Chip’s Tips: Chip Wade Answers Your Questions About Outdoor Living Areas

Belgard has partnered with home expert and TV host, Chip Wade. Throughout the year, we will be collecting your questions for Chip and he’ll answer your queries on your own outdoor projects.

Chip is excited to help our readers with their own projects. We’ve been getting questions left and right, so if you don’t see yours below, keep checking back as Chip continues to answer homeowner questions throughout the year. Here are his tips:

Can you overlay on a concrete driveway? Or must the driveway be broken up and then resurfaced? If the former is possible, what exactly is the technique?
– Edythe G.

Great question, Edythe. Yes, you can overlay on a concrete driveway UNLESS it is cracked or displaced significantly. Hairline cracks are OK, but anything greater than that almost guarantees you’ll be re-doing your driveway again soon. As with any paver or brick, you need to mortar set if you’re going over cement; it’s a more permanent install but will give you the best results. You can also rip out the driveway and sand set the pavers, but my experience is that mortar set is the best solution.

How do I come up with a layout design for outdoor areas for us to DIY? How do I figure out what to put where? I know what elements I want; I just don’t know how to lay out a design. I’ve tried contacting landscape designers to pay for them just to help us design a plan, but they don’t want to do that without actually being contracted to do the work.
– Connie Z.

Hi Connie. I tell homeowners to get their inspiration from pictures – like I do – and take from that to create your own design. And since knowing what elements you want is the most important step in creating an outdoor living space, it sounds like you’re off to a great start. It also sounds like your next step is to find a landscape designer. A landscape designer will contract by the hour or by the job and typically doesn’t want to do the install; you can take the design created by a landscape designer to anyone to execute. It’s similar to building a house, where the architect creates the vision and a builder executes the plan.

A landscape architect, on the other hand, does both the design work and the execution; they are credentialed to build the landscape and have been educated to consider drainage, land elevation changes and critical root zones of trees and plant locations. These are important considerations, so if you choose to use a landscape designer, make sure whoever is executing your plan is competent and knows to consider these elements.

We have a large patio around a kidney shaped fiberglass pool. We also have a seasonal sunroom that is screened in during summer/fall and then plexi-glassed for the winter. It too has a concrete floor that is on the same level as the patio. We would like to cover both areas with pavers and bring it over the edge of the pool. It cannot be too thick because of the door into the sunroom. What do you suggest for a product? We live in News Brunswick, Canada so it must be able to sustain our winters as well.
– Nancy W.

Nancy, your timing for this question is perfect, as I am currently in the middle of a similar makeover.  I am using Belgard Hardscapes’ thin pavers for the same reasons you mentioned – the height limitations of the doorway area. Because these thin pavers are only 1-inch thick, we’ve eliminated that threshold height problem that results from trying to use standard 2-inch thick pavers in this indoor/outdoor transition area. The thin pavers are made of same color palette as the 2-inch pavers, so you can seamlessly transition from one to the other. On the inside, you’ll get a low-maintenance flooring that looks beautiful. On the outside, you get the durability benefits of concrete pavers that include strength, resistance to freeze-thaw cycles and salts, and a relatively smooth surface for easy snow removal.

Remember that product availability varies based on location. Visit Belgard.biz to locate a dealer or contractor near you. Speaking with a local representative is the best way to find out what products are available in your area.

We’re thinking about using the Dublin Cobble for our backyard re-design. We have a lot of space to cover. The color we’re thinking about is the Victorian, however, in some pictures, I see variations in color (which I like) and others are very uniform in color. My husband thinks it will look like plain cement without the variation. I think I also like a color that is available in southern California, but we live in northern California. Can you clarify how this color will look over a large patio area? Can we get another color here in Northern California?
– Judy B.

Judy, not to worry – your backyard patio area will not look like slab for several reasons, primarily because of the surface texture of the pavers; with your choice of Dublin Cobble, you have the benefit of the antiqued look so the texture will be even more enhanced. There also is color variation from paver to paver, eliminating the risk of a concrete-slab look; where you see more color variation, it’s probably due to the mixing of two colors when installing them, so talk to your Belgard Authorized Dealer about achieving that effect. Also, your mortar color adds visual appeal and the seams will reflect light differently giving it shadows and shiny spots.

Lastly, it is possible to get a Southern California color in Northern California – but that will impact freight cost. A local Belgard Authorized Contractor or Dealer can find out from their Belgard sales representative the closest Belgard plant that manufactures the desired color; they can determine freight cost or help you find an alternate solution.

Can the old world cobbles be laid as permeable pavers?  If the pavers were laid on a permeable base there should be enough openings to allow the excess runoff to perk down.
– Lee S.

Hi Lee, Old World pavers can definitely be laid as permeable pavers for a residential project; the look will capture the cobbled streets of Europe, and their permeability will let water run through the paver – a great benefit to the environment.

If you’re asking about using Old World pavers in a commercial project, then it depends. To provide a perspective on that, I asked Belgard’s permeable paver expert Chuck Taylor, who said this:

“Commercially, in a pedestrian application or a light vehicular application, such as a parking lot or a porte cachere, it would be acceptable; the joint aggregates will need to be evaluated for proper gradation to meet joint spacing dimensions, and #8 or #89 washed chips would be acceptable. However, maintenance of chips in the joint will need to be monitored and, if they fall below ½-inch from surface, they would need to be re-chipped.”

I hope that gives you the insight you need to get started on your project.

We own a Log Cabin and we would love to have a path installed in our yard. We do not have grass and our yard has a gradual slope. We have very nice hardwood trees and my husband wants to ensure that we protect their roots so digging is a concern. We also want to make sure the path is maintenance free so we are not dealing with weeds etc. If possible, we would also like to tie in a fire pit. What’s the best way to start this project? We would love to get a design and quote.
– Angie B.

Angie, this sounds like a fun project that in the end will give you great curb appeal with functional outdoor living space. I think it’s great that you want to protect the trees, but because of that you might have to agree to some weed-pulling exercises periodically. To get a weed free path, you would need to put something over the ground such as gravel or slab, and which of those you choose is a function of how close you are to the trees. Typically, you can run a six mil plastic underneath a crush base, which can eliminate those weeds, but for your application, it sounds like it’s going to be a sand set situation where you’ll have some weeds because you need to allow for drainage over the tree roots. And even in gravel, you’d have some weeds come through.

In terms of the slope, as long as slope isn’t too significant you’ll be OK, and you can put a step in here and there to make the slope more gradual; group steps in groups of three instead of random steps to keep from creating a tripping hazard.

There are many options for the fire pit – there are pre-built, modular units that can be installed easily and quickly, or you can have something custom built by a contractor to integrate into the landscape. Get some ideas by looking at pictures or by playing with options on the Belgard Online Visualizer – take a picture of your own outdoor space and use the tool to see what your yard can look like, then get a free quote from a contractor.  You shouldn’t have any restrictions on integrating a fire pit into this outdoor space, just make sure it’s in a clear enough spot that you’re not burning down those trees you’ve worked so hard to preserve.

Submit your questions for Chip right here in the comments section, at our Facebook page or by emailing ChipsTips@oldcastle.com. Look for Chip’s second blog post at the end of June.

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