Clients embarking on major upgrades to their outdoor spaces sometimes need to be reminded of all the potential uses for their future spaces. Design-build remodeling companies who specialize in outdoor living projects and often serve as general contractors for all aspects of outdoor projects need to conduct a thorough fact-finding interview with their clients to uncover all possible uses of the new spaces.

Most large outdoor projects today must thoughtfully integrate several spaces to allow them to function together properly, exactly as a designer and design-build remodeler would do for a room addition or a whole-house makeover.

Where does the outdoor kitchen fit in relation to adjacent dining and sitting areas? Which spaces are covered, and which spaces are not covered? Clients today expect to work-from-home outside but often neglect to mention it.

Hardwire ethernet and electrical connections would work best for this attached screen porch by Michael James Remodeling in Dawsonville, Georgia. Photo: Keith Benjamin

Remodelers need to add this question and probe a bit further. How often do you work from home now, and if you plan on working from home in your new outdoor space, how often would that be? Then then the next question should gauge the amount of bandwidth they might require. Will they frequently conduct video meetings outside? There’s more to this discussion than one might initially imagine.

For example, shade is required to see a computer screen. One way to uncover and learn all the considerations for working outside is try it at your own home and see how well it goes. You might end up heading back indoors in order to maintain your productivity.

Electrical, Ethernet and Wi-Fi

A ruggedized outdoor router might be the best solution for this remote eating and seating space built by Alair Homes Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C. Photo: Jim Schmid Photography

Post-pandemic, the number of Americans who work from home is large and growing. The following statistics come from Forbes Advisor.

In 2023, 12.7 percent of full-time employees work from home, and 28.2 percent work a hybrid model. It is estimated that by 2025, 32.6 million Americans (or 22 percent of the workforce) will work remotely full-time. Furthermore, 98 percent of workers say they seek to work remotely some of the time. Just as your clients have made modifications to indoor living spaces to accommodate working from home, officing outside is something most people will want to do at some point.

Here is the good news: Many of the same technical requirements for extending audio and video to outdoor spaces in order to watch sports, listen to music, etc., are the same requirements for facilitating outdoor offices. Depending on the scope of the outdoor living project, hardwire connections are the best way to deliver reliable connectivity.

This second-floor deck retreat by Archadeck Nova Scotia in Kentville, Nova Scotia, is covered and could be an ideal work-from-home location, but it is extended beyond the range of most indoor Wi-Fi networks. A repeater, hardwired ethernet or router would be required here. Photo: Bruce Jollimore Photography

With a bit of pre-planning alongside a low-voltage systems integration expert—for example, those who are members of Indianapolis-based Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association or CEDIA—the job becomes a lot easier. These pros are typically equipped to adapt and modify a client’s internet service provider connection to suite any outdoor work-from-home needs.

Existing internet connections can be extended via hardwire with ethernet or RG-6 cable connections by running wire from a home hub to outdoor outlets where televisions, speakers and even wireless security cameras will be installed. During the planning phase, ethernet outlets should be placed near electrical outlets in all various sections of an outdoor space: outdoor kitchens, outdoor seating areas, and in remote but covered spaces like gazebos and screen porches.

Far too many homeowners expect to sit outside and be able to access the internet from Wi-Fi routers positioned inside their homes, only to find out later that those signals are too weak to reliably facilitate work-from-home activities such as video chat, let along accessing files in the cloud.

Alair Homes Decatur designed/built this Atlanta pool house that required its own indoor router from an ISP. Photo: Jeff Herr Photography, Inc.

Home Wi-Fi networks with a mesh-type architecture combine wireless routers and repeaters to bring broadband speeds to all rooms in a home. Similarly, many network equipment companies today make ruggedized routers, repeaters and extenders for outdoor use, but they come at all price points and capabilities.

The need for outdoor broadband initially arose to serve public and commercial spaces like parks and office courtyards. Thus, most outdoor Wi-Fi solutions are commercial-grade and carry a heftier price tag than would be expected for residential use. In addition, many enterprise-grade extenders and repeaters are not compatible with a client’s current router. A CEDIA contractor is recommended. Sometimes a new router or an entire network upgrade, inside and out, is the right answer.

Netgear, for example, makes a product called Orbi Outdoor, which is highly rated but costs nearly $2,000. Other manufacturers include Hawking, EnGenius, and Ubiquiti. When integrated with a compatible indoor mesh-type Wi-Fi system, these products are plug-and-play. Almost no set up is required other than placed within 10 to 15 yards of the main router inside a home.

Broadband connections on a large patio such as this one built by Ernst Brothers Builders in Haverford, Pennsylvania, would require a Wi-Fi extender or repeater. Photo: Rebecca McAlpin

Another option is to install a dedicated outdoor wireless access point. These do require a systems integrator to set up. These create a 5 gigahertz or a 2.4 gigahertz frequency network, or in tandem, for different upload and download speeds.

The best advice for remodelers who want to keep their outdoor living clients happy is to anticipate their future work-from-outdoor needs. The primary consideration is electrical and broadband connectivity. Ample shade and noise reduction are also key factors.

Good Spots for Office Work Outdoors

Detached structures such as converted garages and sheds are potentially the best and most dependable outdoor-living offices. These include pool houses and gazebos. Too much sunlight is the second-most common obstacle to working outside, aside from a lack of sufficient broadband connectivity. Too much glare can make seeing a computer screen impossible.

Installing large canopies and awnings over decks and patios are an inexpensive way to make them conducive to office work. A motorized louvered gazebo system can also allow for changing light conditions by opening and closing at different times of the day. QR

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More