20 July 2019
Whilst our winters are considered mild compared to other parts of the world, many Australians still choose to ride out the cool weather indoors, limiting relaxation and entertaining activities to the indoors for three months of the year.
Adbri’s Great Australian Backyard Survey 2019 shows Aussies primarily use their backyards for entertaining (44%), and relaxing (33%) and with 67% of people planning a backyard update in 2019, investing in your outdoor area is a project that need not wait for summer.
With property such a valuable asset and the backyard being the “hero” of the family home, it is a wasted resource to ignore the backyard according to Landscape expert and Adbri Masonry Brand Ambassador Jason Hodges. “I don’t think Aussie’s want to hibernate for three months of the year to just stare at the backyard through the windows! I believe the reason more backyards aren’t used through winter is that it has never been given the attention it needs to be a transitional space that is equally popular in summer and winter.”
Here, Jason shares his ideas and top tips to help you ensure the backyard remains the best spot to entertain year round.
A major deterrent to outdoor entertaining in winter is damp, muddy areas that lead to guests walking dirt through your house. “To make the most of your outdoor space during winter the important thing before you even think about heating, is laying a solid foundation,” says Jason.
You need to consider a solid base that creates a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor rooms. A concrete paver is always a great choice for alfresco areas and paths because they are built to last outdoors and are low maintenance. Large format pavers such as Adbri’s Euro® Classic pavers are hard wearing and they look great making them a perfect option to give you a firm, flat base for your new entertaining area.
Another serial offender each winter is the side of the house. In most homes, there’s one side that receives little sun and it can become a real mud pit. A stepping stone side path is one of the easiest DIY projects you can do to reclaim this valuable space. “I suggest a step stone path using Adbri’s Euro Stone pavers because they have a shot blast surface and are extra resistant to slipping – perfect for areas like this,” says Jason.
Once you get this base right, you’re ready to add the other elements to prepare your garden for winter enjoyment.
As it gets darker earlier and we are settled into shorter winter days, a well-lit garden is essential if you want to continue entertaining into the night. The product options in outdoor lighting have come so far, we really are spoilt for choice and can pick from different styles to create different looks for our entertaining.
Jason explains “for smaller, intimate entertaining you could look at fairy lights through the garden and around vertical poles.
For more formal entertaining, consider festoon lighting which will completely transform the look and feel of your area.
Whatever you decide, do not underestimate the value in stronger, practical lighting around the outdoor dining table, as no one likes eating in the dark!”
Selecting the right furniture is imperative to achieving the desired look and feel and maximising the time spent in the backyard. While we want to be outdoors, we do need to remember it is winter and we can have fun embracing this.
If you have a garden retaining wall, you can buy cushions for the top to ward off the winter chill, creating informal seating and some colour in the garden.
Finish the look with some complementary throw blankets to ensure no one has a reason to leave the party. Think about your choices for furniture and start by considering how you anticipate the outdoor room will be used.
Lounges and deep seaters are perfect for those who like to relax whereas dining settings are best for those who love long family meals.
Firepits have become increasingly popular as the must-have centrepiece for any backyard. Not only does the firepit create a wonderful atmosphere but it also provides warmth as well as a great cooking source, perfect for entertaining guests.
According to Jason, “A firepit is natures TV, they bring a natural and enjoyable feature to your outdoor area. As soon as you build a fire pit, it will automatically become the focal point and main gathering spot for socialising and entertaining. Get it right and your guests won’t want to leave.”
While there’s many great “off the shelf” fire pits available, a waste free alternative is to build a concrete block firepit and is easy to do yourself at home in just a few steps using Adbri’s garden wall blocks. The best part, while you can down stack the blocks to clear the area, you can keep the pit there and repurpose it during spring and summer as a veggie patch!
Step 1: Choose a suitable location. Consider space around the firepit as you will need to accommodate seats. After you decide where you want your firepit to be, use a shovel to dig out a shallow trench in the shape of a circle.
TIP: to work out where to dig, lay your blocks out on top of the grass and go around the circle and mark out with your shovel. Then, simply dig out the soil and grass in this shape.
Step 2: Fill the trench with roadbase (approx. 100mm) and then add damp sand and cement mix, about 6:1 (6 parts sand and 1 part cement). Level out the mix and then start laying your blocks. Make sure you check the level from block to block.
Step 3: Stack the next course of blocks on top of the ones below. Use blocks that are “interconnecting” and don’t need mortar or glue. This makes stacking them together easy and means you will smell the fire, not fumes from glue.
TIP: Once you have finished the circle to a 3 or 4 courses high, you can fill the middle with a dark coloured decorative pebble. This will hide the fact the grass will go black and it also looks great.
Step 4: You’re almost finished but depending on what type of block you have used, you might still need a metal fire pit. To have an “open” fire within the circle, you must have a minimum of 500mm in distance from the flames to the blocks. If you don’t have this, you must use a steel fire pit within the circle to contain the flame and protect the blocks over time.
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