July 10, 2009

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Bring It Home

Investing in Backyard Activities Means Big Returns

By Candace M. Little

July 10, 2009

It’s a breezy July evening, the grass is green and soft, there’s a hint of barbeque smoke in the air, the sound of laughter in the distance, and you have an incredibly empty backyard. While some enjoy their summer on patios or in swimming pools, others consider a summer outdoor experience watching TV with the window open. Let’s face it, backyards are an important part of a home these days, but they are expensive and time consuming to maintain, and sometimes they aren’t frequently used. Here are a few ways to turn your backyard into a place you want to be, instead of a place you’re content looking at from an open window. Say OK to the Outdoor Kitchen It’s a time saver, really. You can enjoy your backyard, and have an easily cooked meal all at once. Someone called it killing two birds with one stone, but in this case, only grilling the birds is required. Outdoor kitchens start with a basic barbeque grill that can be enhanced with state-of-the-art accessories, hooking up gas or electric lines, adding built-in counters, cabinets, sinks, refrigerators and really anything your imagination can think up. Home-improvement stores carry the gamut, and outdoor grilling islands have many of these elements built into one structure. In a national poll conducted by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, two out of three consumers said they would rather grill out at home when they are in the mood for grilled meals versus eating out at a restaurant. If you side with the majority, an outdoor kitchen could be the perfect way to use your backyard more. Even during the winter, outdoor kitchens are still popular in Utah. Ann Robinson, a principal at Renovation Design says that’s because our interest in grilling out-weighs the harsh climate. “There’s somebody in the household who loves barbequing and they want to have a fine facility to flip burgers,” says Robinson. She also says there are a few basic things, in accordance with manufactures requirements and Utah code, to consider when designing and installing an outdoor kitchen. There must be at least a 24-inch gap between a barbeque island and other structures, no roofing of any kind is allowed over the barbeque, but pergolas and roofs may be built over other parts of the outdoor kitchen. Robinson also cautions to choose materials carefully. Stainless steel will weather the storms in Utah, but if you choose to make anything out of wood, she recommends it be covered with stone, tile or stucco—whichever will fit the design and your budget best. The New Drive-in Movie Hours of outdoor entertainment are yours with just an LCD projector and a white bed sheet. But if you want the full experience, consider getting a popcorn machine, theater candy and purchasing an outdoor movie screen. Open Air Cinema in Lindon makes theatrical-grade backyard theater systems, including blow up screens in various sizes that can be purchased at Target.com. Stuart Farmer, founder of Open Air Cinema agrees that an outdoor home theater is a great way to put your backyard to use. “People are staying home and looking for ways to make their family and neighborhood activities more fun—and what better way to do it than with an outdoor movie night?” asks Farmer. “We rip the roof off the home theater and take it outside. Our system is easier to set up than a pup tent and when deflated, the 123-inch movie screen weighs about eight pounds and fits inside a duffle bag.” Your work life is busy (how else would you be able to afford such a marvelous hardly-used backyard?), so you deserve a chance to relax. Move that favorite couch outside or pull out the camping chairs and enjoy a movie under the stars. Out Back on the Putting Green Backyard sports are not what they used to be, and if you have a golf game, tennis game or a you-name-it game to improve, you may want to consider getting a sport court. There are companies throughout Utah that can install everything from the typical basketball, tennis and volleyball multiuse court to a putting green, and even skate park-quality ramps right outside your back door. James Burdett, a sport construction specialist and court designer for Sport Court West, says sport courts and in-home gymnasiums are a growing trend because they not only provide entertainment close to home, but also allow busy professionals more time with their families. “People are taking the money they would have used to go on an expensive vacation and using it to improve their own yards and homes,” Burdett says. “And putting in a sport court game court or playing surface is putting an investment in your family.” But it can also be an investment in your home, since adding a sport court can increase your property value. Burdett suggests purchasing a sport court designed just for your yard and family needs instead of getting a cookie-cutter design. Take into consideration details like where your neighbor’s bedroom window is, or that adding five more feet would get you a full 3-point line.
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