Monthly Archives: August 2013

Why Choose A Design/Build Firm For Your Backyard Retreat?



What if you could have a vacation resort of your own in your backyard? Knowing how to do it and who to call is an important first step.

Ready For Your Own Vacation Resort?

If you are considering a vacation resort in your own backyard, to get the most out of your time and money, you should be looking for a contractor that offers both design and build services. That is because design/build firms not only think about the way the project will be constructed, but also about other factors, such as sufficient functional family space in the yard, the sun’s location from different yard locations, viewing angles of water features and other focal points, elevation changes, drainage considerations and colorful landscapes.




Our outdoor living expert says a design/build firm will consider such factors as sufficient functional family space for children to play as well as sun location and viewing angles of focal points.

Where to Begin:

A swimming pool or spa is usually the main part of creating a personal paradise. That means you will need to make a big decision: do you want a gunite/shotcrete, or vinyl-lined pool? At Deck and Patio we build them all but some pool companies sell what is referred to as “kit pools” which limit what can be done. A custom design lets you have more freedom when it comes to the planning stage. In fact, when using a design/build firm, you can customize your entire project.

We always begin by asking customers about their plans for a pool, their lifestyles and their children’s needs. Then we come up with a unique concept to fulfill every desire. At Deck and Patio we use CAD drawings, digital imaging and a 3D animation video on a flat screen television to show clients how the pool will look with the existing home and environment.




A design/build firm helps you decide what kind of pool you want and which amenities. Will you want swim up bar stools in the pool, for example?


What to Watch Out for in a Design/Build Firm:

When looking for someone to build your swimming pool make sure you are comfortable with them. The design process can take anywhere between several days to several months and you and your builder may see a great deal of each other. Remember that you will be interacting with your contractor in good times and in bad so it is important they be responsible and reliable. When choosing a design/build firm look for a company that has an office and/or showroom so that you know where they are. Be wary of people who will not provide you with an address or give you just a P.O. Box and look for one that will give you their cell phone numbers.




When choosing a design/build firm look for a company that has an office and/or showroom so that you know where they are.

Realizing Your Dream:

As you consider contacting a design/build firm, a picture perfect paradise that fits your dreams starts to beckon. In your mind, you can almost see the bright and colorful plants peeking from around the natural rock waterfalls, the cascading water spilling into a lagoon inspired pool. The stone patio beneath your feet is cool to the touch and exudes a warm ambiance that welcomes and entices. You imagine ordering a cocktail from the pool bar and bringing it back to the lounge chair beneath an umbrella. You can see yourself sitting back and thinking: “Life is good.”

Once you awaken from your daydream, reality hits you. It is a scorching hot day; the sun would have baked you and your family if you hadn’t retreated to the solace of the air conditioning. As this summer comes to an end, its lingering warm temperatures are a reminder that next year will be just as hot. Now may be the perfect time to start planning the backyard of your dreams.




You can almost see the bright and colorful plants peeking from around the natural rock waterfalls, the cascading water spilling into a lagoon inspired pool.




Your perfect outdoor retreat might offer the ability to get a cocktail from the pool bar and bring it back to the lounge chair beneath an umbrella where you sigh: “Life is good.”

Lastly, we suggest looking for a designer/builder that is certified by Association of Pool and Spa professional (APSP). These certified building professionals (CBP) are tested and certified every three years. A CBP can assist you in choosing the right equipment for your project as well as provide or recommend a service professional for your ongoing maintenance. Look for things such as awards from industry groups and certifications from other professional organizations.

A swimming pool project is a big task to take one. Pools are a long lasting investment that add enjoyment to your life and value to your home. When you decide that you want to stop daydreaming and start enjoying your own backyard paradise, remember three things: start early (that means start planning now to be ready for next year’s summer heat), do your homework and choose wisely.



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



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.




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.




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




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




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.


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.


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.




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.



When to Use Paving Stones

Whether it is for a patio, stepping stone path, driveway, or spa and pool surround, there we often recommend concrete pavers. In many cases, these are not only cost-effective, but because they come in so many designs, shapes, and colors, they are extremely flexible and adaptable to a large variety of jobs.

Also, we love them because they look so natural. Instead of one-sized brick being placed throughout an entire patio or retaining wall, some manufacturers’ kits — which include varying shapes — ensure an attractive design, for example, a random pattern in lieu of straight lines and flat images, or in a running block pattern. It also means that because of manufacturers often offer a wide list of product materials, matching stones are readily available for complementary retaining walls, steps, risers, coping, etc. The following is one example of an attractive random pattern.




For this project, we helped our clients choose an attractive random pattern for their patio.

For another design and build project (below 2 photos), our outdoor living expert created five different patio levels around a pool and integrated moss rock stone with the pavers.

In addition to the patios, this overall project features cascading water, a hot water fall into a new spa, then a spillover from the spa five feet above the main pool. In total there are five waterfalls. From the highest waterfall to the lawn below is an elevation change of twelve feet — all with different grades.




We created five different patio levels around the pool, all comprised of concrete pavers.

Five feet above the main pool, this backyard retreat renovation features cascading water into a new spa surrounded by spa patio made from concrete pavers.

We also believe that using pavers will not only provide a beautiful pool deck, but they offer a safer surface that prevents slipping.* In addition, they maintain a cooler walking area and can handle moisture better than concrete surfaces. And because the pavers we recommend to our clients are stronger than regular concrete, they are extremely durable for regular entertaining.

In another design and build project (below), we added a swim up bar in the main pool that features stunning granite countertops, as well as in-pool bar stools, swim out steps, a slide, and pergola.



Durable and resilient, certain concrete pavers can create a pool surround that stands up to lots of foot traffic.

In addition to using our favorite paving stones for the following patio project, we recommended using one manufacturer’s “Rocka” steps, along with moss rock boulders and creeping plant material. This combination handsomely stabilized a hill area without the need of a retaining wall.



The “Rocka” steps we recommended have a wide-walking slip-resistant surface* — key to any project that is part of a water feature.

*Note: Some pavers claim to surpass the slip resistance standards established by the American Disabilities Act. However, these manufacturers also say that some sealers on the market can decrease the friction coefficient of pavers under wet conditions. Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert therefore recommends speaking with a professional when considering sealing pavers where non-slip resistance is desired.



How to Breathe New Life into Pool and Landscaping

Just as indoor living areas become outdated over time, outdoor landscaping, patios and pools require updating as well, says our Deck and Patio outdoor living expert. When he was brought in by the homeowners to consult on this special project, for example, he worked out a plan of what to keep and what to improve or restore.

Before work began, our outdoor living expert showed the homeowners exactly what their transformed backyard would look like using our AutoCad 3-D animation computer program. Through this software application, the clients were able to get a clear picture of our proposal which included (1) upgrading the pool and spa; (2) expanding the property’s confining upper and lower patios to open up the space and show off their property’s spectacular views of Long Island Sound; (3) the addition of new colorful plants and flowers to enhance the opened up water views.




Using a 3-D animation computer program, we were able to show clients what upgrades to pool and patios would look like.

The Pool: The existing 20-plus-year-old gunite pool was operating with equipment that was out of date. Since the plan called for tearing out all the existing patios, this presented the perfect opportunity to gain access to the pool’s equipment for upgrading. The old plumbing system was replaced. Also, new items such as piping skimmers, filter, heater, pump and inlet valve returns were added.

We also refinished the inside of the pool, changing it from white to a dark gray. This new color reacts with the water to give a more desirable “natural lagoon” effect. Swim-out steps were added, as well as a new stepping stone path beside the pool to provide a swath of natural charm within the expansive patio areas.

This upgraded pool with its new amenities will be enjoyed for many years to come.




The pool upgrade included refinishing the inside of the pool, adding new pool plumbing, filter, pump, piping skimmers, and inlet valve returns.

The Patios: Our outdoor living expert transformed what the client described as a “problem area” — a confining upper patio — into a special feature. The upper patio was where the clients liked to sit in the shade and enjoy the view and it was expanded to allow flexibility in outdoor furniture choices as well as opening up their property’s vistas of Long Island Sound. In addition, an equally confining lower patio was enlarged for sunning and an outdoor kitchen was added for entertaining.




Backyard retreat renovation includes enlarged patios and beautiful new landscaping.

The existing spa, which circulates pool water, constantly fills up with pool water, then water falls via the spillover channel into their pool. When expanding the patio near the master bedroom, we took the opportunity to upgrade the spa by adding boulders and turning the spill over into a larger waterfall to create a more beautiful pool scene.




Boulders and a waterfall were added to the existing spillover spa. The spa patio was also enlarged by the master bedroom.

Landscaping: In addition to adding a new outdoor kitchen to the main pool patio area, Deck and Patio created a secret garden path at the side of the house that leads to the clients’ private barbecue patio and a new pondless water feature. Other landscaping upgrades included new plantings to screen out unwanted views and the addition of colorful plants and flowers to enhance the breathtaking water views. The result of the overall transformation is the homeowners enjoy stunning vistas and a feeling of space from all areas of their yard.




The landscaping was upgraded to screen out unwanted views and also to enhance the property’s stunning views of Long Island Sound.


Our outdoor living expert says of this job, “The clients’ ideas were turned into reality with the blending of the old pool and expanded new patios, waterfalls, boulders and, of course, landscaping. Plus the upgrade of the pool — the heart of their outdoor retreat — means they can enjoy this special backyard retreat for many years to come.”



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