5 Questions To Answer When Considering a New Deck

(BPT) – When planning a deck project, choosing the right material is key to the enjoyment and value you’ll get from your outdoor living space. Today, there are more choices in decking materials than ever before, including high-performance composites, which are increasingly replacing wood in backyards across the country.

As you weigh your options, here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about composite decking:

What are the key benefits of composite decking?

Unlike wood, high-performance composite decking resists fading, scratching and mold – and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter. Wood decking does not age gracefully, even with regular maintenance – including washing, staining and sealing that can take several days and a considerable number of materials and tools. Composites require minimal upkeep. You never need to worry about painful splinters or the laborious sanding, staining or painting – just an occasional soap-and-water cleaning will do the trick.

Does composite decking look natural?

The aesthetics of composite decking have evolved considerably over the years. Today’s offerings feature high-definition wood-grain patterns that are nearly indistinguishable from real wood textures. Additionally, composite decking comes in a wider variety of color options to complement the exterior of any home. Ranging from rich browns and warm umbers to spicy reds and pristine grays, composites are more natural than ever before and boast a vibrancy that remains unchanged without having to stain and re-stain year after year.

How do composite costs compare with wood?

Initially, composite decking costs more, board for board, than pressure-treated lumber. But rather than deteriorating over time, composite decking delivers more long-term value due to its minimal maintenance requirements. When you consider the cumulative costs of power washing, sanding, staining and painting a wood deck every season, composite decking proves a much better value over time. According to HomeAdvisor.com, maintenance for a wood deck costs an average of $540 to $1,050 per year compared with just $15 to $20 for a composite deck.

“Today’s homeowners want to spend their time enjoying their outdoor living spaces – rather than maintaining them,” says Leslie Adkins, vice president of marketing for residential products at Trex Company, manufacturer of composite decking. “High-performance composite decking stands up to decades of weather and day-to-day usage without the burdensome sanding and staining required to maintain wood decks.”

Are composite materials environmentally friendly?

Wood might be a natural material, but the chemical coatings used to protect the wood from rot and mold are not. Composite decking, on the other hand, uses few chemicals in its manufacturing and the upkeep is simple – just soap and water. Additionally, Trex decking is made from 95 percent recycled materials, including plastic film recycled from a variety of items, such as grocery bags and newspaper sleeves. The company repurposes more than 400 million pounds of plastic and wood particles annually that would otherwise end up in landfills.

What’s the difference between “capped” and “uncapped” composites?

Early generations of composite decking were “uncapped,” leaving them vulnerable to staining, fading, mold and mildew. The leading composite products available today are “capped” with a protective outer layer that is bonded to the core during the manufacturing process. This “shell” contains UV inhibitors and other ingredients to ensure the deck boards retain their aesthetics and durability. In addition to resisting fading, staining and mold, they won’t rot crack or splinter like wood and require minimal maintenance.

Steps For Homeowners Dealing With Ice or Snowstorms

(BPT) – Are you ready if a blizzard hit tomorrow? While smaller snowstorms certainly create a level of frustration for homeowners, large storms require preparation to stay safe and comfortable. Families don’t want to be caught off guard in the event of a large snowstorm. Finding yourself unprepared and without power can be a dangerous predicament.

A loss of power can reduce your access to water, food and light. Follow the tips below and you’ll be ready to weather any snow event!

* Have at least three days’ worth of water.

* Have a supply of flashlights and batteries on hand.

* Have a portable grill or camping stove at the ready to prepare food.

* Purchase nonperishable food.

* Move perishable items into a cooler that can be packed with snow to keep them fresh.

* Pretreat areas outside your home with a bag of ice salt before the storm hits.

Winterizing your home is another step you can take to prepare for winter storms. Checking that your house is ready to withstand a winter storm is crucial. Review the checklist below to ensure that you stay warm and dry.

* Make sure to clean out your gutters and patch any holes in your roof.

* Check for cracks around your door! Use silicone caulk to fill in any gaps larger than a credit card.

* Clean out your chimney and secure a pile of firewood.

Beyond securing the necessities and winterizing your home, there are a number of tools that work even when your power doesn’t! Below are the tools that can make dealing with a large accumulation of snowfall much more pleasant.

* A battery-powered snow thrower to clean off the driveway. Greenworks Tools 60V 20″ Snow Thrower will get the job done and eliminate the noise and hassles of dealing with fossil-fuel options.

* A generator that provides portable power can also be of great use in charging cell phones or other essential electronics.

* A cordless, battery-powered snow shovel to remove snow on porches or sidewalks helps clear a path without the back-breaking work. The Greenworks Cordless 12″ Snow Shovel is a valuable addition to any winter tool collection as it effortlessly clears a foot of snow on a single pass.

* A cordless, portable heater to help prevent frostbite in the absence of electricity or a fireplace.

If you follow these important steps, you will be prepared for anything Jack Frost throws at you this winter.

4 Ways To Recreate Your Entertaining Space

(BPT) – The holidays, the big game, New Year’s and everything in between: At this time of year there are plenty of reasons to invite family and friends to your home to entertain. In addition, there are also plenty of times – particularly on cold winter nights – when you just want to have a place you can go to get cozy, play a video game or watch a movie in peace.

Either can be an appealing option, but do you have an entertaining space that fits the bill? One where you want to spend your free time?

If the thought of your entertaining space has you sadly shaking your head no, the good news is there’s no reason you have to settle for a less-than-ideal solution. Like the events you use it for, your space can change as needed. To help you make the most of your space for all of the group and individual events you have planned, follow these tips.

* Control light. A common design tip for most spaces is to allow for lots of light. You may want that when everyone comes together to watch a game, but for those times when you want to watch a film or play a video game, a darker environment may be more immersive. To keep total control of the light in your entertaining area, invest in room-darkening blinds or dark curtains that can block out the sun when you crave darkness and let in the light when you don’t.

* Redefine your viewing experience. When people come to your home, they will often be there to watch something on the screen. That makes the right technology essential. The 4K UHD Laser Smart Home Theater CineBeam Projector is perfect for binge-watching the hottest shows, enjoying an immersive gaming experience or cheering on your favorite team. The projector itself can be ceiling mounted or set up to reflect onto any screen you want, and because it is empowered with Smart TV, you’ll have access to wireless streaming, Netflix and YouTube. What’s more, HDMI and HDCP input make your projector ready for Blu-ray and gaming consoles right out of the box. Whatever you want to do or watch, this project enhances your experience.

* Install a seating strategy. Every entertaining area has viewing seats that are less than ideal, and while a new projector can expand your viewing options, there’s still no reason to settle for second-class seating. If you’re planning to have a large group over on game day, a simple platform can provide your room with stadium seating and give everyone that at-the-game feel. If stadium seating isn’t for you, strive for an open arrangement and place display tables and other storage solutions behind seating when guests come over. Those items don’t need a good viewing angle anyway.

* Add a few extra comforts. It’s time to take customizing your entertaining space up a notch by adding a few elements that are uniquely you. From full bars to mini fridges, humidors and portable air conditioners or dehumidifiers, there are several tiny additions you can make to any entertaining area to make the space more enjoyable. If you’ve ever wished you had something nearby, now’s your time to add it. Think it over and you’ll see that the right additions can have a big impact on how you use the space and how much you enjoy it. Reshape your entertaining space today. With so many big events coming up, every moment you waste in reshaping your entertaining space is another opportunity missed, so don’t delay. Start visualizing your space for what it could be instead of what it is and you’ll be on your way to creating the entertaining space you’ve always wanted.

To learn more about the LG’s latest 4K UHD projector and to see it in action, watch the team from Inverse play this year’s hottest game on this one-of-a-kind technology at https://www.inverse.com/squad-up.

‘Tis the Season For Holiday Entertaining

Smart tips to prepare the kitchen and dining room for holiday entertaining:

(BPT) – As the year winds down, social calendars fill up with merriment-filled gatherings among friends and family. When hosting a seasonal gathering at home, being proactive can help streamline tasks and reduce stress. From whipping up a feast to toasting in the New Year, here are five ideas for getting the heart of the home – the kitchen and dining spaces – ready for holiday entertaining.

Simplify measurements

Chopped veggies and pre-measured ingredients can streamline any cooking adventure and save precious time. Fill the fridge and pantry with ready-to-go items as much as possible and consider smart kitchen enhancements that make measuring a breeze. For example, the Beale MeasureFill touch kitchen faucet from American Standard provides an adjustable set amount of water on demand, giving holiday cooks the precise measurement faster than using conventional measuring cups. Plus, the easy touch on/off feature is ideal when hands are full or dirty; to operate, just touch it with the wrist or the back of the hand.

Prepare meal necessities

To create a holiday table worthy of a magazine spread, prepare all the plates, platters and servingware needed beforehand. This is a good time to take stock of place settings, too. (Important tip: Have an extra setting or two available for last-minute RSVPs or unexpected guests.) Whether it’s a buffet-style meal or multi-course sit-down dinner, make sure to have enough serving utensils for everything on the menu, from appetizers to desserts.

Stock all washing spaces

Baking, cooking and entertaining tasks generate dirty dishes for days, so get wash spaces ready with fresh sponges, plenty of soap, drying racks and towels. Rotate between washing and cooking to eliminate a big mess at the end of entertaining. To ease the task of hand-washing large dishes, consider installing a sizable sink that also updates the kitchen’s style. The handcrafted Pekoe apron-front kitchen sink from American Standard has a generously-sized single basin to accommodate large pots and pans; plus, the 18-gauge stainless steel material is stain-, heat- and chip-resistant.

Create clean, comfortable spaces

Clear clutter from common spaces where guests will be congregating for refreshments, meals and more. Focus on the dining room where guests will toast to a merry holiday, but don’t forget the kitchen for visitors who might want to pitch in or provide good cheer and holiday conversation during last-minute meal preparations. Add extra chairs and seating as well as leaves to extend tables so there’s plenty of room for everyone and all the delicious foods that will be served. The goal is for people to feel comfortably cozy without being overcrowded.

Manage multitasking

Multitasking is a must for big entertaining events. While appetizers are in the oven, wash a few dishes. When the main course is simmering, mingle with guests. To maximize time in the kitchen, think about enhancements that allow multitasking with ease, such as the K7 semi-professional faucet with foot control technology from GROHE. Busy or dirty hands? No problem. Turn the water flow on and off with a tap of the foot on an activation plate installed discreetly in the toe space of the kitchen cabinet. This allows more to get done easily, while helping prevent the spread of germs.

Holiday entertaining is simplified with a few modern home updates and smart cooking tricks. By focusing on the heart of the home, everyone will have a joyous season – especially the host or hostess.

How To Put Your Own Touch On Modern Bathroom Design

(BPT) – Home design continues to evolve but one element remains true: The bathroom is often the oasis within the home. A secluded bathroom is an ideal spot to experiment with modern designs without undergoing a major renovation. Below are a few tips on how to incorporate contemporary elements into an existing bath.

Accessorize simply

Choose simple and polished accessories that complement the aesthetic of the room. Incorporate sleek, angular towel bars or an elegant robe hook to create a clean layout that is functional and design forward. Incorporating modest touches that fit your personal style, such as striking rose quartz crystals on your shelves, will transform the space into a serene oasis.

Add warmth with texture

A modern look doesn’t need to be synonymous with sharp lines and monochromatic colors. Incorporating softer materials such as a plush rug, textured bath towels or handwoven wicker baskets will provide contrast to angular accents, bringing a sense of warmth and tranquility to the room.

Create a timeless aesthetic

Ensure your space remains modern for years to come by installing timeless fixtures. Inspired by the modern styles found throughout European homes, the Delta Emerge Shower Column couples bold lines with impactful design to deliver a luxurious, customizable shower experience. Simply mount it to the existing shower wall and plumbing. An adjustable hand shower on the column allows the added benefit of a slide bar and overhead shower in one.

Engage your senses

In modern design, creating a contemporary space is about more than just how the room looks. When homeowners were asked to share the most important characteristic of their design purchases, the scent of the home ranked among the top five qualities from responses in the bi-annual Delta Faucet Homeowner Index. To truly complete the modern look and feel of your bathroom, skip the traditional candle and consider adding elements such as an aromatherapy diffuser to customize your space with different scent combinations.

For more design inspiration, visit DeltaFaucet.com/InspiredLiving.

5 Ways To Prep Your Home’s Exterior For Cold Weather Pest Problems

(BPT) – One of the last things you want to deal with as temperatures get chilly is an infestation of cockroaches or mice. With a few tips from Terminix, you can help protect your home from these critters so that you can spend more time relaxing and staying warm indoors.

Seal Possible Entry Points

Take a walk around the outside of your house, paying careful attention to any deteriorating structures or holes that could act as an access point for pests. Almost no hole is too small – some mice can squirm through an opening as small as a dime! Make sure your drains are covered with screens or metal grates, to help keep rats and other small pests out of sewer pipes.

Keep Your Home’s Exterior Clear of Debris and Shrubbery

Be aware of any piles of debris or bushes near your house that might act as a hiding place or access point for pesky animals. Clear away dead leaves and stack wood away from buildings. Overhanging branches can work almost like a ladder or bridge to allow small pests like rats to enter your home, so be sure to trim back any foliage that’s close to the exterior of your house.

Store Trash Safely

It’s important to store food safely inside your house to avoid attracting pests, but you should also be careful about how trash is stored outside. Keep food scraps and other garbage in secure, sealed trash cans. Additionally, try to eliminate or drain any easy outdoor sources of water that might attract pests.

Check For Signs Of Pest Activity

Signs of pest activity inside your home, such as rodent droppings or shed bed bug skins, may indicate that an infestation has already taken root. While it’s important to notice what’s going on in your house, you should also pay attention to potential signs of pests outside your house, so you can catch an issue before it makes its way indoors.

Bring In a Professional

If you do find yourself faced with an infestation, know that you don’t have to deal with it alone. Contact a professional to determine what kind of pest has invaded your home and how best to deal with it. Terminix’s trained technicians will develop a pest control plan to help remove any unwelcome animal visitors and leave you to enjoy the colder months in peace.

Top Exterior Trends To Inspire Your 2019 Home Projects

(BPT) – Thinking of adding a deck? How about replacing the tired, worn siding on your house? Now that the weather is colder, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a hot beverage and start planning your 2019 home projects so you can nail the budget and settle on the look you’re after.

“Updating your home’s exterior can make an older home look more modern, but it can also make a new build feel warmer and more established,” says Kristine Swint, an in-house design expert at Royal Building Products. “Whether you plan to sell, or stay and enjoy your new features, anything you do to update the exterior can maximize the value of your home.”

Swint shares these insights and tips that will help you get inspired and plan your exterior home projects in 2019.

Think “cool neutrals” for the color story

When someone suggests a neutral tone for your exterior, do you think boring beige and tepid taupe? When it comes to vinyl siding, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover there’s a broad range of color and style choices to meet your taste and design preferences, including soft grays, bolder mid-tone blues and warm earth-toned terra cottas.

“Going neutral no longer means sacrificing style, or having your house look like all the others on the block,” Swint says. “Today’s neutrals convey warmth, comfort and closeness to nature – all traits we desire in a home.”

If you need help planning your home’s new look, the HomePlay design tool from Royal Building Products lets you experiment with different colors and siding profiles. To get started, visit HomePlaybyRoyal.com.

Bring the inside out

If you’ve decided this year is the year to add a deck or a patio, don’t settle for an uninspired open-air platform. Today’s designers are remaking the deck concept altogether by bringing traditionally “indoor” amenities outside. Rugs, arbors and high-design furniture will turn your deck into an outdoor living room. By adding a fire pit, portable furnace or heater, you and your family can spend time on the deck year-round. For a finishing touch, a floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door not only brings in more sunlight and natural views, it creates a seamless transition between inside and outside.

But a great deck starts with high-quality materials, because the last thing you want is to spend excessive time and money on routine maintenance. Instead of using natural wood, opt for a premium composite decking, such as Zuri Premium Decking, that combines the natural beauty of exotic hardwood with the unsurpassed and exceptionally low-maintenance requirements of composite materials. If you’re interested in learning more, visit zuri.royalbuildingproducts.com.

Make relaxation a top priority

Home is where the heart is, right? So it makes perfect sense to make it into a space where self-care is a priority. That’s why wellness and mindfulness have become huge influences in interior and exterior spaces, Swint says. To turn your backyard into a retreat space, consider amenities like water features, zen gardens or even a shaded reading nook.

Reframe the possibilities of your shed

Garages and sheds can be more than a storage space for your lawnmower and tools. These four walls hold many other possibilities, and homeowners have come up with creative, free-time-oriented uses for these simple backyard structures. The options are only limited by your imagination: backyard bar, outdoor shower, or the classic she-shed or man cave. You can even make it into a home office for those telecommuting days. To dress up a plain shed, Swint says, add siding with complementary trim, windows (and flower boxes), finished with a sleek glass door.

Now that you have plenty of inspiration to transform your home’s exterior into a more inviting space, explore your options and visit royalbuildingproducts.com.

High-Tech Appliance Trends From the House Beautiful Whole Home Project Concept House

(BPT) – On a tree-lined street in the Brookhaven neighborhood of Atlanta, a house built with the goal of better living through design opens its doors to the public this fall. Each space was created with comfort, peace and serenity in mind, from the decluttered entryway, to the intuitive kitchen with luxurious state-of-the-art appliances designed to easily bring healthy choices to a family’s nightly dinner and provide flexibility in food preparation, to the laundry room with (seemingly) space-age appliances that make the chore a breeze, to the fitness room that puts wellness at the heart of a family’s life.

It’s the House Beautiful Whole Home Project Concept House, a first-ever custom-built house that showcases the idea that you can to decorate your way to tranquility.

“House Beautiful’s Whole Home Project shows how your house can enhance the whole you: your energy, your peace, your happiness,” said Carisha Swanson, senior market editor, House Beautiful and Hearst Design Group. “This is the first-ever custom-built house that showcases ideas and innovations that feed happiness and drive well-being in every facet of our lives.”

Here’s a peek at impressive appliance stand-outs in the Concept House:

Kitchen:

Luxury kitchen appliance brand Signature Kitchen Suite was chosen to showcase ingenious, purposefully designed tools crafted to respect our authentic connection to food. There’s the 36-inch Built-in French Door Refrigerator, with its convertible middle drawer featuring five temperature zones to choose from, offering the easiest of ways to maintain freshness and the integrity of everything you put in it.

But the real heart of the space is the new 48-inch Dual-Fuel Pro-Range. If you’re a home chef, this range will take your breath away; but for a “Technicurean,” or someone who is passionate about cooking and innovation, it just might bring a tear to your eye. Here are the highlights of this award-winning range:

* Built-in sous vide: Once limited to the pros, sous vide is a cooking technique that utilizes precise temperature control to deliver consistent, restaurant-quality results. This is the industry’s first built-in sous vide home range. Home chefs can achieve professional-level results and capture the full, true flavor of foods.

* Power up or simmer down: Two burners can deliver 23K BTU of horsepower for better searing and quick stir-frying. Two burners simmer down to as low as 100 degrees to prepare sauces and sugary confections. All grates are dual-action for added ease.

* Two-zone induction: When the recipe calls for instant temperatures and precision control, two induction zones meet the need.

* True Combi-Steam: The 18-inch oven combines steam and convection cooking for gourmet results.

* Wi-Fi-enabled: Through the touch of a button on the Signature Kitchen Suite app for Android and iOS devices, users can enjoy the benefits of smart functionality like preheating the oven remotely.

Laundry:

Make the “Ultimate Laundry Room” that helps tackle all your laundry needs so you can wash every week and refresh every day. Running loads of laundry isn’t everyone’s favorite chore, but these new appliances from LG Electronics give it some high-tech fun, and more importantly, make the process more efficient and effective. Here are a few standouts:

* LG TWINWash System with LG Sidekick: This two-in-one powerhouse cuts up to 30 minutes off your washing time with TurboWash technology. But it’s the LG Sidekick that packs the punch. It’s a secondary mini-washer that sits beneath the main washer and is designed for small loads. Have a basket of whites with one red shirt? No problem. Pop the shirt into the Sidekick and run both loads at once – or run them separately.

* LG Styler: A first-of-its-kind steam clothing care system and the only certified as asthma and allergy friendly by Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, LG Styler reduces wrinkles and odor, sanitizes and refreshes garments with the fastest cycle on the market today – as little as 20 minutes. It’s a slim closet-like unit that uses pure steam (no chemicals!) to refresh, de-wrinkle and deodorize your clothes between cleanings. It also works with other items like bedding and sportswear. So, that raggedy old stuffed animal your toddler won’t put down … ever? Pop that into the Styler and it’ll be fresh, clean and sanitized.

Are they enabled with Wi-Fi? Oui-oui! Together, along with the companion dryer, they create the ultimate laundry room.

After the public showing, the Whole Home Project Concept House will be put up for sale. You can read all about it in House Beautiful’s November 2018 issue.

Considering a Composite Deck?

Considering a composite deck? Here are expert answers to homeowners’ most common questions.

(BPT) – When planning a deck project, choosing the right material is key to the enjoyment and value you’ll get from your outdoor living space. Today, there are more choices in decking materials than ever before, including high-performance composites, which are increasingly replacing wood in backyards across the country – and for good reason.

“Today’s homeowners want to spend their time enjoying their outdoor living spaces – rather than maintaining them,” says Leslie Adkins, vice president of marketing for residential products at Trex Company, the inventor and leading manufacturer of composite decking. “High-performance composite decking stands up to decades of weather and day-to-day usage without the burdensome sanding and staining required to maintain wood decks.”

As you weigh your options, here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about composite decking:

What are the key benefits of composite decking?

Unlike wood, high-performance composite decking resists fading, scratching and mold – and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter. Wood decking does not age gracefully, even with regular maintenance – including washing, staining and sealing that can take several days and a considerable number of materials and tools. Composites require minimal upkeep. You never need to worry about painful splinters or the laborious sanding, staining or painting – just an occasional soap-and-water cleaning will do the trick.

Does composite decking look natural?

The aesthetics of composite decking have evolved considerably over the years. Today’s offerings feature high-definition wood-grain patterns that are nearly indistinguishable from real wood textures. Additionally, composite decking comes in a wider variety of color options to complement the exterior of any home. Ranging from rich browns and warm umbers to spicy reds and pristine grays, composites are more natural than ever before and boast a vibrancy that remains unchanged without having to stain and re-stain year after year.

How do composite costs compare with wood?

Initially, composite decking costs more, board for board, than pressure-treated lumber. But rather than deteriorating over time, composite decking delivers more long-term value due to its minimal maintenance requirements. When you consider the cumulative costs of power washing, sanding, staining and painting a wood deck every season, composite decking proves a much better value over time. According to HomeAdvisor.com, maintenance for a wood deck costs an average of $540 to $1,050 per year compared with just $15 to $20 for a composite deck.

Are composite materials environmentally friendly?

Wood might be a natural material, but the chemical coatings used to protect the wood from rot and mold are not. Composite decking, on the other hand, uses few chemicals in its manufacturing and the upkeep is simple – just soap and water. Additionally, Trex decking is made from 95 percent recycled materials, including plastic film recycled from a variety of items, such as grocery bags and newspaper sleeves. The company repurposes more than 400 million pounds of plastic and wood particles annually that would otherwise end up in landfills.

What’s the difference between “capped” and “uncapped” composites?

Early generations of composite decking were “uncapped,” leaving them vulnerable to staining, fading, mold and mildew. The leading composite products available today are “capped” with a protective outer layer that is bonded to the core during the manufacturing process. This “shell” contains UV inhibitors and other ingredients to ensure the deck boards retain their aesthetics and durability. In addition to resisting fading, staining and mold, they won’t rot crack or splinter like wood and require minimal maintenance.

How to Create the Perfect, Four-Season Outdoor Living Space

(BPT) – Creating an outdoor living space will give you an extra “room” to enjoy in all types of weather, even as the temperatures drop. You can start small with an inexpensive patio set and charcoal grill on a new deck, go all out with a fully installed kitchen, fireplace and living room, or something in between. It depends on your budget and how you plan to use the space.

Here are some ideas for must-have elements in your perfect outdoor living space that will allow you to enjoy your back yard in style with family and friends all year long.

Deck

It’s the foundation of your outdoor space. Using real wood for your deck is the key to creating a natural, beautiful outdoor living space. One great option is Western Red Cedar. It’s resistant to rot, decay and insects so it lasts a long time with minimum maintenance. It’s also durable, yet surprisingly lightweight, which is one of the reasons DIYers and building professionals find it so easy to work with. It’s also a green choice. Woods such as cedar leave the smallest carbon footprint compared to any other building material.

Fire

There’s nothing cozier on a crisp night than curling up in front of the fire. Adding a fire element to your outdoor room creates the same sort of ambiance. Imagine gazing up at the sky on a dark, starry night while sitting in front of the fire and you’ve got the idea. You’ll find a wide variety to choose from, including decorative metal fire pits or bowls; chimeneas, which are earthenware or stone outdoor fireplaces; or full-blown, permanent fireplaces like you might find inside the house. Whatever you choose, the crackling fire will draw people and create a focal point for conversation and reflection. Added bonus: It will provide a heat source for chilly nights.

Outdoor Kitchen

You can go big, creating a second full kitchen alfresco with a high-end gas grill, a wood-burning pizza oven, a fridge, a sink, storage for dishes and utensils, and a countertop for prep, or you can go small, with a simple grill. Either way, it’s essential to be able to cook outside so you won’t be stuck in your home’s kitchen preparing dinner while your family and friends chat on the deck.

Furniture

A patio table and comfortable chairs are a must, as are some Adirondack or other sturdy, comfy chairs positioned around your fire source. But beyond that, think about how you’ll use the space. Does a chaise or two for lounging with a book and a cold beverage make sense? What about an outdoor sofa and chairs to create more of a living room-type feel? Whatever you choose, comfort, durability in all types of weather, and the size (not too big or too small) are prime considerations.

Shelter

In addition to the standard umbrella for your patio table, creating shelter for your outdoor space lets you enjoy it in all types of weather. The sky is the limit on your choices: a simple wood and fabric canopy to shade your seating area, a more structured gazebo complete with mosquito netting, a decorative wooden pergola, or an outdoor sunroom or solarium that attaches to your home’s exterior wall. Get some ideas for great DIY projects, be it a pergola, a Tiki bar, a cover to protect your grill (and the grillmaster) from the elements, or for less experienced DIYers, a dining table, benches and chairs, by downloading free DIY project plans at http://www.realcedar.com.

Landscaping

The final touch is the yard beyond your deck. Extend your outdoor space with a patio, create a walking path with stone pavers, or add shrubs, plants and flowers that will cycle and change with the seasons, giving your space a fresh look as the months go by.

For more information about creating your perfect outdoor living space or to download DIY plans, visit http://www.realcedar.com.