We’re fortunate to live in an area where temperatures can be quite nice during the day, even throughout the winter. Still, with less daylight and chilly temperatures rolling in after dark, there is a tendency to abandon our outdoor living spaces all winter long. But you certainly don’t need to. With average high temperatures in the 50’s during the day all winter long in the Charlotte area, it only takes a little planning to get better use out of your yard in the winter. So here are a few ways to create winter outdoor living spaces.
1. Use Paver Patios and create sunny sitting areas.
You want to be comfortable while sitting outdoors in the winter and you can warm the temperatures around you with the right planning. Patio areas can serve many purposes, and helping to warm you up in the winter sun is one of them. Pavers, especially brick ones, retain heat from the sun and radiate it above the surface. This can make outdoor living more uncomfortable during the summer, but it also makes it more comfortable during the winter. Ideally, you could have a sitting area in the yard with concrete or brick pavers and great sun exposure for winter, while another area using travertine or another less heat absorbent material for summer sitting. Space is always a consideration, as is making the whole design look consistent. If your yard is big enough, a couple separate seating areas can help provide a comfortable place to sit and relax in warmer or colder months.
2. Outdoor Living Spaces with a Roof.
One solution to providing comfortable seating areas in all seasons is to have an area with a roof over it. A gazebo, roofed pergola, or maybe an area where the roof extends from the house. Having a roofed in area will provide a seating area with shade in the summer (maybe even a ceiling fan!) and provides an opportunity to make a warmer outdoor room in the winter.
In the photo above, you’ll notice some heaters built right into the roof to make this a super cozy sitting area all year long. Ceiling heaters are a built in way of making sure your roof covered patio area is ready when cold temperatures arrive. But if you’ve got a roof without built in heaters, you can still take advantage of the structure by adding a portable heater and some curtains or shades on the sides. Just make sure you have enough ventilation for safety.
Clear vinyl roll-up panels are also great solutions for screened porches. The addition of these panels effectively turns the inside of the screened porch into a 3 season room. A space heater used in a safe manner along with they screen porch enclosure curtains will make sitting in your screened room enjoyable even in January during a Charlotte winter.
Winter Outdoor Living Using a Tent or Enclosures for Patios
If you don’t have a full roof, you might look at some other similar options. Enclosures for pergolas are available from some online suppliers. Since your pergola already has a slatted roof, it is fairly easy to install these “patio tents” over the pergola. The fabric covers the roof and sides to help keep warmth from a heater in and block the wind.
Without a pergola over your patio, there are still some options for keeping warm while being “outside.” COVID-19 sent restaurants and other businesses scrambling for outdoor and more divided seating areas, which led to a lot of bubbles being manufactured. These bubble tents could be placed in your yard or on your patio area to provide a warmer outdoor living space during the winter. There are a number of options, including pop-up bubble tents and more rigid plexiglass domes that you could use during the winter months. These structures act like greenhouses, trapping the sun’s heat and keeping the inside warm on sunny days so you won’t even need a heater.
3. Add a Fire Pit, Outdoor Fire Place or Patio Heater to Your Winter Outdoor Living Space
One of the most commonly requested features for a backyard plan is also a great way to keep things warm in the winter months. Gas or wood burning fire pits and outdoor fireplaces provide quite a bit of heat and can make things pretty comfortable, even when temperatures start dropping at night. Fire features usually do a good job at keeping people comfortable when it is at least 40 degrees out. And they generally won’t make you feel too hot during the day, unless we get abnormally warm days that send the temperature above 70 degrees. Fire features add visual interest, provide a focal point in your outdoor space and give you a reason to go outdoors and enjoy your yard in the winter.
Nothing makes enjoying the outdoors on a chilly evening more welcoming than a firepit with your family and friends gathered ‘round enjoying each other. Just think of all the memories you’ll make when you have that elegant destination in your backyard.
Why not schedule a consultation with one of our design specialists to discuss building your firepit area?
If a fire feature isn’t quite right for you, then you can always add a stand alone patio heater. Most patio heaters you will see run on propane or electricity. Propane allows you to place the heater without having to deal with cords and can also produce a lot of heat. However, you could burn through an entire tank of propane in about 10 hours. Electric heaters have to be plugged in, so you need an outdoor power source and a good quality extension cord so you can place the heater in the most appropriate place.
4. Create More Interest With Plants.
Often, people don’t think about how the yard will look in the winter when making decisions on what to plant. Your grass may be dormant, the leaves have fallen off the trees and bushes and things don’t often look that inviting. But here in the Charlotte area, your landscape isn’t going to be covered in snow very often. That means there are a lot of plant choices that can help keep your landscape looking great during the winter. And the right positioning can actually help block wind and keep you warmer while you enjoy your outdoor spaces in cooler temperatures.
The right plants can add pops of color during the winter. Winterberry holly, for example, loses its leaves, but provides a great show with an abundance of red berries. Adding a Colorado Blue Spruce can provide interest when other trees have lost their leaves or you can use several to create an evergreen privacy screen.
Winter Plants for Patio Pots
A few winter loving plants in pots on your patio can make sitting outside that much more enjoyable. Dwarf evergreens or slow-growing ones in pots work well. There are many types of boxwoods that do well in pots and can be easily pruned to remain small, but colorful in the winter months. While some of the plants in your yard may be less interesting throughout the winter, by adding some potted winter loving plants to your backyard patio, you can still enjoy your time outside.
Our landscape design professionals can help select a mix of plants to keep your yard looking inviting all winter long.
5. Add Lighting for Shorter Days
You may have some porch lighting or flood lights, but those don’t always provide a relaxing atmosphere when trying to enjoy your outdoor spaces. Still, if you are going to be out after work, you’ll need some lighting because sunset is between 5 and 6pm from the end of daylight savings time in November until the days start lengthening out again in mid-February. A great solution is to add some low-voltage LED lighting, which can create pathway lighting and be used to highlight a tree or other yard features. Adding a few strings of lights across a pergola can also be a nice effect and give you more time outdoors in the winter.
If you’d like to get started planning for a new landscape project in the Charlotte area, please contact us today.