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Backyard Makeovers: No Need to Break the Bank

Transforming a backyard within clients’ budget

 

Project Showcase: This family wanted an entirely new makeover for their mid-1980s backyard pool and surroundings. They had big dreams for this upgrade but initial estimates from other companies were way beyond their budget. To their delight, we were able to offer creative ways to give them all they wanted for a price they could live with.

The key element to stay within budget was to keep the existing pool but upgrade it with all new plumbing, main drain, returns and skimmers, new pool equipment, and a new finish on the pool interior.

The addition of accent boulders along the backside of the updated geometric pool contributed to a warm natural pool setting. In addition, because the backyard was very overgrown and the pool couldn’t be seen from the house, the surroundings had become like two separate backyards. That had to be addressed in order to create a unified backyard retreat that was inviting, particularly when entertaining.

 

To stay within budget, we kept the existing pool but upgraded it with all new plumbing, main drain, returns and skimmers, new pool equipment, and a new finish on the pool interior.

To stay within budget, we kept the existing pool but upgraded it with all new plumbing, main drain, returns and skimmers, new pool equipment, and a new finish on the pool interior.

 

Other than the pool, everything else in the backyard was removed to make room for a new upper patio with a fire pit, hot tub/spa, barbecue, outdoor kitchen and dining area, as well as a new lower patio with custom cabana-pavilion. Connecting it all would be a spectacular multi-faceted backyard water feature.

The homeowners were also delighted that during the construction process we retained and transplanted most of their property’s original mature growth trees. They now have a beautiful pool and wonderful places to entertain, like the cabana, that are set in lush surroundings.

Our outdoor living expert retained and transplanted most of property’s original mature growth trees to create a lush setting for pool and cabana area. Resort-style mood of backyard retreat is at its romantic best at sunset.

Our outdoor living expert retained and transplanted most of property’s original mature growth trees to create a lush setting for pool and cabana area. Resort-style mood of backyard retreat is at its romantic best at sunset.

 

Pavilion floor was created by our outdoor living expert as an extension of pool area's patio pavers, creating one continuous surface.

Pavilion floor was created by our outdoor living expert as an extension of pool area’s patio pavers, creating one continuous surface.

 

 

Tying the whole project together is the backyard’s spectacular water feature which creates a natural look, in an eco-friendly way, while turning needed retaining areas into exquisite settings.

The original property’s sloping backyard needed retaining in several areas. Our team did something called “cut and fill.” This process cut into the hill and used the cut out fill in lower areas to create the level space needed for entertaining.

Fill was also needed around the backside of the pool because of the grade. However, you can’t take loose soil and put it behind a pool. It has to be compacted properly so things don’t shift and move.

At Deck and Patio, we have a terrific way of cutting costs and increasing the aesthetic value by using large moss rock boulders instead of expensive and unattractive retaining walls.

In this case, we integrated these boulders into the staircases that surround the water feature. A machine puts them in rather than needing a skilled mason. And it creates a very natural look. In addition to retaining the grade level of the sloping property, these natural moss rock boulders create the ideal surroundings for streams and waterfalls.

We have a terrific way of cutting costs and increasing the aesthetic value of graded property by using large moss rock boulders instead of expensive and unattractive retaining walls.

We have a terrific way of cutting costs and increasing the aesthetic value of graded property by using large moss rock boulders instead of expensive and unattractive retaining walls.

 

 

Indeed, it is this backyard makeover’s water feature, with multiple falls and streams, that is the heart of the transformation. The waterfall offers 360-degree viewing in the backyard, say the homeowners. They love the soothing sounds of all the water areas.

We installed one side of a waterfall to spill toward the house, just outside their backdoor. It can be enjoyed even during the months when the pool is closed down. From there, this upper-level waterfall gets split into two streams that flow downward along the property grade, into two separate waterfalls that can be enjoyed from the swimming pool area.

Collecting the water at the lower level is a pondless reservoir designed to seemingly disappear into the gravel instead of being collected. The reservoir acts as a ‘green’ maintenance-free source for the water feature that can run from March through December, 24-7. City water is not used. The water is harvested from rainfall on the roof of the house and gravity alone collects it into pipes.

Deck and Patio created the upper-patio source-waterfall to spill away from pool so it can be enjoyed from the house and upper patio including during the months when the pool area is closed down.

Deck and Patio created the upper-patio source-waterfall to spill away from pool so it can be enjoyed from the house and upper patio including during the months when the pool area is closed down.

 

 

For the new custom pavilion-pool house, the homeowners wanted it to be a gathering area around the pool that was protected and private. The finished pool-pavilion includes a shower, and a sitting area where they can watch television or entertain.

Half of the pavilion’s space is for seating and there is an outdoor flat-screen television with a ceiling fan overhead. There is also a two-level bar — one level for sitting at the bar and another set at counter height for cooking and bar-tending.

The finished pool-pavilion includes a shower, and a sitting area with an outdoor flat-screen television where they can watch television or entertain; a ceiling fan is overhead.

The finished pool-pavilion includes a shower, and a sitting area with an outdoor flat-screen television where they can watch television or entertain; a ceiling fan is overhead.

 

Bright delicate impatiens, moss rock boulders and large mature trees beautifully naturalize original geometric pool area.

Bright delicate impatiens, moss rock boulders and large mature trees beautifully naturalize original geometric pool area.

 

Project Showcase: How’s This for a Four-Seasons Outdoor Room?

In the Northeast, where fall can change to winter at any moment, we thought we’d share an earlier post showcasing an ideal four-seasons outdoor room. Enjoy!

 

November 20, 2014: Project Showcase: What Would Your Ideal Outdoor Room Include?

“Sometimes we dream of an outdoor space we’d love to have ourselves, — like this four-seasons outdoor room — and without fail, our team comes across a client who wants it, too,” says Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter.

That said, the idea for this climate-controlled four-seasons room didn’t come about all it once. It evolved in degrees. Deck and Patio had been contracted to build an entire backyard retreat, in three phases, for these clients. In phase one, we built a sound-barrier fence to block noise from a nearby busy street. Phase two, which eventually included this four seasons room, was for a Trex Transcend deck and railing, an outdoor kitchen, and an opened roof structure for sitting out and enjoying the yard.

“When we were creating the deck and open roof structure, however, after an evening of being pestered by insects, the clients decided they wanted it screened. Soon screens turned into windows for added protection during windy times. And, of course, once it was to be fully closed in, opportunities for special amenities opened up.”

First, to ensure the completed outdoor room would be in keeping with their two-story brick home, Renter consulted with an architect. The completed four seasons room not only harmonizes with their home, it boasts fully operating windows, as well as screens, automated Mitsubishi ductless heating and air conditioning, flat screen television, and enough room for their young child to use his ride-on toys.

In the end, the clients new outdoor room more than matched Deck and Patio’s own dream for such a space. (Note: Phase three, and the final phase of their outdoor retreat, will be a new pool and surround, and a pond.)

 

Four Seasons Room

Four Seasons Room:

The outdoor room’s large Anderson windows offer a 360-degree view. These scenes will be even more enchanting when the pond, swimming pool and surround are completed in phase three. Then the clients will be able to watch children in the pool, and relax in their outdoor room at the same time.

 

Landscaping

Landscaping:

Hydrangeas and long-blooming roses add color and brightness to the landscaping around the new four seasons outdoor room. The room’s white siding of PVC trim board is maintenance free, is paintable, and will never rot. With PVC lattice in deep brown underneath, it all coordinates perfectly with the deck and railing.

 

Trex Transcend Decking

Trex Transcend Decking:

The Trex Transcend decking has a picture-frame border where two boards of a different color frame the entire deck. The framing is “vintage lantern” and the body is “tree house.” The flooring inside the outdoor room is also Trex Transcend.

 

Trex Transcend Railing

Trex Transcend Railing:

The Trex deck railings have white posts and rails and “vintage lantern” balusters. Trex LED lighting is added on the post caps to shine down on the posts; the stair risers have Trex accent riser lights which shine on the stair treads.

 

Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor Kitchen:

The new outdoor kitchen, with granite top, has a cultured stone facade that goes all the way to the ground; barbecue, refrigerator, double-side burner, and three drawers are made with high quality stainless steel.

 

 

 

Project Showcase: What Would Your Ideal Outdoor Room Include?

“Sometimes we dream of an outdoor space we’d love to have ourselves, — like this four-seasons outdoor room — and without fail, our team comes across a client who wants it, too,” says Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter.

That said, the idea for this climate-controlled four-seasons room didn’t come about all it once. It evolved in degrees. Deck and Patio had been contracted to build an entire backyard retreat, in three phases, for these clients. In phase one, we built a sound-barrier fence to block noise from a nearby busy street. Phase two, which eventually included this four seasons room, was for a Trex Transcend deck and railing, an outdoor kitchen, and an opened roof structure for sitting out and enjoying the yard.

“When we were creating the deck and open roof structure, however, after an evening of being pestered by insects, the clients decided they wanted it screened. Soon screens turned into windows for added protection during windy times. And, of course, once it was to be fully closed in, opportunities for special amenities opened up.”

First, to ensure the completed outdoor room would be in keeping with their two-story brick home, Renter consulted with an architect. The completed four seasons room not only harmonizes with their home, it boasts fully operating windows, as well as screens, automated Mitsubishi ductless heating and air conditioning, flat screen television, and enough room for their young child to use his ride-on toys.

In the end, the clients new outdoor room more than matched Deck and Patio’s own dream for such a space. (Note: Phase three, and the final phase of their outdoor retreat, will be a new pool and surround, and a pond.)

 

Four Seasons Room

Four Seasons Room:

The outdoor room’s large Anderson windows offer a 360-degree view. These scenes will be even more enchanting when the pond, swimming pool and surround are completed in phase three. Then the clients will be able to watch children in the pool, and relax in their outdoor room at the same time.

 

 

Landscaping

Landscaping:

Hydrangeas and long-blooming roses add color and brightness to the landscaping around the new four seasons outdoor room. The room’s white siding of PVC trim board is maintenance free, is paintable, and will never rot. With PVC lattice in deep brown underneath, it all coordinates perfectly with the deck and railing.

 

 

Trex Transcend Decking

Trex Transcend Decking:

The Trex Transcend decking has a picture-frame border where two boards of a different color frame the entire deck. The framing is “vintage lantern” and the body is “tree house.” The flooring inside the outdoor room is also Trex Transcend.

 

 

Trex Transcend Railing

Trex Transcend Railing:

The Trex deck railings have white posts and rails and “vintage lantern” balusters. Trex LED lighting is added on the post caps to shine down on the posts; the stair risers have Trex accent riser lights which shine on the stair treads.

 

 

Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor Kitchen:

The new outdoor kitchen, with granite top, has a cultured stone facade that goes all the way to the ground; barbecue, refrigerator, double-side burner, and three drawers are made with high quality stainless steel.

 

Backyard Sanctuary Offers No Hint of Hi Tech Underpinnings

Incorporating the latest outdoor living technology, beautifully hidden in natural surroundings, is one of my passions,” says Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter.

That passion is vividly expressed in this backyard sanctuary comprised of a new in-ground vinyl-lined pool, large patio area, outdoor kitchen, outdoor shower, fire pit, two streams and two waterfalls.

Its first, and most challenging, major hi tech component is an automatic pool cover attached to the vinyl free-form pool. These covers are difficult to attach to the free-form pool style and shape. In fact, previously, the homeowners were told it wasn’t possible to do so.

“We were glad to assure them that we could bring together all the expertise necessary to design and build it all,” adds Renter. “And when not in use, the cover retracts out of sight.”

Other technology: To heat the pool, we added a hybrid system that uses both a gas heater and an electric heat pump. The heat pump acts like a reverse air conditioner, pulling in warmth from the air and transferring it into the pool. This design not only adds heat taken from the air — and not from electricity — but the gas heater can act as back up when the air temperature is very low or when creating heat more quickly is required.

The “variable speed pump” Deck and Patio used is an extremely efficient pump that allows low energy use by slowing down the motor dramatically. It decreases the amount of energy the pump uses. It can run twenty-four-seven much more efficiently than others pumps that are used only a few hours a day.

 

Backyard Sanctuary:

Backyard Sanctuary:

This serene backyard sanctuary gives no hint of high-tech energy-efficient components supporting it all. Our biggest challenge was creating a four-inch ledge around pool which secures closed pool cover.

 

 

 

Hi Tech Pools:

Hi Tech Pools:

The gentle sounds of two streams leading to two separate waterfalls, as well as the splash of jet sprays, screen out any sounds from high-tech pool equipment. Outdoor shower stands at base of stepping stone pathway (right) that leads up to pool equipment.

 

 

Hiding Pool Equipment:

Hiding Pool Equipment:

High-tech pool equipment is well hidden behind berm, at end of the stepping stone path.

 

 

 

Automatic Pool Cover:

Automatic Pool Cover:

Automatic pool cover, when closed, supports clients’ young children should they walk on it unsupervised. This particular ‘rigid slated plastic’ pool cover, however, had never been fitted to this type of pool in this part of the world before.

 

 

 

Automatic Pool Cover:

Automatic Pool Cover:

Pool covers reduce evaporation of water — thereby reducing the chemical usage required. Because automated pool cover is so easy to use, it is more likely to be closed when not in use — increasing energy-efficiency as well as safety.

 

 

 

Outdoor Kitchen:

Outdoor Kitchen:

The mechanics of this outdoor kitchen’s amenities are hidden handsomely within a work station with stone facade; outdoor kitchen includes ample work area, barbecue, sink, refrigerator and eating bar with bar stools.

 

 

 

Are You Thinking About Travertine for Your New Patio?

Understanding what Travertine is, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it reacts in different areas, is something Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, has discussed with stone experts from around the world. He has also studied existing Travertine projects over a period of years to see what actually holds up — and what doesn’t — in our climate.

Travertine natural stone has been in existence for thousand of years. It comes in many different colors, ranging from reddish orange, beige, to white, and is sometimes mistaken for marble. Italian Travertine, revered for its hardness and porosity, is what the Coliseum in Rome was constructed of, so the durability of Italian Travertine is not in question, although it can be expensive.

However, Travertine is quarried from around the globe and is widely used beyond Italy —  mostly in tropical locations for patios, walks, terraces, etc. Although it is typically used indoors in colder climates, there has been an increase in its usage outdoors, in and around pools and homes. But can all Travertine stone be used this way?

The answer is no, or at least it shouldn’t for best results. The three most common locations where Travertine comes from are: Italy, Turkey, and Mexico. Mexico’s Travertine is a much softer and much more porous and does not hold up well in our frost zone. Turkish Travertine, is very common and, in most instances, is less expensive than the Italian. It does hold up quite well in our Northeast’s freeze/thaw climate.

Be aware, however, that some companies offer very inexpensive Travertine for use outdoors and may seem to be a great deal. However, they may be using stone quarried in, say, China, where the qualities of such stone differ considerably and will not stand up to certain climates. Just because a stone is called “Travertine,” don’t assume it’s all the same. It’s not.

 

 

Travertine Patio:

Travertine Patio:

For this glorious expansive Travertine patio, Deck and Patio installed Travertine from Turkey — for its beauty, density and porosity — which we could guarantee would withstand our area’s severe climate changes and maintain its elegance.

 

 

 

Travertine’s Appeal:

Travertine’s Appeal:

The look of Travertine is exquisite. It has a smooth surface with small pores and dimples that give it an “old world finish.” This particular project used well over 2,500 square feet of Travertine, and over 180 linear feet of fullnose coping for the pool and spa.

 

 

Pool Surrounds:

Pool Surrounds:

In our area of the Northeast (Long Island, NY), the summer sun gets intense. However, Travertine does not absorb the heat like brick or bluestone, and is similar to light-colored concrete pavers where heat is not retained in the paver. This makes it ideal as a pool surround, where being barefoot is unavoidable.

 

 

 

Outdoor Kitchens:

Outdoor Kitchens:

Deck and Patio used a natural stone for the veneer of the bar/barbeque and constructed a seat wall made of the same veneer, with the same edge-restraint as the capstone for the seat wall. This created a unique contrast between the patio, bar area and the extensive back veneer used for the house.

 

 

 

Using Travertine Outdoors:

Using Travertine Outdoors:

The Travertine stone we used for this project enhanced the geometric shape of the pool and it was decided to elevate the diving area for added interest. This raised area offers a quiet escape for relaxing; bright plantings add to the pleasure of it all.

 

 

 

Under the Umbrella Sun:

Under the Umbrella Sun:

Travertine doesn’t absorb heat like other materials and offers an elegant contrast to robust lawns and plantings.

 

 

 

Backyard Retreat/Project Showcase: Making “the Impossible” Possible

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This serene backyard sanctuary gives no hint of high-tech energy-efficient components supporting it all.

For many, it might have been enough to design and build a new backyard retreat  – when the plans included a new in-ground vinyl-lined pool, large patio area, outdoor kitchen, outdoor shower, fire pit, two streams and two waterfalls. However, add in an automatic pool cover that is very difficult to attach to the desired pool style and shape, and making the clients completely happy becomes quite a challenge. In fact, before they came to us, the homeowners of this backyard oasis had been told what they wanted wasn’t possible. We were glad to assure them that we could bring together all the expertise necessary and design and build it all.

The clients also asked that we incorporate high-efficiency technology throughout the project, with all the mechanics of it well hidden in beautiful settings. This particular request fit right into our wheelhouse. Incorporating the latest technology, beautifully hidden in natural surroundings, is one of our trademarks.

 

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Outdoor shower stands at base of stepping stone pathway (right) that leads up to pool equipment.

 

High-tech pool equipment is well hidden behind berm, at end of stepping stone path.

Automated Pool Cover

The homeowners had chosen a free-form vinyl pool for its padding and softness, as well as for its beauty. The challenging part was they also wanted an automatic pool cover that, when closed, would support their young children should they somehow walk on it unsupervised. This particular ‘rigid slated plastic’ pool cover, however, had never been fitted to this type of pool in this part of the world before.

Challenge: Free-form vinyl pools need to match a vinyl covering to a concrete foundation. In order to secure what is otherwise a “floating” pool cover, measurements for a special pool edge to grip the cover must be exact, requiring several manufacturers’ construction efforts to fit perfectly. We work with only the best companies, whose measurements, and computerization follow-through, are flawless.

 

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Rigid-slated plastic pool cover, shown here closed, is automated and can support weight of two adults and one child.

 

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Our biggest challenge was creating four-inch ledge around pool which secures closed pool cover.

 

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Because automated pool cover is so easy to use, it is more likely to be closed when not in use — increasing safety and energy-efficiency.

The pool cover is not just for safety. Closing it on a regular basis reduces the amount of energy needed to maintain the pool. We worked with the owners to find energy-efficient solutions for the whole project. There are many ways to increase efficiency:

Pool Covers, Heating Pumps

Pool covers reduce the evaporation of water thereby reducing the chemical usage required. This is because the chemicals do not evaporate or burn off. To heat the pool mentioned in this story, we added a hybrid system that uses both a gas heater and an electric heat pump. The heat pump acts like a reverse air conditioner, pulling in warmth from the air and transferring it into the pool. This design not only adds heat taken from the air — and not from electricity — but the gas heater can act as back up when the air temperature is very low or when creating heat more quickly is required.

Swimming Pool Pumps

The “variable speed pump” is an extremely efficient pump that allows low energy use by slowing down the motor dramatically. It decreases the amount of energy the pump uses. It can run twenty-four-seven much more efficiently than others pumps that are used only a few hours a day.

Automation

Today a computer can be programmed to raise and lower the speed of the pump, controlling when it turns on and off. It will also monitor the chemical levels in the pool and decrease or increase them as required.

Insulation

The water in a pool is often around 85 or 90 degrees, while the surrounding soil is considerably cooler. Adding insulation around the outside of the pool wall, as we did for this project, creates a thermal break between the warm water and the soil that really saves energy by helping the pool water to retain its warmth.

 

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The gentle sounds of two streams leading to two separate waterfalls, as well as the splash of jet sprays, screen out any sounds from high-tech pool equipment, says Deck and Patio outdoor living expert.

 

 

Deck and Patio designed and built the streams and waterfalls (left) to flow through berm with moss rock; outdoor kitchen includes ample work area, barbecue, sink, refrigerator and eating bar with bar stools.