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Pennsylvania Bluestone Flagstone – Quality & Availability

In 2012, we first wrote about the impact of the Marcellus Shale mining activity on the availability of Pennsylvania Bluestone.  Since that time, as predicted, the issue has become more severe.  The original article with minor updates appears below.  The key factors are the reduction in operating bluestone quarries and cost of labor for those still in operation. The result is increasing prices and decreasing supply.

 


 

Marcellus Shale 264x300 Pennsylvania Bluestone Flagstone   Quality & AvailabilityBluestone is a fascinating and complicated natural stone native to Pennsylvania (for whom the material is named), New Jersey and parts of New York. Bluestone has many options to consider in designing and installing your outdoor living project.  But, if you have decided on the uniquely beautiful bluestone, you must also deal with the issues of quality and availability.

Quality: The primary quality consideration occurs in natural clef flagstone, both pattern and irregular.  Because the appealing unique surface of natural clef flagstone is formed by natural forces, the consistency of that surface is unpredictable.  Some pieces can exhibit huge variation in thickness, dramatic shifts in surface texture, even natural warping creating a bowed rather than flat piece.  Some people find this variation exotic and attractive, some do not.  If you are looking for flagstone with the flattest surface, the least variation in surface and thickness, you are looking for the rarest material.
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The Beauty of Stone Veneer Panels

stone chimney 300x225 The Beauty of Stone Veneer PanelsNatural stone can add elegance and beauty to any space, whether it’s your kitchen, patio or office space.

But it can be an expensive, involving undertaking for some homeowners. If you’re concerned about that level of cost and work, consider working with stone veneer.

Veneer is material that’s thin and flat enough to be mortared into an existing structure. It can be cut with natural stone, or made from a manufactured material meant to simulate stone.

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5 Steps to Repaving After a Structural Repair

This article is a guest post, courtesy of Apex Waterproofing Inc. in Arlington, Virginia.

resizedimage250333 Gaffney Aberdeen 225x300 5 Steps to Repaving After a Structural Repair

Example of a Slab Installation

Home foundation repair is one of the biggest things so few of us are really mindful of. Who thinks about the foundation of their home failing? It’s a little bit like a sinkhole just opening up and swallowing you while you’re walking down the street. We all believe our foundation will be fine … until it’s not.

When an incident happens, the thought can be to just fix your home at whatever cost. Totally ignoring a lingering problem is a bad idea; so is just running around with a spigot full of money to fix problems you may not need to.

There are three important questions you should ask yourself first:

  • Is home foundation repair something that is covered in one of my insurance policies?
  • How deep am I going to need to go in order to ensure that this repair is effective?
  • Is this repair something small enough that I could do it myself?

Of course these and so many more questions are likely swirling around your brain. Don’t fret, though: Here are 5 steps to remember when you’re thinking of repaving and making an earnest structural repair in your home.

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Firepits for Fall

Granite Fire Pit 300x225 Firepits for FallAs the hot summer weather begins to fade, the cooler fall weather comes into play. For some people, this is their favorite holiday. It means the leaves turning colors, hay rides, and sweaters. It also means cooler temperatures, so if you have a yard, patio or deck, you might want to invest in a fire pit for that fall weather. Fire pits come in all sorts of sizes and shapes for your convenience, and they come in a variety of materials and colors as well as heating solutions too in order to fit everyone’s needs. Here are a few of the best fire pits for fall.

Fire Pit Kit

If you are one of those folks that loves to build stuff on your own, a fire pit kit is an excellent choice. Every major hardscaping manufacturer offers a kit in a selection of their most popular colors. Like most kits, these include everything you need to build your own fire pit: decorative building blocks, a screen, and a bowl or liner. Essentially it’s a pretty easy process. The only potentially tricky part is preparing the ground where you want to place the fire pit.. Continue reading

Everything You Need to Know About Pennsylvania Bluestone

croppedimage450450 Cornerstone Travertine Flag 300x300 Everything You Need to Know About Pennsylvania Bluestone

The bluestone border creates a distinctive accent to the soft flowing travertine colors.

Flagstone is a flat sedimentary stone with fissile bedding planes. It is naturally split or cut into layers according to these planes and used for a variety of purposes like patios, fences, roofing, facades, memorials, and walkways. Flagstone is bound together by minerals like calcite, silica, and iron oxide. These internal materials are the cause of flagstone’s beautiful colors, one of which is a stunning blue.

Flagstone History

The word flagstone stems from the Middle English word “flagge” which means turf. In the thirteenth century, Europeans began using flagstone for floors, walls, and ceilings. It was especially popular for the interior rooms of castles. Flagstone floors still exist in Scotland’s Muchalls Castle and England’s Lindisfarne Castle. Today, Chicago’s Portage Park is famous for its expansive flagstone decorations.

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Pavers and Slabs – You have Options

When you are designing or building a surface, whether it is a patio, sidewalk, driveway, or any other surface, there are a myriad of product options available. Products used for these surfaces generally fall into two categories, pavers and slabs. The basic difference between the two categories is the difference in load that they can bear. The relative strength of each option is a result of the product’s thickness and surface area. The larger the size of the product, the thicker it must be to be considered a paver and not a slab. Manufacturing process also plays a role in the relative strength of the finished product. For instance, products made using wet cast manufacturing are inherently weaker and are nearly always considered slabs.

Pavers and slabs may look similar, and most manufacturers offer lines of both pavers and slabs. There are general rules regarding the use of these products. If the surface is designed for pedestrian traffic, such as a patio, sidewalk, pool deck, etc., then either pavers or slabs are suitable. If the surface application needs to carry a heavier (vehicular or commercial pedestrian) load, then pavers must be used.

Pavers

resizedimage250187 Steckel Front Paver Walk Pavers and Slabs – You have Options

Example of a paver

Pavers come in a breathtaking variety of designs, colors, and shapes. They can emulate many other surfaces, including brick, flagstone, cobblestones, and many more. They are made from a variety of materials, such as brick, concrete, and natural stone. Natural pavers are more expensive than the synthetic versions. However, in recent years concrete paver design has evolved in such a way that they can easily and convincingly emulate natural stone.

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How Much Should My Paver Patio Cost? – Guest Post

CKC Pool Deck How Much Should My Paver Patio Cost?   Guest PostThe home remodeling or improvement project that adds the most value to your home, behind only kitchen and bathroom renovations, is creating an inviting and functional hardscaped outdoor living space. If you have done work on your home recently, or if you are budgeting for an upcoming project, chances are you’ve searched the web for average project costs. Quite a few websites offer price ranges, most of which are loosely based on formulas, costs in your region, and average industry labor costs. Some even offer the dreaded “price per square foot” estimate that can leave you with more questions than answers.

When reviewing these websites, I found them to be severely lacking in both the information each provided, and the information each requested. They asked only for my zip code and the square footage (SF) of the patio. That’s it. Based solely on these two questions, I was given estimates ranging from $6 per SF to $15 per SF – not a helpful or informative range. No website asked me for my soil type and none seemed to care about the access to my property and to the project area (maybe they could just carry 50 tons of stone through my 3′ fence gate).

They didn’t specify, so I was left wondering if all paver types and styles cost the same. I also hope the fact that my yard drops 2 feet from one side of the house to the other side will not be a problem. In short, I was left with quite a few questions. Are there any special considerations because I am in a new home? What if I don’t want a square patio? Where will all of the runoff water go? What about adding steps, walls, stone pillars, or a fire feature? Do I need to worry about permits?

The bottom line is that dozens of questions need to be considered when budgeting and planning for your paver patio project. Only a qualified hardscape contractor is equipped to look at all the factors that affect price, functionality, and the feasibility of your dream outdoor oasis. An experienced, accredited contractor builds 50 or more projects like yours annually. He or she will determine what makes your project unique. And what makes your project unique will influence the price – never accept a generic estimate that is drawn up on a “price per square foot” basis. You want a unique project, so demand a unique design and a detailed price. Continue reading

The Uses of Mulch – Guest Post

What is a mulch?

Mulch is a landscaping material that is spread or laid over the surface of the soil to cover it. Its main purpose is to keep the moisture in the soil, prevent the weeds from growing and keep the soil cool; plus an added bonus to keep the garden look pretty. Organic mulches, because they decompose, helps in keeping the soil fertile and saves you from buying fertilizers that can be very expensive.

Type of Mulch

There are two types of mulches:

  • Organic
  • Synthetic

Bulk Hardwood Mulch The Uses of Mulch   Guest Post

Examples of organic mulches are compost, newspaper, composted manure, chipped or shredded bark, shredded leaves and grass clippings, or straw.

Organic mulches decompose through time and needs to be replaced when it does. This type of mulch will help in improving the soil by adding to its organic content. Keep in mind that the drier and the woodier the mulch, the longer decomposition time and the nutrients it provides the soil will be lesser.

Examples of synthetic mulch are landscape fabrics, stones, gravels, and black plastic. They are good for holding moisture in and blocking weeds. The only drawback with inorganic mulches is that they do not provide any nutrients to the soil plus, they don’t require any replacement any time soon. Continue reading

Green Pavers Reduce Runoff

resizedimage250187 Steckel Front Paver Walk Green Pavers Reduce RunoffWith spring on the way, rain is in the air. Rain means runoff, an environmental issue about which homeowners, business owners, and local municipalities are growing ever more concerned. A traditional paver or slab installation has a solid stone base underneath and tightly filled joints. This surface is almost completely impermeable. Because of this, it is graded to force water off the hardscaping area and onto surrounding ground or other permeable structures.

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Fire Pit Kits: Easy and Attractive Outdoor Enhancement

Major manufacturers of hardscaping products, such as EP Henry and Techo-Bloc, first introduced packaged outdoor fire pit kits around 2009. Prior to that, fire features were limited to portable options, such as Chimeneas, and complex custom installations. Since the first fire pit kit was introduced, kits have evolved to offer a variety of colors, textures, fire options and even alternate use options such as water features.

Outdoor fire pits can be built from a wide variety of materials (see our article on fire pit basics for an overview). However, kits are definitely the easiest, fastest, and safest approach. Most outdoor fire pit kits consist of concrete manufactured wall material which assembles in to a circular “pit” and a set of accessories which contain the fire protecting the concrete. The accessories include a screen which can be placed over the dwindling fire to prevent sparks from escaping.

The wall material forming the outdoor fire pit comes in a variety of textures. Each manufacturer tends to select a finish and a set of colors that will match their major sitting wall products making it practical to add a fire pit to an existing patio or to build a sitting wall around an existing outdoor fire pit. The accessory kit usually includes either a bowl or a liner. The bowl option also includes a grate on which to build a fire generally suitable for warmth, ambiance, and perhaps toasting a marshmallow or making a s’more. The liner option shifts the fire down to the bottom of the pit making larger cooking projects possible.

The accessory package is usually at least half of the total cost.  That is because the metal inserts are specially designed to dissipate the heat and protect the pit wall.  The wall / pit may usually be purchased without the insert but in that case the wall must be protected with fire brick and fire mortar or fire clay.  Although not expensive options, fire protection installed in this way can be messy and may detract from the appearance of the fire pit.

Fire pit kits are generally a perfect circle, meaning that once tightly in place, nothing is going to move the wall block.  Consequently, no gluing is necessary.  The insert sits on the top of the pit and can be easily removed.  This presents the opportunity to use the “pit” area for other applications when summer heat does not inspire building a fire. Other outdoor fire pit uses include planting, installing a water feature, and creating a cold drink cooler.