Maybe people aren't going out as much as they did before the economic downturn, and they want their homes to be more comfortable, fun or conducive to entertaining.
Maybe they're just getting cabin fever.
Whatever the reason, local contractors and landscapers are seeing a trend in customers who want to build, expand or improve outdoor living spaces.
"Not as many people are moving," said Derek Johnson, owner of A.J.D. Landscaping in Collinsville. "They're staying in their homes, and they want to be able to enjoy their outsides as much as their insides."
A.J.D. is one of more than 100 companies that will exhibit at the Home Builders Association of Greater Southwest Illinois Home Show at Belle-Clair Exposition Center this Friday through Sunday.
They will showcase products and services ranging from windows to roofing, appliances to home loans, bathtubs to waterproofing, air conditioners to lighting, carpet to fencing, insulation to home-entertainment centers.
"You can find just about everything to do with the home at this show," said Chairman Bob Dee Jr., owner of Homes by Design in Swansea. "If you want to make any changes, the resources are all there. What would normally take you two weeks will take you two hours."
An "outdoor living space" can refer to a project as small as a covered patio or as large as a covered patio with a hot tub, fireplace, stone island with a gas grill, refrigerator, bathrooms, ceiling fans and recessed lighting.
Many projects start out as extensions of in-ground swimming pools. Homeowners want a place where people can get out of the sun and watch the kids swim or enjoy a cocktail.
The structure can take the form of an open-air pergola, covered deck or patio.
"Or you have some people who don't want to fight the bugs," said John Snapat, general manager of Fulford Home Remodeling in Swansea. "So they do a three-season, screened-in addition to enjoy the outdoors."
Some contractors are using new maintenance-free materials that better withstand the elements but also raise costs.
Fulford tries to match colors, roofing shingles and other features of covered patios and three-season rooms to the home.
"Architectural adaptability is very important," Snapat said. "If it is, in fact, a little addition, you want to make sure it looks like it has always been there, not just tacked on."
Many people include stereo systems in outdoor living spaces, and some even hook up TV sets.
Landscapers also are important in the building, expansion or improvement of outdoor living spaces. They're often the ones installing the patio.
"Paver patios are a big thing," Johnson said. "It's a little different than brick, but it looks like brick. It looks a lot better than concrete, and it's not going to crack."
A.J.D. used two colors of pavers for one patio, forming an image of the North Star.
Johnson often suggests that homeowners plant bushes, grasses or flowers around outdoor living spaces to create a nice view and "soften up" the look.
Sometimes A.J.D. builds brick or stone fireplaces or fire pits in outdoor living spaces. Prices range from $600 to $15,000, depending on size, materials and whether they include extras such as hearthstones or wood boxes.
"Sitting walls" around patios also are becoming more popular.
"(A sitting wall is) about the height of a chair," Johnson said. "It gives you privacy, but also extra seating. You don't have to bring out more chairs."
Dee is particularly excited about technological advancements that will be showcased at the Home Show, especially in energy efficiency.
He also expects another year of great landscaping displays, which interest people preparing for spring planting.
"(Last year) we had indoor ponds and waterfalls," he said. "One landscaping crew spent four days with 12 men setting things up."
Dee emphasized that Home Show organizers make sure all exhibitors are reputable companies, helping customers avoid poor-quality work.
Admission to the show is $6 for adults and children 12 and over. People can get a $1 discount if they bring a canned good for Community Interfaith Food Pantry or Faith Baptist Church Food Pantry in Belleville.
The Home Builders Association refurbished the latter last year.
"The guys volunteered their time and donated supplies and materials and fixed it up," Dee said.
People can get another $1 discount by bringing linens, toiletries, cleaning supplies or other items to benefit the Violence Prevention Center Southwestern Illinois.
Home Builders Association Home Show
Who: More than 100 exhibitors
Where: Belle-Clair Exposition Center, 200 South Belt West in Belleville
When: 2 to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $6 ($1 discount available for donations of canned goods, toiletries and other pantry items); free for children under 12
Information: Visit www.hbaswil.org or call 618-343-6331