San Diegans are blessed with fantastic year-round weather that allows for weekend hikes, days at the beach and enjoying other outdoor activities any month of the year.
The sun, sand and warm weather are the main draws for many of us who choose to call San Diego home, so it no surprise that homeowners in this area put such a strong emphasis on outdoor living.
Whether around town, at the beach or visiting one of our many local attractions, most of us like to be outside as much as possible, and there is no reason for this to end when we get home.
Most detached homes in San Diego have some sort of outdoor living area, although many of these spaces consist of little more than a patio and lawn installed in the backyard.
This is a great start and does allow for some enjoyment of the property outside of the home, but having just these features puts some serious limits on how much a homeowner can use their yard as additional living space.
Attached homes, condominiums and apartment complexes generally also have some sort of outdoor common areas, which often include a swimming pool, barbecue areas or a playground, but landlords and homeowners associations can significantly increase interest in their properties if they choose to include more outdoor amenities.
While this post focuses primarily on backyard improvements that can increase the homeowner’s enjoyment of their yard and the value of their home, any of the project ideas listed below can also be also be added to rental properties to increase their curb appeal and make them more attractive to potential renters.
Why Should You Add Outdoor Living Areas to Your San Diego Home?
The purpose of outdoor living spaces is to extend the usable square footage of your home in a manner that allows you to more fully enjoy your property and makes your backyard serve a more functional purpose for you and your family.
In some cases, this may be very specific, such as budding baseball players in need of a backyard batting cage or golf enthusiasts who want to practice their putting on their own putting green.
In other cases, the spaces you create might be used for more general purposes or to enhance your home’s appeal when it comes time to show it off to potential buyers.
Depending on the improvements you make, creating outdoor rooms and areas can significantly increase the value of your home, which is an important factor to consider if you plan to sell sometime in the future.
Attractive exterior spaces can also add visual appeal to a lackluster home and can help smaller homes compete better once they are put on the market.
Since improving your outdoor areas is often much less expensive than adding interior space to your home, this is a great way to expand your home’s living space with functional outdoor rooms, particularly if you are looking for improvements that can be made on a budget.
The backyard is one of the most overlooked areas when it comes to home improvement opportunities.
Considering how important an attractive, usable yard is in San Diego, more of us should be looking out our back doors the next time we are looking for a weekend DIY project or a space to renovate to update and expand our functional living space.
This is particularly true if you are looking to put your home on the market at some point, since San Diego buyers look for backyard amenities and outdoor spaces for living and entertaining when deciding which home will best meet their needs.
Keep in mind that part of the point of living in San Diego is to enjoy the abundance of sunny days and warm weather.
Whether it is to enhance your own enjoyment of your home or to better position your home to sell, outdoor living spaces are an absolute necessity in Southern California.
Outdoor Livings Spaces: Home Improvement Project Ideas
Here are some of the top backyard improvement projects to consider when adding usable outdoor living spaces to your home.
Patios, Courtyards and Decks
If your home does not already have a patio, this should be the first project on your list when considering possible backyard improvements.
A patio or deck provides a space where you can grill with your family, read a book, enjoy your morning coffee or entertain guests under the stars.
This versatile outdoor space is a must for any backyard and is the perfect place to start when designing your landscaping.
It can also increase the value of your property and may lead to a significant increase in value, depending on the design you choose and the materials used.
For example, an elaborate paving stone patio with sitting walls, a built-in grill, outdoor kitchen or fireplace will provide a stunning improvement to your backyard that will immediately increase your home’s appeal to buyers or provide a comfortable space for your family to enjoy.
If your budget will not allow you to bring in a professional to design and install a patio or deck, a simple patio is still an option, since most somewhat-handy homeowners can take on a basic patio as a DIY project.
If you have the space, creating a courtyard as a central focal point of your landscaping is another option, which is a particularly good idea for higher-end homes.
If you plan to make other improvements to your backyard, be sure to consider this when you are designing your patio, deck or courtyard in order to ensure a cohesive look and the best use of your space.
Lawns and Grassy Areas
Lawns or grassy areas are not a must, but they are a nice feature for homeowners with children or pets.
Lawns are not for everyone, particularly with the current landscaping trend of grassless yards, and natural grass lawns, in particular, are falling out of fashion with many homeowners.
The amount of maintenance and water required to keep a conventional lawn green and lush is turning many Southern Californians off and encouraging them to look into lawn alternatives or artificial grass.
This is particularly true for dog lovers who do not like the brown spots that pretty much cannot be avoided in any natural lawn used as a pet restroom or homeowners who need an option that can stand up to traffic.
These are just a few of the reasons for the growing popularity of synthetic turf, which is the perfect choice for any homeowner who wants grassy areas in their yard without the maintenance and water required for natural grass.
Gazebos, Pergolas and Shade Structures
Once you have installed a must-have patio and decided whether or not you need grassy areas in your yard, the next step is ensuring proper protection from sun and rain.
A covered patio is always a good idea, particularly if you plan to put your patio to use as an outdoor dining room, kitchen or regular hangout.
However, a patio is not the only place you can create shade and add visual interest to your yard.
Other seating areas, dog runs and playgrounds should all have some sort of shade structure or cover providing protection from the sun, which can also make these areas usable in rainy weather.
Gazebos and pergolas are perfect choices for those who want to create shaded areas in the most attractive way possible.
Either of these options can immediately transform your backyard into a more appealing paradise.
Outdoor Kitchens, Outdoor Bars and Built-In Barbecues
These options are for homeowners who want to take their outdoor living spaces to the next level and provide some truly functional features to their backyard.
Any of these amenities immediately expand your home’s living space with usable square footage that can increase your home’s value and will definitely increase the enjoyment you get from your yard.
If you plan to do much outdoor entertaining, you should – at minimum – consider installing a built-in barbecue, which adds a level of luxury that cannot be reached with a portable grill on wheels.
Of course, an outdoor kitchen is an even better option for personal enjoyment and home value, if your budget will allow for this background improvement.
If you are planning on including an outdoor kitchen in your landscape design, an outdoor bar is an easy addition that you should explore with your landscape designer.
Outdoor Fireplaces and Fire Pits
If you have spent much time looking at real estate or home improvement ideas online, you have probably noticed that fire pits are quickly becoming an expected, must-have feature in Southern California homes.
This is definitely a feature that San Diego buyers look for in single-family homes, but even homeowners who never plan to sell will get years of enjoyment from a fire pit.
Fire pits, whether put together from a DIY kit or professionally designed with elegant paving stones, are an easy feature to add to your yard and do not require much space, so this is one amenity you should definitely consider when making improvements to your backyard.
An outdoor fireplace is a more expensive option, but it is also a more upscale choice that really adds to a patio and instantly upgrades a regular seating area to a luxury outdoor living space.
Playgrounds are not a necessity in every backyard, but parents, grandparents and favorite aunts might want to consider including one in their landscape design.
If you do include a playground in your yard improvements, be sure to choose a groundcover option that will reduce tripping hazards, can stand up to traffic and will provide a softer place to fall when roughhousing.
Pools and Pool Decks
Buyers looking at higher-end San Diego homes generally expect a swimming pool in the backyard, so this is one improvement you should seriously consider if you own a luxury home that does not have a pool.
With the beach so easily accessible from most of San Diego County, some homeowners do not consider a pool a necessity, but this is a great addition for any homeowner who wants an easy option for low-impact exercise or for parents who do not want to have to take the kids to the beach every time they want to swim.
Of course, this is not an inexpensive backyard improvement, so this may not be an option for everyone.
An above-ground pool is a less expensive option that may meet your family’s needs, and adding a pool deck around it can add to its visual appeal.
If you have an existing pool without a pool deck or with an older concrete patio around it, you may want to consider upgrading your pool area with a paving stone pool deck that will provide a slip-resistant surface and instant elegance to your backyard.
A swimming pool is not the only option for adding the element of water to your landscape design.
Waterfalls, water fountains, ponds and other water features are less expensive than installing a swimming pool and add a relaxing, beautiful element to your backyard.
Greenhouses, Raised Garden Beds and Themed Gardens
The move towards yards with smaller lawns, artificial grass lawns or no lawns at all has made more room in backyards for flowerbeds and themed gardens.
Raised garden beds are a great choice for those who want to include a vegetable garden in their landscape design and generally have a cleaner, more appealing look than conventional row gardens.
If you like to start your plants early or grow exotic flowers that need special care, you also might want to consider adding a greenhouse.
Whether you plan to exercise your green thumb by doing your own gardening or prefer letting the professionals handle your yard maintenance, themed gardens are a great way to express your personality, truly personalize your outdoor spaces or add instant visual appeal to your yard.
There are plenty of options from which to choose, including night gardens that seem to glow under the moonlight, shade gardens that perform well where other plants refuse to grow, water-saving native gardens, a backyard beach complete with sand or a simple white garden.
Outdoor Movie Theater
A backyard cinema is a great way to expand your living space into your yard, and can be a simple DIY project that you can complete in a single day.
Of course, higher-end setups with professional wiring and a retractable screen are available and are a better option for luxury homes, but any homeowner can afford to put some sort of outdoor movie theater in their yard.
The Importance of Outdoor Living Spaces in San Diego: Final Thoughts
Entertaining and living outdoors is part of the reason to live here, so it is no surprise that attractive, functional outdoor living areas are incredibly important in San Diego homes.
From simple additions – like fire pits – to more luxury options – like outdoor kitchens – backyard improvements are the perfect way to expand your home’s usable space and more fully enjoy your home.
If you are looking to maximize your space and use your yard to its full potential, adding outdoor spaces for living and entertaining should be at the top of your home improvement project list.
Have you added outdoor rooms to your yard? If so, we would love to hear how they have enhanced your home and made living in San Diego even more enjoyable.
Photo credits (in order of appearance): stock.xchng, Renaudeh; stock.xchng, Ayla87; stock.xchng, kkiser; stock.xchng, kellyeld; stock.xchng, AlexaSky; stock.xchng, getwired.