When you plan to design and build you outdoor living space, choosing a builder is and can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to select the right contractor for your backyard oasis:

First is to select your potential candidates for the project by either referral or Internet search. Narrow the selection of the potential builders to three companies. Taking too many bids gets confusing in the long run, it is hard to remember which company told you what.

Set up a personal meeting with each company. Make sure it is a good fit, even on a personal level; it does help if you have a good report with the company you are going to hire. The initial meeting should be information gathering for both parties. If the company attempts to make you sign an agreement on the first visit, they probably do not have your best interest. “The price is only good today” line should be a red flag.

Try to explain your vision for the improvements as clearly as possible; show picture references, sketches or anything you can think of to give your builder a clear understanding of what your vision is. Share your budget range, colors, location of the project, items you like to include and as much information you can provide. The more the builder knows about what you like to build, the less revisions you need to make, which can reduce delays to complete the design plan and estimate.

The design and estimate should be very detailed and clear of any gray areas. The company should provide you with a design showing the details of the project. The estimate should also be very detailed, so you know exactly what are you purchasing. Size should clearly be noted on the estimate of the items you are purchasing. For example, if you are building an outdoor patio cover with some fans and lights, the estimate should clearly state what size your new patio cover is, what materials are used, how many fans, lights and electric outlets they will install for the project. The estimate should also establish who is responsible for all the building permits associated with the development. In most cases, a municipality building permit is needed along with an HOA permit for the project.

Compare your designs estimates you have collected. Most items are charged by square footage or linear footage depending on the item. If some of your estimate is very low in cost, it might differ as far as size and or items included go. Never take a verbal assurance from the builder stating what will be included; be sure every item is written into the paperwork you will sign. A company who gives you a verbal explanation what the project will look like along with just a grand total number, instead of a detailed estimate, should be a red flag as well. Little known fact in Texas: it is not legal to tax labor. If you get an estimate that has a tax on the grand total, they are not legally entitled to do that. Often, they use this to have a wiggle room for a discount, but this is an illegal practice.

The contractor should break down the payments and collect the draws as they perform the work. Depending on the size of the project, two to five payments are expectable. A large sum for down payment also should be a red flag. A small amount of retainer before the project is completed is always a good idea.

Hire a local contractor for this project. They should provide you with insurance information and references. A good contractor should have a healthy amount of references, not just a few, based on how many years they have been in business. For example, if they have been in business more than 5 years, and only provide 3 references, something does not add up. Hiring a large volume company could be a risk as they can be too busy to start and complete the project in a timely manner. Ask to see pictures of their previous works, call or visit their past clients, to make sure the quality of work is up to your standards.

Here are some picture examples of an outdoor kitchen done by an under qualified contractor vs. a professional.


On the left picture, the grill has no direct access door. If you need the gas valve shut off, there is no access to the valves.

Poorly built outdoor kitchen

Well Built Outdoor Kitchen

By law, even after the agreement has been signed, you have a right to cancel without penalty, if the need to do so arises but prior to the commencement of the work. This should be written into your contract agreement also.

Tips and Tricks

These tips for designing an outdoor living space will help bing your outdoor space to life.

Often the space is too small to do all the things you like to do when spending time outside, like cooking, watching television or simply relax with family and friends. After the space is build there is very little can be done about the layout, flow and size of the area improved. Make sure to search reputable and quality companies to hire for the enhancements.

Take in consideration how many in the family to use the space, and how many friends will come over on a regular basis. Make sure there is enough room to furnish you outdoor living space. The improvements should have a harmonious flow with the existing home. Colors and textures are also a large part of a successful design, this should be established prior hiring a builder for the development. There are many excellent local builders to choose from, however there are some questionable companies out there as well. BBB, Google and references will give you a wealth of information about the company you are considering.

If you have an outdoor fireplace, which will be a cozy addition to the outdoor space, be sure you have room for comfortable chairs around it, to be able to enjoy the fire. Same goes if you decide to have an outdoor TV to watch your favorite shows. An outdoor fireplace makes your outdoor living space more enjoyable year around.

In addition to your comfortable seating, make sure you have room for an outdoor table and chairs to enjoy dinners with family and friends. Often, we see outdoor living spaces designed, not taking into consideration for furnishing and lifestyle of the homeowners who will be using the space.

If your space gets a lot of sun, you might want to consider a patio cover to shield you from sun, rain. A full shingled patio cover will give you year around protection from the elements.

An outdoor fireplace can be wood burning or natural gas. A gas log fireplace will be less cleaning in the long run than a wood burning one.

A well-designed space should be accommodating your specific needs. When taking bids for this project, the company should ask detailed questions about the way you will use your space and design the space according. You should always ask for a professional design along with a detailed estimate, making sure each item you are paying for, are listed as a line item. A good company should provide you with several references and insurance information for their company. It is always a good idea to get 3 estimates for your outdoor improvements. Checking references is also a good idea. In other words, protect your investment by checking if you are dealing with a top notch qualified builder.

Garrett Outdoor Living is the home for exquisite designs professionally installed, one stop design and build firm, making sure to create a space for your precise needs, whether you are entertaining, cooking or simply just relax in a shade.

We’re glad we could help you with tips for designing an outdoor living space, check out our other posts for more.

In our next post we will be talking about different areas about your outdoor living space planning. We will discuss all aspects of the outdoor improvements to help you make the right choice for you and your family.

Warning Sign

The Garrett Outdoor Living LLC often hear complaints from homeowners, because of their displeasure with the performance of their contractors. Over the years we have heard a multitude of problems and sad stories and based on these we offer the following suggestions when you are selecting an outdoor living company or contractor to design and build your project.
ALWAYS get at least two bids on any project. The only exception to this should be for extremely minor, low-cost projects or emergency repairs made by trusted contractors.

NEVER pay for a project in advance. If a contractor asks for total payment up front, you should immediately look for another contractor. Small retainer fees or payments for materials may be appropriate.

NEVER use a contractor who suggests that you not obtain required permits or inspections. More than likely, this contractor intends to do work contrary to established safety or structural standards. Additions or alternations to your home that are contrary to city ordinances can drastically affect any title transfers should you decide to sell your home. Be especially wary of contractors who suggest that you obtain permits for work that he is contracted to perform. If you obtain the permit for a contractor, and problems arise because of the work, the official permit record will show that you are the one that performed the work.

ALWAYS use only licensed contractors. Insist on seeing evidence of a current license. The following trades require a license:

A. Electricians

B. Plumbers

Within all city limits contractors doing any work requiring a permit must be registered with the city.

ALWAYS ask for a list of previous jobs similar to your proposed project. Ask for references AND check them.

It is a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau or any business organizations that relate to the contractor’s trade and check on any compliant records against the contractor.

Before your outdoor kitchen project begins, insist on seeing evidence that the contractor has obtained a permit. During the course of your project monitor your contractor’s inspection records. Not obtaining a final inspection can interfere with future sale of your home. This procedure will protect you from being responsible for code violations that your contractor might commit on your property.

When the project is complete, ensure that the City’s Building Inspections Department has given final approval for the project.

We at Garrett Outdoor Living ALWAYS adheres to these rules! We want to make sure that your outdoor kitchen building process is a smooth one.

A Functional Space

We get calls all the time at Garrett Outdoor Living from clients that build outdoor kitchens or outdoor living spaces and it is not functional. It is the contractor/designer responsibility to ensure the flow and function of the space. Often homeowners in DFW area found out after the project is finished that they have no room for furniture, no space to sit, walk and enjoy. When creating a great design, one must think of future function of the flow of the space. One of our recent client in Frisco had to redo his outdoor space due to steps been build in the wrong location and his guests kept tripping. Although elevation add a great visual to the space, putting them in the wrong space can be a costly mistake. Our clients in Plano and Murphy had a similar problem, which we were asked to correct.

Cut up pork loin with rub

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our past clients and friends of Garrett Outdoor Living. We have created this Blog site to share trends tips recipes etc. relating to outdoor kitchens and patio spaces.

We are excited to be bringing in the Holiday season by kicking of a new project in Frisco, TX consisting of stamped concrete, a water feature, fire pit and outdoor kitchen.

I’m posting this pork tenderloin recipe that has become a favorite in the Garrett home, and is sure to be a winner in your home as well. It’s a recipe that can get you started cooking in your outdoor kitchen.

Enjoy and remember Garrett outdoor living for all your back yard needs.

Coffee Rub

  • 2 tablespoon Sugar In The Raw (Turbinado Sugar)
  • 4 teaspoons ground coffee (espresso ground, Fine)
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil

In a small bowl combine the Sugar In The Raw, coffee, chili powder, salt, and pepper.

Mix well and set aside.

Prepare the grill to cook direct over medium heat.

Trim any fat or silverskin from the tenderloins.

Brush lightly with olive oil.

Season the tenderloins all over with the Coffee Rub.

Let rest for 10 minutes before cooking. Personally, I like to let mine bath in this mixture overnight.

Place the tenderloins directly on the cooking grate.

Cook for 5-6 minutes until well browned then turn.

Cook another 5-6 minutes and turn again trying to brown the meat well on all sides.

Cook to an internal temp of 160 degrees, let rest tented with foil for 10 minutes prior to serving.