Creating low-maintenance high-functioning exterior spaces

Design is about creating beautiful, functional spaces. When it comes to the outdoors, we also want low maintenance. Our Manitoba summers are short enough without wasting time
on exterior maintenance. We would rather be golfing, swimming, BBQing or just enjoying the outdoors with friends and family. So how do we take maintenance into account when planning home improvements?

One of the best exterior home improvements is vinyl siding. It is available in a wide selection of colours. Whether replacing old wood siding or building new, vinyl siding is affordable and only needs to be done once. If you are considering having the exterior of your home painted, consider obtaining a quote for vinyl siding. You may be surprised to find the cost quite affordable compared to painting every 5-7 years. Vinyl siding goes up once and the only maintenance might be a wash-down with a pressure washer or garden hose occasionally. This improvement saves you time and money!

Another maintenance-saver is updating your soffits, fascia and eavestroughs. Many older homes have wooden soffits that require regular painting. If you have surrounding trees, your eaves can become clogged, causing overflows in summer and ice jamming in winter. A low-maintenance alternative is aluminum or vinyl. The soffit is the underside of the roof overhang, the fascia is the side board facing out that your eaves attach to. It is very important to keep these well maintained and functioning properly. Soffits provide ventilation, preventing moisture build-up and potential damage. Aluminum and vinyl products have a wide selection of colors to compliment any home exterior. Another fabulous option is a gutter guard which fits over your eaves, allowing water to drain through but preventing leaves and other debris from clogging your gutters.

Do your research because some work better than others depending on factors influencing your yard, for example, the type of trees on your property. Every year, we spend time scraping, painting soffits and cleaning eaves. Most of us would rather be doing something else, so the next time it comes time to do some updates, consider low or zero maintenance options. Windows, doors and even shutters are also available in vinyl options for a complete maintenance-free exterior.

Decks provide additional outdoor living spaces. However, I’ve never heard anyone get excited about stripping and staining the deck as a weekend project! Composite decking is a great option that, although more costly initially, is much easier to maintain and less costly in the long run. Deck maintenance is one thing that is routinely deferred. I cannot count the number of homes we stage with decks that need work or need to be painted before the home is sold. Wood will also rot faster if it is not properly sealed and routinely maintained. This can add up to costly deck repairs or rebuilding if maintenance has been deferred for too long and the damage extends to rotting in your support structure. Composite decking is available in numerous colors and different materials to meet many budgets. It is also easy to clean with a quick pressure wash or garden hose. One word of caution is that some composite decking can become hot if in full sun. As with anything, do your research before you buy.

Patios and outdoor firepits are a great addition to any backyard. More often than not, they are made with interlocking brick/stonework. When installed correctly, this product generally lasts a long time. However, it is not uncommon for grass or weeds to set seed in the sand in between which can become a regular maintenance item — pulling weeds or spraying to kill weeds and grass growing in between the patio stones.

A number of years ago we put in a stamped concrete patio. It was a great decision! A quick wash with a garden hose and it is good for the summer. Another bad aspect of interlocking brick is the freeze/thaw cycle can cause bricks to shift over time — causing heaving and sinking requiring the bricks to be removed, have the areas leveled and have the stones installed again. This can quickly become more costly than installing a concrete patio to begin with! A stamped concrete patio is done once and doesn’t require maintenance for years. So much easier and so much more time to enjoy summer with friends and family!

Finally, gardening is a favorite Manitoba pastime. However, no one enjoys spending time weeding and pulling grass out of gardens. Ever notice most garden magazines showcasing beautiful flowerbeds usually have a layer of mulch? That is because mulch will keep light away from the soil, preventing grass and weed seeds from getting the sunlight they need to take root. Any seeds that settle on top of the much don’t root down into the soil and are much easier and faster to remove. I have a thick layer of mulch on my gardens at home and at the cottage. I typically only weed my gardens once a month. A thick layer of mulch 2-3” deep also keeps moisture in your gardens, preventing them from drying out faster in the hot sun. This means less watering is required and plants stay healthy and flourish.

I love summer. I also love my home and yard to look neat and well maintained! While working full time and looking after a home and a cottage, I learned to keep maintenance to a minimum, so I had more time to enjoy the things I like doing with my family and friends. I hope my time and money- saving tips help you enjoy your summer! Enjoy!