Monthly Archives: September 2016

//September

Backyard Fire Pits: Keeping the Home Fires Burning

 

insert-1In days of yore, when family members had to travel to hunt for food, etc., candles in the windows and village campfires were welcoming signs that led them home. And it’s no different today. Home fires still beckon family and friends to gather round a warm blaze.

Of course, in this millennium we can get a bit more sophisticated with our home fires than our ancestors. Modern fire features are stylish, designed to harmonize with their immediate surroundings.

Choices vary widely: e.g., pre-made fire pit tables, custom fire features that are set-in-stone, easy-to-move portable campfires, cast iron fire pits, and dramatic custom or pre-fabricated fireplaces.

crespi“The size and complexity of any fire feature depends on how you plan to use it, and the amount of outdoor space that requires warmth to extend the outdoor season,” says Bill Renter of Deck and Patio.

“Whatever home fire(s) you decide on, however, we do recommend that the fuel source be propane or gas, rather than wood-burning. Gas/propane features are smoke-free, and they don’t cause sparks and embers to blow around whenever there is a puff of wind.”

In the end, style, size and fuel remain very personal choices — as you will see from the variety of Deck and Patio fire feature projects we’re showcasing today.

HOWEVER! There is one thing all fire features have in common: s’mores frequently are involved. Frankly, if the warm glow of fire features aren’t sufficient to beckon friends and family, warm gooey marshmallows with melting chocolate definitely will.

So enjoy some of our Deck and Patio projects with fire features (below). And because we treasure our readers, we follow these with a s’mores recipe from no one other than Long Island’s own Ina Garten — the Hampton’s Barefoot Contessa. YUM!

 

 

Customized Gas Campfire:

Customized Gas Campfire:

Like many of our clients, these family members are true outdoor enthusiasts. In addition to a beautiful pool with spillover spa and natural-looking waterfalls, the homeowners had room for an expansive patio with several areas designed for different uses. For their inviting seating area, they wanted a gas fire pit surrounded with natural rock that complemented the natural look of their pool’s waterfalls.

 

 

Custom Fire Pits:

Custom Fire Pits:

Throughout this enticing outdoor living area, Deck and Patio emphasized earth’s natural elements such as wood, stone, fire and water. A backyard stream with waterfalls, surrounded by moss rock boulders, moves past a portable hot tub set against a two-level patio with fire pit. The patio was made from Techo-Bloc “Borealis” modular slabs that allowed us to give the patio the rich look of wood flooring. The fire pit was faced with stone for its handsome natural appeal.

 

 

Customized Gas Campfires:

Customized Gas Campfires:

Because of the five different patio levels we created around their pool with cascading waterfalls, a hot waterfall into a new spa, then a spillover from the spa five feet above the main pool, plus diving rock, natural stone was featured throughout the yard. Because the various gathering area, warmth was needed in a variety of places. Again, natural stone was used to make natural gas campfires fit their surroundings.

 

 

Cast Iron Fire Pit:

Cast Iron Fire Pit:

Sometimes clients want to burn wood or coals in their fire pits. This handsome cast iron fire pit warms not only the deck seating area but also those sitting in the hot tub. It fits perfectly with a natural wood deck.

 

 

Custom Outdoor Fireplace:

Custom Outdoor Fireplace:

Sometimes Deck and Patio’s fire pits go a bit larger — and become a whole fireplace. This is because clients occasionally want a stronger architectural statement as well as the fire. Set beside a lovely shingle-roof gazebo/pergola, this fireplace offers warmth in autumn and winter months and creates a perfect ambience.

 

 

Custom Outdoor Wood-burning Fireplace:

Custom Outdoor Wood-burning Fireplace:

At one edge of their patio, a beautiful wood-burning stone fireplace with mantel beautifully harmonizes with the stones surrounding an adjacent pondless waterfall. A blazing fire makes you want to gather round, doesn’t it.

 

 

An Invitation to S’mores:

An Invitation to S’mores:

Especially when the properties are small, Deck and Patio tends to push pools off to one side and leave lawn area for the children to play or just to have some “softscape.” In this case, such planning allowed the homeowners a nice spot for a much-desired outdoor campfire. The campfire we added uses propane stainless steel burner with moss rock boulders around it and outdoor fireplace logs. Note the amusing s’more’s sign the homeowners put behind their campfire.

 

This leads us to the promised Ina Garten recipe for S’mores. Enjoy!

 

S'mores photo: © Ina Garten

S’mores photo: © Ina Garten

Total Time:
10 min
Prep:  5 min
Cook:  5 min

___________

Yield:  1 serving
Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients
1 marshmallow
2 Graham crackers
Milk chocolate with raisin and nut or dark chocolate with raspberry

Directions
Thread a marshmallow onto a stick or skewer and toast it over an open flame. Sandwich the cooked marshmallow with a piece of chocolate between 2 crackers.
2012, © Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved.

Patios That Are Small Wonders

 

When outdoor space is at a premium, small-scale patios may be a necessity. And in a recent post “Living Large on Small Patios,” HGTV online showed how top designers can make  compact patios enticing.

 

Their interesting post inspired us to review some of Deck and Patio’s projects to see how we designed/built such patios to also be small wonders. Here’s a sampling:

 

Techo-Bloc “Borealis”

Techo-Bloc “Borealis”

In addition to the two-level patio, for this project our clients opted for a water feature that could be enjoyed from wherever they were in their yard. The stream with waterfalls, running alongside a new hot tub, became an attractive and soothing focal point when sitting on the small upper-patio.

It is easy to see how the Techo-Bloc Borealis’ pavers (modular 5” and 10” wide slabs) were used to great effect in creating such an inviting space. Often called tromp l’oeil by industry professionals, the slabs allowed us to give the patio the rich look of wood flooring.

With the addition of some attractive outdoor furniture and fire pit, the clients have a relaxing and beautiful small-scale outdoor room.

 

 Techo-Bloc “Borealis”

Techo-Bloc “Borealis”

The lower level of this patio was made of the same Borealis’ modular slabs as the upper area. Space being also at a premium here, the clients decided against a fixed pergola for shade, opting instead for more flexible outdoor umbrellas.

These colorful umbrellas offer bright pops of color and can be set wherever they are needed, open or closed, depending on how much sun there is.

 

Pergolas and Patios

Pergolas and Patios

Despite having a small area for their new one-level patio, and in addition to a large outdoor umbrella for shade, these clients did opt for a pergola, which can be enjoyed for its architectural interest alone. Of course, the pergola also offers shade during the hot sunshine of summer, as well as privacy. It also harmonizes well with the Cambridge “Renaissance” 6 x 9 Ruby Onyx pavers they chose for the patio.

In addition to a fireplace and fire pit, the clients wanted a fence that would keep their dog out of their garden. After cutting down a large bush in their yard, we used the leftover twigs to create a 2.5-foot fence with a gate. This fence not only protects the garden but provides an interesting focal point in the yard.

Indeed, with a garden adjacent to their dining area, if they want some fresh herbs to dress their salads or spice up their barbecue, they can simply open the gate and snip! Note how we included handsome bluestone stepping stones inside the gate for doing just that.

 

Multi-level Patios

Multi-level Patios

Sometimes limited space isn’t the impetus for creating small wonder patios. The inspiration can stem from the desire for intimacy, quiet, or privacy that only a small-scale design can offer.

Such is the case with this charming space, which is one of 5 levels of a much larger patio. Pictured are moss rock stairs leading to it from one of the lower levels. Beautiful landscaping and a waterfall add to the tranquility of this secluded corner of their backyard, but it is its small size that truly makes it feel like an exquisite private escape.

 

Private Patios

Private Patios

Had you ever thought of building a small patio just for writing or reading? If you had, perhaps it would look something like this delightful space designed and built by Deck and Patio.

It was constructed with Techo-Bloc pavers next to a new water feature we added. Sitting beside the trickling stream, hearing the sounds of gentle waterfalls — far away from any other outdoor activities — provides an idyllic spot to read or just meditate.

 

Changeable Patios

Changeable Patios

We’d like to think that HGTV would have included in their post this small Deck and Patio patio had they known about it. Its landscaping décor would make any decorator’s heart sing. With large trees on the distant periphery, simple container gardening allows the homeowners to move lush colorful plants wherever the activities are taking place. By not making the containers too heavy, this is an easy thing to do.

Note, it also has an easy to move simple barbecue, as well as elegant, but easy-to-lift, outdoor furniture.

 

 

Deck Designers/Builders, Long Island, NY: Two New Fiberon Deck Projects

Deck and Patio frequently designs/builds decks using “capped composite” materials from several quality manufacturers.

For the uninitiated, “capped composite” refers to an improvement made in recent years to regular composite decking through the addition of an extra “cap” or “cover” that adds an extra layer of protection against damage.

In our blog today, we’re highlighting two such Deck and Patio decks. These “works-in-progress” projects are both located in Oyster Bay, NY, and include a pool and handsome landscaping.

“When choosing deck materials, the homeowners looked at all the options and both clients decided on Fiberon decking,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

“While most reputable capped composite manufacturers produce superb products that are stain, insect, mold and splinter resistant, Fiberon’s special warranty was also a factor for these clients. Not only will they get the usual 25-year warranty on materials, with Fiberon they also get a five-year warranty on labor.”

This extra warranty means there will be no cost at all to these homeowners should there be any staining or scratching, etc. in the first five years. “And they will continue to have the material warranty for another 20 years,” says Dave.

Another factor for the clients was that Fiberon decking boards are easy to install due to their grooved design. Deck and Patio’s builders can fit them together through hidden fasteners, leaving no nails or screws showing — just a clean, smooth look.

“Both clients also liked the color variations and chose Fiberon’s ProTect  “Chestnut” boards that offer subtle streaking and woodgrain patterns.”

First Work-in-Progress Project

Working with True Blue Swimming Pools (Dix Hills, NY), Deck and Patio designed, and is in the process of building, a two-level deck (see first three photos below). The completed project will include an outdoor kitchen and dining area on the second level with a pergola providing shade over the outdoor kitchen cabinet. The pergola will also have LED lighting that will shine down on the cabinetry, creating a beautiful evening ambience.

When the lower deck level is complete, it will act as a magnificent above-ground-pool surround, ideal for entertaining/sunbathing. Parts of the deck will have lattice skirting, and because they don’t have a shed, we designed access panels so the family can use under the deck for storage.

Two-Level Deck, Oyster Bay, NY:

Two-Level Deck, Oyster Bay, NY:

Early in the process, Deck and Patio built framing for a deck that will surround the above-ground pool by True Blue Swimming Pools. The pool is set in the lower level of the two-level deck.

 

Fiberon ProTect Chestnut Decking:

Fiberon ProTect Chestnut Decking:

Here we are putting down the Fiberon boards over the frame for this Oyster Bay, NY project.

 

Fiberon Capped Composite Decking:

Fiberon Capped Composite Decking:

Note how the Fiberon boards fit together with no showing nails or screws. This clean look means you can walk barefoot without any concern.

 

Second Work-in-Progress

Again, working with True Blue Swimming Pools (Dix Hills) in Oyster Bay, NY, Deck and Patio is building a new replacement deck around an existing pool that is being upgraded. The clients’ previous pressure-treated deck was 25 years old.

“When pressure treated decks like this one get old, the nails tend to pop,” says Dave Stockwell. “After years of banging them back in, the nails don’t hold anymore. In addition, such older decks weren’t framed correctly for today’s codes. You can see in one of the photos below how the old boards are actually sagging. This creates a real hazard when walking around the pool.”

The far side of their new deck will have handsome coping built flush to the lawn and landscape. Our design also includes custom curves not often seen on decking. “These clients are great fans of perennial gardens, and as part of the overall landscaping design, we’re creating one for them with stepping stones from the deck that will go through the new garden to the lawn area.

The first of four photos below is Deck and Patio’s design rendering of the whole project.

 

Deck and Patio’s Project Design Rendering:

Deck and Patio’s Project Design Rendering:

This project is in Oyster Bay, NY and includes an upgraded swimming pool, large Fiberon capped composite decking and robust landscaping, including a perennial garden. Note the unusual custom curves Deck and Patio designed for several parts of the deck.

 

Old Pressure Treated Deck Boards:

Old Pressure Treated Deck Boards:

You can see the old deck’s boards are buckling up in different places making walking around the clients’ pool hazardous. The new Fiberon decking will be smooth and clean  — with no exposed nails or screws.

 

Old Pressure Treated Deck Boards:

Old Pressure Treated Deck Boards:

This is a close up photo of the old pressure treated deck boards that had to be removed.

 

Deck Project (Oyster Bay, NY):

Deck Project (Oyster Bay, NY):

Here you see that the old deck is gone and we’re on our way to creating the beautiful new deck surround and landscaping (see design rendering above).

 

 

Closing Swimming Pools: Has the Sun Set on this Year’s Pool Season?

Once Labor Day is behind us and kids are back at school, many feel it’s time to close the pool. But with temperatures occasionally hovering near 90 in the Northeast, maybe the sun hasn’t yet set on this year’s pool season.

Of course, in areas like the Northeast, we know there are good reasons for closing a pool before any frost. As Michael Truehart (True Blue Swimming Pools/Dix Hills, NY) highlighted in a previous Deck and Patio blog:

“In climates like the Northeast, the most important reason for closing a pool is pipes and other pool equipment can freeze in cold months. Part of what we do is administer a chlorine shock, or algaecides, or phosphate remover to the pool water. Then the pool/spa equipment is taken apart and cleaned, drained of water, and underground pipes are blown out so no water can freeze in them.”

Glen Cove, NY Deck and Patio project

Glen Cove, NY Deck and Patio project

 

That said, apparently closing down your pool “too early” can also cause problems. In a blog by Hayward Pools, they state that shutting down the pool while temperatures are still very warm could mean that the chemicals Truehart mentioned might not last until spring.

Michael Truehart also agrees with Hayward that closing a pool when temperatures are still very warm can cause algae blooms and staining in your pool.

 

 

So it seems the sun has not yet set on our swimming pool season. Happy September 2016, and keep cool, everyone, and keep watching the weather reports.

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard Retreat:

Backyard Retreat:

Keeping your pool open after Labor Day is not a fashion faux pas like wearing white. So why miss out on the sounds of any, perhaps, waterfalls, orr pool landscaping, and the sense of refuge offered by your swimming pool and its surrounds. Just keep an eye on the weather.

 

Closing a Swimming Pool:

Closing a Swimming Pool:

Installing and measuring a mesh pool cover that involves freeform shapes, waterfalls, etc., must be exact. A mesh cover is strong because its straps with tension springs are connected to anchors set in the patio. For this pool’s water feature area, stainless steel eyelets were drilled into rocks where a cable secures it.

 

Closing Spas for Winter:

Closing Spas for Winter:

These clients decided that having a portable spa, instead of an in-ground one linked to the pool equipment, was an ideal way to let them enjoy the superb hydrotherapy benefits of Bullfrog’s JetPaks massage jets/seats – all year long, even when the pool was closed.

 

 

 

 

Destination Swimming Pool: Deck and Patio Design/Builds Backyard Oasis

 

Have you ever fretted that your property has too many challenges for a backyard oasis? Well, the fact is, few properties have an ideal landscape for this. Some are small, others have severe slope problems, still others are limited by local code setback restrictions, or all of the above.

Cool refreshing lemonade

Cool refreshing lemonade

What frequently delights our clients, however, is discovering how drawbacks can bring out creative answers that turn proverbial lemons into cool, refreshing oasis-lemonade. This Dix Hills, Long Island, project is a perfect example.

The homeowners wanted a pool, and because of  the sloping topography, they knew any pool would have to be a “destination” pool — or a pool area that, because it is a distance from the house, includes convenient amenities such as an outdoor kitchen, bathroom, living room area, changing room, etc.

Before photo of new destination pool oasis

Before photo of new destination pool oasis

On looking over the property, Deck and Patio’s Bill Renter took a glance up the sloping hill from the proposed pool area and immediately realized the hill offered the potential for creating something spectacular. The slope was the perfect terrain for a meandering stream cascading down into a new koi pond beside the pool. This would turn the destination swimming pool area into a destination oasis.

There was, however, one large concern. It would be a real loss if such a delightful feature as a stream and waterfall couldn’t be enjoyed up the hill from the patio near the house. Would they have to be down at the pool to enjoy it?

The solution was to add an additional waterfall at the top of the slope that faced the house-kitchen area. That way, they could see a waterfall, as well as the beginning of the stream. And just beyond that vantage point, the stream would take an abrupt U-turn, and flow down through five separate cascades, before ending in the lower area pond.

 

Destination Pools:

Destination Pools:

Because of the topography, the pool was located far from the house, down a steep grade. We added beautiful creeping ground cover and natural boulders, so that even the property’s challenging raised grades were turned into benefits. Also, by installing enough retaining boulders and plant materials, Mother Nature’s own gravity coaxes water naturally over rock etc. into a pond.

 

Destination Pools:

Destination Pools:

The walk from the house down to the pool is part of the oasis experience. Beautiful plantings flank on either side and an additional natural looking waterfall falling over the edge of the swimming pool draws the eye forward. Also note how comfortably large the pool surround is for entertaining as well as family time spent by the pool.

 

Backyard Water Features:

Backyard Water Features:

Our vision was to take advantage of the steep property grade to create a beautiful slope with five cascading waterfalls, moss rock boulders, evergreens, perennials and annuals, plus a series of stairs and landings to bring them down to a new lower pool area.

 

 

Picture-Perfect Waterfalls:

Picture-Perfect Waterfalls:

We ended up creating an additional waterfall at the top of the slope that faced the house-kitchen area. That way, the family could see a waterfall and the beginning of the stream; slightly beyond that vantage point, the stream takes an abrupt U-turn, and flows down through five separate cascades, before ending in the lower area pond.