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

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.

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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