After months of being stuck at home due to lockdown restrictions, there's no question Australians are ready to enjoy the great outdoors during the coming warmer months.
Our thirst for fresh air and open space was recently reinforced in the findings of an online survey by manufacturer of outdoor living products, Trex Company.
The nationwide survey revealed insights into Australian's outdoor living habits, showing that the heart of the home is shifting outdoors, with more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of respondents using their main outdoor living space nearly every day.
Nearly all survey respondents (92 per cent) indicated it's important their home has an attractive and inviting outdoor living area.
"Outdoor living has never been more popular - or more essential," says Trex Australia market manager, Rod Schiefelbein.
"Homeowners around the world are looking for ways to escape the stresses of life without risking the health and safety of their loved ones. A well-designed outdoor space can offer a refreshing change of scenery, and a comfortable place to relax and regroup while connecting with nature."
When it comes to how people use their outdoor spaces, the Trex survey found that relaxing (74 per cent), spending time with family (59 per cent) and barbecuing (52 per cent) topped the list of activities Aussies engage in most outdoors.
Also ranking high were gardening (46 per cent), entertaining friends (37 per cent), and reading (36 per cent).
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The survey findings also revealed insights into some of the top trends that will be popping up in gardens and backyards across the country this season.
Outdoor oasis With international travel restrictions and limited recreational options, many homeowners are turning their outdoor space into a restful retreat. Inspired by home improvement shows and social media platforms such as Pinterest, consumers are seeking ways to add comfort and function to their outdoor areas.
Reflecting this trend, more than half (53 per cent) of survey respondents indicated that they plan to purchase new furniture for their outdoor space this year. Forty per cent plan to add lighting and 36 per cent are looking to install a new deck or outdoor flooring.
Materials matter When it comes to outfitting an outdoor space, survey respondents had definite opinions about the attributes that drive their purchasing decisions. Price, durability and performance topped the list at 60, 52 and 41 per cent respectively. Also ranking high were aesthetics (40 per cent), maintenance requirements (33 per cent), and ease of installation (29 per cent).
While timber, tile and pavers remain popular options, eco-friendly alternatives such as high-performance, low-maintenance composite decking meet more of the criteria on consumers' checklists for outdoor flooring materials.
"Authentic wood-grain patterns in rich colours can be achieved using a composite timber decking, like Trex," says Schiefelbein.
"Without rotting, warping, cracking or splintering, upkeep is hassle-free on a composite deck and can be easily managed with just soap and water - even with high-foot traffic from little ones or our four legged friends."
Minimal maintenance, maximum enjoyment When presented with a dozen possible complaints related to their outdoor living space, weather-related issues, heat and lack of privacy were among the top concerns.
It's no surprise then, that a permanent shade structure such as a gazebo or pergola, lattice and a water feature all ranked among the outdoor living products Australian consumers are likely to purchase this year.
Another major complaint was that outdoor spaces require too much work. Twenty per cent of respondents reported that they spend at least 13 hours during a typical year maintaining their outdoor space, with more than half of those spending 25 hours or more on maintenance tasks.
"Homeowners want outdoor spaces they can spend more time enjoying, rather than maintaining," says Schiefelbein.
"High-maintenance materials, such as wood, are seeing a decrease in demand as people are opting for lower-maintenance materials, like composite, that deliver better performance and sustainability."