As the hot summer days trade in their excessive heat for cooler evenings and comfortable temperatures, Las Vegans are turning off the air conditioning, opening the windows and, yes, spending more time outside. Autumn is arguably the most inviting and pleasant season in the Las Vegas Valley, so what better way to enjoy it than with friends and family in your own backyard?
"One should look at the backyard like any other room," said Ron Jurica, owner of Sunblock LLC.
He said you should envision what you want that space to look like, but take things one step at a time. There are a lot of decorative and practical pieces you can add to your backyard to make it a more livable area, but don't go overboard. "More is not necessarily better," he said.
In a place where the sun shines year-round, a natural starting place is with a patio cover.
"Depending on what direction your backyard is facing, you certainly want good shading," Jurica said.
Patio covers can either be free-standing or built as an extension of your home. Those made of wood are often the most attractive type available on the market, but they are also the most expensive option and the harsh weather of the Southwest can ruin them, he said. Aluminum patio covers are inexpensive and low maintenance, but aren't as appealing to the eye. Jurica said a nice medium between the two is an Alumawood patio cover, which looks like wood but wears like aluminum. It doesn't rust, crack or discolor.
Solid patio covers are popular in Las Vegas because they offer complete shade over doors and windows, Jurica said, but open lattice covers can be the more attractive option, especially with a growth of vines or tasteful decorating. For those looking for a middle ground between the two, some aluminum covers come with skylights in them, according to OnlineTips.org, a home-improvement and gardening Web site.
If the permanency of a patio cover is not appealing to you, cloth awnings are another option, Jurica said. Retractable awnings allow for a shaded backyard, come in a rainbow of colors and designs and are easy to install, but he said the sudden winds in the Las Vegas Valley can damage them.
Once you've chosen and installed your patio cover, consider the other components of your backyard room. A fire pit is a great addition to the yard because it provides for a central meeting location, said Bill "BBQ Bill" Reingruber, co-owner of Nevada Outdoor Living.
These also come with a variety of choices. Precast concrete or those made of rock or stone are the least expensive on the market and last longer, but they aren't necessarily the most attractive pieces available, depending on the theme of the yard, he said. Glass fire pits are easy to clean, more attractive and more contemporary, but are generally more expensive. Whatever you choose, Reingruber suggested you increase the life of your products with quality care. "It's never a bad idea to keep things covered up when you aren't using them," he said.
Gas and wood-burning fire pits are most popular, Reingruber said, but there are also models that burn on propane and fire gel.
Fire pits are either permanent or free-standing, and depending on the type you choose and the fuel mechanism of the pit, they may need to be professionally installed, he said. A good dual-purpose piece is a fire pit table, Reingruber said, which comes with a cover that can be used as a place to eat and drink when not being used as a fire pit.
Additional backyard enhancers include professional landscaping that can help define the outdoor ambience, decorative heaters that can provide warmth once the temperatures drop even more and water products, such as fountains or waterfalls, that can turn a backyard into a place of Zen and tranquility.
Now is not too late to be thinking about making your backyard a more inviting place. In fact, Reingruber said, "things are on sale this time of year. It is a very good time to buy." Jurica agreed. Many items, including furniture, patio covers, fire pits and water products, are more affordable right now, he said.
But don't go crazy. Keep it simple and plan ahead.
"A lot of people try to cut corners but if you plan it out properly, you only have to do it one time," Jurica said.
He suggested people pay up front for a backyard they will love for years to come, and get second opinions from licensed contractors to make sure the work on their yards is done right the first time so they can truly enjoy it.
"In hard times, you have your family," Reingruber said. "People deserve to have a place where they can escape from everything else going on around them and enjoy what they have with the people they love."