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.

Outdoor Fireplace and Fire Pit Maintenance Tips

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Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits constructed with Belgard hardscapes are designed to last for the life of your home. However, as we begin to move into the outdoor fire season, it’s important to properly prepare and maintain these fire features to ensure safety and functionality, both this season and for many years to come.

Keep it Clean
Regular cleaning of your fire feature is important for both safety and functionality. For gas units, debris and spiderwebs can clog the burners and cause malfunctions. For wood-burning units, accumulation of water or leaves can cause sparks and floating embers that could become a fire hazard. Be sure to remove any old ashes, coals, and water, and blow out any debris and spiderwebs prior to lighting your fireplace or fire pit. It’s also a good idea to purchase doors for your fireplace or a cover for your fire pit. This will help reduce the amount of debris and water accumulation, in addition to keeping out snow and ice in colder climates.

Hardwood is Better
Although many people like to just gather any type of limbs from the yard for burning in an outdoor fireplace or fire pit, this can be a safety hazard. Green wood and softwoods, such as pine, can hold a lot of water, which will create a lot of smoke and sparks as it burns. This is particularly dangerous for fire pits, which are more open and allow sparks to shoot out in multiple directions. For cleaner and safer fires, stock up on dry hardwoods, like oak or maple. To keep the wood dry, do not store it directly on the ground where it can pull moisture from the earth, in addition to attracting critters like snakes and termites.

Gas Starter Retrofitting and Maintenance
All wood-burning Belgard Elements fireplaces and fire pits are designed to allow for gas retrofitting — either with a gas starter system, or a full gas burner. Log igniters are particularly popular and typically last about 8 to 10 years before beginning to rust and requiring replacement. Remote controlled ignition systems are also popular. These can be designed for operation from inside of the house or from a mobile app. However, they often require additional maintenance, as wires and batteries can corrode due to exposure to the elements. For best long-term results, use a simple push-button igniter, similar to the ignition system on a standard gas grill. With fewer working parts, this simple system will typically last more seasons than a remote system.

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Fall DIY Project: Lavender Pine Cone Fire Starters

ideas for enjoying your Belgard Backyard from
Lifestyle and Entertaining Expert, Alexandra Hedin.

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The outdoors provides the perfect spot for entertaining during the crisp days of fall – but those crisp days also call for a way to stay warm. An outdoor fire is the perfect centerpiece for a fall celebration. A basket full of pine cone fire starters next to your fire pit or outdoor fireplace invites the party to continue as the evening cools down.

Homemade fire starters are easy to make. By making them yourself, you can infuse them with scents like lavender, which is a natural mosquito repellent.

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Here’s what you’ll need

  • Muffin tin
  • 12 paper muffin liners
  • 1 ½ pounds paraffin wax
  • Candle wick
  • 12 dried pine cones
  • Dried lavender blossoms & sticks
  • 8-10 drops lavender essential oil

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Fire Starter StepsHere’s how to make them

Step 1: Line the muffin pan with the muffin papers. Fill each paper half full with cut pieces of lavender sticks. Top each one with a few blooms.

Step 2: Wrap a short length of candle wick around each pine cone and place on the top of the lavender blooms. Make sure the wick is sticking out of the top.

Step 3: Melt the paraffin wax in a double boiler over low heat. If you don’t have a proper double boiler, fill a small pan with an inch or two of water and place a mason jar in the center of the pan. Fill the mason jar with small chunks of wax.

Step 4: When the wax has melted, add a few drops of essential oil. Gently pour melted wax into each cup until filled to the top.

Step 5: Let cool. You can leave the starters in the paper cups or remove them. The paper provides an additional point of lighting when you are starting a fire.

* Hot tip * The wax melts easier in smaller portions. Divide the wax in three equal quantities and work in batches.

For more inspiration, recipes, and crafts visit alexandrahedin.com.

Top 10 Tips for Hosting a Backyard Tailgate

Top 10 Tips for Hosting a Backyard Tailgate

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Good friends can always be counted on to come over early and help with the set-up. If you don’t want all of the cooking responsibilities to fall on your shoulders, then make it a potluck so everyone brings a dish to share.
  1. Incorporate some team spirit into your party décor. Your favorite team’s colors can be displayed in napkins, disposable dishes and flatware, and even in your patio pavers! Check out our tips on ‘painting with pavers’ and adding color and texture to your outdoor space.
  1. Don’t get caught without your favorite fan gear. Lay out your jersey or other team gear the night before you plan on sporting it for the big game. You don’t want to shower and get dressed for the day only to find that it’s at the bottom of the dirty laundry basket.
  1. Pets need plans, too. If you have four-legged party animals, pull out the tennis balls and Frisbees to keep them entertained in the yard. If they are on the skittish side, create a safe place away from the noise where they can relax.
  1. Offer alternative food options. Be aware of your guests’ food allergies or restrictions and have alternative options for guests who are vegetarian, gluten-intolerant, or have other limitations.
  1. Don’t forget to invite the neighbors! No one likes to be within earshot of a great party and not be invited. The more the merrier, just make sure you have enough food and drinks!
  1. Stick with tried and true recipes. It’s never a good idea to try a new recipe for the first time during an important gathering. Do a test run of tailgating recipes before the big day to be sure you can manage it and that the flavors are spot-on.
  1. Stock up on cooking materials. Check your propane tank to make sure you have enough fuel for cooking. If you prefer charcoal, then have an extra bag on hand and track down matches and/or a lighter in advance.
  1. Pre-prep the viewing area. If your television isn’t permanently outdoors, do a trial run to be sure the reception is clear and cords are out of the way of walking paths.
  1. Enjoy yourself! You’ll be busy preparing for company – food, drinks, décor – but when it’s time for kick off, kick your feet up and enjoy the party.

Fall is the Perfect Time for a Backyard Movie

MovieNight_TALENT_005_renditionideas for enjoying your Belgard Backyard from Lifestyle and Entertaining Expert, Alexandra Hedin.

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Movie nights are a fabulous way to entertain guests of all ages – especially when they can be hosted outdoors. Setting up a movie night is as simple as a large white sheet and a projector. Turning a basic movie night into a fabulous event doesn’t take much more than decadently flavored popcorn made on the grill!

The Set Up

Arrange outdoor seating around an area where you can easily hang a large white sheet. Between two trees or against a wall is often the simplest. When arranging chairs, be sure to place them around each other and not in front of each other. For additional seating in front, add large pillows. Low tables around the seating area will keep treats and beverages nearby.

The Popcorn

Perhaps the most important part of any movie night is popcorn! There’s no reason to move your popcorn making indoors. A simple cast iron pan and a metal strainer become a perfect popcorn popper for your outdoor grill!

Here’s what you need

  • Cast Iron Pan
  • Metal strainer
  • ½ cup Popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons Canola Oil
  • Butter
  • Candies, toppings, salt

Here’s how you do it

Step 1: Warm the cast iron pan over high heat.

Step 2: Add oil and popcorn kernels to the pan.

Step 3: Cover the pan with a strainer and shake the pan back and forth.

Step 4: Continue shaking the pan as the kernels pop.

Step 5: Once the popping has slowed down, turn the heat off and shake the pan for one more minute.

Step 6: Remove pan from grill and pour popcorn into a bowl. Top with butter and favorite toppings while still warm.

*Hot Tip* Warm butter on the side of the grill while the popcorn pops so it’s ready to pour over the popcorn when finished.

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Looking for some decadent popcorn flavors? Try these:

Backyard-Movie-1Buttered Pecan

In a dry cast iron skillet over high heat on the grill, toast 1 cup of chopped pecans for 3-5 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally to brown the nuts evenly. When nuts are browned, add ½ cup butter and reduce heat to medium/low. Swirl the pan to allow butter to melt evenly and pecans to be coated with melted butter. Pour over 2 cups of popped popcorn and toss to coat.

S’mores

While the buttered popcorn is still very hot, toss with 2 tablespoons butter, 1 cup Golden Grahams cereal, 2 cups mini marshmallows, and 1 cup chocolate chips. Cover with a lid to let the chocolate and marshmallows melt a bit before serving.

Cinnamon Roll

Gently warm 2 tablespoons butter. Whisk in ½ cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Pour over warm buttered popcorn and toss to coat.

For more inspiration, recipes, and crafts visit alexandrahedin.com.