The Great Australian Backyard Survey

The Australian love affair with entertaining and outdoor living is showing no signs of waning, with 63% of Aussie homeowners planning to either make improvements or undertake new projects in their outdoor space this year. This is according to the annual Adbri Masonry Great Australian Backyard Survey, which has reported a 41 per cent increase in homeowners wanting to do up their outdoor space compared to last year.

“Aussies love spending time outdoors, whether it is relaxing, gardening or entertaining friends and family,” explains Jason Hodges, landscaping expert and Adbri Masonry brand ambassador. “Almost a quarter of us spend more than seven hours a week in our backyards and gardens. This increase we are seeing in backyard makeovers is a result of increased consumer confidence and recognition that outdoor renovation projects can add value to the home financially.”

Financial benefits
For many, investing in an outdoor space is also about adding value to the home. The Great Australian Backyard Survey revealed that behind a kitchen renovation (47 per cent), 32 per cent of homeowners believe renovations to the garden landscape and outdoor entertaining area added the most financial value to the home. “The beauty of the outdoor space is that you can continue to add to it over time, increasing its value, whereas with a kitchen, it is not as easy to make those gradual changes or improvements. I would also add that outdoor lighting is another worthwhile investment that adds value to the home,” says Mick Conway, owner of Conway Landscaping.

First impressions count
“Minor improvements can make a massive difference to the way people view your place,” explains Hodges. “When considering outdoor projects, start with the front yard. In many homes, the dominant feature out the front is the driveway. It takes up a lot of surface area and serves an important function, but too often it’s overlooked.”

In the Great Australian Backyard Survey, the driveway was voted third as the outdoor project to deliver the most value to the home. “Driveways are a great place to stand out from the crowd. With some creativity, you can create a paved driveway that uses colours, patterns and different paver sizes to build a stunning starting point for your home. There are also new opportunities to go green and use a permeable paver to reduce stormwater runoff by allowing rainwater to absorb back into the ground,” explains Jason.

Gardening closely follows relaxation as the number two reason Aussies spend time in their outdoor spaces. 62% of respondents like to garden in their outdoor space, but with that comes maintenance. Maintenance was voted the number one consideration when embarking on a landscaping project. Mick Conway shares his thoughts on low maintenance projects and plants that can transform an outdoor space. “Engaging a landscape designer with the right knowledge and experience is the best option for homeowners wanting to create a low maintenance landscape. Things like having the right plant stock and turf, irrigation and hard surfaces such as a paved courtyard are just some of the features homeowners should consider for a low maintenance landscape,” explains Mick. “There are some great options to choose from when looking for low maintenance plants, including buxus, grasses and succulents, all of which don’t require a lot of water.”

For the first time Adbri asked survey respondents about the importance of sustainability in landscape design and outdoor projects. 36% said sustainability is very important above all else and 46% said sustainability of concept and products are very important, but price trumps. Dean Herald, principal landscape designer of Rolling Stone Landscapes, believes there is definitely intent for people to make sustainable choices, but it is not difficult in an industry that has been a leader in this area for some time.

“The landscape industry is a leader in sustainability already and it continues to improve,” explains Herald. “The must-haves in a sustainable backyard include using mulch, catching and reusing water, using efficient building methods that will last and quality products. The edible garden is also a great addition to have. It has all the components from a sustainable point of view as it removes transport and packaging, and it is right outside your front door. Depending on location, that can stretch to having chickens where you have that whole cycle working well, from composting to reusing scraps to feed the chooks. It is all quite easy to do as long as it is part of someone’s ability to maintain.”

“Raised garden beds are the perfect way to grow vegetables, herbs and even fruit to share with family and friends. Building a raised veggie garden is simple; allocate space which will receive enough sun, mark out the area and install a raised garden wall using dry retaining wall blocks. Add quality soil and then plant your favourite produce. An edible garden is a great way to make use of forgotten corners of the backyard to grow your own groceries,” adds Hodges.

Emerging Trends
With entertaining friends and family and cooking in the Top 5 things Australians use their outdoor spaces for, it is no surprise the outdoor kitchen is expanding to not just include the barbeque. “Generally speaking it is about extending the outdoor living component. Within that topic there are trends popping up. The barbeque is still there, but now there are alternative cooking spaces,” says Herald. “The different cultures we have in Australia are fantastic for different cooking experiences. You have families requesting things like tandoor ovens, so we learn a lot about different cultures and cooking methods.”

Another emerging trend has seen homeowners move away from building a common deck to looking at how they can zone their backyard instead. 59% of respondents believe the patio/entertaining area adds the most financial value to their home. “Decks are on the way out. Our clients are looking for that point of difference that allows them to get the most of their backyard and are choosing more terrace and courtyard options for alfresco dining,” says Conway.

With more of those hard surfaces being introduced to the outdoor space, comes the use of pavers. “There has been a shift in paving trends where we are now seeing a lot of overseas influence from Europe,” explains Hodges. “This includes mixing colours and different sized pavers in the same pattern or layout.”

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