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Fire pit or Fireplace?

When it comes times to renovate the backyard patio, many homeowners ask themselves the same question. “Should I get an outdoor fireplace or a fire pit?” The answer ultimately depends on the purpose of your outdoor heating element, your budget, and the climatic conditions of your geographic region.

Whichever side you identify with, there is no right or wrong choice when deciding on an outdoor fireplace or an outdoor fire pit. Both of these structures provide a visual focal point that adds warmth and lighting to your backyard. They maximize your property by allowing you to enjoy the backyard all year round. At the same time, you’re boosting your home value by adding a desirable amenity that is attractive and equally functional. Create the perfect outdoor living space while putting money back into your own pocket.

The outdoor fireplace offers a romantic ambiance that is second to none. These structures are used to anchor spaces such as the outdoor living room or dining area. In the same light, outdoor fireplaces are typically more limited in terms of seating capacity. This means more exclusive and intimate groups. For this reason, they are often favored by women who enjoy the fairy tale evening straight out of romantic novel.

While the outdoor fireplace is designed for smaller groups of people, it does take up considerably more space than an outdoor fire pit. This can be a problem if you have a small backyard. Building a masonry fireplace made out of brick or stone will likely cost anywhere from $4000-$20,000. You may also need to obtain permits or building inspections depending on your municipalities building codes. If any of these instances are a problem, you can check out some additional options in the final section of this article.

In general, it’s advisable to use gas on a fireplace because the smoke produced by a wood-burning fireplace can be unpredictable when coupled with the wind. Gas fireplaces are ideal for those who live in dry areas that often have “no-burn” weather warnings. Likewise, you can also opt for gel fireplaces that offer a real flame without any smoke or exhaust emissions. These units can be installed and set up in a matter of minutes.

Gas fireplaces can be more pleasant in lieu of fancy, upscale hosting parties whereas fire pits give off more of an outdoorsy feel. This may be perfect for older couples who have the home to themselves and like to enjoy the company of their lifelong partner.

The outdoor fire pit can serve as a social ice breaker. It can easily become the central gathering point for a large group of people. Its circular nature is engaging because people are organized in a seating arrangement allows them to face one another. This helps to facilitate on-going conversations.

Outdoor Fire pits are usually smaller in size which means you’ll have plenty of room in the backyard for an outdoor kitchen, dining area, etc. The low profile of a fire pit can also preserve the scenic overlooking views that your home provides.

Natural wood burning fire pits are reminiscent of camping out in the wilderness and bon fires on the beach. There is more of a connectedness with nature and an escape from man-made structures that can be good for a change. The outdoor fire pit is the classic story-telling setting. Of course, who owns a fire pit and has never roasted marshmallows. It’s kind of an oxymoron!

Depending on the size of your fire pit, the price can range anywhere from $2,000-$5,000. This is a far cry from the cost to have a mason build an outdoor fireplace for your home. If you’re the handy type, you can even learn how to build your own outdoor fire pit for under $500! It’s important to keep in mind, fire pits don’t always have to be circular. You can always customize them with your own unique shape and sense of style.

Additional Options

There are other ways that you can incorporate a lively fire feature into the décor of your patio. For heating purposes, the outdoor patio heater can prove to be a very feasible option. These are what you find yourself huddling around at upscale outdoor venues.

Fire glass is a trendy fire feature that gives the appearance of fire burning on ice. If you haven’t seen it before, you might want to take a look! These small gel fireplaces use clean-burning ethanol fuel to provide a real flame. You can find small tabletop gel fireplaces or large free-standing units to add a modern flare to your outdoor living space.

Portable Fireplace carries a range indoor and outdoor heating solutions. Save yourself thousands of dollars with a pre-built outdoor heater and still enjoy the ambiance of an outdoor fire feature.

When Is The Best Time To Plant Grass Seed?

Grass seed can be planted in the spring and fall with good results. If you are planning a spring planting of grass seed, do not apply weed control products to the grass. Delay the weed control application until the grass seed has germinated and you have mowed the grass at least 3 times.

For a fall planting of grass seed, follow the same weed control precautions and time the seed planting to allow the grass seed to fully germinate before freezing temperatures arrive in your region.

5 Benefits that Water Features Provide to Your Landscaping

Have you ever considered adding a water feature to your landscaping? Water features add sound, texture, and movement to landscaping designs and help homeowners to feel that their surroundings are more natural and unique.

Landscaping water elements are eye-catching, but they’re more than that. A functional and eye-pleasing landscape consists of several different elements working harmoniously together. One landscaping element that greatly contributes to the overall beauty of a design is water. Including water features in your landscaping provides some unexpected benefits.


1. They bring the sounds of nature to your doorstep. You work long hours, and it’s not often possible to get away from it all and enjoy nature’s soothing sounds. In this case, bring nature to you. With today’s technology and a clever plan designed just for your property, the soothing sounds of nature can be just outside your doorstep.

Imagine coming home from work, dropping your papers at the door, and wandering around to the patio table next to your water feature. The stressful day can melt away as you listen to the cascading water washing away your workday cares. But the sounds of nature aren’t the only benefit of your water feature.


2. They will attract natural wildlife and enhance your local ecosystem. As soon as your water feature is installed, you’ll begin to notice an increase in wildlife on your property. Birds will visit, and dragonflies will dart around. Instead of a barren span of horizontal land, your yard will become a haven for beneficial wildlife. Inviting wildlife onto your property provides endless hours of entertainment and educational opportunities for you and your family.

All living creatures need water to survive, so you’ll be supporting life in your little corner of the world. The plants you include in your landscaping plan, along with your water features, bring your property into harmony with the habitat around you.


3. They can be adapted to fit smaller spaces. Don’t automatically dismiss the idea of including water features in your landscaping design just because you have a small yard. Well-designed pondless water elements don’t require much space, so you can still enjoy the sound of water and the increased wildlife without taking up much of your precious land. A water feature can be tucked into an area of your property that previously seemed a waste of space. Often, awkward spaces are the best places to put small water features; you can turn an ill-used area into a beautiful focal point.


4. They require very little maintenance. Unlike swimming pools, which require vigilant monitoring, pondless water features can supply you with texture, natural sounds, and visual interest without much effort at all.

Simple wall fountains, huge cascading waterfalls, and other pondless water features are great choices if you don’t want to deal with much maintenance. The water in these features essentially re-circulates, so they don’t use much water and or grow much bacteria. Pondless water features are also great for families with young children because they don’t pose safety risks.


5. They give you an opportunity to make your landscaping one-of-a-kind. When you design a water feature for your yard, you get a chance to make your home truly unique. Everything about your water feature can be specially designed for your space. For instance, rocks can be hand carved to create beautiful flowing water elements and falls.

Best Landscape Projects For Winter

When undertaking a winter landscaping project, think about what you’ll want to use the most when the weather turns nice. That’s why it’s best to focus on landscaping projects like:

Fire pits & outdoor fireplaces – While it’s usually too cold to use these in the winter, they’re perfect for the springtime. Installing an outdoor fireplace or fire pit right will lead to lots of fun in the springtime!

Pool decks – You’re obviously not using your pool in the winter—why not install a new pool deck now so your space is perfect for your summer get-togethers? The experts at Four Seasons can get your pool deck looking amazing by the time you open your pool up for the season.

Outdoor kitchen – Nothing is more fun than a summer cookout. With an outdoor kitchen, you can take these to the next level! Enjoy spending time with your friends and family with a fully functional outdoor kitchen for the ultimate entertainment space.

However, it’s important to preserve the landscaping you currently have. Replacing plants and softscaping in the winter is hard work—so it’s best to try to protect it! Here are some chores you should do to make sure your current landscaping survives the colder months:

Prune your plants. Fall is a good time to prune plants, add new plants, and freshen up your mulch. Typical pruning at this time of year involves cutting back perennials that are done blooming for the season as well as summer growth from evergreen shrubs.

Prepare your plants for snow. Many have learned the hard way the impact a heavy snow season can have on the health of plants. Damage from the sheer weight of the snow can physically crush plants as it either piles up on them or falls off overhead roofs. You can avoid this by tying the plants up with simple string. However, if a heavy snow storm is being called for, tying a piece of string around it to keep the plant from splitting due to the weight of the snow only works one or two days before a storm. It is not recommended to leave them like this for the entire winter season.

Feed your lawn. Fall is also a great time to feed your lawn. A few healthy feedings at this time of year can make a huge difference in the springtime. It establishes a strong root system for the grass, developing a fuller lawn in the springtime.


4 Vacation Retreats In Your Own Backyard

1. Decks: Outdoor Living

Decks have become an extremely popular, low-cost way to add living space to a home. They not only make it convenient to enjoy sitting outside day or night, they also open up the home and facilitate entertaining and outdoor dining.

Outdoor rooms are becoming very popular, in fact, and not just in warm weather climates. Homeowners are remodeling their decks and patios into small- and full-scale outdoor kitchens, dining and entertaining areas

Even with a small budget you can create an enjoyable outdoor room for dining and entertaining. There are three basics to any outdoor kitchen: grilling area, food prep area and sink and, of course, dining area. Unless you have an extravagant budget to work with, the grill is a good basis for most outdoor kitchens.

But, before you can even begin cooking you will want to have a food preparation area. For many homeowners, a simple counter space will suffice for this. Another basic necessity for food preparation is an outdoor sink.

Perhaps the most important aspect of your outdoor kitchen is the dining area. Be sure to choose a location on your deck that is comfortable. If you’re eating during the daytime you’re not going to want the sun beating down on you or your food. A tabletop umbrella, a pergola, or even large trees will do the trick.


2. Patios: Low-Maintenance Retreat

If you don’t enjoy working on your landscaping and yard work, a small, low-maintenance patio is a good solution for you.

Small doesn’t have to mean dull and uninteresting. A well-designed patio, no matter how small, can be a fun escape from indoors. Use this link to install a patio.

The choice of materials for your patio is based on personal taste. Many people like the classic look of brick, which is durable, easy to install and available in many colors. Patio pavers are also inexpensive and easy to install. They are available in many shapes and sizes and are long lasting and durable. A third option is flagstone. Available in many shapes and colors, flagstone can be pre-cut for standard sizes or custom shapes.

If you would like to have box gardens or a small patch of grass on your patio, plan to have them in the areas that receive consistent amounts of sunlight.

A fountain or small waterfall will add a luxurious and exotic feel to your patio. Running water helps obscure outside noises and creates a relaxing atmosphere, especially if you are in an urban area.

There is nothing as pleasant as enjoying a meal on your patio. Design an area large enough for a table and a few chairs. If you are very limited on space, built-in planters with wide borders offer a place to sit for buffets and casual gatherings.


3. Landscape: Your Personal Garden Escape

There are numerous traditional landscaping and garden styles which you can model your own after. Or, you can be creative and incorporate elements from different styles to create a look of your own design. One of the most important things in landscape design, however, is to work with what you have.

English Garden Style: Utilizes many shrubs and perennials in a design that complements the architectural style of your home. Other decorative elements might include an arbor or bird bath.

Oriental Landscape: Uses water, rocks and evergreens with a variety of plants to create distinctive perspectives. Also popular is the traditional Japanese Zen garden.

Woodland Landscape: Reflects the natural way that fauna grows in a wooded area, this design has a less manicured appearance. A good choice if you do not wish to spend a lot of time on maintenance.

Butterfly Gardens: Butterfly or bird species common to your area make a welcome addition to many gardens. Certain species of plants provide a food source and are useful for attracting these flying friends.

Xeriscape Gardens: Includes lots of low-water plants and flowers, as well as design ideas to reduce water evaporation.

Remember, you will spend a lot more time in your yard if you have a landscape design that you are happy with.


4. Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs: Soak Away Stress

Why should you only enjoy a swimming pool or hot tub while you’re on vacation? If you install your own, every day can be a vacation. A swimming pool can provide hours of relaxation and fun.

Swimming pools come in a variety of different materials, some requiring more maintenance than others. No matter which type fits your liking, use this link to get your own swimming pool.

The slick surface of fiberglass pools repels algae, but it will need occasional re-coating.

Concrete pools can take more wear and tear than other pool materials, however they need to be replaced or resurfaced every 7 to 10 years.

Tile is a concrete pool with a tile finish instead of a plaster finish. The tile surface requires less surface maintenance than other surfaces.

Vinyl-lined pools have a slick surface that, like fiberglass, repels algae. It’s easier to maintain the chemical balance in vinyl pools, but they need to be replaced about every 10 years.

Hot tubs also serve as the ultimate personal retreat. The tub’s therapeutic waters are ideal for stress relief and relaxation, alleviating the aches and pains of everyday demands in the privacy of your own home. Hot Tubs are direct paths to relaxing evenings.


Read more: http://www.homeadvisor.com/article.show.4-Vacation-Retreats-in-Your-Own-Backyard.12238.html#ixzz3TLDqiD9N

Outdoor Living Spaces..What is it?

The exterior of a home has now become an expansion of the interior living spaces. Design ideas are endless with the availability of many different exterior building materials such as; Brick Pavers, Cultured Stone, Natural Stone, Blue Stone, Travertine and many other collections. With the interior of a home having various rooms used for specific times and purposes, the exterior of a home is now being designed very similar.

The most common spaces are noted below

Outdoor Kitchen Area- Compromised of a built in grill, refrigerator, sink, ice maker.

Outdoor Bars- Long islands at a the typical bar height and over hang with granite and natural stone tops.

Dining area- Many times a lower level of the patio where a 5-10 person table is placed for eating. Fire Place or Fire Pit: A secluded area with a gorgeous stone fireplace or fire pit. Both natural gas and wood burning options used.Pool Space: A built in gunite or liner swimming pool with a surrounding pool patio space for lounging and at times additional dining area.

Pool House: For larger homes and back yards clients are now building separate pool houses which include a secondary outdoor kitchen, sitting space with an outside plasma TV. Most importantly an exterior shower and bathroom to keep guest from entering the house. With all of these of elements designed into a single backyard you will have the ultimate Outdoor Living Space.:)

Outdoor Living Needs & Ideas

The term “hardscape” means outdoor landscaping other than plants or other greenery. It is becoming increasingly more popular among homeowners, as evidenced by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry ranking outdoor living areas at No. 4 on the list of top remodeling trends.

The following is a list of five hardscape projects that homeowners are using to spruce up their backyards.

1. Retaining walls

Retaining walls were originally used for simply holding back earth, but they have evolved from merely a functional item to one that can be a centerpiece of a home beautification project. Stunning retaining walls can be a great component of a home landscape.

2. Walkways and water features

Steps and walkways not only serve a utilitarian purpose, they can add a very nice aesthetic touch to your outdoor living area as well.

3. Backyard patio

Done correctly, a backyard patio will not only improve the appearance of your home, it will make it look larger as well. A patio can be other attached to a house or detached from it, and can be constructed in a variety of shapes.

4. Sitting bench

Benches give you a way to have a seat and appreciate the tranquility of your outdoor living area.Picture Perfect Landscaping gives artisans the flexibility of building a bench in nearly any shape imaginable, so homeowners can have them custom made for a truly unique look.

5. Waterfalls and other backyard water features

Waterfalls add to the serenity of an outdoor living area, as do other water features. They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, depending on the type of landscape on which they are constructed. Ponds are another popular water feature, and they normally are stocked with various forms of aquatic life, including both fish and plants.

6.) Outdoor kitchens and bars are 1 of the most exciting factors to any outdoor space. Picture Perfect Landscaping & Outdoor Costruction carry a full line of Outdoor Grill & Accesory Equipment as well as beautiful high end patio furniture . A one stop shop all under 1 roof.

All of these and more hardscape projects can be made quickly and inexpensively thanks to the Picture Perfect Landscaping Team. Call us at (855) 4PPLScapes  and we’ll tell you how we can build the backyard living area of your dreams.

Cost Of Installing Pavers

OK, so everyone asks, “How much does it cost per square foot to install pavers?” Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Oh sure, we can do calculations all day long to figure out that last week we installed a 430 sf patio for Mrs. Jones for $6,785.00, and yes, with some quick math, we know that it was installed for $15.78 per square foot. But we also know that we installed a walkway last week for the Smiths, who live next door to Mrs. Jones, and it was closer to $26.00 per square foot? So what gives? Why the difference? And what goes into the pricing for each job?

Here’s the catch… no one prices strictly by the square foot anymore – or at least, no one should be pricing that way. It does not make good business sense. All of the industry leaders say that the best practice is to price out each job individually and to not lump every job into a general price bracket. Here’s why… Every job is different. Simple, right? Let’s take a look.

Mrs. Jones’s patio was in the back yard. It was fairly accessible for our trucks and machinery to get in and move around. The soils had decent drainage and stability. There was nothing there that needed to come out first – other than grass and dirt. The paver Mrs. Jones chose was a traditional 4 by 8 brick shape that she wanted laid in a herringbone pattern.

Next door, the Smiths just had a new driveway installed and the walkway connected it to the front door. We couldn’t drive on the new asphalt, so we came in from the road across the front yard. Oh, and by the way, the septic tank is in the front yard so we couldn’t bring our truck in. Everything had to be moved in or out of the walkway area by skid steer or wheel barrow. The soils here were the same as at the Jones house, and we laid the same paver in a running bond pattern.

So what are the factors that we see as important to each project? The main ones are as follows:

1.Project Type – is it a large area where we can be very efficient with our materials and crews or is it a smaller project with a lot of intricate detail?

2.Existing Conditions/Structures – is there concrete to remove or just a few a shrubs?

3.Soil Conditions – clay soils? well draining sandy soils?

4.Excavation Depth – is the project a driveway or a walkway?

5.Site Access – can we get in with a truck and machines?

6.Site Dump – can we leave excavated materials on site or do we have to haul it away?

7.Paver Choice and Pattern – was a basic paver and pattern chosen or is there an upgrade?

Choosing a Contractor

1. Know what features are important to you

As we all know, patios have drastically changed in dynamics. The days of plain old flat concrete rectangles that you put a picnic table on are pretty much gone. We now live in an era of ‘Outdoor Living’ where our outdoor spaces are simply an addition of our homes. So when you think of a patio in your back yard, what do you think of? Is it a cozy nook with a fire place, an area where friends and family can gather ’round while you grill up those juicy steaks, or is it the soothing sounds of falling water? What are those features that you are thinking… “Now that would be really nice to have”? All of those ideas are going to be important to the contractor who is attempting to interpret your thoughts and feelings.


2. Know your Budget

If you are planning to finance any portion of the project, I recommend that you get that in order before you begin the planning phase. That way you have a number in mind that you can work with. This will save you a bundle of time as you work through the design process. If you give a designer your wish list that should cost over $60K and you only have $7K to spend, you’re not only wasting your time, but theirs as well. Don’t be afraid to tell them the amount you want to spend. Sharing your budget is vital to customizing your design. Also, don’t be afraid to ask them how they price out a project.


3. Know your Contractor

What is the most important thing to you about the contractor that you plan to hire? Price, quality, craftsmanship warranty? Are they licensed and insured? How about certified and trained in their particular industry? Do they have experience building the type and size of project you have in mind? Can they be reached whenever you have questions, or do you have to wait until they have time for you? How would you like the crew to look when they come to your home? Do you prefer a group of ragamuffins, or nicely dressed professionals in uniforms so that when your friends and neighbors stop in to see the progress, you’re not ashamed to have them around?


4. Know that a patio requires maintenance

Patios and outdoor spaces are fabulous additions to any home. I know that this point may seem a little silly because you really want that patio right? However, as with any portion of your home, there is upkeep and maintenance involved. This is extremely minor compared to many areas of your indoor home, but you need to understand that these spaces are ‘low-maintenance’ not ‘NO-maintenance’.


5. Be aware of the installation process

There are probably a number of you who ask yourself ‘why is this so important’? Reality is that installation is the most critical portion of the project. You could choose the most elaborate and sophisticated design with all the bells and whistles, but if it’s not installed properly, IT WILL FAIL. This element could be the deciding factor in the contractor that you choose so please do your homework. Nobody wants to see a project, that you paid hard earned money for, falling apart in a couple of years…Nobody.


6. Choosing the right contractor

So you’ve made the decision that this is the year that you’re going to invest in that new patio, outdoor kitchen, landscape lighting system, outdoor fireplace, etc. You’ve maybe even decided where the new feature is going to be located. Now you have to choose a contractor… You’ve done a little research, Angie’s List, Google, Better Business Bureau, Service Magic or wherever you choose, but what sets one contractor apart from another?


The biggest thing you want to accomplish is to have your contractor earn your trust. Trust is a very fragile thing in that it is not very easily earned, yet very easily lost. There are really two traits that a contractor should show while earning your trust.


1. Character – qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity, reputation. (Reference from Dictionary.com)


2. Credibility – Do they know what they’re talking about?

I have compiled a list of questions that I think every homeowner should ask any contractor before they ‘sign on the dotted line’. Remember it’s your hard earned money that you’re spending. Mistakes can be very costly!


1. How many patios have you installed?

Is this their first rodeo or have they been at this a while?


2. Do they have a physical place of business?

Is there a place you can stop in during regular business hours for questions you may have, or to take a look at a product sample? Is there a live person at the end of the phone line when you have a question or concern, or do you just get a voicemail? Are they operating out of their basement where they could potentially disappear in a matter of weeks or days?


3. Do they own their own equipment?

Again a good indicator that they are an established company and are going to be there when you need them again.


4. Do they rely heavily on sub-contractors?

Even the best of companies somewhat rely on expertise that they do not personally possess. However, the biggest question is: what percentage of the work subbed out, and how personally is the contractor involved with the supervision and process as a whole?


5. Do they understand your ideas?

This is a great time to collaborate on ideas. You have had time to think and re-think your project, and this is quite possibly the first time your contractor has laid eyes on it. Ask him or her if they have any thoughts or other ideas. Are they creative? Do they see your points of view? Do they understand your needs and wants? If not, you may be just wasting your time and want to keep looking.


6. Are they licensed and insured?

What happens if they’re not? You don’t want to know. Just make sure that you have a really good homeowner’s policy.


7. Do they stand behind their work?

We have a little catch phrase in our industry that always amuses me when I hear it, but in reality, it’s not amusing at all. It’s called the ‘tail light guarantee’. Basically your project is warrantied until you see the last of their tail lights heading down the road. What may sound like a humorous pun could turn out to be your worst nightmare. Do your research. Be Careful!


8. Go with your gut!

How many times have you gotten to the end (or in the middle) of a project and said: Man, I really wish I had gone with my gut on this one. You were given intuition for a reason, use it. Remember, there are a lot of really great contractors out there. Your job is to find them.

No contractor is perfect, we all make mistakes – it is how each one handles those mistakes that set them apart from the rest of the competition that makes the difference.