"We're on a job right now, and the family have a large outdoor patio," says Brian Deas, owner of Memphis' Deas Floor Decor.
"They had their patio furniture and grill sitting on drabby, gray, unsealed concrete. Once we clean the concrete, stain it, and seal it, it will transform the living space outdoors.
"Put the furniture back on the patio, and you just want to hang out outside," Deas continues. "We're used to seeing warm hardwood floors. When you do this with concrete and you protect it with the sealers we use, it's a very attractive solution. And in a lot of cases, it's very economical."
Increasingly, homeowners who want to add a little flash to their home — or who want to punch up the value — are putting money into their outdoor spaces. It beats burying their cash in the backyard.
A home's outdoor space can go from good to great with some targeted spending. For starters, go blue or green: blue, with a swimming pool (consider a saline pool — it can be cheaper over time and less harsh on the skin than traditional chlorine pools); or green, with an investment in landscaping (consider shade trees that will grow to protect your home from the sun — and save you money on utilities).
The newest trends and technological advances are in the way of hardscaping — the complement to landscaping, including stone or concrete features such as pool decks, patios, and seating.
Deas works inside and outside customer's homes to upgrade flooring. Outdoors, Deas touts custom decorative overlays that turn boring concrete into a show-stopper.
"We can take concrete that doesn't have a prayer and resurface it," he says.
With features such as custom patterns, colors, and engravings, flooring can look as natural as stone, as familiar as tile, or as unique as a homeowner's personality. It is also durable. "The sealers we use are essentially bulletproof," Deas says. They also require little maintenance and are easy to clean.
Structures such as patios, kitchens, fireplaces, or pergolas can round out the backyard experience. Jason Rhea of JRI Design/Build says demand is up for outdoor kitchens and living spaces.
"You can maximize the use of your backyard by making it another room in the house," Rhea says. Extending homes 100 or more square feet adds space for entertaining, value to the property, and aesthetic appeal, he says.
With fully or partially enclosed spaces, patios can be enjoyed year-round.
As with home interiors, the extent of outdoor upgrades depends on budgets. Rhea has done high-end patios with flat-screen TVs, sound systems, bar areas with sinks, refrigerators, grills, stone or brick fireplaces, and advanced lighting amenities.
Another new trend is ipe (pronounced ee-pay), a richly colored, dense wood from South America that is durable and long-lasting.
Other ideas are popping up all the time.
"In outdoor kitchens, we use a lot of concrete for our countertops," Rhea says.
"We've started embedding fiber optic lighting into the concrete prior to pouring it, so that at night when you're entertaining, you turn it on and the countertops change colors. It's definitely a conversation piece."