The kinds of outdoor spaces typically found at luxury resorts are all the rage, thanks to the stay-at-home conditions forced upon us all by COVID-19. We talked to three area pros who are building these kinds of high-end spaces—Jeffrey Riddle, owner/principal at Alterra Design; Kendra McDougal, architectural designer at Redo; and Michael Turner, founder of Classic Urban Homes. The takeaway: With a little patience and deep pockets, you can get everything your heart desires.
Dollars and Sense
“Outdoor spaces, when done correctly, are very similar to an indoor space. They contain almost all the same components. …The only thing that’s missing generally is insulation and windows. So the cost isn’t necessarily going to be less if done right,” says Kendra McDougal. With a remodel, amenities and existing structures will impact the budget—and there’s a wide range in what homeowners spend. Whatever your budget, you’ll get more for your money if you hire a company that specializes in outdoor remodeling.
- Just make it work: $25,000
- Everything you need: $100,000
- Take it to the max: $350,000
What timeline should I expect?
A complex outdoor project can take four to six months to complete. If all you want is a basic built-in outdoor kitchen, that can be done in about a month.
Find a Firm
Interview a few companies that have been around for a while and have good online reviews. But don’t stop there, Jeffrey Riddle says. Once you’ve narrowed the field, call or visit some of the firms’ customers.
6 weeks-3 months
It helps to have ideas about what you want. It also helps if you and your spouse agree easily and can work together to make decisions. McDougal tells clients to “go slow to go fast,” meaning the time you invest early on will reduce time spent later.
Engineering & Permitting
2 weeks-2 months
If you’re adding a structure, such as a pergola or a roof over your patio, you’ll need an engineering plan and permits. The City of Dallas is currently taking 8–10 weeks to issue permits. Richardson, Plano, University Park, and Highland Park are much faster, but are still taking longer than before the pandemic. Be prepared for permitting in those locations to take as long as a month, McDougal advises.
Selections & Sourcing
This step takes place concurrently with engineering and permitting, so it doesn’t necessarily add to the timeline.
Demo & Construction
6 weeks-2 months
Once permits have been secured and contractors get started, the length of the project depends on the scope, but a well-planned remodel can move quickly.
Plantings go fast, depending on the weather.
Potential Money Pitfall
Get what you want, but go for the middle of the road for your neighborhood. Over-the-top spending won’t come back to you when you sell the property. “Somebody may love it because you have the best backyard in the neighborhood, but they’re not going to give you that much more,” says Riddle.
Why does it cost so much?
- “I’m building you a mini house outdoors, less the bedroom. The reason an outdoor space costs so much is because it has all the expensive parts of the house in it.” —Michael Turner, founder of Classic Urban Homes
- “We are in a peak, white-hot, lava-hot market for outdoor spaces because of COVID. Some materials have gone up 200, 300, 400 percent in the last 18 months. If you want to do this now, realize you’re in a very up market.”—Jeffrey Riddle, owner/principal at Alterra Design
- “It’s supply and demand. Things that are trendy are going to cost more.” —Kendra McDougal, architectural designer at Redo
What should I spend on?
- “Ensuring that the area is covered. Doing just an outdoor area without shelter is going to cut your usability in half.” —McDougal
- Skip the mosquito misting systems (which Riddle says don’t work) and opt for plants like citronella, catnip, and rosemary that repel mosquitos naturally. “If you don’t figure out how to deal with Texas’ mosquitos, you’ll be inside looking out.” —Riddle
- “An outdoor kitchen.” —Turner