Outdoor oasis

Key Residential transforms lackluster backyard into multipurpose living area.

October 16, 2013
The highlight of the project remains the cabana outdoor kitchen with stone heart

The highlight of the project remains the cabana outdoor kitchen with stone hearth gas fireplace.

The backyard of this family?s house in Frisco, Texas, boasted an in-ground swimming pool but otherwise resembled the expansive area behind many of the residences in western Collin County, where larger lots are common. The homeowners often pictured a gazebo and outdoor kitchen that could complement the recreational body of water and heard from a friend about Key Residential, a home remodeler and custom builder based in Farmers Branch.

?Not all of [the land there] is developed with beauty; some of it?s still pretty natural,? says Kevin Key, who founded the company in 2010 and has been working in the remodeling industry for more than 20 years. ?It almost looks like pasture land out behind some of those homes.?

The lagoon-shaped pool incorporated rock in the grassy backyard, which did not include any kind of wood decking; a grill sat on a patio just outside the house in the sight lines of some rear windows. A covered area for cooking and entertaining outdoors remained the primary goal, but the clients continually expanded the project in its design phase to satisfy the family?s other needs.

Company Snapshot

Company: Key Residential
Owner:  Kevin Key
Location: Farmers Branch, Texas
2012 sales volume: $2.78 million
Projected 2013 sales volume: $2.45 million
Website: www.keyresidential.net


The homeowners first consulted the company that installed the pool and came away with a depiction of a small gazebo, which did not address all of their objectives. They deduced this project was beyond the scope of the pool company and reached out to Kevin. Although the firm does not feature an in-house design team, Key Residential retains a few architects and designers regularly and encouraged the homeowners to discover which one fit best.

The clients interviewed these professionals and selected a designer, whom they showed the pool company?s initial conception of an outdoor living area. Together the two parties fleshed out the original plan, keeping in mind each of the clients? aspirations. Once the new design was complete, they contacted Kevin to judge the feasibility of the composition.

An addition of more than 2,300 total square feet sought to address many of the home?s functional shortfalls at the time. The crown jewel of the project, a 271-foot cabana perched alongside the pool, encompasses an outdoor kitchen replete with built-in stainless appliances, granite countertops, and recessed as well as pendant lighting. A full-masonry stone hearth gas fireplace and wall-mounted television round out the client?s initial dream of building a grand gazebo.

An 895-square-foot room adjacent to the cabana serves a number of purposes for the family, which had two children in high school. The area not only provides ample range for exercising, which could include dancing and weight lifting, but also doubles as a larger outdoor space for entertainment and TV watching so the family does not always have to bring guests back into the house. Three sets of French doors on one side open the room to the backyard and pool, while the other side leads into a full bathroom with an enclosed water closet, walk-in shower, and washer and dryer closet.

New concrete paths border the rear of the home and run alongside the exercise room up to the cabana. The custom stamped and stained walkways flow into the existing pool surround and extend back around the workout space to the rest of the addition. This exterior entry ensures pool guests can reach the new full bathroom without having to cross the exercise room or trudge through the house.

The passage also incorporates a new single-car garage, storage room, and pet shelter in addition to the bathroom. The husband and son enjoy motorcycling as a hobby, so the separate garage affords them ample space to work on their bikes and store the machines away from the other vehicles. An air-conditioned pet shelter provides sanctuary to the family?s two dogs during summer and in the event of inclement weather.

Key Residential carefully selected all of the new exterior products in order to blend the addition with the existing home?s façade. Acme Brick no longer manufactures the type of brick used in the original house, which forced the firm to hunt for a type of brick that represented the closest match. The integration of brick and stone on the architectural columns surrounding the pool became awkward at times, Kevin says; but through the company?s leadership and the coordination of three different tradesmen, they were able to use stone and stucco on the bottom of the columns and appropriately mix the two materials with the preponderance of brick on the top.

The design of the home?s extension translated into a vibrant new outdoor living space, but only after Key Residential cleared a few hurdles before and during construction.


The architectural drawings created in collaboration between the clients and the designer they chose were based on the original house and pool plat, but the home?s actual construction was not plotted as precisely; therefore, the oddly shaped addition proved to be incongruous with the existing property?s tight boundaries.

?When we got ready to stake all of it out [in the field], it didn?t fit within the building lot or the homeowner association?s guidelines,? Kevin says.

Product list

Paint: Sherwin-Williams
Brick: Acme Brick
Metal roofing: PAC-CLAD
Bathroom vanity: Holland Marble
Pool bath: Interceramic
Bath shower: Interceramic
Outdoor kitchen concrete: Custom
Outdoor kitchen counter: Holland Marble
Outdoor kitchen lighting: Metropolitan by Minka
Built-in grill: Lynx
Wall-mounted TVs: Samsung

As a result, the firm had to re-measure the entire lot to establish more accurately how the home and pool were positioned in relation to each other and the property lines. After revising the blueprint for a third time, Key Residential settled on the largest octagon that could fit next to the pool, and the project?s designer incorporated other features of the addition based of the cabana?s final size and location.

The cabana shrank about 20 percent from the initial drawing but remained the focal point of the renovation. The pool?s plumbing lines run underneath the structure, which presented some problems for Key Residential as it prepared to construct the building. The firm worked with a Frisco city engineer to make sure the cabana?s foundation did not interfere with the pipes.

Key Residential poured a concrete slab over the area in three parts, creating a two-foot-deep trench for the pool?s plumbing lines. This section of concrete acts like a cap and can be removed if the pipes need maintenance.

The firm had to take similar precautions when adding drainage capabilities to the existing system for the backyard. The new concrete foundation replaced grass and thus required supplementary channels for excess water so that runoff from the home did not wash into the pool.

?That was one of those things that you know you have to do, but you don?t know exactly how much fun it?s going to be until you start,? Kevin says wryly. He emphasized getting rain water off the house, into its gutters, and onto the pool deck so that it drained properly.

Budget History

Estimated cost: $297,000
Change orders: $42,709
Final cost: $339,709
Estimated margin: 25 percent
Net profit: 8 percent

The firm successfully tied in the new infrastructure and even improved the old drainage system, which had not been performing as well as the homeowners would have liked. Another water issue Key Residential took into account was the installation of fire sprinklers throughout the addition, as mandated by city building code. The company had to add a meter in the front of the house and run a two-inch water line all the way around to the back to satisfy Frisco?s safety requirements.

At the time of construction, ?green? standards were gaining interest across the country, and Frisco already was one of the leading cities in energy-efficiency specifications. Key Residential, which would start building a home with sustainable features immediately following this undertaking, sought to take advantage of the opportunity and include as many energy-efficiency considerations in the addition as possible.

?We wanted to kind of use this [job] as a model of dealing with this new change,? says Evan Ratcliff, project manager. The firm installed low-E argon-filled vinyl windows along with flow restrictors in the plumbing fixtures and a 16 SEER air-conditioning unit, which is more efficient than the typical 13 SEER. A hybrid insulation system of both closed foam and cellulose also was utilized.


This Energy Star-rated residential addition won the Outdoor Living National Chrysalis Award, the Home Builders Association ARC Award, and both the local and national NARI Contractor of the Year Awards.

The family uses the cabana and gym from spring to fall, and the son watches the Super Bowl out there with friends in February, says Kevin, who has discussed building a backyard detached library and hobby center with the clients. The project currently is on hold.

Key Residential has received two referrals from the clients, and though the firm has not started any work as a result of the inquiries, Kevin has spoken with both homeowners and realizes people are being cautious and waiting to see what the economy does before committing to a renovation. After all, the cabana and gym addition took eight months to move from bid to contract signing, he says. PR

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