Hosting the Ultimate Backyard Tailgate Party

For many people across the nation, the season of Fall is synonymous with football season. And although we don’t always agree on which team to cheer for, we can typically agree that gathering with friends and family is one of the best aspects of the football-watching experience. Whether your next backyard tailgating party is in preparation for your son’s high school game, or whether it’s a viewing party for your local college or pro team, take your tailgating game to the next level with these backyard tailgating tips.

Setting the Scene

To efficiently host gatherings throughout football season, some upfront planning and organization will go a long way. Set aside a “party box” where you can keep all of your tailgating supplies in one place. That way, you’re not recreating the wheel each week. And since you’ll be getting a lot of use out of everything, splurge on higher quality decorations and color-coordinated serving bowls, trays and utensils. You’ll end up saving money in the long run versus buying throw-away items for each event. Also, go ahead and string festive lighting around the yard that will work just as well for holiday gatherings as it will for tailgating, and you’ll be ahead of the game come December.

Feeding the Masses

Tailgate parties have a tendency to grow…after all, the more the merrier. The best meal plan is one that incorporates a lot of small bites that go a long way. Light the pit, and prepare to keep it going. Brats, of course, are always a good choice. You can also grill a variety of sausages and serve them sliced on a platter with an assortment of dipping sauces. Gilled pizza and sliders are also typical tailgating hits. Consider setting up a  make-your-own slider bar, which can add to the festive atmosphere. To feed large groups, racks of BBQ ribs or smoked brisket work really well and can be partially cooked ahead of time to shorten game-day grill time.

Game-Day Drinks

Let’s face it, beer is the standard beverage of choice in most tailgating scenarios, but to take your tailgating up a notch, have a little fun with your selections. For example, have everyone bring their favorite six-pack of micro-brewed beer and setup a tasting table. And since game day is all about competition, get a contest going that allows everyone to vote on their favorite. For the non-beer drinkers, Southern Living offers some fun game-day cocktail recipes in quantities that will keep your guests sipping through all four quarters.

Pre-Game Activities

The best tailgate parties include lots of entertaining backyard activities like cornhole and washer pitching games, giant jenga, or a good old-fashioned game of horseshoes. If you have an outdoor fireplace or a fire pit, set up a s’mores bar where everyone can roast marshmallows and make fun and interesting s’mores with ingredients like cookies, ginger snaps, Nutella, peanut butter cups and, of course, graham crackers and chocolate.

Seating Arrangements

For larger parties, you may want to consider investing in an outdoor projection screen. Or, you can setup up multiple viewing areas with the help of multiple TVs and a cable splitter.  One way to create more viewing space around a single TV or screen is to arrange stadium-style seating by placing chairs in rows according to chair height, with bar stools in the rear row. An additional row can be created in the front by placing pillows on the ground for the kids.

NEXT WEEK:  Come back to the blog next week for the latest trends in outdoor living design using retaining and garden walls.

Tips for Planning the ‘Phased’ Project

Sometimes, it’s just not feasible to build your dream outdoor living space all at once. When building one phase at a time, proper upfront planning can save time, money and headaches.

Tip #1:  Choose a qualified design/build contractor

A large outdoor living build-out is an important investment in your home. Don’t trust that investment to just anyone. With a smaller job, an installation contractor is fine, but in order to properly plan a job that will be built in phases, you’ll need someone with design skills. For more information, read our Tips for Choosing a Hardscape Contractor blog.

Tip #2:  Design your complete dream outdoor space upfront

You can always scale it back, but it can be much less costly to design something that is never built than to retrofit a space later. This is especially true if future footings or underground utilities will be required. Many contractors will charge a fee for the design, but often credit that back to you when the work is done. For a realistic vision of how your dream space would look in your backyard, Belgard Authorized Contractors can utilize the Belgard Design Studio to import architectural plans or photos of your home to create 3-D renderings of their outdoor living designs that include furniture placement and potential landscaping. Fly-through animation will allow you to virtually walk through the design so you can truly get a feel for how you would live in that space. This can help you catch potential issues with the layout prior to construction.

Sample Belgard Design Studio 3-D rendering of an outdoor living area that could be built out in phases.

Tip#3:  Preplan for future phases

When you’re planning an outdoor living space, think of what you would plan for an indoor living space. Think lighting, music, televisions, cooking needs, and gas or electric appliances. Consider your local climate and think about ways of keeping warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Running utilities all at once, including those that you won’t need until later, can be a huge cost savings in the end.  And if you plan to install heavy elements in a later phase, such as a pavilion or an outdoor fireplace, be sure to plan where any footings will be needed and install them prior to laying any hardscapes in those areas.

Tip #4:  Consider your lifestyle

When planning out the phases, discuss your lifestyle with your contractor so that you can plan the phases that will work best with your budget and how you would like to live in the space. A typical scenario would be to install the flat surfaces first, then build up, then embellish. For example, if a design includes a patio with an outdoor kitchen, a fireplace, and seat walls, the phases of the plan may look like this:  1) patio  2) kitchen  3) fireplace  4) seat walls, lighting, and sound.  However, depending upon your lifestyle, you may want to rearrange the order of the phases or build in sections instead.

Tip #5:  Look for opportunities to reduce the number of phases

Construction economies can be achieved by building in fewer phases. Many Belgard Authorized Contractors offer the Belgard Preferred Payment program, which can help you build more at one time and spread the cost out over several months with same-as-cash financing options for loan amounts up to $55,000 that can include labor, materials, furniture, appliance, landscaping and more.

Coming up next week:

National S’mores Day is Thursday, August 10. Come back to the Outdoor Living Blog next week to learn how you can submit your favorite s’mores memory or recipe for a chance to win a Belgard fire pit!

Installing the Proper Base for Concrete or Porcelain Paver Projects

As the saying goes, if you want something to last, be sure to start with a solid foundation. This definitely holds true for paver patios, walkways and driveways. We’ve all seen paver installations that are uneven and cracking. In most cases, the fault lies with an improperly installed base. Although soil conditions can certainly be a factor, the information below can help those do-it-yourselfers looking for insight on installing concrete or porcelain paver installations that can remain beautiful for years to come.

Standard Concrete Paver Base Installation

Step 1 – Excavation:  Excavate all the topsoil off the area where the project will be installed.  It’s imperative to dig down to the clay or subsoil.  If the subsoil in your project area has recently been filled (i.e. as a result of new construction), it’s a good idea to compact it with a large walk-behind compactor before adding the gravel.  Otherwise, if it hasn’t recently been filled or disturbed, you can begin adding the aggregate layer. When calculating the depth of the excavation, you will need to add the thickness of the paver itself, 1” of bedding sand, and the necessary gravel recommended for the type of project you are installing.

Step 2 – Aggregate Layer:  Typically, this layer consists of crushed gravel that will vary in size from  3/4” down to dust. For walkways and patios, you will need to add 4-6” of this material. For driveways, you will add 8-12”.  If you have heavy clay subsoil, it’s also a good idea to add a geotextile underlayment. This woven layer of fabric will prevent aggregate from mixing with the soil below. This is especially important in driveway applications. In colder climates, it may be necessary to add more aggregate base material to allow for the freeze/thaw conditions present there. It doesn’t hurt to add more base material if you are unsure. Once the material has been placed, you will want to rake it off evenly.  It’s critical at this phase that the gravel be pitched away from the house to allow for water runoff.  Typically that slope will be between 1/8” and 1/4” of drop per linear foot (or more for driveways, depending on the location).

Step 3 – Compaction:  For this, you will need to rent a plate compactor with a minimum of 5,000 lbs. of force.  Most local rental companies will carry this piece of equipment.  Ideally you will want to compact in lifts (layers of gravel) no greater than 4”-6” at a time.  Doing more than that will result in an improperly compacted base.

Step 4 – Bedding Layer:  Next, you will add and level 1” of bedding sand.  The easiest way to level the sand is to purchase two pieces of 1” metal or plastic electrical pipe conduit.  Place the two pieces of conduit down, and using a 2 x 4 board, screed the sand smooth.  Keep moving the tubes down as you go, making sure to fill the voids where the tubes were by smoothing the surface with a trowel.  You are now ready to lay the pavers.

For additional or site-specific design, consult your local Belgard representative or a civil/geotechnical engineer experienced with flexible segmental pavement design.

 

Overlays – Installing Pavers over Existing Concrete

Thin concrete pavers or Belgard Porcelain Pavers may be placed over an existing concrete slab or a new concrete slab (4,000 psi  and 4” thickness minimum) on a sand or DriBond setting bed. DriBond will actually adhere the pavers directly to the concrete slab, similar to how thinset adhesive works for tile. It goes on as a thin dry powder (3/8” thick max). Once the pavers are installed, simply soak the pavers with water to activate it. If just using sand, you will want to install an edging restraint as shown in the above diagram.  Prior to installation, verify that the distance from the top of slab to the doorsill will accommodate the proposed paver and setting bed thickness. If the concrete won’t allow for the thickness of the new overlay material, many rental companies will rent small grinding equipment. As long as you are left with a minimum of 4”, you can remove some of the top layer of the existing concrete. The other option would be to cut and remove the concrete near the transition and re-pour it at a lower height. If the site is located in a freeze-thaw zone, consider any heave movement in your height calculation. Thickness of the concrete slab should be 4”-6” with consideration given to heavier loading (RV, travel trailers, trucks, etc.) to determine the correct depth of concrete base and any internal reinforcement.

For additional or site-specific design, consult your local Belgard representative or a civil/geotechnical engineer experienced with rigid segmental pavement design.

Optional Bases for Porcelain Pavers

Porcelain pavers have the option to be installed over a standard base, permeable base, sand, grass, concrete or pedestals. For additional information on installation of porcelain pavers on these various bases, and for special instructions regarding accommodating vehicular loads, download the Belgard Porcelain Paver Installation Guide.

Trends in Outdoor Tech

Folks today expect all of the same modern conveniences in their outdoor rooms they have come to rely upon inside of the home. It’s no surprise that a recent national survey of landscape architects revealed wireless connectivity and outdoor stereo systems in the “must have” list for outdoor living designs this year. And it’s also no surprise that outdoor-rated tech is beginning to flood the market. Here are some of our favorites:

speakersRockustics Speakers

With unidirectional speakers, omni-directional speakers, and subwoofers in a variety of styles that look like rocks, planters, and even stone or brick walls, these outdoor speakers can create the perfect sound while seamlessly blending in with your outdoor living design. By placing speakers and dimmer switches throughout your outdoor living area, you can create a balanced level of sound that won’t result in late night phone calls from the neighbors. And, your guests will be entertained just trying to figure out where the music is coming fun. Rockustic also has a couple of lines of traditional mounted speakers, but what fun is that?

waterproof-remoteCrestron Waterproof Remote

Compatible with a variety of home automation system gateways and IR-receivers, this rechargeable “remote on a rope” comes with a charging station and is even safe to use in the hot tub. With several weeks of wireless use per charge, you can control lighting, music, TV and more with ease…and without worrying about wet hands or the battery corrosion that can happen when you leave a remote outdoors.

projectoscreenVisual Apex Screen and LG Wireless Projector

Only 28 pounds, washable, mildew-resistant, flame-retardant, and easy to hang or setup on a stand, the 120″ Visual Apex ProjectoScreen HD is portable and can instantly convert your backyard into an outdoor movie theater. The LG MiniBeam PH550 720p projector holds a charge for up to 2.5 hours and wirelessly connects to Apple or Android devices. Throw some pizzas on the grill, and you’re ready for an unforgettable move night.

wifi-repeater2Ubiquiti Outdoor Wi-Fi Repeater

Unfortunately, kids these days can’t go 32 seconds without an internet connection. If you want to keep them from burning through your monthly data this summer, better get one of these bad boys. Able to withstand wind, rain and snow, simply plug the Ubiquiti UniFi Wireless-N Outdoor Access Point into an external outlet, connect it via your computer to your indoor wi-fi router, and extend your network up to 600 feet. Problem solved.

DIY Project:
How to Build a Block Column

TOOL LIST:

  • Hand tamper
  • Level
  • Rubber mallet
  • Tape measure
  • Caulk gun
  • Spade shovel
  • Stiff metal rake (for leveling gravel)
  • Yard stick or 2×4 board (for screeding sand)

MATERIALS LIST:

  • Wall blocks (quantity depends on height, will need 4 rectangular blocks per layer)
  • 20″ wall cap (if desired) or 6 additional wall blocks for cap
  • Crushed gravel
  • Bedding sand
  • Masonry adhesive

STEP 1: Prepare Base

  • Remove 6 inches of top soil (approximately 2’x2′ section)
  • Fill with 5 inches gravel, level with a rake and compact with a hand tamper
  • Top with 1 inch of sand, screed to level

STEP 2: Column Construction

  • Lay base blocks
  • Apply a layer of adhesive
  • Lay next layer of blocks and adjust placement with a rubber mallet, as needed
  • Apply a layer of adhesive
  • NOTE: Use a staggered pattern to increase column strength (see video)

STEP 3: Add Layers

  • Repeat STEP 2 until you reach desired height (maximum height 42 inches)
  • Add final layer of adhesive to the top of the stack

STEP 4: Column Cap

  • Option1: Position 6 blocks horizontally as a cap
  • Option 2: Top with a single 20″ square wall cap

Spring Paver Maintenance Tips

Pavers: Dublin Cobble
Pavers: Dublin Cobble®

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.