From the roof of your house to what you add in your yard, choosing the right materials is important. Those choices impact not just the curb appeal of your home, but also the quality of time you spend in your outdoor living spaces.

Choosing a roof may not seem important, but that roof will be the surface that protects your property for up to 20 years, says Nick Yadron, president of M&M Roofing.

Yadron is a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association and advisory board member for the Owens Corning Platinum Contractor Network.

Typically, more than 90 percent of homeowners choose traditional asphalt shingles when the time comes to re-roof their homes.

“Although most people are going with the typical asphalt shingles, homeowners today are getting smarter and are looking at the overall roofing system,” he says. “They’re seeing what they can do to prolong the life of their roof, and help it work and function better.”

That process starts by choosing the correct roofer.

“We always tell people to go to the Better Business Bureau and check on the contractor’s rating, which can be from an A+ to an F,” he says. “See what accreditations they have, because that shows what kind of ongoing education they have and if they are actively participating in the industry.”

Yadron says it’s also important to check the company’s insurance limits, and to see what you hear about a contractor based on word of mouth.

“Talk to your friends to see if they’ve had a good experience or a bad experience with someone,” he says.

While any contractor can go put a roof on, using a professional with good credentials is important, Yadron says.

“You want someone who can focus on not only the roofing, but also on having proper ventilation and proper insulation in your attic, because all of those pieces work together,” he says. “I tell people that 50 percent of their roof is on the inside, and if the attic space under the roof isn’t breathing properly, it could prematurely make the roof system fail.”

A roof can typically last about 20 years, depending on proper installation and the quality of the products used, he says.

It might be time to get a new roof if you notice curling or cracking shingles, or shingles with blisters on them. As they age, shingles will begin to make granules, and another sign of roof aging is when you begin finding the granules in your yard or gutters.

“And obviously, if you’re having a leak, it’s time to pay immediate attention to your roof,” he says.

Homeowners should also keep their gutters clean, which can lead to additional problems, Yadron says.

It is important to have an annual inspection of your roof by a roofing professional, who will walk the roof, look at the flashing, caulking and sealings on the roof.

“If you have an annual inspection, you can really extend the life of the roof,” he says. “That way, you can catch problems with your roof before you have things like leaks that can cause more extensive damage and cost you more in the long run.”

Having the proper hardscaping in your yard can increase the “wow factor” of your property, says Dean Savarino, president of Schererville-based Dean’s Landscaping.

Savarino has been doing landscaping work around Northwest Indiana for 28 years.

Hardscaping can include paths, benches, patios, water features and stepped gardens, which provide variety and dimension to your outdoor living space.

It is especially important around pools, Savarino says. He works with Dyer-based Royal Pools to provide homeowners with custom-designed hardscaping around their new pools.

Often, Savarino says, the instinct is to pour four to six feet of concrete around a pool. But having a thought-out plan can elevate the space to a higher level.

“Before you get your pool, you should talk to the landscaper to put a whole layout together,” he says, adding pool installers are focused on digging and pouring a pool and the surrounding concrete, and then you have a concrete parking lot around there.”

Savarino says he uses state-of-the art, 3D technology to help customers design hardscaping of their property, so they know exactly what the end result will look like from virtually every angle.

“We can show them what it would look like with concrete, versus with brickwork and other hardscaping,” he says. “It is a huge difference and a complete contrast. When you go that extra step and do the hardscaping and add plants, you have your own mini-oasis.”

Concrete might be less expensive, but may not neessarily provide the desired results, he says.

“Pool companies put in the pool and then the homeowner is stuck with deciding what to do next,” he says. “But we’re able to give the homeowners a complete picture. All they have to do is add the lounge chairs and drinks, and they’re done.”

Frank DeBartolo, director of sales and marketing for Royal Pools, says that he and Savarino work together on projects in Northwest Indiana and the Orland Park area.

He agreed that people are spending more time planning their yards, and not just going for the large rectangular pool that was popular in the 1980s.

“In 2015, people are investing in the entire yard, not just putting in a pool,” DeBartolo says. “They want a more resort, spa-like feel. They want a whole backyard experience.”

To that end, homeowners are adding cascading water falls that arch into the pool, or asking about rain falls, in which water can run off a beam into the pool, mimicking rainfall.

They are also doing tanning ledges, which are about 10-inch deep shelves where people can partially submerge themselves in the water.

“People definitely want something unique and custom, and are moving towards smaller pools with free-form shapes,” he says. “People are staying in their homes more, and investing in features to give their yard a relaxing atmosphere, instead of paying to vacation elsewhere.”

Another popular trend in hardscaping right now is pondless waterfalls, which can have an enormous impact with very little maintenance, Savarino says.

Pondless waterfalls are constantly circulating water, which means no chemicals, no fish, and less maintenance. Depending on the size and complexity, the cost of a pondless waterfall can run anywhere from $3,000 to $50,000.

“They are enormously popular right now. We did a record number of them last year,” he says. “If you add a firepit and a seating area and some lighting. it will be the focal point of your yard.”

Pergolas have quickly become a popular garden addition as well.

Architectural Accents has been serving the Northwest Indiana area since Mike Harrigan started the business in 1989.

The business specializes in curved trim and other architectural millwork for residential construction, as well as designing and creating custom cabinetry, surrounding fireplaces and furniture.

They recently began creating outdoor structures as part of custom work services, Harrigan says.

“A pergola is a structure that is usually square or rectangular, with open sides and a mostly open float roof consisting of rafters and lattice work,” he says. “It provides some shade, but little rain protection.”

Pergolas differ from gazebos in their shape, because gazebos are traditionally round, hexagonal or octagonal. Gazebos have a cone-shaped, solid roof and provide more rain and weather protection.

Pergolas and gazebos are usually made out of wood, but there are composite versions available. Wood units have a little more maintenance, he says, but if any issues are caught and taken care of early and if a protective finish is maintained, these outdoor units should provide many years of enjoyment, he says.

“Kits for generic designs are available and do-able for a reasonably handy homeowner, but remember, a permit is usually required,” he says. “For a unique design or a custom size, it is best to hire a professional.”

When deciding what is right for your yard, customers usually choose to build a pergola over an existing deck or patio, Harrigan says.

“I don’t think there is any right or wrong size,” he says. “It could be small if it is to provide shade for a cozy sitting area for two. If it is going to cover an outdoor eating area, it should take into account the size of the table and chairs along with adequate walking space around the table.”

Harrigan says the rise in popularity of pergolas and gazebos is paralleling the rise of popularity of outdoor kitchens and eating spaces.

Roger Boike, principal designer for Lakeside, Michigan-based Groundworkes, says he has seen a rise in the number of outdoor kitchens recently.

“We are doing more of them than in the past, and the kitchens are becoming more complete,” he says.

While some start with a basic grill and work space, others are quite elaborate.

“We see side burners, trash drawers, sinks, under-counter refrigerators, ice-makers and even LED lighting for the grill and counter spaces,” he says. “For those who don’t need as extensive an outdoor kitchen and don’t want to go to the expense of a refrigerator, there are coolers that are made to drop into a counter surface and can be filled with ice.”

When designing an outdoor kitchen, Boike says it is important to try to place it adjacent to the indoor kitchen and eating areas to make it more convenient. Another thing to keep in mind is to try to have it as the same level as the indoor kitchen, he says.

“That way, when you’re carrying trays of food, you’re not worrying about stepping up or down,” he says.

He says it is important also not to place the grill near a window that might be open during the summer, or near siding that can be smoke-stained.

“The biggest regret clients have is not having planned it big enough and with enough amenities,” he says. “No one ever complains about having made it too big.”

Boike says most outdoor kitchens he has installed have a stone enclosure around the perimeter, but some have an extended size.

For a small outdoor kitchen, prices can start at a few thousand dollars, but larger kitchens can cost upwards of $15,000, he says.

There are many benefits to an outdoor kitchen, he says.

“You get a grilled flavor and can cook in a pleasant atmosphere,” he says. “You’re surrounded by friends and have the ease of serving with outdoor dining.

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