When we think of outdoor living products in this country, what comes to mind? Umbrellas fixed in the middle of a table? Those clunky, old fashioned wind-up awnings that we can only use two weeks a year and have some disgusting flower prints on them? Probably. We’ve never really done outdoor living in style in this country.

However. I think that trend is about to change. Even if we don’t have the climate for it, unlike Europe or the Caribbean. With new glass-based innovations like Ultraframe’s Pergola, Prefix’s Verandah and others, the UK glazing industry is about to get into the outdoor living market. Potentially in a very big way.

Outdoor living done in style

Personally, I don’t think we’ve done outdoor living products all that well. Retractable awnings, crappy umbrellas, flimsy timber things that are mostly self-erected. Perhaps because we don’t have the climate to warrant being outside all that much we as a country haven’t really put much effort into the sorts of better quality outdoor living products.

That pattern though appears to be changing. It’s been a little while now since Ultraframe introduced it’s Pergola product:

Credit: Ultraframe

Launched fairly quietly alongside a raft of other new fanfare products, this was an indication of where a potential new market was about to be born. A simple, stylish, innovative canopy that didn’t close you in, but gave you protection from above should the weather take a turn for the worse. Quick and easy to install. This was a good first shot at punching some life into this fledgling market.

I’m not sure how many Ultraframe have sold to date. If anyone from the company is reading this, feel free to let me know via the comments section at the bottom of this post!

It has a sleek gutter on it’s outer edge, and the supports can double up as a down pipe for drainage. Minimal parts means swift installation, good for the home owner and good for the installer.

Then, at the last FIT Show, Prefix Systems came up with their own iteration of a glazed canopy, called the Verandah:

This was a more decorative, ornate take on the glazed canopy, and was certainly eye catching on the stand. It comes with four decorative post options, ranging from minimal to full blown artisan. The ring beam on the Verandah is set in slightly, giving the canopy a nice glazed overhang which when fitted is a really nice stylistic touch. There are also decorative brackets with three circles cut in each one for added detail. These fit from the top of the posts up to the ring beam. It comes in a powder coated finish and is available in any colour.

The whole thing together is designed to look traditional, in contrast to the Ultraframe Pergola, which Prefix also fabricate. But I don’t think that’s a problem. This would fit in to a traditional property given the age it’s supposed to look. I also think it would work on a modern home to create a contrast between the product and the property.

I liked it so much when I saw it I changed my mind from having a new glazed extension to replace my old one, to having this one. For our situation, we didn’t really need a new extension. Our garden needed some serious work doing to it, and with my idea for the Indian stone patio, I believed that the Verandah was a better fit for how we wanted to use our outdoor space.

This, I believe, is where the market potential is.

DGB Business

A mixed bag

Much was made of the three million or so old conservatories that were ready for refurbishment. And there is no doubting that this is a large, lucrative new market that will give our industry valued revenues.

It is also worth bearing in mind that there are tens of millions of homes that don’t have any sort of glazed extension on the property. Previously I have wrote about how massive an opportunity this is for our sector. And this is true, there is major potential there if we energise ourselves to go hit it hard. However, just because a home doesn’t have a glazed extension doesn’t mean the owners will actually want one.

What if a home owner wants the pleasure of being outdoors, protected to some degree, but doesn’t want to go to the extremes of major building work that will be required to erect a new glazed extension? Well that is where outdoor living products, like the Verandah and Pergola could tick all those boxes.

Simple to install once pad-stones are laid down for the support posts to be fixed on, most canopies are up and installed in a matter of hours. Compare that to the time it would take to complete a glazed extension project, taking into account potential planning permission. You’re looking at months overall. The home owner saves time, money and gets to be ready for the summer in quick time. The installer gets work in the fitting schedules much quicker and the cash flow on this type of work is much quicker too. A win-win for both.

We have to remember that not everyone will want or need a new glazed extension. A mid-50’s couple where the kids have moved out but they have a four bed detached house probably won’t want more living space. Rather something stylish and protected to sit under when the weather lets them.

I’m not saying ditch the glazed extension in favour of these. Certainly not. There is still a huge market there for new-builds. The message here is that outdoor living products should be worked into the wider product portfolio for installers and fabricators. The more choice we can give a home owner from the outset the more likely they will buy at least something.

Plus, they look damned good now! No retractable fabric awnings. Just glass and aluminium, like it should be.

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