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Category Archives: How-To

Creating Senior- and Disabled-Friendly Hardscapes

iStock 517870091 200x300 Creating Senior  and Disabled Friendly HardscapesThere 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.

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Determining Your Landscaping Supply Budget

determing your landscape budget 300x200 Determining 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.

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Installing a Flagstone Walkway in Your Garden

iStock 497583765 300x199 Installing a Flagstone Walkway in Your GardenSpring 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.

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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.

 


polymericsand 150x300 Are You Installing Polymeric Joint Sand Properly?

 

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

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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

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

Granite Fire Pit 300x225 Building a Natural Stone Fire PitBuilding 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.

FireBoulder 300x225 Building a Natural Stone Fire PitAlthough 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

Finnerty Patio w Pit where to place it 300x198 Fire Pits: Where to Place Adding 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.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Rough Cut Techniques Cutting Concrete Pavers: Rough Cut Techniques

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.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Rough Cut Techniques Cutting Concrete Pavers: Rough Cut Techniques

Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques

Cutting concrete pavers is not difficult, but it does require special equipment and a certain level of skill. There are several methods for cutting. Read the article: Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview for more general information.

This article focuses on four methods which leave a smooth edge to the cut paver:

  1. Circular Saw with Masonry or Diamond Blade

  2. Table Concrete Saw

  3. Gas Powered Cut Off Saw

  4. Grinder with Masonry or Diamond Wheel.

1.   Circular Saw

A circular saw will make cutting more than a few pavers much easier than rough cut techniques. Note you will need to equip your saw with a masonry or diamond blade. Start by making a pass with the saw at ½” depth. Make additional passes increasing the depth of the blade each time.

Advantages: Inexpensive, faster than hammer/chisel, tool readily available, more precise.

Disadvantages: Slow for large amount of cuts, only works on 2” or thinner material.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques

2.   Table Saw

If the job requires a lot of cutting, consider renting a table top concrete saw. Concrete saws are readily available at most rental facilities for approximately $70-80 per day. Tabletop concrete saws make precise, fast cuts for most pavers and wall caps. Most saws are also equipped with water pumps which will spray the paver with water while making the cut to help control dust and prolong the life of the diamond blade. Cutting can be done without using water, but will be quite dusty if water is not used.

Advantages: Fast, easy to use, precise cutting, minimizes dust.

Disadvantages: Need to rent, usually only good for 3” thick cuts or less, can be messy, need electrical hook up.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques3.  Gas Powered Cut Off Saw:

A gas powered cut off saw will easily cut through any size paver, wall block or wall cap. While this powerful saw is fairly easy to use, it is somewhat heavy and takes a strong back if doing more than a few cuts. Because of the weight, holding the saw along the desired cut line can be difficult making bad cuts which require recutting common. Cut off saws can be difficult to start, so you should always have the rental company test it to ensure it works before leaving the store.

Advantages: Portable, powerful, maximum cutting depth, great for “in place” cutting.

Disadvantages: Loud and dusty, heavy, higher percentage of bad cuts, can be hard to start.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques