Summer is here. That means grilling, pool parties, and more time spent in the great outdoors. Many families will practically live outdoors, turning their backyard into their primary living space. That’s why premium outdoor living spaces are becoming more popular around the country. Homeowners are demanding that their backyard become as comfortable as their living room. Here’s how you can help them out.

Premium Patios and Pool Decks

Outdoor living spaces are more important to family life and entertaining. Simple gray pads that were once the standard patio are no longer acceptable. Homeowners and their guests are looking for something nicer. A decorative patio and/or pool deck will serve as the base for any outdoor installation.

Use stains, on their own or in conjunction with other finishes, to add variety and color. Stains are especially useful because they can be used on new and old concrete. You can use stains to easily upgrade the appearance of an existing, plain gray patio. Refresh older decorative surfaces by highlighting with stain. Stains can add important variation, highlights, and color to a newly cured patio, too.

Texture is vital to a premium concrete patio. When selecting texture, the opportunities are endless. Different combinations of stamps and seamless skins can yield breathtaking results. Surround a medallion stamp with a radius to create a natural focal point. Borders and bands with different textures are a great way to break up repeating patterns and obscure sawcuts.

Exposed aggregate is a classic finish that has been regaining popularity over the years. It is especially useful on pool decks because it creates a non-slip surface while remaining attractive. Exposed aggregate finishes can also combine with other textures, finishes, and colors. Use exposed aggregate bands and borders with stamped textures. Stain your exposed aggregate finishes for more variation.

Restoration

Restoration projects are an excellent opportunity to upgrade. Use decorative overlays to obscure blemishes and improve appearance after repairs are made. Microtoppings and spray deck overlays can be stenciled and trowel textured for simple, attractive finishes. Use stampable overlays to create more detailed textures. Of course, most overlays can be stained just like concrete.

Outdoor Kitchens

Name one summer event that doesn’t have some form of food or drink involved. When people get together, the food and beverages flow. The outdoor kitchen has evolved beyond a simple grill and cooler full of ice. Concrete, as durable and versatile as it is, has made functional outdoor kitchens more attainable than ever before.

Before you begin designing and building the outdoor kitchen, consider what appliances and features are to be included. Will it just be a grill and sink? Will there also be a refrigerator, storage cabinets, or dishwasher? Make sure each of these are accounted for in the design, electrical hookups, and plumbing.

The concrete countertop is the most important part of the outdoor kitchen. It sets the visual tone and is subjected to the most use, abuse, and weather. Concrete is a superior choice for outdoor countertops because it can be formed into most any shape with nearly any color. Use a special countertop mix for maximum performance. Form liners can be used to impart text on the edges of the concrete, mimicking stone and other natural materials. Concrete countertops can be stained or colored to match your design and tastes unlike granite and other common natural materials. Make sure the countertop is ground smooth and properly sealed.

Firepits

Who needs television when you have a cozy fire? Bonfires and roasting fires are central to the outdoor experience once the sun starts to set. When constructing a firepit, hearth or outdoor fireplace, concrete offers stellar options.

When you first start planning, there are a few things to consider. Will it be a gas-fed fire? If so, access to natural gas lines or propane needs to be safe and feasible. From where does the homeowner want the fire to be viewable or accessible? Often, it’s a good idea to place the fire near a spa, dining area, or with a view from the indoor living space. You will also want to make sure the fire installation has seating and social areas nearby. Safety should always be consideration number one.

When designing and building the firepit, hearth, or fireplace, make sure all materials are suitable for heat exposure. Some concrete mixes may contain aggregates not suitable for fire exposure, for example. It is also important to determine whether a firepit, fireplace, or first accent is best. Firepits, for example, are best for larger social groups and entertaining while fireplaces are best for smaller, more intimate groups.

Typically, the firepit or fireplace itself tends to be made from heat-resistant masonry or stone with a decorative concrete patio surrounding it. Precast concrete bowls, boxes, and rings have gotten popular as well. Consider a colored and stained concrete apron or coping around the top of a masonry or stone firepit. This provides a durable ledge to prop up feet, sit, or rest food and drinks while complimenting the surrounding concrete patio.

Water Features

 Especially for premium outdoor living spaces, water features are a nice addition to add motion, life, and vibrancy. They can be standalone fountains, feeders for ponds, or worked into pools. Some of the most common design elements are stones and boulders, going for a naturalistic waterfall motif. But anything is possible if it works with the overall them of the outdoor space. Just make sure your plumbing and drainage are suitable!

For intricate designs often found in water features, a carved vertical mix is ideal. First, you will want to frame in the feature using a wood or metal structure. Make sure it will be able to support the weight of the cementitious vertical mix, pumps, and water lines. You should also be aware of environmental concerns, weather, and drainage. Once the rough structure is constructed, skin it and install a lathe and/or scratch coat to hold the vertical mix. Let your creativity run wild when texturing and carving the vertical mix. Vertical stamps are available to impart texture, but you can always hand carve and texture. Make sure to stain the cured vertical mix with a water based stain, then seal, for a realistic and attractive finish.

Outdoor living spaces are a growing market full of opportunity. When tied into landscaping and overall home design, an outdoor living space vastly improves the usability and hominess of a property. Decorative – colored, textured, and stained – concrete should prominently work into any outdoor living area. Due to its durability and decorative potential, concrete is ideal and should be heavily utilized.