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Backyard Oasis: These Days, Home Is Where It’s At

You might be missing summer concerts, well-attended barbecues, and other larger-group activities. At least activities that don’t include masks and social distancing. But creating that backyard retreat you’ve always wanted, even if just for family right now, does offer some compensations.

Take, for example, this project we did for clients a little while ago. They wanted a pool, with a waterfall and handsome patio, and they also wanted a “spillover” spa. But in speaking with them we learned something. They also wanted to be able to use their spa all year round. Hot tubs help you relax, and it’s understandable they want that option throughout the seasons.

“Most custom in-ground spas, especially spillovers,” says Dave Stockwell, “are connected to the pool’s functions. This means when the pool is shut down  — usually by late September here on Long Island — the spa gets shut down, too. Our solution was rather than build the usual connecting cement spa, to install a portable hot in a way that looked built in — and with a waterfall just below it.”

The clients agreed that this was an ideal way to give them all they wanted, especially since they would also get the superb hydrotherapy benefits from the massage jets — and have those benefits, whenever.

The neat thing is that from inside the pool and many parts of the patio, this second pool waterfall just below the spa gives the appearance that the water’s coming out from the spa— or that it’s a spillover spa.

 

Completed Oasis-style Pool and Spa

The movement in the pool’s free form shape, surrounded by plant material chosen for color and texture — with a view on how it will grow — ensures their backyard retreat will be a lovely backyard oasis for a long time to come. 

And what about during seasons when the pool is closed? There’s lots of long-blooming plants and green ground cover to brighten the area outside of pool season so the view from the hot tub remains very pleasant.

 

In-Ground Vinyl Pool Retreat:

In-Ground Vinyl Pool Retreat:

Amenities abound in this backyard retreat: beautiful free-form vinyl pool, moss rock waterfalls, diving rock, tanning shelf, spa set in-ground, robust plantings, and handsome patio.

 

Spill Over Spa:

Spill Over Spa:

Deck and Patio set the portable spa all the way into the ground with boulders and plantings around it — and added a moss rock waterfall just beneath that splashes into the pool. While it’s actually coming from the pool’s edge, the waterfall appears to be coming from a custom in-ground spa.

 

Moss Rock Waterfall:

Moss Rock Waterfall:

Next to the Wild Ride slide that also spills water into the pool, we installed a moss rock waterfall that flows with force over an extended rock.

 

In-Ground Pool with Tanning Shelf:

In-Ground Pool with Tanning Shelf:

The free-form vinyl pool was designed with an expansive tanning shelf that boasts room for two large S-shaped recliners. Having no legs, the recliners sit right in the water for a comfortable way to keep cool and sunbathe at the same time.

 

Cambridge Paver Patio:

Cambridge Paver Patio:

The handsome patio/pool surround is made with durable Cambridge Ledgestone XL “Toffee Onyx Light” pavers (Sherwood Collection). These pavers come in 3-piece design kits for a beautiful random design.

 

Portable Spa Installation:

Portable Spa Installation:

We left one side of the spa exposed to make it easy to get to the plumbing operation of the hot tub. However, when looking at it from the patio or pool area, it appears to be all in-ground.

 

Deck and Patio Award’s Photo

Deck and Patio Award’s Photo

APSP Bronze Award): To provide the look the clients wanted – a custom spillover spa — along with year-round use, we built the portable hot tub all the way into the ground with boulders and plantings around it. Bluestone stepping stones allow for more softscape to be seen.

 

So, life may not be back to where we want it, but fortunately, if budget and space permit, there can be some compensations. 

Swimming Pool Grotto Designs: Fun ‘Out’ of the Sun

Children love a private escape. The youngest ones hide under a table, behind table cloths or chairs etc. However, even as adults, we still love our personal getaways. From man-caves to home gyms, we need moments spent in a quiet space. 

Pool Grottos

Pool Grottos

One such escape may be the most delightful of all.

Truly, could there be a better hideaway than one you can swim to — say, behind a waterfall? And, what if behind that waterfall, there’s a hot tub, with hydrotherapy to massage you? 

Well. That’s the possibility of a swimming pool grotto design. Grottos are usually constructed as part of an enlarged water feature. And it can be a delightful location for fun with friends and family, as well as a solo retreat. 

Imagine. Being outdoors, but away from the heat of the sun. And, still close to all the happenings in the pool. Not to mention, that whether you are in the grotto or outside of it, you get to enjoy the stunning appearance and sounds of cascading water and the cooling mist such a waterfall will occasion.

Two Deck and Patio Grotto Showcases

1. Our first example of a Deck and Patio-designed grotto/water feature came about after Peek Pools and Spas invited us to travel to Nashville, TN, and participate in another episode of their popular TV series, Pool Kings on the DIY Network. (See large feature photo at top of this page for the complete project.)

While working on-site in Nashville, one major challenge was digging/lifting out of the ground and then positioning an enormous 4,000-pound piece of rock to help form the grotto. Indeed, it was such a task that it caused Pool Kings/HGTV to title that episode: A Rocky Road to Backyard Bliss!

Project Included 3 Sets of Waterfalls

Close up of Nashville Project’s Waterfalls

“A two-ton rock isn’t an easy maneuver,” laughs our own Dave Stockwell.

“But the result was worth it. We knew it was just what was needed when we saw it, and it became part of this project’s water feature. The whole feature included the grotto cave, a meandering stream, three sets of waterfalls, flanking fire bowls and a fire feature for inside the pool.” 

 

Children’s Hand Prints Saved

Children’s Hand Prints Saved

 “Not all of our efforts there were so challenging,” adds Dave.

“In fact, while tearing out the old patio, we found a special piece of concrete. It had the handprints of the homeowner’s children. We knew right away it was a precious piece. While constructing the lotto, we ensured it had a place inside the grotto behind the pool’s waterfalls.”

 

2. The second grotto project we’re highlighting today was built in our own neck of the woods. 

Long Island, NY, Swimming Pool Grotto

Long Island, NY, Swimming Pool Grotto

“It came to us as a referral,” says Dave. “The finished project boasts a free-form concrete pool, large grotto, water feature and spa. But it’s where the spa is placed that’s a special part of the design. The spa is actually hidden inside the grotto with the high waterfall cascading over it into the pool.

“We used large moss rock boulders to construct the grotto, supported by structural steel and concrete underneath,” says Dave. “We also added a tanning shelf in the shallow end of the pool that is large enough to accommodate lounge chairs.”

 

Swimming Pool Tanning Shelf

Swimming Pool Tanning Shelf

For this second project, the tanning shelf is directly across from the front of the grotto and waterfall. Not only can lounge chairs fit in the shallow water there, but it’s close enough to enjoy some of the mist occasioned by the falling water.

So it’s a great place to keep cool, but still be out in the sun. The pool is surrounded by a handsome Techo-Bloc tumbled paver patio and Deck and Patio landscaping. The entire project won us a prestigious Silver Medal from the Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA).

 

Spa Inside Pool Grotto

Spa Inside Pool Grotto:

This is the view seen from inside the spa grotto. Note how private the spa is because it is nestled inside a cave made from moss rock boulders. The majestic high waterfall spills into the free-form concrete pool — just outside from where you have escaped from the heat of the sun. 

 

Inviting Pool Amenity: Hidden Grotto with Dramatic Waterfall

This backyard upgrade came our way as a referral from someone working with the clients. It went on to win an award, making it all the more special.

The overall project included a free-form concrete pool and spa. But a special part of the design is where the spa was placed — it’s actually hidden inside a large grotto with a high waterfall cascading over it into the pool. 

“We constructed the grotto from large moss rock boulders,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “The ceiling is of structural steel and concrete. We also added a tanning shelf inside the pool in the shallow end large enough so that lounge chairs can rest in the water.”

The pool was then surrounded with a handsome Techo-Bloc tumbled paver patio and Deck and Patio finished it all with lush landscaping.

 

Pool Grotto:

Pool Grotto:

A key element in giving the pool grotto a natural feel was the extensive use of moss rock. Placing these rocks requires skill and experience. They need to be positioned in a way so that water spills over them like it would appear in nature — like something you’d see on a mountain hike or woodland stroll.

 

Pool Waterfalls:

Pool Waterfalls:

The majestic high waterfall spills into the free-form concrete pool — just outside the spa. The waterfall doesn’t flow out from the walls of the pool, but is fed by a meandering man-made stream overhead.

 

Spa Inside Pool Grotto:

Spa Inside Pool Grotto:

This is the view of the pool seen from inside the spa grotto. Note how private the spa is because it is nestled inside a cove made from moss rock boulders. 

 

Techo-Bloc Pool Patio:

Techo-Bloc Pool Patio:

The beautiful design of these paving stones was also inspired by nature as well. The clients chose them for their handsome earth-and sand-tones which we laid out in a random pattern. They offer the perfect contrast to the blue water of the lagoon-style pool.

This project won Deck and Patio a prestigious Silver Medal from the Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA).

 

3 Key Reasons to Choose the Right Pool Patios

“People love their pool patios,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “In fact, they probably use their pool surrounds for sunbathing, dining and just lounging a lot more than they use the pool.”

Whether clients choose to surround their pool with landscaped grass, wood (or decking composite materials), stone (e.g., Travertine), poured concrete, or pavers, there are 5 key things to consider.

Oops. Sandal Tan Lines

Oops. Sandal Tan Lines

1. Okay for Bare Feet

No one wants to wear shoes or sandals beside a pool — and not just because they cause tan lines!

But, ouch, pool surrounds can retain a lot of heat in the Northeast, where summer heat can be very intense. So choosing a material that does not trap heat is an important consideration to save you from blisters.

“Unless you have a lot of shade around your pool, you want to stay away from brick or bluestone,” says Dave. “Yet, you can still have the elegance of natural stone. Travertine, for example, is a good choice because as it does not absorb heat like other stone materials.”

Deck and Patio Project Using Trex Transcend Decking

Deck and Patio Project Using Trex Transcend Decking

 

For those who prefer the look of wood, composite decking can be a good choice because you can be sure there will be no splinters that might occur with plain natural wood.

Deck and Patio has done beautiful pool decks using Trex Transcend decking, as well as Fiberon and TimberTech. Note: Because of Fiberon’s grooved design, the board fasteners are hidden, which means there are no nails to ever injure bare feet either.

“As for certain pavers, they are also a good choice, especially lighter-hued tones which will naturally hold less heat,” says Dave.

 

                                                           2. Staying Cool

Deck and Patio Pool Surround

Deck and Patio Pool Surround

Deck and Patio Swim Up/Outdoor Bar

Deck and Patio Swim Up/Outdoor Bar

“You don’t want to get overheated when sunbathing,” says Dave. “This is one reason tanning shelves have become so popular. Part pool amenity and part extension of your pool patio, these shelves (a.k.a. ledges, Baja ledge, doggie deck) — allow sun bathers to sit in shallow pool water where they can splash water around themselves whenever they want.

Another way to stay cool and extend your patio into your pool, is a swim up bar. These bars can be enjoyed from the patio itself or from in the pool. Add an umbrella, and you won’t know if you are home or on vacation in the Caribbean.

 

 

Deck and Patio Travertine Pool Surround

Deck and Patio Travertine Pool Surround

3. Need for Durability

While in many areas of the country, pool use is seasonal, outdoor living lasts at least from spring through fall. Even if the pool isn’t open, the pool area is used a good deal for just relaxing or regular entertaining.

“Composite decking materials are very durable and low maintenance,” says Dave. “They are also rot, insect, moisture, fade resistant. Regular wood does need to be treated on a regular basis, but if you choose a wood like Brazilian Walnut hardwood (Ipe), it has the strength, hardness and durability to resist splintering, termites, wear, etc.”

The right pavers, e.g., Techo-Bloc which are engineered in Canada, stand up extremely well to the freeze/thaw that occurs in our part of the Northeast.

Travertine is also very durable — just be sure it isn’t coming from say, China, where the Travertine they quarry is not nearly as durable as more costly Mexican, Italian and Turkish Travertine. If you get your stone through a reputable company, it should hold up to the weather changes that occur the Northeast.

“So make sure your pool patio doesn’t absorb too much heat, is slip resistant, and won’t cause you splinters or any feet tearing. Stay cool when sunbathing, and choose a pool surround material that is durable,” says Dave. “There’s a wide range of good choices available. Speak with an expert and share what your style and preferences are. Experienced patio landscapers will help you find the perfect surround for your pool, and design the outdoor space to maximize your enjoyment.”

Note: Re the featured photo at the top of the page: the reconfigured upper patio — where our clients liked to sit in the shade and enjoy the view — was extended to allow room for lots of comfortable outdoor furniture, thereby allowing several people to be out of the sun at the same time.

 

 

In-ground Pool with “Spillover” Spa: There’s More Than One Way to Make a Splash

In addition to a destination in-ground pool — with moss rock waterfall and handsome patio surround and bright landscaping — these clients asked Deck and Patio for a “spillover” spa that would give them not only the joys of a soaking in its relaxing waters, but provide an additional waterfall splashing into the pool. They also wanted to use this spa/hot tub all year, even when the pool was closed.

The Challenge

Most custom in-ground spas that “spill over” are connected to the pool’s functions requiring the pool be on when operating the spa. This would be a problem for the months the pool is closed. Our solution was, rather than build the usual connecting cement spa, we install a portable Bullfrog Spas’ hot tub in way that looked built in — with a waterfall just below it that appears to be coming from the spa, but actually coming out of the pool itself.

The clients agreed that this was an ideal way to give them all they wanted, especially since they would also get the superb hydrotherapy benefits of Bullfrog’s JetPaks massage jets/seats — and have those benefits all year long.

Completed Oasis-style Pool and Spa

The movement in the pool’s free form shape, surrounded by plant material chosen for color and texture — with a view on how it will grow — ensures their backyard retreat will be a lovely backyard oasis for a long time to come. And what about during seasons when the pool is closed? There’s lots of long-blooming plants and green ground cover to brighten the area outside of pool season.

 

 

In-Ground Vinyl Pool Retreat:

In-Ground Vinyl Pool Retreat:

Amenities abound in this backyard retreat: beautiful free-form vinyl pool, moss rock waterfalls, diving rock, tanning shelf, spa set in-ground, robust plantings, and handsome patio.

 

 

Spill Over Spa:

Spill Over Spa:

Deck and Patio set the Bullfrog Spa all the way into the ground with boulders and plantings around it — and added a moss rock waterfall just beneath that splashes into the pool. While it’s actually coming from the pool’s edge, the waterfall appears to be coming from a custom in-ground spa.

 

 

Moss Rock Waterfall:

Moss Rock Waterfall:

Next to the Wild Ride slide that also spills water into the pool, we installed a moss rock waterfall that flows with force over an extended rock.

 

 

In-Ground Pool with Tanning Shelf:

In-Ground Pool with Tanning Shelf:

The free-form vinyl pool was designed with an expansive tanning shelf that boasts room for two large S-shaped recliners. Having no legs, the recliners sit right in the water for a comfortable way to keep cool and sunbathe at the same time.

 

 

Cambridge Paver Patio:

Cambridge Paver Patio:

The handsome patio/pool surround is made with durable Cambridge Ledgestone XL “Toffee Onyx Light” pavers (Sherwood Collection). These pavers come in 3-piece design kits for a beautiful random design.

 

 

Bullfrog Spa Installation:

Bullfrog Spa Installation:

We left one side of the hot tub exposed to make it easy to get to the plumbing operation of the hot tub. However, when looking at the hot tub from the patio or pool area, it appears to be all in-ground.

 

 

Four Vinyl-Lined Pools We Love

Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert, Bill Renter, designs and builds gunite pools, in addition to vinyl. However, he finds that many of his clients prefer the padded, smooth, soft feel of vinyl. And because advanced computerization of liner fabrications allow us to construct them in any shape, curve, or angle, there’s freedom in giving clients exactly what they want.

With such flexibility in pool design, homeowners are also not stuck with unattractive white interior stairs that do not blend with the rest of the pool, nor do they sacrifice a smooth bottom for the swimmers’ feet.

Of course, the base construction of a vinyl pool is much the same as any other. Vinyl simply means the method used to line a pool’s interior. These liners come in a large variety of colors, which can react with the water to create a romantic “grotto” or “lagoon’ effect, so popular today. Plus, the concrete walls of vinyl-lined pools have a lifetime guarantee.

Bill and his design team always begin by asking clients about their plans for a pool, their lifestyles and their children’s needs, then come up with a unique concept to fulfill every desire. Using CAD drawings, digital imaging and a 3D animation video on a flat screen television, we show clients how the pool will look with the existing home and environment.

These four projects are good examples of the flexibility and beauty of vinyl.

 

Backyard Sanctuary:

Backyard Sanctuary:

This serene backyard sanctuary gives no hint of high-tech energy efficient components supporting it all. The sounds of waterfalls, streams and sprays add tranquility to backyard retreat. Biggest challenge to project was creating four-inch ledge around pool which secures closed pool cover.

 

 

 

Vanishing Edge Pools:

Vanishing Edge Pools:

The challenges for this ‘vanishing edge’ pool project included creating a vinyl-liner pool with 5 bar stools, complicated tri-level floor, 3 staircases, in-floor cleaning, vinyl spillover spa, and vinyl-lined catch pool. The success of accomplishing all this was sweet, indeed.

 

 

 

Cambridge Pavingstones:

Cambridge Pavingstones:

We surrounded this vinyl-lined pool and spill-over spa in handsome Cambridge Pavingstones, with artful cut-outs for plantings. The beautiful hue of the pool water caused by its vinyl liner, set against the pavers, with a huge backdrop of lush green grass create a very special setting.

 

 

 

Destination Pools:

Destination Pools:

Because of the topography, the pool had to be located far from the house, down a steep grade. Deck and Patio’s vision included adding beautiful creeping ground cover and boulders, so that even the property’s challenging raised grades were turned into benefits.

 

 

 

 

What’s “Cool” in Pools

Deck and Patio’s Shares 8 Trendy Pool Amenities

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Award-winning vinyl pool by Deck and Patio showcases lots of what’s ‘cool’ in pools

  1. – Vinyl Pool Liners

The Deck and Patio Company designs and builds gunite (concrete), in addition to vinyl-lined pools. However, many of our clients prefer the padded, smooth, soft feel of vinyl, such as seen above.

In fact, according to reports, there are now more vinyl pools worldwide than any other combined group.

Of course, the base construction of a vinyl pool is the same as any other. “Vinyl” simply means the method used to line a pool’s interior. These liners come in a large variety of colors, which can react with the water to create the romantic “grotto” or “lagoon” effect so desirable today. For all these reasons, we feel we have to put vinyl’s soft cushion-y feel as #1 in what’s “cool” — especially since vinyl pools, designed and built by Deck and Patio Company, have become award winners.

 

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2. & 3. – Custom Raised Spa and Heated Waterfalls

If enjoying a heated waterfall spilling its therapy into a custom raised spa isn’t at the top of desirable pool amenities (pictured above), it may be time to fold our deck chairs and go inside. Imagine! You are seated in just such a spa; the pulsations from a raised heated waterfall are massaging your neck and shoulders, while you lean back in swirling warm water and delightful air bubbles. Add to all this hydrotherapy that there is a picturesque, natural look to it all — the result is you feel as if you are in a small lagoon, created by Mother Nature, in a distant south sea isle. Yup. It’s way up on the “cool” list.

 

Embedded Umbrellas

 

4.  Flexible Shade

Embedded umbrellas, and the flexible shade opportunities they provide, are also at the top of Deck and Patio’s favorite things. Positioned 9 feet apart, when open, they provide a bank of shade, perhaps 27 to 36 feet long, as pictured above. The umbrellas are a great substitute for pergolas; they are more flexible than such fixed shade amenities because various umbrellas can be open and closed at the same time. All open, and you have a perfect area to place a buffet lunch or relax in full shade; partially closed, and those who want shade can lounge next to those who want sun.

 

Tanning Shelf from Deck and Patio

 

5. Tanning Shelves and Custom Steps

Also called “sun shelves”

Tanning shelves (photo above) are a cool way to stay cool when you want to lay out in the sun, says Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert.

These shelves are set in several inches of water and are wide enough for parents to sun bathe while young children play beside them. Tanning shelves (photo above) are a cool way to stay cool when you want to lay out in the sun, says Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert.

Custom steps are additional cool amenities which make moving in and out of the pool natural and comfortable.

 

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6. Bar Stools and Swim Up Bars

Building a vinyl pool requires precise measurements, so plan ahead for such cool extras as tanning shelves, bar stools and swim up bars (see above). Note: Deck and Patio installs a quarter-inch padding between any vinyl liner and the concrete. This is what gives steps, walls, and other amenities their cushion-y feel.

 

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7. Natural Stone Paths

We have to thank the Japanese Tea Ceremony and that country’s love of simplicity and natural beauty for our #7  “cool pool” landscaping idea — the stepping stone path.  Breaking up expansive pool surrounds with a natural stone path allows for “softscape” in between stones to show through, as well as creating a focus to particular directions. They are also great do-it-yourself projects. Just remember: they are best laid down on flat areas around your pool. Wet stepping stones can be dangerous on slopping areas.

 

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8.  Natural Gas Campfires

Deck and Patio help create romantic outdoor mood with addition of bonfire-style fire pits.

You can almost hear the beating of steel drums when your “lagoon” pool has a bonfire-style fire pit — or several — lighting its surround at night (below). This style takes the fire pit from a simple campfire to a piece of art.