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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.

 

Pergolas: When Throwing a Little Shade is a Good Thing

Perhaps it’s our cold winters. Or our great shorelines, rivers and lakes. Whatever the reason, in the northeast we love summer sun. We revel in sunny water sports, sunbathing, barbecues, etc. Yet, while enjoying the outdoors, there are times when we look for an escape from the sun and are grateful for something that will throw us a little shade.

A shade umbrella can often fit the bill. But unless you have a bank of them, or are seated together at a dining table, they are really only good for one person and they don’t offer the architectural beauty of a built structure. Cabanas and pavilions offer substantial and roomy breaks from the sun, but these may require permits and considerable planning to design/build.

It’s not surprising, then, that many find the simplest solution for some shade is the elegant pergola. “Pergolas are considered decorative or ornamental, so they rarely require permits,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “And their construction is fairly straightforward, especially when using a prefabricated kit.

“While we do build a lot of pavilions and cabanas, etc., just as frequently, clients opt for the less complicated pergola. Occasionally, those that already have a cabana or pavilion want a little extra shade thrown in another outdoor area.”

unspecifiedDeck and Patio has found that clients also love the pergola’s open design. “Whether it’s made of vinyl, cedar, or fiberglass, etc., the structure allows for refreshing cross currents of air, yet is elegant enough to frame a picture-perfect outdoor sitting/gathering area,” adds Stockwell. “Plus, because of their simple design, you can expand them to fit pretty much any size space.”

What Exactly Defines a Pergola?

A pergola is constructed with open rafters at the top and is supported by posts. It’s usually of simple, durable construction and is free standing.

# 5“We find the two most popular pergola materials are vinyl and cedar,” says Stockwell. “Vinyl is usually white or cream in tone. Both are resistant to weather, rot and insects, although vinyl is completely immune to such deterioration.”

In the end, some clients prefer the handsome look of wood, and find they don’t mind periodic refinishing, which is necessary with natural wood structures (even cedar will require occasional staining and a sealant, otherwise its color will change over time). While others want a maintenance-free structure and choose vinyl.”

According to Stockwell, when deciding where you will place the pergola, consider where you will want shade most often — e.g., over a new outdoor bar, seating area, or barbecue. Then, so as to capture the right amount of shade from the pergola’s rafters, take note how the sun passes over your yard before deciding where to position it all, and at what angle, etc.

 

Pergola/Outdoor Bar with Water Feature:

Pergola/Outdoor Bar with Water Feature:

In addition to defining space elegantly, a pergola provides lots of shade if it is positioned well. Here, it crowns a handsome bar with stone facade with openings for two sheer descent waterfalls.

 

Pillared Pergola:

Pillared Pergola:

This pergola was built long and wide to shade a comfortable outdoor sitting area that includes a fire pit. It was positioned adjacent to a dining area shaded by a large umbrella. At the right time of day, the shade cast by the pergola’s rafters looks almost like a carpet — perfect for an outdoor sitting area.

 

Outdoor U-Shaped Bar with Pergola:

Outdoor U-Shaped Bar with Pergola:

This dramatic outdoor bar area is also a swim-up bar with in-pool bar stools. Its U shape turns into a patio-bar nestled underneath a handsome pergola. With striking white columns the pergola offers architectural drama as well as sufficient shade amid the day’s bright sunshine.

 

Pergola with Vines:

Pergola with Vines:

While creating a patio using permeable Techo-Bloc pavers that capture rainwater for the yard’s water features and landscape irrigation, the clients also wanted a large pergola. In doing all this, we were careful to protect their property’s 30-year-old-grape vine. The finished patio’s peaceful scene gives no hint of the work involved and the underground systems supporting it all.

The expansive pergola adorned with trailing plantings and vines offers lots of shade for outdoor dining. The new seat wall makes it easy for crowd-entertaining, providing extra sitting room within the pergola’s shade.

 

 

 

Breathing Room: Outdoor Rooms Come In all Shapes

Outdoor rooms can be elaborate affairs. Indeed, one project we are showcasing today is an enclosed pool house that boasts two separate outdoor rooms. Still another is a completely enclosed four seasons room.

But as This Old House Magazine recently showed in 39 DIY Budget-wise Ways to Create Outdoor Rooms, just about any outdoor space can be turned into an open-air living room offering room to breathe.

The key is comfort. Just as indoors, outdoor rooms are for spending time relaxing with friends and family or just taking time to refresh your own spirit. And as long as you’ve created a cozy atmosphere, you not only don’t need walls around the space — you don’t even need a roof.

Breathing Room

In the end, the only rules for an outdoor room is to breathe fresh air. Once you consider your budget, ask yourself: How do I want to use the space? Am I looking for lots of nighttime enjoyment, including protection from mosquitos? How many seasons is it for? Who will use it the most in the family? Is it intended to be a swimming pool or other water feature amenity?

Here’s how some of our clients answered those questions, and how Deck and Patio helped them fulfill their plans.

Outdoor Rooms with Walls and Roofs

Insert # 1The Ultimate: Pool House with Outdoor Rooms.

This completed project won Deck and Patio a prestigious international APSP award. Along with a pool with waterfalls and spillover spa, elegant Travertine patio/pool surround, outdoor kitchen with natural stone facade (unseen), and outdoor shower, we built them a stunning pool house with “two” separate outdoor rooms. The pool is located far from the house and they wanted the ability to cook by the pool, as well as have a place to relax — bug free. The 800-square-foot pool house includes a 20-by-20 screened room and bathroom, as well as separate great room with sofa, flat screen television, refrigerator, washer/dryer, and storage closet.

 

Destination Pool with Pool House:

Destination Pool with Pool House:

At night, this destination pool area (see also photo above) is as romantic as it is serene. It is an idyllic spot for parties that begin in the day and continue long into the night.

 

 

Insert # 2A Fully-enclosed Four Seasons Room:

After an evening of being pestered by insects, these clients decided they wanted their outdoor room “screened.” Later, when they decided to use it when it was windy as well as in the cold months, the screens became windows. And once it was to be fully closed in, opportunities for more special amenities opened up.

The completed four seasons room not only harmonizes with their home, as well as having screens, it boasts fully operating windows, automated Mitsubishi ductless heating and air conditioning, a flat screen television, and enough room for their young child to use his ride-on toys. No matter the season, this outdoor room’s large Anderson windows offer a 360-degree view of their lovely property.

 

Outdoor Rooms Without Walls

Insert # 3Travertine Patio With Pergola:

Not all outdoor rooms require walls. Using only a handsome pergola and comfortable furniture, this backyard space has plenty of breathing room.

Note how the pergola’s overhead slats create a shadow-carpet that helps define an elegant outdoor living room. The adjacent dining area is only steps from an outdoor kitchen/bar/barbecue veneered in natural stone (see immediately below). The property’s glorious expansive Travertine patio serves as the floor for these happy spaces.

 

 

Travertine Patio/Outdoor Kitchen:

Travertine Patio/Outdoor Kitchen:

Deck and Patio used a natural stone for the veneer of the bar/barbecue 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.

 

Insert # 4

 

Lighting! Lighting! Lighting!:

During the day, you have earth’s sun to provide all the light you need.

But, when it comes to an inviting outdoor room at night, lighting can greatly add to the experience. This shingle-roof pergola/pavilion/fireplace project was installed at the edge of a patio. With lighted handsome columns on stone pillars that match the fireplace, lighting creates the perfect evening ambience through several seasons.

 

Outdoor Rooms without Walls or Roofs

Outdoor Room on Deck:

Outdoor Room on Deck:

Along with a hot tub set into their multi-level deck, thee homeowners created room to breathe by adding comfortable furniture, a fire pit and a television. Note: Today’s LED televisions can be properly encased to be theft-free. In fact, Best Hot Tubs’ outdoor living expert has helped clients do just that. Encasing the television carefully will also ensure the proper internal temperature control/circulation to protect it. There are also televisions designed for outside use which resist rain, dust and other elements.

 

No Fixed Structure At All

 

Photo # 5If you agree with This Old House Magazine’s feature mentioned above (and we do), maybe you don’t need anything fixed to create an idyllic outdoor living space. Here, to shade a self-supporting hammock, the clients positioned a tilt umbrella next to their pool’s delightful waterfall. It’s the perfect spot when the Purple Allium Sphaerocephalon are in bloom (forefront).

Yet this outdoor room can be moved to another spot when other plantings are relaxing focal points. And you don’t need a pool or waterfalls for a tranquil place to refresh the spirit. Create a container garden by grouping some seasonal flowers together and set up a place to rest — you’ll all the outdoor breathing room you need.