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Reno Expert: Picture-Perfect Patio

Create your own great outdoor space

With summer upon us, most of us are keen to spend as much time as possible outdoors. But is your own backyard an inviting oasis, or an overgrown disaster? If the ongoing real estate boom has taught us one thing, it’s that land is very valuable. As homeowners we should take advantage of every square foot we’ve got. Here are some ideas on how to turn your urban jungle into a slice of paradise.


The first factor to consider is what you like doing when you’re outside. Are you a gardener, a DIYer in need of a workshop, a consummate host looking for an outdoor entertaining area or, if you have the space for it, would your own private basketball net or tennis court be your dream use of the space?

My own backyard is built around an in-ground pool. Realtors and others will tell you that putting in a pool isn’t a good investment when it comes to resale value. But I wasn’t thinking about some future sale. I was interested in enjoying my house while I live in it. No need to drive north to a cottage when I can go for a dip at home.


Obviously, the size of your yard will be the main factor in determining how much—or little—you’re able to do. Case in point: when building permanent structures such as decks, sheds, and gazebos, there are usually setback restrictions—meaning they have to be a certain distance from the property line. (These projects may also require a building permit. Read “Deck Building Do’s and Don’ts” for more details.)

Canada’s extreme weather is hard on exterior building materials. Which is why the durability of a composite deck board such as those made by Trex is such a good investment.

Photography courtesy of Trex



The surrounding tree canopy also plays a role. If there aren’t many mature trees in your area you’ll likely need an umbrella or awning to shade your seating area. If you have lots of mature oaks or maples, you’ll have to consider lots of cleanup time for pools and patio areas. With evergreen trees, you’ll find yourself seasonally scooping up needles and pinecones. But they’re acidic, so you’ll have to carefully plan any other vegetation you plant to make sure they’re tolerant of that.


To make maximum use of the space, consider adding patio heaters to your plans. Options range from gas firepits to stylish lamp-style models. Either type can be directly plumbed to your household gas service, or run on refillable propane tanks.

Finally, don’t forget that old cliché about good fences making good neighbours. Most municipalities have restrictions on how tall a fence can be. If privacy is a key factor in your planning, build a fence with solid, overlapping boards that run the full height of the divider instead of the ubiquitous lattice-topped designs.

  Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

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