Blog January 2014

Thinking about a new outdoor living space? Not sure where to start?

With all of these cold temperatures, I am counting down the days until the weather turns and starts to warm up again. I can’t wait to sit outside, relax and enjoy some time outdoors without a freezing face. If you are considering building a new outdoor living space, now is the time to start planning. Here are some things to consider that will help when it comes time to talk to a patio and deck builder.

How do you intend to use the space? Gone are the days of a one design fits all attitude to outdoor living. Say good-bye to the square deck or patio and hello to a custom space built for you and your goals in mind. Take some time to think about how you plan to use your new patio, deck, porch or combination there of. Is it an oasis for you to curl up with a book? Do you need space for grilling, dining and entertaining? With a clear idea of its use, your patio and deck designer can create something that will fit those goals.

What time of the year will the project be used? Spring and summer is the easy answer to the question, but outdoor living spaces can be used all year if it is designed correctly. If you live in the south, for example, it may entail building an outdoor fireplace or firepit, while you may need a sunroom if you live in New England.

Why type of structure or structures do you want? The first two questions definitely play a roll in deciding whether you want a porch, patio, deck, sunroom, outdoor kitchen, etc. You’ll also have to keep your property in mind. If you have a large slope off the back of your home, a deck may be a better choice than a patio for example. If you aren’t sure what is right for your goals, talk to your contractor about the best options for you. They will keep your goals and budget in mind.

At Archadeck Outdoor Living, the best project designs are often collaborations between the homeowner and us. To help guide those conversations, we created the Archadeck Design Guide a few years ago. This free download will get you thinking about what you want in your backyard right now and what you may want in the future. It will ask you questions about your goals, your property and your tastes. The guide is a great place to start if you are thinking about building a new outdoor living space.

If you have any questions on outdoor living considerations and options, please visit Archadeck.com or contact your local Archadeck office. Our trained designers and contractors are happy to help you in any way.

Building a patio – so much more than you see

Working at Archadeck Outdoor Living, I’ve seen some beautiful patios, walkways, outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces and other hardscaped areas over the years that our offices have designed and built. The beauty of the finished product can be misleading however. At its surface, the patio looks gorgeous, but what lies below is what keeps it looking that way in the long run.

Building a patio that will hold its shape and structure is more difficult than the looks of it show.

The first step is to prepare the ground for the patio. This includes grading and digging footings. Grading is the process of leveling the ground. If the ground isn’t properly graded, it will lead to an uneven outdoor living space. Grading may include removing or adding more dirt to the space and packing it down until it is firm and even.


If the patio is a simple patio, footings may not be required while preparing for the build, but if you are adding something with extra weight, like an outdoor kitchen or outdoor fireplace, footings need to be created. Footings are essentially bases for extra large structures. For this example, let’s use an outdoor fireplace. Due to its weight, it needs more support from below. A large hole is dug underneath where the fireplace will ultimately sit. That hole is filled with concrete that, when hard, will be able to hold up the outdoor fireplace for years to come.

After the footings are dug and the ground is leveled, the layers begin. The first layer that is placed on the ground is called base stone. Base stone is key to keeping the patio level over time and seasonal changes. Once the stone is laid in place, it is then impacted down. Like the dirt below it, the base stone will be leveled.

After the base is all set and in place, sand is spread and leveled on top of it. Sand is a helpful as the pavers are placed down on top of it as it helps to keep it all in place before everything is locked in tightly.

Laying pavers can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. It just depends on how intricate you want the design of it to be. At Archadeck, we’ve done some that are simple rows and others with circular or curved patterns.

Once everything is in place, it has to be secured. Along the sides of the patio, there will be an edging materials that digs into the ground. It works as a barrier for the pavers. The most common way to lock your paver patio in place is to use polymeric sand. This sand is spread and swept on the surface of the patio, working it’s way into all the nooks and crannies of the entire space. Then it will be exposed to water. When it gets wet, the sand will harden, similar to concrete.

As you can see, building a patio is much more difficult than simply picking out a stone that you like. At Archadeck, we take great pride in our work and take the time to do it all correctly so you can enjoy the space for years to come.

If you have any questions on designing or building custom patios, please contact your local Archadeck office.

Patio and Deck Design, it’s all about the details

At Archadeck Outdoor Living, our motto is “better building, by design.” Not only is our construction and building top notch, but our patio and deck design in amazing. When it comes to creating something not only functional (although that is goal number one), but also beautiful, sometimes it comes down to the small details of the project.

Our trained designers think beyond the obvious and that’s what makes some of projects as stunning as they are. Here are just a few ideas of finishing details that can make your outdoor living space go from “nice” to “oh, wow.”

Different Decking Patterns – Decking boards are the base of a deck, but they can also be a beautiful design component. Our designers often place the boards in different patterns to define space or to make a deck a little more unique. We may use different color decking boards as well to add visual interest. Take deck for example; the boards were installed at different angles throughout the space. It enhances the space by helping to define each section of the deck.

Utilizing Multiple Materials – This goes along with number one, but outdoor living design isn’t about using one color or material. When designing and installing patios, for instance, we often incorporate different materials into one project either to define or highlight different areas. The gray stone on this patio clearly highlights the step down to the lower portion of the patio. By mixing and matching material the entire space is more aesthetically appealing.

Trimming out a post or a beam. Many decks and patio require a railing to meet building codes and requirements. While they may be necessary, they can also be decorative. Trimming out a beam or a post is adding a decorative detail to make it look nicer.

Sanding rail caps – sometimes the little things make all the difference. Simply sanding down the rail caps and their edges will make everything smoother and cleaner looking. Not to mention you’ll be less likely to get any splinters!

Consider the stairs – stairs are another area for subtle deck design. Whether it’s using different colors for the horizontal and vertical components or placing them at an interesting angle, it all matters. These stairs, for example, are cornered and take up more space, but they create a more open looking entrance to the deck.

The best patio and deck design ideas are often found in the details. Make sure you talk to your deck builder about your style so that he/she can create something that you will love. Please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office if you want to experience our better building, by design.

Gas or Wood Fired, what’s best for your Outdoor Fireplace or Fire Pit

One of the growing trends in outdoor living is fire features. More homeowners are including either an outdoor fireplace or fire pit to their decks, porches and patios to allow them to use the space more often. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, we design both fireplaces and fire pits that work seamlessly with your outdoor structure.

When considering an outdoor fireplace or fire pit, one of the questions that commonly comes up is: should it be gas or wood fired? While some people have strong feelings for or against an option (I can’t blame someone who loves the smell of a wood fire), here are some questions to consider as you make your decision:

Where do you live? Wood burning fireplaces or fire pits aren’t made for all parts of the country. If you live in a dry area of the country, you may not have easy access to firewood, making gas a better option. Conversely, gas is usually a better choice for heavily wooded properties as well. If there isn’t a clear opening above the fire, you’d want the control of a gas fire feature as opposed to wood. Wood fires give off more smoke and embers that shouldn’t go up into branches from trees.

What will be the cost of running it? Wood fire pits and outdoor fireplaces are more cost-effective to have if you have easy access to firewood. If your property abuts a wooded area for instance, you could probably grab wood for the fire for free. Conversely, with gas fires you do have to pay for fuel costs.

Do you need easy control and convenience? This question is especially important if you have any small children that may be around the fire. Gas flames are much easier to control and use. They are easy to turn on, off, up or down. So, if you need to turn it off in a hurry, you can. Additionally, there is no smoke and you don’t have to clean up any ashes. Wood burning fires cannot be easily turned on or off and there is always smoke. You have to watch it more carefully to make sure it isn’t getting too big or hot and from time to time, you will want to clean out any built up ashes.

Are you adding it on to an existing space? At Archadeck, we try to plan for all parts of your outdoor living space (even future additions) when we design a deck, porch, patio, etc. When you plan ahead, the choice of gas or wood can be easier due to gas lines. If you know you want a gas fire pit on your patio in the future, for example, you should have the line put in as you build the patio. If you are adding a fire feature to an existing space and hadn’t planned for it, it may cost more if anything needs to be torn up for a gas line. In that case, a wood burning fire feature may be your best option.

Is the flame important for you? Personally, I love the sound of a crackling fire and I love the smell of wood burning. A gas fireplace can’t give me that. If having the characteristics of a real fire isn’t important to you, however, you’ll be happy with what a gas fire pit or fireplace can provide you.

If you are looking to enhance your outdoor living space with a fire feature, please reach out to your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office. With our knowledge and expertise, we can help you to create a space that you can’t help but love.

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