Blog June 2013

Outdoor Fireplaces for Cozy Deck Parties Even in Chilly Weather

Architecture and construction have seen unprecedented changes in modern times. With the availability of newer materials and innovative techniques, decks and other open-air spaces are much more durable and weather resistant. So if you have your concerns about building a deck, with weather playing the villain, don’t worry. Outdoor living spaces are now much more functional, hardy, and stylish.

Homeowners often like to extend their living rooms slightly into the outdoors, creating a partly enclosed deck. A lot of them also like the idea of a full-fledged deck that lets you have plenty of fresh air and sunlight. For places that get rough weather, however, such ideas are often clouded by apprehensions. An al fresco deck could leave you exposed to chilly drafts. While you most definitely need to take appropriate measures to battle the harsher months of winter, you don’t have to give up on the idea of a deck just on that account.

Having a fireplace on your deck is the perfect way to combat the chilly weather outside; you no longer need to confine yourself to the comfort of indoors after you’ve had dinner. Outdoor fireplaces are the perfect complement to your deck. It will make your evenings so much cozier and enjoyable. The entire family can huddle up after a meal and enjoy good conversation by the warming glow of a fire.

There are a number of things you can do with a fireplace to make it more functional, more stylish, and safer. If you don’t really want a conventional fireplace, you could have a brick or a stone fire pit. Not only does this take you a notch above the conventional, but it also unlocks newer avenues for entertaining and family time. You can set up camp and roast marshmallows or even install a grate, and you’re all set for a barbecue party anytime.

When dealing with anything that has the word “fire” in it, you cannot but help take plenty of safety measures. You sure don’t want a raging inferno anywhere close to your home or family. Your outdoorfireplaces should be kept away from flammable items, such as leaf-entwined pergolas and plant boxes. It is advisable to line the fireplace with bricks or stone to prevent any conflagration.

Decks and patios are the best places to spend a lovely afternoon with family or a fun-filled evening with friends. The several concerns like safety and weather are all easy to take care of once you have a good outdoor contractor with you, such as Archadeck Outdoor living.

Signs That Tell You When You Need Deck Repair

It is imperative that you always choose a reliable deck company to build your deck so that it lasts long and doesn’t require untimely or frequent repairs. However, at some point, every deck will require varying degrees of repair or even replacement. Especially if your deck is made of wood, as most are, you must keep an eye open for any signs of damage or decay.

Cracks and Crevices in Boards

Take a good look around your deck to see if you spot any cracks in the wood or a surface board chipping and curling. These are usually the first signs of damage. You may come across splinters that jut out of the boards, which may at times hurt the feet while walking. Treated boards that look dull and discolored, too, are more prone to cracking and curling.

Loose Guardrails

Grab your railing cautiously and shake it up a little to see if it gives in. If the railing jiggles, it may be loose and in need of immediate attention. Make sure that it is well secured w
ith all of the screws and nails in place. If it still quivers, call a contractor immediately. If ignored, loose railings could very well result in a fall, causing serious injury.

Faulty Stringers and Treads on Stairs

If you hear a creaking sound every time you ascend the stairs, it could mean there is a problem with the treads or stringers. Over time, steps of the staircase tend to loosen from the stringers, causing them to become highly vulnerable to a major accident. These must be professionally fixed, or you could be on your way to a huge fall.

Rotten Posts

You must inspect the supporting posts beneath your deck frequently if you are to avoid a terrible accident. These posts hold the deck in place, and a problem with them could bring the entire setup smashing down. If something like this ever happens during heavy foot traffic times such as a party, the damage could be excessive. Take a walk beneath the deck to check for any signs of decay. Also observe if they feel even the slightest bit shaky when you walk over it. Decayed posts are in impending disaster and must be repaired or replaced at all costs.

Even if you take very good care of your deck, damage over time is inevitable. The deck is exposed to rain, sun, winds, and all kinds of rough weather. The best you can do is keep watch and repair damages soon as they occur. If the damage is too severe, however, you may need to opt for deck replacement. No matter what you choose to do, always go with well-established and experienced contractors like Archadeck Outdoor Living. This will ensure maximum quality and durability, because good companies use the best building materials like vinyl, composite, and stone, and have skilled workers who finish the job to perfection. So you have a whole new, strong, and sturdy deck that’s ready for more parties.

Ideas to Rock Your Party on the Deck

To host the best party in town and be the envy of the neighborhood is one of the good things we all want from life. However, doing so requires some careful planning. Good food, great wine, and enjoyable music are all very helpful, but what really sets the pace for the party is a good venue. You must have the right layout that looks warm and inviting, and facilitates interaction between the guests.

Most of us prefer hosting parties in our backyard in the warmer months, and a spacious, well-designed deck acts as the perfect match for your backyard gathering or pool party. A deck is in many ways a transition from indoors to outdoors. Your aim is to make the deck blend the two seamlessly. Provide plenty of air, warmth and space to your guests while still maintaining a homely comfort. Some creative deck ideas could help you achieve the best-looking deck and a great party.

One of the first things to look out for is proper seating. You don’t want your guests leaning against walls to give their legs a break. Try to keep the deck as spacious as possible. Choose the right furniture for the deck, one that occupies less space but still gives the guests plenty of comfort. If it cannot hold many chairs and tables, you can place benches along the sides. However, don’t stuff it with too much furniture. There must be plenty of space for the guests to move around. After all, there will be those who hold their drinks and socialize instead of being seated. Do account for them, too.

If you are having a pool party, some beautiful and spacious pool decks would be a fantastic addition. Your guests can then lounge in style after a quick dip or just move around freely taking in the fun and freedom. A fire pit or a hot tub would be a great idea, too. Get creative. There are so many things you can do. Getting some expert tips from your contractor also would be a good idea.

You may have left your deck undisturbed for a long time. But it is now time to shake it up. A good deck can be one of the most wonderful things, and possibly your favorite part of the house. You just have to look at it creatively and get some professional help in redesigning it or making it better. Soon as that is done, you can be the best party host of the neighborhood. Just get in touch with a good outdoor contractor, such as Archadeck Outdoor Living, and the experts will not only help you build, renovate, or redesign your deck but also give you some great layout ideas.

Eco-Friendly Deck Ideas to Spruce Up Your Outdoors

As winter recedes, folks step outdoors to enjoy the warm, fresh breeze of summer. From exhilarating waterparks and theme destinations across the country to adrenaline-pumping outdoor adventures like hiking or whitewater rafting, the U.S. has plenty to offer in the summer. You could head to the nature park or take a bike along a river trail. After you’ve had enough of all the action, though, you most certainly want to come home and spend some quality time with your family or by yourself. And what better way to do this than lounging on a deck with some lemon iced tea and a good book with a wide view of the nearby community park? A nice deck serves as an ideal place for family gatherings, friends, or simply a lazy afternoon by yourself. So if you are considering building a deck, which you should be, keep some functional trends in mind.

Opt for Energy-Saving Lights

Whether you use your deck for entertaining or a quiet evening with a book, good lighting has the power to transform a silent deck into a vibrant place. However, you must be careful not to run a sky-high electricity bill. Opt for energy-saving LED lights that not only reduce your carbon footprint but also impart a classy charm to your deck.

Perennial Plants for a Touch of Green

A dash of nature in any living area is always a refreshing delight, more so on a deck, where they gently blend the indoors with the outdoors. Accessorize your deck with perennial shrubs like Jules Verne Peony, Boxwood, or Grey Owl Juniper. These greens are easy to maintain and look vibrant and fresh all through the year. Make the most of your summers with a beautiful deck. Aptly designed decks let you enjoy the fresh breeze, the smell of nature and the sound of birds chirping, while still within the comfort of your home. Industry-leading contractors like Archadeck Outdoor Living can help you design the perfect deck using the best materials. If, however, you’d like to take advantage of some extra ground space in your backyard, you can ask contractors instead for eco-friendly patio designs.

Fourth of July on the Deck

Whenever we are designing an outdoor living space for a client, we always ask how they intend to use the space. Many of our clients are sure to be using their deck, porch, patio, or other outdoor structure next week to celebrate the Fourth of July. If you are hosting friends and family for the holiday, here are some ideas that may help.

Make sure there is enough seating.
If you want to keep your party outdoors, you need to make sure there is enough seating to accommodate your guests. We often include built-in benches in our deck designs for those clients who entertain a lot. If you don’t have built in seating, most home improvement stores have outdoor chairs that aren’t too expensive or you can just bring some chairs out from around your kitchen table. As long as you remember to bring them in at the end of the night, you’ll be fine.

Think about the traffic flow.
Your outdoor living space may be set up perfectly for its everyday use, but it may need some tweaking to accommodate the flow of traffic for your party. Make sure that your furniture allows for people to move around and go to different part of the space. Consider having the food scattered throughout the space so everyone isn’t always hovering in one area.

Make sure it is safe.
If you have an older deck and you know that there is a good chance a lot of people will be on it at the same time, have it checked for safety. The last thing anyone wants in the middle of a Fourth of July celebration is a deck collapse. Call a professional deck builder and ask them to come out for a deck safety inspection. They will be able to tell you what needs immediate attention and what can wait. Trust us, the peace of mind of knowing your friends and family are safe is worth it.

Now that you know your outdoor space is ready for your party, let’s get to the fun stuff:

Make a festive drink.
Who doesn’t love a little red, white and blue on the Fourth? Here’s a yummy and easy Sangria that screams Independence Day. Cut up strawberries and star fruit and place in a pitcher. Add blueberries and a bottle of white wine. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours and enjoy!

Get the grill going.
If you aren’t in the mood for hamburgers and hotdogs but want something quick and delicious, flank steak is a great option. It doesn’t take a lot of cooking time and you can’t go wrong with this marinade: 1/2c dry red wine, 1/2c soy sauce, 1/4c olive oil, 4 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed), 1/4c parsley (chopped) and ½tsp black pepper (more if you like). Mix it all together and place in a container with the flank steak and refrigerate it overnight (or at least 10 hours). Your guests will love it.

Don’t forget dessert.
If you or your guests are anything like me, dinner doesn’t feel complete without a little something sweet. Entertaining can be tiring, so make dessert simple. Last year, I was served a Fourth of July kebab for dessert that was delicious. Get some kebab skewers and skewer on some marshmallows, strawberries, blueberries, and brownie or devils food pieces. It’s yummy and patriotic!

From all of us at Archadeck Outdoor Living, have a happy and safe Independence Day!

Building a Deck at Archadeck Corporate Headquarters

It’s been a few weeks since we updated you on the progress of our deck and patio installation at the Archadeck Outdoor Living headquarters, and there has been a lot done! We have a fully installed and functional outdoor kitchen and the large deck is in progress.

We didn’t show you in the last picture, but there is a smaller patio that is set down beyond the deck. It was installed at the same time as the rest of the Belgard paver patio and retaining walls. We designed the space with this extra patio for our outdoor kitchen as it could be a little removed from everything else. Our team of designers kept the layout of the kitchen simple, with a large grill (yes, we already broke it in) and some counter and storage space. The kitchen was finished with a natural stone to complement the Belgard patio pavers, but we chose a dark black countertop to dress it up a bit.

Once the patio and outdoor kitchen were complete, the Archadeck team of deck builders was hard at work on this 900 square foot composite deck. The footings were dug prior to the patio going down, but the deck frame took a few days to complete before the county inspected it. The frame was built using a pressure treated wood and you can see that each beam and joist were securely put in place with large bolts as no deck can be safely built with only nails (that’s a deck collapse waiting to happen).

After the county inspector came on site and passed the deck frame, we began laying our deck boards. For the decking material, we chose a TimberTech composite from their Evolution line. As we hope to get a lot of use out of the deck, including hosting corporate events, we needed something that would stand up against scratches and wear and tear, which TimberTech does.

You notice in the picture of the decking going down that you don’t see a lot of nails, and that’s because there aren’t any. These decking boards have hidden fasteners that lock everything in place without the need for nails, which helps create a clean look.

While building the deck, we also constructed the stairs leading down to the outdoor kitchen and small patio. The framing of the stairs were inspected at the same time as the deck and the decking began shortly after.

Unfortunately, as with many outdoor builds, Mother Nature hasn’t been too cooperative and has put us a little bit behind. The team is finishing the decking and then will begin on the railings. The railings will be white vinyl from TimberTech that will border the entire deck for safety and code purposes.

If you have questions about designing custom decks, porches, patios, sunrooms or some combination thereof, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Third Place Dream Backyard Makeover Winner Receives New Lighting Package

It’s been nearly a month since the winners of the Dream Backyard Contest wrapped up. While the first and second place winners are currently having their new outdoor structures designed by the respective Archadeck Outdoor Living offices, the third place winner is already enjoying his prize: an outdoor lighting system from Outdoor Lighting Perspectives.

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives is our sister company who designs and installs residential, commercial and holiday outdoor lighting. They were gracious enough to offer up an outdoor lighting system (a $3,000 value!) to our third place winner. Our third place winner, William Jakes, is located in the Columbia, South Carolina area and had an unfortunate experience when trying to update his backyard:

“We hired a contractor to rebuild our deck and he did about half the work and abandoned the work site. After inspection, we found out that nothing was to code and he did not have a contractor’s license. This was part of our retirement savings and now we will have to wait until we can save up the money to have the deck torn down and rebuilt.”

William’s story is all too familiar and something we heard over and over again the contest submissions, people left stranded by deck contractors mid-way through a job to find out that they weren’t a reputable company. We were thrilled to award the Jakes family with a lighting system to enhance their home and sent Kenny Kaufman of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Columbia to the house to design and install a system. Understandingly, William decided to have the system installed in his front yard as opposed to his backyard (he didn’t want to install lighting on a space that doesn’t get any use right now due to unsafe conditions).

The Outdoor Lighting Perspectives team installed architectural and landscape lighting around the front of the home. The house itself had some interesting textures with its siding that Kenny wanted to highlight using well lights that shine up on the house. Column lighting was added to the porch columns to accentuate the covered porch structure and to allow some additional lighting on the porch as well. In front of the porch, there is a paver patio that didn’t have adequate lighting for family and friends. Copper path lights were installed in the surrounding planters to light the patio.

It not only looks great, but William and his wife are thrilled with the results. Here’s an email we received from him last week…

“I cannot express the excitement we had in winning 3rd place in a national contest. It was fantastic and the lighting is unbelievable. Since it was installed, we have stayed up at night to watch the lights. It really showcases our house. Also, I want to that your company and Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Columbia, especially Kenny Kaufman. They were very professional and have restored my faith in having work done on our house. I just wish there were more professional companies with your work ethic.”

We are so happy that the Jakes are happy with their lighting system and can’t wait to see the next steps for the grand prize winners as well as the second place winners. Our Archadeck Outdoor Living owners are currently designing the winners’ new backyards and then permitting and building will begin!

If you have questions on how to enhance your outdoor living space, please reach out to your local Archadeck office. Whether it’s a deck, porch, patio, pergola or other structure, our locations are trained to design and build custom projects that fit your property, tastes, needs and budget.

Patio Design Installed at Archadeck Office

In this next installment chronicling the new deck and patio combination project at the Archadeck headquarters, I’m happy to announce that we can check the hardscape installation off as complete! Our beautiful walkway, large patio, fireplace and retaining walls were finished yesterday and it looks great!

Prepping the ground to lay pavers is a time-consuming process. As we’ve covered in previous posts, the ground first had to be leveled out so that the entire space is even. Once the ground was leveled and the footings for the retaining wall were complete, a layer of base stone is packed on the ground and then a layer of sand. Grading, base stone and sand ensures that the paver patio is level and will stay that way.

In our case, the majority of our pavers are from Belgard Hardscapes’ Dublin Cobble line. The pavers are very classic but have subtle variations of color that add visual interest. Because the building itself is brick, as is our main entrance walkway, we needed to incorporate another paver design so that nothing looked like an afterthought. Had we done the smaller walkway in Dublin Cobble, it wouldn’t have flowed as nicely. Instead we used a classic brick look lined with the Dublin Cobble. It really marries the two areas and finishes nicely.

Once all the pavers are set in place, polymeric sand is brush across its surface, filing the cracks between each paver. Polymeric sand is the best way to lock the patio in place. The sand, while dry, is just like any other sand, working its way into all the small spaces between pavers, but when it gets wet, it hardens and locks in place like cement. Without the sand, the pavers could become loose.

While prepare to lay patio pavers can be time consuming, laying them down doesn’t take too long, unlike building retaining walls. I am lucky enough to have a window that I can see the process and progress on our patio and deck installation. It was very interesting to watch the installation of the retaining walls as opposed to the patio. The team carefully checked the level frequently while building, making sure everything was even throughout. Those repeated checks definitely made it take longer, but it is an important step that shouldn’t be overlooked if you want a sturdy and secure retaining wall.

The next step in the build process is the deck. Our team of deck builders will be on site tomorrow to get started. The large deck will be built with TimberTech decking and will abut the patio and retaining walls (the walls will also act as built-in seating for the space). The deck footings were dug at the same time as the patio footings so that we could have them all inspected at once.

Just to recap, here is what we started with….

And now…

It has been really fun for our entire team at Archadeck Outdoor Living to watch the entire design and build process. We’ll keep you posted on the next step!

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