Category Archives: How-To

Guest Blog: 5 Tips to Make Your Outdoor Space More Inviting

When people buy or build their dream house, they usually focus on the interior. However, the exterior should be considered just as important. As you know, first impressions are essential. And this is precisely what the outside of your house offers. Just think about it: this is what your guests first see when they come to visit. Therefore, it’s good to have an inviting front yard. But apart from this, you should also focus on the backyard, where you’ll entertain your family and friends. So, here are five tips to make your outdoor space more inviting.

No. 1 Build a path

Nothing is more welcoming than creating a path that leads to your house. For this, you can use pavers and slabs. These materials come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Therefore, they give you a lot of options. You can opt for a more conventional and uniform path, or you can have fun with it. You can combine various colors and shapes and even make it a bit curvy.

To make your outdoor space more inviting, create paths that lead to your house and the entertainment area.

The same thing applies to your backyard. You can make your outdoor space more inviting by creating a path that leads to the entertainment area. Moreover, if you have a big backyard and a budget, consider creating several paths for your guests to enjoy a relaxing walk. You can even add some stepping stones to change things up a bit.

You can also create a path that goes around your home.

No. 2 Create the perfect atmosphere

If you want your family and friends to feel good in your outdoor space, you must create the perfect atmosphere. And one of the best ways to do this is through lighting. You can use lights for practical reasons, but you can also use them to accentuate certain elements. For example, you can light up the paths to move around easily, but this will also bring out the color and pattern of the path. And you can apply this to any part of the outdoor space: walls, fences, pool, etc.

No. 3 Make your outdoor space more inviting by adding a nice pool area

If you are so lucky to have enough outdoor space to fit a pool, don’t think twice about it. During summers, the pool area will be the main attraction. You can have quiet and relaxing days at the pool with your family or invite some friends over and have pool parties.

In any case, you should pay attention to the pool deck. This is very important because it’s where everyone will spend most of their time. A good option for the pool deck is to use travertine. This natural stone remains cool in the heat, meaning it won’t burn the soles of your feet. Moreover, it’s not slippery when it gets wet. Therefore, it’s highly recommended for the pool area. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors, so it will also look beautiful.

Make your outdoor space more inviting by creating the perfect pool area.

No. 4 Add an outdoor kitchen

Firstly, outdoor kitchens are very practical. You can use them even when you don’t have guests to protect your home from the smell of fried or grilled meals. However, during the warm season, they are great for barbeque parties. Plus, you and your guests can have fun and socialize while you cook.

Since they have a solid structure, bad weather won’t ruin your party. You can build your outdoor kitchen out of wall blocks or ready-made panels. But whichever you choose, don’t forget you also need access to gas, electricity, and water for a functional kitchen.

Now, depending on the size, you can equip it with everything you need: grills, fridges, ice machines, cabinets, and even a wood-fired pizza oven.

No. 5 Create an entertainment area

To make your outdoor space more inviting, you need an entertainment area. This is where your guests will spend most of their time. Therefore, you should think about ways to make them feel cozy.

Add a gazebo

The first thing you need to consider is that the weather is unpredictable. So, you will need a roof over your head if it starts to rain. Not to mention that summers can be scorching, so you will also need some shade. You can achieve this by building a gazebo, for example. The idea is for the area not to be fully enclosed. So, you can build a low wall around it. This will provide support for the roof and also some privacy.

Incorporate seating

The furniture is also essential since you have to seat your guests somewhere. If you build a structure with a roof, you can create an outdoor living room, including everything from couches, pillows, TV, and even a rug. However, to entertain your guests, you will need seating areas in other parts of the backyard as well. So, if there’s no roof, pay attention to the materials of the furnishings. Otherwise, bad weather will cause it to deteriorate faster. Moreover, if you’re concerned that your furniture won’t withstand the winter, you can always place it in a storage unit until next year. Just be mindful when packing and prepare it well for this period.

You can design the entertainment area like an outdoor living room.

Consider including a focal point

Think about creating a fire area. Everyone enjoys sitting around a campfire and telling stories. But since you are not in the middle of the woods, you need something more elegant and practical. A good option is to build a fire pit. It can be made out of numerous materials and in various shapes, so you have many options. The advantage is that the fire pit generates heat, and it also looks incredible.

Final thoughts

Once you buy or build a new house, filling it with family and friends is what makes it feel like home. Therefore, it’s crucial for all your guests to feel welcomed. And since the exterior is what they see first, it’s essential to make it inviting. Plus, this is where you’ll entertain during the warm season. So, use these five tips to make your outdoor space more inviting for yourself and your nearest and dearest.

Author: Mary Aspen Richardson, Professional Copywriter

Creating Senior- and Disabled-Friendly Hardscapes

Senior Woman on Hardscape WalkwayThere comes a time in life where we need to start looking ahead to creating senior- and disabled- friendly hardscapes. Because we are living longer, we are staying in our homes longer. That’s certainly great news, but when you’re thinking of improvement to make your home safe, don’t neglect the outdoor hardscaping.

It is possible to have hardscapes that are beautiful as well as senior-friendly! It takes good planning and communication with your contractor to achieve just this perfect blend of stylish looks and functionality.

Here are a few considerations:

Stable Surface

As we age, we become less sure of ourselves on foot.

Choose hardscape materials that are very steady under the foot. Whether you are looking for a patio or a walkway, this is a must. You don’t want loose or wobbly pavers. Make sure that they are permanently set into a very stable surface. You want to create a surface that won’t cause turns of the ankle or falls.

Additionally, keep in mind to not create trip hazards such as edges that could impair a rolling walker or a wheelchair.

Communicate with your landscape contractor that this project is for a senior citizen. He will be able to guide you on the best materials that he has to assist you with this.

Continue reading

Determining Your Landscaping Supply Budget

Determing Your Landscaping Supply Budget

We’ll Help You Build The Backyard Of Your Dreams

If you’re a new homeowner with a less than inspiring home landscape and a desire to build out the backyard of your dreams, you have a lot of good times to look forward to. But whether you’re planning on tackling your landscaping project with the help of a professional, or whether you plan to go DIY-style and purchase materials from a landscaping supply company, putting together a realistic budget will certainly present you with your first big challenge. Naturally, your budget should represent the costs necessary to complete the sort of landscape you truly want. After all, is there any point in tackling the project now if it won’t result in the sort of yard you long for? Then again, unless you’re independently wealthy, you probably will have to cut out at least a few dream line items here and there, especially when you consider that budget overages are almost a given in our industry. But don’t worry just yet: There’s a right way to put together a landscaping supply budget, and below, we’ve shared with you some of the most important rules of thumb for figuring out the smartest way to plan financially for your home’s new outdoor features.

Continue reading

Installing a Flagstone Walkway in Your Garden

Flowerbeds and flagstone walkwaySpring is just around the corner, and a lot of us are thinking about our gardens.

We’ll leave the question of what to plant or not plant to the horticulturists. We’re concerned more with getting to your garden.

If you’re looking to give your garden a new look this spring, consider installing a flagstone walkway. This might sound like a big undertaking, but this is a project that you can wrap up in one weekend. Here’s what you’ll need to do.

Continue reading

Are You Installing Polymeric Joint Sand Properly?

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.


Hardscaping: Polymeric Sand


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

Continue reading

How Much Should My Paver Patio Cost? – Guest Post

Paver Patio - Hardscaping Materials and Supply CompanyThe 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

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.

Building a Natural Stone Fire Pit

Outdoor Fire Pit Bucks CountyBuilding an outdoor fire pit can create both an attractive and functional addition to your outdoor living environment. Many material options exist. Read our article on fire pit basics for an overview.

Three major natural stone approaches can be considered: Boulders, wall stone, and packaged stone outdoor fire pit kits.

Natural stone provides several advantages:

• Naturally fire-resistant. Natural stone is not combustible and will absorb and dissipate heat naturally. It gets hot, but it will not “pop’”

• Relatively low in material cost. Boulders and wall stone have a wide range of costs but very attractive alternatives exist at the low end of the cost range. A standard pallet of wall stone (3000 pounds) will allow you to build 22 facial square feet of fire pit, e.g., a round fire pit 18” high and 4 ½ – 5 feet across. You would need about 2 tons of boulders to build the same shape. Starting cost for this quantity of stone should be under $300. And there is no additional cost to create fire-resistance.

• Flexibility of design. Natural stone be stacked or laid in whatever shape you desire. Boulders will tend to fit best in a rounded shape. Wall stone can be stacked in angular or rounded designs. Both wall stone and boulders are available in a huge range of colors, textures and individual shapes. The uniqueness of each piece of natural stone provides one of its greatest appeals.

Installation cost presents the biggest variable with natural stone. Whether using a contractor or attempting a DIY project, the larger the natural stone you select, the more difficult it will be to move and manipulate. Special equipment may be necessary to put a large boulder in place. If individual stones need to be shaped to achieve your hardscape design, you or your contractor will need special tools. These factors can overwhelm the cost savings in the raw materials.

Outdoor Fire Pit: Woodward Landscape SupplyAlthough limited in availability, packaged natural stone outdoor fire pit kits do exist. One interesting option is a kit made from granite counter top scraps cut into wedges to form a circular outdoor fire pit. The price for the kit varies based on how high you want the structure to be but it is an interesting “green” alternative which is extremely easy to build, relatively low cost, and quite unusual in appearance. Most recently, FireBoulder has introduced a fire feature made out of one large boulder. The manufacturer selects suitable boulders, drills out the core to place a gas burner and lava rock, and provides the installation kit for connection to natural gas. Clearly not a DIY install, this new product definitely expands the scope of outdoor fire pit kits.

Fire Pits: Where to Place

Hardscaping Projects: Chester CountyAdding a fire pit to your outdoor environment is a perfect fall hardscaping project. Many design and material options exist. Read our article on fire pit basics for an overview.

Once you decide to build a fire pit, where are you going to put it? If you have a patio already, you might want to place it on the patio. Or you could create an addition to the patio just for the fire pit. Or maybe just off the patio, in a near-by but separate area. Or you may have a spot in your yard where it is hard to grow grass that beckons for a touch-up.

If you are considering placing a fire pit within an existing patio, you need to evaluate both your fire pit and your patio materials. Although some fire pit designs will support being placed on top of an existing patio, it is generally not the best approach. If your patio is made from manufactured or natural stone pavers dry set on sand or stone dust, you can remove the patio materials where you want your fire pit and place the fire pit directly on the patio base. If your patio is concrete or a wet set installation, you will not have the option to remove it. In that case, you will be limited in what type of fire pit you super-impose on top of your patio.

If the design of the fire pit places the fire on the ground, the fire pit cannot be built on top of existing patio materials without damaging the patio. If the material in the fire pit is not completely flat on the bottom and / or the surface of the patio is not completely flat, the fire pit cannot be built on top of the patio without being unstable, i.e., wobbling or potentially falling over.

If you want to create a new area, adding an extension to the patio or creating a nearby free-standing fire pit area can be the easiest options. If placing the fire pit on what is currently dirt or grass, the area needs to be dug out, lined with separation fabric, and filled with 4-6 inches of stone. (This will create a base for your fire pit very similar to the base that is placed under a paver or natural stone patio.) This base will create a solid underpinning for the fire pit so it will not move (wobble) or sink while also avoiding the risk of burning dead branches or roots in the ground.

One final thought on location: Avoid areas under trees or too close to your house or other flammable objects on your property. You don’t want your beautiful warm and inviting addition to produce a catastrophe.

Cutting Concrete Pavers: Rough Cut Techniques

Cutting concrete pavers is not difficult, but it does require special equipment and a certain level of skill to ensure that your hardscaping project turns out right. There are several methods for cutting. Read the article: Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview for more general information. This article focuses on two methods which leave a rough edge to the cut paver:

  1. Hammer and Chisel
  2. Block or Paver Splitter

1.   Hammer & Chisel

Hammer & chisel is the simplest and most inexpensive method for a few cuts. Simply score the paver along a cut line using sharp but light blows. By repeatedly tapping along the same cut line, the paver will eventually snap leaving a rough cut.

Advantages: Inexpensive, rough finish, ease of use.

Disadvantages: Slow, non-precise rough cuts, possible breakage.

Chisel cutting - hardscaping designChiseling stone - hardscaping project

2.  Block Splitter

A block splitter is basically a large mechanical chisel or guillotine cutter. By using the leverage of a long handle, you can easily “snap” a paver, wall block or wall cap leaving a rough finished edge.  Block splitters generally can snap material up to 6” thick. This is a great tool to use for creating corner wall blocks or caps where the cut side will be visible. Most hardscaping project contractors will use splitters when building walls to help create finished corner pieces.

Advantages: Ease of use, inexpensive to rent, attractive finishing tool, can cut on project.

Disadvantages: Non-precision cutting, must cut at least 2” to get “straight” cut.

Block splitting - hardscaping designBlock splitter - hardscaping design