Spring Paver Maintenance Tips

Mother Nature can be cruel. If you have chosen Belgard for your hardscape projects, you’ve already taken measures to increase resistance against weathering and corrosion. Still, seasonal hardscape maintenance is encouraged to preserve the beauty and integrity of your installation. Here are a few Spring paver care tips.

General maintenance

  • Clean your pavers each Spring with a coarse-bristle “stable” broom and a routine maintenance paver cleaner to keep them looking like new.
  • Some weeds, if left unaddressed, can shift pavers apart over time. Be sure to periodically apply a granular weed preventative between joints as a part of your paver maintenance routine.
  • Be careful when cleaning your Belgard pavers with power washers as they can remove the paver finish and expose the aggregate on the paver’s surface.

Cleaning

  • Before applying any paver cleaning solution to your hardscape, test a small inconspicuous area first to be sure you get the desired results.
  • Be sure to read and follow the directions printed on container labels for cleaning solution use, application, precautions and first aid. Always rinse the solution off thoroughly after use.
  • For tough stains, use a specialized cleaner to treat the specific stain. Techniseal offers specialty cleaners for organic stains (moss, mildew, dead leaves, blood, wine); greasy stains (motor oil, barbecue, oily foods); rust (caused by steel, rusty objects or fertilizer); and paint, tar or rubber (including gum). Each of these products are specifically formulated to clean pavers and masonry and should not affect the color or tone of your hardscapes. However, it is always a good idea to test a small area area first.

Protecting

  • The joints between paving stones are the most vulnerable areas of any installation. Keep these joints topped off with jointing sand to prevent the sand-bedding layer below from deteriorating, causing the pavers to shift.
  • Every three years, apply a sealer to keep your pavers looking their best. Depending upon your preference, sealer options can offer a natural matte finish, a color-boosted matte finish, a clear semi-gloss look, or a wet-look gloss finish. Sealers should not be applied more than once in three years. Too many applications will create a film on the surface which may discolor in sunlight. You can easily test whether your pavers are ready to resealed by dripping some water on your pavers. If the water initially beads, your pavers are still protected. If the water immediately soaks in, it’s probably time.
  • For older pavers that have suffered from weathering and neglect, bring back the original shade of pavers or give them new color with NuLook Tinted Sealant, which is a semi-transparent semi-gloss sealer designed to rejuvenate faded pavers. NuLook comes in four different shades to bring new life to pavers or create interesting designs. Watch the amazing transformation in the video below.

Tips for Choosing a Hardscape Contractor

In many areas of the country, spring has already sprung. Even those still battling icy conditions can tell that it’s just around the corner. Time to get your outdoor living spaces ready for company! If you’re considering an outdoor living makeover, there are a number of factors to consider in choosing the right contractor. Get some tips on making the right choice for your project.

WHAT’S THE ADVANTAGE TO CHOOSING A BELGARD AUTHORIZED CONTRACTOR?

We take the Belgard name very seriously and hold contractors to rigorous standards. When you choose a Belgard Authorized Contractor, you can trust that the contractor is an experienced professional who is certified in hardscape installation techniques and is properly licensed and insured. By visiting our locator web page at www.Belgard.com/locator, you can find Belgard Authorized Contractors and Dealers near your zip code location and can even narrow your search by distance or by types of services offered. If your contractor is not Belgard Authorized, be sure to ask which certifications your contractor carries and whether he or she is a member of their local landscape association. This will at least be a good sign that they are committed to education and are up on the latest trends.

SHOULD I ASK TO SEE REFERENCES OR EXAMPLES OF PAST PROJECTS?

Absolutely! Ask to see photos of past projects both for design ideas and to get a sense of the contractor’s level of creativity and expertise. Even better, you may want to get an address or two and check out the workmanship up close. You will, of course, need the property owner’s permission first. But don’t be afraid to call the contractor’s references and ask tough questions about work ethic and accountability. At the very least, be sure to check out the contractor’s website for testimonials and project photos. In this day and age, there is no excuse to not have a good website that represents your business.  If the website is dated, that’s a good indication that the contractor is not overly focused on the details of running a great business.

design-studio WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT THE DESIGN PROCESS?

The more complex the project, the more important the design process. While it might not be necessary to see a design rendering on a simple patio, an outdoor kitchen or multi-level terrace is a different story. A design sketch or rendering will ensure that you and your contractor are both on the same page, reducing the chance of miscommunication. Belgard Authorized Contractors have access to 3-D renderings with fly-through animation through the Belgard Design Studio, which will give you a realistic vision of your future space, including furniture placement and how hardscaped areas will look with your existing home, exterior structures and landscaping. Be sure to ask if your contractor charges a fee for design and consultation. Depending on the size of the job, some contractors do charge a fee; however, this should be perceived as a good sign and indicates they have the experience and reputation to justify this expense. These fees are almost always deducted from the final cost of the job, but be sure and clarify that upfront.

 WHAT ELSE SHOULD I ASK A POTENTIAL CONTRACTOR?

  • Will their team manage aspects like landscaping, plumbing, irrigation and lighting – or will you be expected to handle this separately?
  • What’s the estimated start date and turn-around time?
  • What are the payment terms and options? Belgard Authorized Contractors also have access to the Belgard Preferred Payment same-as-cash financing program, which could help you build sooner or expand the scope of your project without overtaxing your financial resources.

Snuggle Up with 3-D Hot Chocolate

Looking for an indulgent reason to snuggle around the fire pit? Look no further than this delectable recipe. Yes, this hot chocolate is dark, decadent, and delicious, but it actually gets its name from three “D” ingredients: dark chocolate, dulce de leche, and Drambuie liqueur (scotch whiskey flavored with honey and spices). Using half-and-half instead of milk makes the hot chocolate extra creamy and rich. Adults will love this grown up, not-too-sweet take on hot chocolate, but it’s also great (and kid-friendly) without the Drambuie. Make this hot chocolate truly over-the-top with a dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of dulce de leche, and a few crunchy chocolate rolled wafer cookies on the side. Yield: 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup canned or jarred dulce de leche, extra for topping
  • 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, extra for topping
  • 1/3 cup Drambuie
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • chocolate rolled wafer cookies (such as Pirouette)

How to Make

  1. Whisk together 4 cups half-and-half and 1/2 cup canned or jarred dulce de leche in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium, stirring constantly, until heated through, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat, and whisk in 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, 1/3 cup of Drambuie, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Next, beat 1 cup of cold heavy cream in a cold bowl with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.
  4. Pour hot chocolate mixture into 4 serving cups. Top each with whipped cream, a drizzle of dulce de leche, and chopped or shaved dark chocolate. Serve with chocolate rolled wafer cookies (such as Pirouette).

If prepping the recipe in advance, prepare the hot chocolate mixture as instructed but omit the alcohol and store the mixture in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two days. Reheat the hot chocolate mixture gently, then add the alcohol once the mixture is heated through. Do not boil the mixture, or the alcohol will burn off.

Recipe and photo courtesy Southern Living and Time, Inc. Photo by Greg DuPree.

Decorative Ways to Enjoy Your Outdoor Space in Colder Months

Just because the temperature has dropped doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the outdoors. There are a number of decorative ways to keep your outdoor spaces livable during the winter months that add both ambiance and warmth.

Fire Features

Fire pitarbel_stone_urbana_stone_aqua_rock_horz_1_rt-newedits are currently one of the top must-haves in outdoor living, and with good reason. They easily fit into any outdoor living design and provide a spot for groups of any age to gather and enjoy the outdoors. Whether roasting hot dogs or s’mores, sharing a bottle of wine, or just having a cup of hot cocoa, everyone loves sitting around the fire pit. For design tips and trends, check out our fire pit design blog.

Outdoor fireplaces make a dramatic statement and become the focal point of your outdoor living design. Not only will it add physical warmth to your outdoor living space, it will become the favorite spot for enjoying a glass of wine or an intimate conversation. When designing your outdoor living space, remember that gas fireplaces can be placed just about anywhere, but a wood-burning version will likely need to be 10 or more feet from any structure.

Gas fire tables also make an excellent gathering spot and typically either emulate the look of a coffee table or a high-top bar. There are endless varieties available for purchase from retail outlets. However, a built-in fire table constructed with Belgard wall products will be much more durable and will actually add to the value of your home.

Decorative Heaters

tabletop1Tabletop propane heaters come in a number of sizes and decorative styles and are available from various hardware stores and online retail outlets. They typically heat a 5-foot radius and operate off of 1-pound propane cylinders that can be found at just about any hardware, sporting goods, or camping supply store. Although it will vary by heater, each cylinder only lasts a few hours, so it might be a good idea to buy cylinders in bulk to get you through the season.

Full-size propane heaters also come in a number of decorative styles. With higher heat output than the tabletop versions, they heat a wider radius (6-7 feet) and operate off of a standard refillable propane tank. Be wary of operating taller units under a porch, which could potentially cause heat damage to the porch ceiling. One way to help alleviate this possibility is to run nearby ceiling fans in “reverse” mode while heaters are in operation, which will disperse the rising heat without blowing cold air onto guests.

lamp3Endless Summer offers a line of electric patio lamp-style heaters that come in both tabletop and floor models and are available from a variety of retailers, including Home Depot, Lowe’s and Amazon. Each heater looks like a standard lamp, but actually functions as both a lamp and a heater, offering a soft glow and heating up to 144 square feet, depending upon the model. The only drawback is that an outlet needs to be nearby.

hanging3Decorative hanging heaters are a more permanent option and are available in natural gas and infrared (electric) models. Both can be designed to operate from a wall switch and will heat a large area, approximately 10 feet in diameter, depending upon the model.

Homey Accessories

Adding retractable solar shades to a porch will not only provide protection from the glaring sun in summer months, they can also help keep you warm in the winter by blocking the wind and helping to hold in any ambient warmth created by area heaters.

Comfy throws not only add a cozy look to your outdoor space, they provide that extra layer that some folks need to keep warm. Decorative outdoor bins can be a good place to store throws; however, you may want to choose an easy-to-carry basket that can be stored indoors when not in use, which will keep your throws free of unwanted critters.

Winterizing Your Outdoor Living Spaces

belair-wallExtreme weather can sometimes take a toll on your outdoor living spaces. Keep your Belgard outdoor living area looking as beautiful as the day it was installed with these tips and tricks for protecting your investment in harsh climates.

Beware Rapid Temperature Fluctuations

Belgard hardscapes are constructed to withstand natural freeze/thaw cycles, and the refractory cement materials used to manufacture Belgard fireplaces, fire pits and brick ovens are designed to withstand very high temperatures. However, rapid shifts from one extreme to the other can still have an adverse effect, and there are simple ways to prevent damage.

  • Keep brick oven and fireplace doors closed to prevent snow and ice from building up inside the unit.
  • When not in use, cover grills and fire pit openings with covers to help prevent build-up and ensure proper working order.
  • If snow or ice does build up on a fireplace, fire pit or brick oven, be careful to remove any loose snow or ice and warm the unit up and thaw it slowly.

Protect Your Outdoor Kitchen

It’s important to protect all of your pipes, appliances and equipment so that your outdoor kitchen is ready to use in the spring.

  • Shut off water to your outdoor kitchen and drain all water lines to outdoor sinks, ice makers, refrigerators and kegerators. Leave the drain valves open.
  • Turn off all of the power to appliances.
  • Clean the inside of appliances and cabinets and wipe everything down to remove residual moisture.
  • Do not cover outdoor refrigerators or ice makers, which could cause moisture to get trapped and cause electrical damage.
  • Cover any sinks to prevent debris from settling in the basin. You may want to consider removing the faucet and storing it indoors.
  • If counter tops are made of stone, consider applying a sealant to prevent leaf stains or cracks caused by freezing moisture.

Prevent Deicing Downfalls

Deicing agents can sometimes have a corrosive effect on paved surfaces. Although Belgard pavers are manufactured to be more resistant to salt absorption than asphalt or solid concrete surfaces, there are additional tips that can help ensure lasting beauty of your paver walkways, driveways and patios.

  • Mix salts with sand prior to application.
  • Don’t over-salt.
  • Use salt for melting ice only, not snow removal.
  • Once loose, remove ice to avoid salt buildup.
  • Wash residue from pavers in the spring.
  • Reseal pavers with protective sealants, such as those offered by Techniseal, every three to five years.

Setting Outdoor Makeover
Goals for 2017

During this time of year, it’s typical to take a personal assessment and set new goals regarding lifestyle, health, investments, and various other areas of our lives. Since your home is likely your most valuable asset, it’s important to factor home improvements into the mix. Those who make even small improvements each year are not only more likely to see a higher return on their overall investment over time, there’s also a sense of pride that comes from completing each task, plus the enjoyment of making each space more “livable”. As you plan your 2017 home improvement goals, keep in mind that research shows that many outdoor living improvements can increase the value of your home at a higher rate than under-beam improvements. Two outdoor living categories that typically have a high rate of return are curb appeal and entertainment spaces.

Improving Curb Appeal

As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Even small improvements to your front yard can make an impact — both on how you feel every time you approach your own driveway, and how a potential buyer will envision the quality of your home if and when you decide to sell. Some type of curb appeal improvement should be on your “to-do” list each year, whether it’s a minor tweak to the landscaping, adding embellishments here or there (like a new mailbox or built-in planter), or a large project like a driveway renovation.

Upgrading Entertainment Spaces

By upgrading your outdoor living entertainment spaces, not only will you add to the enjoyment that you get out of your own home, every dollar you spend could earn back between 60 cents and $2 on resale, according to reports by Houzz and Realtor.com. Makeover projects should focus on making your outdoor living spaces an extension of your home. According to annual surveys by the American Society of Landscape Architects over the last five years, consistently desirable upgrades include outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces and fire pits, built-in seating, lighting upgrades, and paver patios.

Prioritizing Goals

Before you get started with planning your improvement goals for 2017, you should consider the following factors: 1) How long do you plan to live in your home?  2) What is your overall vision? If you plan to be in your home for many years, you can take a look at your overall vision and break it up into a multi-year plan that puts priority on the projects that YOU most desire. If you plan to sell within the next two years, your money would be better spent on projects that are most desirable in the marketplace. For the lowdown on the most desirable outdoor living features for your specific neighborhood or housing pricepoint, talk to some local realtors.

Getting Started

The first step is to get inspired. Look through Pinterest boards, magazine websites, online inspiration galleries…anything that will help you develop your overall vision. The free Belgard Idea Book is another excellent resource, offering page after page of gorgeous inspirational outdoor living photography. Another useful tool is the online Belgard Project Visualizer, which allows you to upload photos of your own yard to try out various paver styles and colors. You can even save and share your designs for future use. Next, consider meeting with an outdoor living contractor who can provide you with additional design ideas and help you pull together an overall plan, prioritize projects, and set a timeline. To find a Belgard Authorized contractor near you, click here. Next, decide which projects you want to accomplish this year and what you’d rather put off until a later date. Whether your 2017 goal ends up being a major makeover or a simple DIY project, set a date and stick to it. This time next year, you’ll be glad that you did.