For 25 years Qualified Remodeler has aggressively reported on outdoor living as a key business opportunity for remodelers. Seven years ago, we supersized our coverage by launching an annual outdoor-living design-and-product guide in our April issue.

The 2021 edition of our Outdoor Living Planning Guide is easily our best yet. It includes 168 outdoor-living products and nine stunning remodeler-led projects, as well as clear takeaways from the very latest outdoor-trends research.

Patrick O’Toole

The latter reveals an outdoor-living market truly supercharged with growing demand. A Harris Poll conducted at the end of 2020 found that 82 percent of the 1,400 homeowners surveyed are more interested in pursuing outdoor improvements today than before the pandemic.

Similarly, our recent survey asking remodelers to assess the pandemic’s impact on home design found that outdoor living ranks near the top among 29 types of remodeling projects today. In terms of increased demand for specific services, outdoor kitchens, fire pits and living rooms rank just behind COVID-induced home offices, fitness rooms and kitchen upgrades.

The Harris Poll also delved into homeowners’ outdoor priorities. Conducted for Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, it found that being in sync with a clients’ outdoor must-haves is simply a matter of remembering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—the theory that food, water, warmth and rest are foundational impulses for humans.

In ranked order, the Harris Poll found homeowners value a remarkably similar set of needs: seating, a fire pit or fireplace, a generic heat source and ready access to food and beverage, a.k.a. outdoor bars and outdoor kitchens.

Delivering outdoor spaces that meet these foundational needs may sound easy, but most of you who’ve been at it for a few years know that it’s anything but easy.

Success in designing and building outdoor spaces requires a lot of technical knowledge. (Think about your calculations for stairs, for proper clearances to allow cooking and eating or for specifying proper lighting.)

Success also requires an equal measure of design inspiration in sufficient supply to create outdoor spaces that not only match a client’s goals but also meet the challenge of how best to connect several beautiful outdoor living spaces into one seamless whole. It’s about color, proportion and scale, as well as proper fit with the existing architecture and foliage.

At QR, we see remodelers as uniquely qualified to lead and manage major outdoor projects like the ones you will see in this planning guide. Do you have past clients who are happy with your work? Check. Do you know how to manage multiple trades? Check. Do you understand local building codes and possess the construction expertise to properly connect new structures to existing homes? Yes, you do.

The question is: Who better than you to design and build these jobs? Landscape designers, pool contractors, deck builders, plumbers and electricians all have their roles to play in major outdoor living projects, but residential GCs and design-build GCs can truly bring everything together to drive new business, especially at a time when the outdoor-living market is so blazing hot. QR

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