Mulch and gravel play an important role in garden and landscaping projects. Think of them as the icing on the cake that is your property: a pleasant finishing touch.
Today we’re going to look at the some of the pros and cons of the two landscaping materials to help you decide which is better for your home.
For our purposes, “mulch” is a catch-all term that refers to a gardening material that’s typically made from wood. It’s used to add visual appeal, but also to improve the health of your soil.
Benefits of mulch:
- It’s easy to install and inexpensive, and soft and easy to walk on.
- Mulch made from wood/tree bark adds organic matter to your soil as it breaks down.
- Mulch retains moisture in your soil, so you’ll need to water less regularly.
- It has a dark color that contrasts well with the green of your lawn and other plants.
- With mulch, there’s no need for you to install an edging material or weed barrier.
In July of 2013, we wrote an article regarding the proper installation of polymeric sand. That article is reprinted below with minor updates. However, a major change is occurring in 2016. Major polymeric sand manufacturers have revised their formulas to reduce the risk of polymeric haze. Products with this new composition will begin to appear this spring and should be widely available by summer.
Nothing has changed in the proper installation and maintenance, the new formula simply reduces the probability of residual hazing and clean up.
Polymeric sand is used to fill joints between pavers, including concrete pavers, stone pavers and brick pavers. The fine sand is combined with additives, usually silica, and forms a binding agent after it’s mixed with water.
Using polymeric sand instead of plain sand has many benefits including:
- Prevents Washouts
- Offers Different Colors
- Improves Durability
- Prevents Weeds
Stone veneer introduces a special beauty as an element of outdoor design. In spite of the exceptional contribution that veneer can make to a patio or garden wall, the complexities and cost frequently eliminate this choice as a viable option. Over the last few years, manufacturers have introduced a variety of new products to present alternatives to the originally rough textured walls without incurring the costs of masonry veneered walls. Some of these options are quite compelling, while others have not found as much market acceptance.
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.
Bluestone 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.
Natural 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.
This article is a guest post, courtesy of Apex Waterproofing Inc. in Arlington, Virginia.
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.
As 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 PA 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
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.
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.
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 in Bucks County PA. 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.
Bucks County Pavers
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.
The 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