The Great Australian Backyard Survey
Our obsession with entertaining and outdoor living is showing no signs of waning, with 63 per cent of Aussie homeowners planning to either make improvements or undertake new projects in their outdoor space this year. This is according to the annual Adbri Masonry Great Australian Backyard Survey, which has reported a 41 per cent increase in homeowners wanting to do up their outdoor space compared to last year.
“Aussies love spending time outdoors, whether it is relaxing, gardening or entertaining friends and family,” explains Jason Hodges, landscaping expert and Adbri Masonry brand ambassador. “Almost a quarter of us spend more than seven hours a week in our backyards and gardens and it is no surprise the lifestyle benefits that come with that. This increase we are seeing in backyard makeovers is a result of increased consumer confidence and recognition that outdoor renovation projects can add value to the home financially.”
For many, investing in an outdoor space is also about adding value to the home. The Great Australian Backyard Survey revealed that behind a kitchen renovation (47 per cent), 32 per cent of homeowners believe renovations to the garden landscape and outdoor entertaining area added the most financial value to the home.
“Outdoor investments are definitely getting the greater share of the wallet when it comes to home renovations,” explains Mick Conway, owner of Conway Landscaping. “The beauty of the outdoor space is that you can continue to add to it over time, increasing its value, whereas with a kitchen, it is not as easy to make those gradual changes or improvements. I would also add that outdoor lighting is another worthwhile investment that adds value to the home.”
Adds Jason: “The kitchen is obviously a great investment and a big renovation, but the most contemporary designs can date within ten years. It is the most commonly renovated room because it requires the removal and replacement of old fixtures, and may involve tiling, plumbing and new appliances. Generally, outdoor renovations and design can stay current for longer and the key is maintenance.”
First impressions count
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. This rings especially true when it comes to your home, its saleability and appeal to potential buyers. “Homeowners should never underestimate the value in street appeal because buyers never do,” explains Jason.
“When considering outdoor projects, people always ask, ‘Where do I start?’ I think a great place is at the beginning, that is, the front yard. Minor improvements can make a massive difference to the way people view your place. In many homes, the dominant feature out the front is the driveway. It takes up a lot of surface area and serves an important function, but too often it’s overlooked.”
In the Great Australian Backyard Survey, the driveway was voted third as the outdoor project to deliver the most value to the home. “Driveways are a great place to stand out from the crowd. Today, every second house looks the same, but yours doesn’t have to. With some creativity, you can leave the ‘Joneses’ in your rear view mirror by creating a paved driveway that uses colours, patterns and different paver sizes to build a stunning starting point for your home. There are also new opportunities to go green and use a permeable paver like Adbri’s Ecopave to reduce stormwater runoff by allowing rainwater to absorb back into the ground,” explains Jason.
Gardening closely follows relaxation as the number two reason Aussies spend time in their outdoor spaces. Sixty two per cent of respondents like to garden in their outdoor space, but with that comes maintenance. Maintenance was voted the number one consideration when embarking on a landscaping project. Mick Conway shares his thoughts on low maintenance projects and plants that can transform an outdoor space.
“Engaging a landscape designer with the right knowledge and experience is the best option for homeowners wanting to create a low maintenance landscape. Things like having the right plant stock and turf, irrigation and hard surfaces such as a paved courtyard are just some of the features homeowners should consider for a low maintenance landscape,” explains Mick.
“There are some great options to choose from when looking for low maintenance plants, including buxus, grasses and succulents, all of which don’t require a lot of water.”
For the first time, Adbri asked survey respondents about the importance of sustainability in landscape design and outdoor projects. Thirty-six per cent said sustainability is very important above all else and 46 per cent said sustainability of concept and products are very important, but price trumps. Dean Herald, principal landscape designer of Rolling Stone Landscapes, believes there is definitely intent for people to make sustainable choices, but it is not difficult in an industry that has been a leader in this area for some time.
“We are in the horticultural industry. We produce plants on a daily basis as far as nurseries go. We are responsible for planting multiple gardens, plantations, capturing and reusing water, through innovation of design using interesting products and using products that obviously last. The landscape industry is a leader in sustainability already and it continues to improve,” explains Dean.
“The must-haves in a sustainable backyard include using mulch, catching and reusing water, and using efficient building methods that will last and quality products,” he continues. “The edible garden is also a great addition to have. It has all the components from a sustainable point of view as it removes transport and packaging, and it is right outside your front or back door. Depending on location, that can stretch to having chickens where you have that whole cycle working well, from composting to reusing scraps to feeding the chooks. It is all quite easy to do as long as it is part of someone’s ability to maintain.”
With entertaining friends and family and cooking in the top five things Australians use there outdoor spaces for, it is no surprise the outdoor kitchen is expanding to not just include the faithful barbeque.
“Generally speaking it is about extending the outdoor living component. Australians are interested in having great outdoor spaces, being able to cook and entertain family and friends. Within that topic there are trends popping up. If you are talking about kitchens, pizza ovens are becoming more popular, whereas five years ago it was just the barbeque. The barbeque is still there, but now there are alternative cooking spaces,” says Dean.
“The different cultures we have in Australia are fantastic because you have all these different cooking experiences. You have families requesting things like tandoor ovens, so we learn a lot about different cultures, what they like to cook and what different cooking methods they like to use.”
Another emerging trend has seen homeowners move away from building a common deck to looking at how they can zone their backyard instead. Fifty-nine per cent of respondents believe the patio/entertaining area adds the most financial value to their home hence the focus on making it a cornerstone of the outdoor living space.
“Decks are on the way out. Our clients are looking for that point of difference that allows them to get the most of their backyard and are choosing more terrace and courtyard options for alfresco dining,” says Mick Conway.
With more of those hard surfaces being introduced to the outdoor space, comes the use of pavers. “There has been a shift in paving trends where we are now seeing a lot of overseas influence from Europe,” explains Jason. “This includes mixing colours and different sized pavers in the same pattern or layout, something we haven’t seen before.”
Expert Tip: Some councils will credit permeable pavements as a percentage of the soft landscape area on your parcel of land.