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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 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

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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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.

Capping Walls – Proliferation of Options

Landscape walls take a variety of forms – garden walls, retaining walls, sitting walls, privacy walls. And each can be implemented in a variety of materials – manufactured materials, natural stone, cinder block with veneer. The resulting “look” of the wall consequently has a similar variety of appearances from traditional manufactured split face to rustic natural stacked stone.

Historically, natural stone walls were capped with larger pieces of the same stone as part of the overall hardscape design. Manufactured walls were capped with a cap thinner than the wall block but with the same color and texture. Over the last few years, many new options have emerged.

The traditional options still dominate customer installations. But if you are seeking a different look, two major categories of new products can be considered for hardscape design: treads and simulated stone.

Treads are pieces of natural stone or concrete which are at least three-foot, straight sections providing for longer expanses without seams. Treads can be finished on one long side or both or even the two long sides and an end. The most common edge in natural stone treads is flamed. But rock-faced edges are also available or can be added by a skilled mason. These looks are mimicked in simulated stone treads. Natural stone in the Pennsylvania area will most likely be flagstone, blue in color or variegated which adds greens and browns to the basic blue color. Natural stone treads can found in sandstone (beige), limestone (pale gray) or west mountain where each piece presents various combinations of brown, beige, gold and salmon. EP Henry, Techo Bloc, and CST are leading vendors in providing manufactured simulated bluestone treads which are generally blue or brown but can sometimes be produced in custom colors.

Techo Bloc has pioneered simulated stone wall caps. They offer Portofino, Muro, Venetian, and Niagara caps (in addition to multiple concrete tread options). These caps are double sided and trapezoid in shape making both straight and curved walls easy to cap. They are designed to look like natural stone but offer the advantage multiple colors in addition to easier curves.

Hennessy Venetian 300x224 Capping Walls – Proliferation of Options

Hennessy Landscaping, Venetian Caps

Wall caps are generally either 12 or 14-inches deep. This is usually wide enough to top any wall or step structure. Treads can be found in depths up to two feet. Deeper concrete products are usually special ordered.

 

Woodward Landscape Supply Open House to Feature Free Do-It-Yourself Seminar

February 15, 2011, Phoenixville, PA

In recognition of the growing interest in do-it-yourself projects, Woodward Landscape Supply is holding an Open House on Saturday, March 19 which will feature a free “do-it-yourself” seminar on how to implement hardscaping™ projects.

The Open House will run from 11am to 3pm and will include several additional attractions including product displays, refreshments, special discounts, and networking.

The DIY seminar will take place from 11:30 to 1pm. This seminar will cover the basic techniques to install sidewalks, patios, and garden walls. Topics range from material selection, base preparation, cutting and splitting, setting and finishing, to use of tools and equipment.

Throughout this event, a free cookout will be available as well as access to all on-site product displays. Techo-Bloc Corporation, a major supplier to Woodward’s, will be supporting the event with their mobile product exhibit. This truck houses walk-through displays of many Techo-Bloc products, including 2011 introductions. In addition to this traveling exhibit, Woodward’s offers permanent indoor and outdoor displays which present products from EP Henry Company, CST, Versa-Lok, Techo-Bloc, as well as a huge selection of natural stone.

A Techo-Bloc representative as well as local professional contractors will be on-hand to teach the seminar and answer questions. No registration is required. Homeowners with questions about the event should call 610-983-9810.

Woodward Landscape Supply distributes all the materials needed to create patios, sidewalks, garden walls and other outdoor living environment projects. Woodward’s is an authorized dealer for several major manufacturers including EP Henry, Techo-Bloc, Versa-Lok, CST, and Andes Collection. Materials are available for pick up or delivery. Both contractors and homeowners are welcome to visit Woodward’s showroom and outdoor displays located on Route 724 in Phoenixville, PA. 19460.

Hardscaping is a registered trademark of EP Henry Company.

Paver Patios & Planning for Spring Clean Up

In eastern Pennsylvania, we are all tired of winter and snow even though February is only two weeks old. So, while dreaming of sitting on your beautiful paver patio and enjoying spring weather, what planning can you do to optimize this seasonal experience?

One wonderful advantage of a manufactured, interlocking paver patio is extremely low maintenance. Whether your patio is made by EP Henry, Techo-Bloc, CST or any other high quality manufacturer, pavers made from dense concrete are durable. Only two potential maintenance issues need to be considered each spring: cleaning and joint repair.

outdoor fireplace ledgestone veneer Paver Patios & Planning for Spring Clean Up

Paver Patio

Cleaning. If colorful vegetation falls on your patio potentially leaving stains, or you cook out and occasionally spill offensive materials (like grease), or your children decided the patio was a great place to do a school project that resulted in “oops”, you may need to clean the surface. Most environmental debris can be cleaned off with only water, or a power washer. If the stains are a bit more intense, mild cleaners such as Techniseal™ Hardscape Cleaner will work. If truly severe, the stains may require specialized cleaners for paint, grease, etc.

If your patio was new in 2010, you might be waiting for “new paver” efflorescence to dissipate. Efflorescence is a white film which sometimes appears on concrete pavers. It is a salt-based residue left during the curing (drying) of the concrete pavers. Salt does not bind into concrete so when there is salt in a raw material used to make concrete, e.g., sand, it will be released while the concrete is setting leaving the film. Normally, this will wear off in time. But when the environment is very damp, e.g., record snowfall, the natural disappearance of efflorescence may take longer than you are willing to wait. In this case, you may want to clean off any remaining efflorescence. This is done with a professional-grade cleaner. Several manufacturers make specialized cleaning agents which are available at your local landscape supply dealer.

Joint Repair. If the joints between your patio pavers are filled with compacted sand, a hard winter will erode some of that fill. When you can see the joints again (in other words, when the snow melts), fill low spots with sand. Joints are usually filled with concrete sand; however, it your pavers have very tight joints, playsand is finer and will be easier to brush in. If your patio was finished with polymeric sand, i.e., sand mixed with chemicals that cause the compound to become permanently hard, you should not need repairs. However, if you shoveled frequently, especially a paver sidewalk or driveway, intense shoveling could remove some of the stabilized sand. You can also refill this sand mixture; however, you may need to remove more first to make sure the new material is thick enough for the chemical process to work. You can obtain technical information from the polymeric sand manufacturer’s websites, ask the contractor who installed your patio pavers, or see your local dealer.