Photos courtesy of Belgard

Outdoor living spaces are becoming an extension of the indoors with more and more complicated elements like kitchens, fire pits and fireplaces gaining popularity. With the increased interest in creating a place to relax, entertain and play, contractors are seeing more complicated requests.

At Greenscapes in the Reno, Nevada, area, Josh Anderson says he’s seen an uptick in fire pits and fireplaces, in particular. “It’s really been the last two or three years, but we’re getting tons of requests for fire features,” he says. “Five years ago, we did a couple, but we’ve actually had to focus on it much more lately.”

Suppliers have been seeing a big demand has been for fire features as well. “These features are common on at least 70 percent of the projects we see coming through in Belgard Design Studio. I think there are several reasons for this. Fire pits are a cost-effective way to extend the season and add interest in most outdoor living designs,” says Joe Raboine, Belgard national design and training specialist, adding that fire features can really make a space come alive.

The process can be complicated, Anderson says. Safety is his first concern, but after that, he says the biggest challenge is to make sure clients aren’t biting off more than they can chew. “It’s not cheap and it’s not easy,” he says, adding that last year, his company got called out to a residence where the homeowners had tried to install a fire pit themselves.

“It worked OK for the first year, but the second year, it started to fall apart because they hadn’t installed it properly,” he says. So now, he makes sure to inspect outdoor features on his clients’ properties just in case they need some extra work.

Greenscapes started using kits last year as demand has gone up to help cut down on training time. The company has one properly trained fire feature design and installation crew member but now that crew member oversees installation of kits as well.

“We made the switch because of the demand. We just couldn’t keep up with it,” Anderson says. “We still do some custom design, but the kits have helped us handle the new customers.”

Ty Fallon, owner of Fallon Landscaping in Indiana, says he plans to add two new employees this year to keep up with demand in his area. “We’re definitely still seeing your average patio, deck, sort of thing, but more and more folks are asking for something extra – a kitchen, a bar, even built-in benches and things like that,” he says. “It seemed like a good way to improve profits, and I think this year we can get on that.”

While the company is confident in its ability to install the basics, the more complicated features are coming from kits, he says. Fallon Landscaping uses kits for the elements they aren’t experts in, like fire features, outdoor kitchens and more. He says he still plans to customize a little, but kits give him a good place to start.

“They are also consistent, come with warranties and allow contractors to comfortably bid on projects knowing exactly how they will turn out, how much time will be required and how much profit they can make,” Raboine says.

For Greenscapes and Fallon Landscaping, kit installations save on price as well. Anderson says kit jobs are about 20 percent less expensive than custom jobs and Fallon says they’re about 15 percent cheaper.

“We tend to customize a little bit on top of the kit – extra features and add-ons – so it would be a lower price tag if we were just doing the kit, but we want to make sure we’re giving people exactly what they want,” Fallon says.