola.

Being outside reminds us of simpler days, campfires,
barbecues and family.  Without the walls
that typically confine an interior living area, your client can entertain their
family, their co-workers, or their whole neighborhood without feeling
cramped.  They may even go home thinking
they’re a good cook, since we all know everything tastes better cooked
outside!  The one thing that is for sure
is that they will be the envy of the neighborhood with resort-style living in
their backyard!

After graduating from Texas A&M University, Sam Hickey spent seven years in
production and custom home building in Houston, Texas.  After holding positions from construction
superintendent to project management to division manager, Hickey decided to
start Creekstone Outdoors, a full-service residential general contracting firm
specializing in outdoor living environments.

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