Outdoor living rooms continue to gain popularity with homeowners.

We're all spending more time at home these days, it seems. Whether it's greater focus on family time or an emphasis on staying in to entertain friends rather than going out, Americans are all about the comforts of home. And we're not content to stay within four walls anymore. Outdoor living rooms, complete with comfortable furniture, fire pits and outdoor fireplaces, continue to gain popularity with homeowners. There's even a trend toward outdoor kitchens - wonderful gathering spots for spending time with family and entertaining friends.

The Outside is In
Outdoor living is catching on all over the country. According to the National Association of Home Builders, more than half the single-family houses built today have a patio or deck. And the Census Bureau says that more than $50 billion of the $172 billion consumers spent on remodeling last year was spent on the outsides of homes - a great way to add more character and style while also increasing the home's value.

Statistics show that adding outdoor amenities is a smart way to spend construction dollars. In some markets, adding a deck or patio gives you a return on investment of more than 200 percent when you sell your home, according to Money magazine. Because appraisers regard decks and patios as permanent structures, they add to your home's appraised value.

The best time to add an outdoor living room is when you're building. It costs up to 60 percent less to build such a space during initial construction than it does to add it later.

Bringing the Hearth Outdoors
Warming up an outdoor living room is easy with the wide variety of outdoor fireplace designs available today. These fireplaces bring the traditional hearth outside with weather-resistant construction plus all the features of indoor fireplaces. Traditional masonry is one option, but design innovations in stainless-steel construction let you get the look of masonry at a fraction of the cost.

You can choose a wood-burning fireplace, natural gas or propane. No matter what type you pick, the fireplace can integrate into the design of your home to create true outdoor décor. One great option that can become a stunning focal point for both your indoor and outdoor living rooms is an indoor/outdoor see-through gas fireplace like the Twilight II™ by Heat & Glo™.

No smoke. No ashes. No problem
Outdoor fireplaces let you enjoy a traditional campfire in your own backyard without the traditional hassles. "Old-fashioned campfires or fire pits mean that somebody always has smoke in their eyes," said Roger Oxford, Senior Vice President of New Construction at Hearth & Home Technologies. "But today's natural-gas and propane fireplaces and fire pits give you the allure of a campfire with a clean burn."

They also eliminate the chores of chopping and hauling firewood, tending a fire and cleaning up ashes afterward: outdoor gas fireplaces operate at the touch of a switch. You can even order an unfinished fireplace and customize it with stucco, tile, brick, or stone that complement the design of your home.

Grilling Goes Upscale
According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, 60 percent of people who cook outdoors do so all year long, no matter the weather. To satisfy these al fresco gourmets, gas grills now rival the highest-end stoves, with stainless-steel construction, convection cooking systems, movable burners and temperature controls. These grills offer the perfect centerpieces for complete outdoor kitchens with islands that provide plenty of counter space, cupboards, and even refrigerators and plumbed sinks.

Outdoor kitchens centered around powerful gas grills offer several advantages. Perhaps the most important is that the cook gets to spend more time with family and friends, since there's no running back and forth between an outdoor gathering and the kitchen. In addition, they provide a great way to spend family time away from the TV and other distractions. It's almost like taking a mini-getaway right in your own backyard.

Outdoor Fire Tips

Keep the following tips in mind when considering or using an outdoor fire:

  • Before installing an outdoor fireplace or fire pit, make sure to check the needed clearance from other combustibles
  • Keep a close eye on children and pets around any outdoor heat source
  • Check with your local fire department to make sure your outdoor fire meets city fire codes

For more safety tips, or to see all the available options for maximizing your outdoor living space, consult your builder or your local fireplace retailer.

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