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Upgrading your outdoor living space? These tips will help you protect your property

Homeowners are bringing the comforts of modern living outside. Here are a few important steps you can take to plan proactively.

From cozy Colorado backyards to palatial Southampton summer kitchens, our homes hold endless ways to enjoy outdoor living—and homeowners are enjoying them all. The American Institute of Architects has reported outdoor living spaces as one of the biggest areas of emphasis for homeowners for eight years straight in their Home Design Trends Survey, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.1,2

In 11+ years of visiting clients’ homes as a Risk Management Consultant, I’ve seen exterior spaces grow in size and sophistication. Take the outdoor kitchen, the heart of an outside entertaining area. What started as a space for a simple charcoal grill has grown to include built-in grills connected to gas lines, pizza ovens, bread makers, deep fryers, smokers, and much more. And the cook’s paradise does not stop there: today, outdoor kitchens also include sinks, refrigerators, dishwashers, ice makers, wine chillers, and kegerators. As the grill is warming up and family and friends are on their way, hosts are greeting them with elaborate dining set ups, often covered by pergolas with chandeliers or string lighting. Fireplaces, firepits and outdoor speakers set the ambiance. And let’s not forget smart televisions and movie screens to catch the game or newest release!

One thing all outdoor living spaces have in common is that they are about experiences. It’s the time spent with family or friends here that make these places special and has so many people eager to upgrade their backyards, patios, roof decks and more. Whether you are already enjoying your open-air oasis, planning a build, or dreaming for the future, a few essential tips can help you create an outdoor living space that is built to last and brings you joy for years to come.

 

Location, location, location

 

  1. Choose the location of your space based on an easy flow from in and out of the home or other entertaining areas, such as your pool or pool house.
  2. Select materials that are similar or complimentary to that of your home and existing structures.
  3. Choose an area protected from the elements. This could be under a covered porch or even a mature tree.
  4. Select the location of your appliances wisely. Be aware of general wind patterns and make sure grills, smokers, or fryers will not send smoke into your home or the area where family and friends will be gathering.

 

Select your materials and install your new additions

 

  1. Choose materials that will stand up to elements such as sun and rain. This should include non-rusting screws, nails, and hardware. Make sure all appliances are outdoor rated.
  2. If your grill will be built-in and have cabinetry or countertops, or be adjacent to an existing structure, make sure to install an insulated grill jacket. This prevents fires, as well as burning or warping of any materials surrounding your cooking area.
  3. Make sure your cooking appliances are properly vented. This may include a hood and/or vent panels in surrounding cabinetry if necessary. Do not push a grill directly up to the side of your home.
  4. Be cautious of tiles and flooring that will be slippery if wet from rain.
  5. Consider shade from sun, heat lamps, and screens to keep out the pests so that your space can be used as often as possible.
  6. Make sure the light fixtures you select are constructed for outdoor use and no wires are exposed.
  7. Hire licensed and insured contractors. This is especially important if those contractors will be tapping into your property’s existing electrical, plumbing, or gas lines. (At Berkley One, we connect clients with our PlusOne℠ Service Network, which has fully vetted, insured and reliable contractors, partners and service providers.)
  8. Obtain proper permits from your town.

Don’t forget landscaping! Choose trees and plants that are native to your area and easy to maintain. Landscaping may be used to create privacy from neighbors. (To take a peek at the season’s top landscaping trends and learn about insuring your landscape, check out our recent blog on landscape design trends!)

 

Protect your outdoor living area

 

  1. Seal granite and natural stone countertops to protect from sunlight and natural elements.
  2. Clean and cover your grill when it is not in use.
  3. If you live in a cold climate, take appropriate steps to winterize your space:
    • Shut off and drain your water lines.
    • Disconnect utilities if applicable. Turn off the gas supply to grills and fire pits if they will not be used for months.
    • Clean out your refrigerator and ice maker.
    • Remove any stored food and condiments to keep animals away.
    • Winterize your cabinets.
    • Remove any fabrics used for awnings, drapery, and furniture.
    • Bring televisions and electronics indoors.
  4. Contact your insurance provider once your outdoor living area is complete. Chances are you have invested a great deal in your new backyard retreat, and an insurance provider can help you make sure it is protected!

With busy work and family schedules, everyone deserves a place to recharge. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful setting to call your own or a lively entertaining area for friends and family to gather, it’s wonderful when that place is found right in your own backyard.

Jill Scanlan is a Risk Management Consultant at Berkley One (a Berkley Company).