Take a Virtual Tour of the Southern Living 2016 Idea House

Belgard is proud to adorn the outdoor living spaces of the 50th anniversary edition of the Southern Living Idea House. As the official hardscape sponsor, we are honored to be a part of Southern Living’s legacy of bringing new design ideas to the marketplace.

This year’s home is a charming raised cottage nestled in the Birmingham community of Mt Laurel, Alabama. With wrap-around porches and a wooded lot, this home exemplifies southern living, as is appropriate for the 50th anniversary showcase. Take a virtual walk with us through the welcoming outdoor living spaces of this lovely home.

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Picturesque natural stone and Mega-Lafitt™ paver walkways lead from the street to the raised wrap-around porch on the front of the home. The use of natural stone creates a rustic look, as though the entrance to the home was cut directly into the natural landscape. The natural slate look of the Mega-Lafitt™ landings adds a touch of elegance.

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southern-living-walkway2An Old York™ paver driveway installed with a traditional herringbone pattern connects with a Mega-Lafitt™ walkway that leads to a welcoming rear entrance. The driveway and walkway are both trimmed with contrasting tones of Lafitt™ pavers. The Lafitt™ border serves a dual purpose of adding visual interest and tying the overall hardscape design together. The french doors of the entrance are accented with coordinating sidelights. Elegant planter boxes are filled with a variety of colorful and whimsical annuals that help maintain a casual look.

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The deep and welcoming side porch leads from the interior living room to a delightful Mega-Lafit™ paver patio that serves both as a dining terrace and an outdoor living room. A wood-burning Weston Stone® fire pit acts as a visual anchor for the outdoor design which provides ample sitting room and multiple conversation zones.

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A striped party cabana adds a festive look to the terrace and creates a cozy spot for private conversation or an escape from the elements. Cabana design elements coordinate with the outdoor living room, dining area and porch to create a cohesive design.

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Interesting in learning more about the Southern Living 2016 Idea House?

all images of the southern living design home provided courtesy of time, inc.

Protecting Pavers from Debris

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Belgard pavers are designed to last the life of your home. However, like any decorative exterior surface, they are subject to the effects of use, weather and time if not properly maintained. It’s that time of year when patios, walkways and driveways are constantly filled with falling leaves and pine needles — all of which can stain pavers that are not properly sealed.

Even if your pavers were sealed when originally installed, sealant will wear over time. To keep them looking beautiful, it is important to reseal pavers every three to five years. If pavers no longer repel water, or begin to look dull or stained, it’s probably time to clean and reseal them. There are likely a number of contractors in your area who offer this service. To search for a local contractor click here.

For those interested in cleaning and sealing their own pavers, it’s a three-step process.

Step 1: Stain Removal. Remove any stains from the surface using a specialized cleaning product for the particular stain. For example rust, paint, red wine, and grease will each have different chemical properties. Best results will be achieved when using a specialized cleaner for the particular stain. Techniseal offers a high-quality line of concrete paver stain removal products and can be found at various dealers, including Ace Hardware stores.

Step 2: General Surface Cleaning. Once stains have been removed, prep the entire surface to be sealed by removing all efflorescence and ground-in dirt with a paver cleaner. Spray cleaner onto pavers, scrub with a push broom, then rinse with a hose. Allow at least 24 hours for pavers to fully dry.

Step 3: Sealing. Choose between a matte finish, semi-gloss or wet-look sealant, depending on your preference. Before you begin, make sure that sprinklers are turned off, pavers are completely dry, and rain is not forecast for the next 24 hours. Be sure to read the entire product directions and test a small area first. Also note that it is not advised to seal pavers when sustained temperatures are below 50°F (10°C). If all conditions are favorable, apply the product in small sections at a time. For best results, spray on sealant with a sprayer, then use a roller to evenly coat and remove excess. Most sealants will need a second coat. Drying time will vary.

For more information, watch this video:

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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It’s Pizza Grilling Time!

Alison Miksch - Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar - Food Stylist

Grilled pineapple dessert pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch – Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar – Food Stylist)

October is National Pizza Month…as if we need a reason to eat pizza! Whether you’re talking about flatbread with caramelized onions and shiitake mushrooms, grilled fruit dessert pizza, or just a good old-fashioned pepperoni and cheese, once you try making pizza on the grill, you’ll never want to cook pizza indoors again.

If you’re in a rush, you can actually place a store-bought frozen pizza on a hot grill for around the same length of time you would cook it in the oven. Be sure and rotate it occasionally so that it cooks evenly, and keep an eye on it so that the crust doesn’t burn. Whether you’re using gas or charcoal, it will create a nice crispy crust and will be much more flavorful than if cooked in a standard oven. Using charcoal or wood chips will help give it a gourmet smokey flavor.

If you have a few extra minutes, creating your own grilled pizzas is so much more fun! Everyone can be involved in the prep process and enjoy experimenting with combinations of their favorite ingredients. You can go low-tech by buying pre-baked pizza crusts, get a little more adventurous with store-bought pizza dough, or go full-on gourmet by making your own dough at home. If you’re using raw dough, be sure and spray the grill with cooking spray to keep it from sticking and cook the dough for 3 to 4 minutes prior to adding your toppings.

Smoked sausace, corn, and sweet onion grilled pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch - Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar - Food Stylist)

Grilled smoked sausage, corn, and sweet onion pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch – Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar – Food Stylist)

If you’re making an afternoon of it, you may want to considering pre-grilling some toppings to put on your pizzas. Grill-worthy toppings include chicken, ham, shrimp, pineapple, smoked sausage, corn, and garden vegetables. In addition to any pre-grilled toppings, other topping ideas can include artichoke hearts, spinach, banana peppers, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, kalamata olives, and fresh herbs. Of course, don’t forget the pepperoni, or the kids may revolt.

For a fun family activity, create a “pizza bar” prep station where each person can create his or her own fabulous pizza. For sauces, you can offer traditional pizza sauce, pesto, olive oil, BBQ sauce, and buffalo wing sauce. For cheeses, offer mozzarella, goat cheese, feta cheese, and crumbled blue cheese. If you want to finish off your pizza-palooza with a yummy dessert pizza, check out our recipe for grilled dessert pizza.

Happy grilling!

Grilled pizza photos courtesy Time, Inc.

Fire Pit Design Tips & Trends

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Fire pits continue to rise in popularity, and it’s no wonder. There’s just something about gathering around a fire that’s inherently human. A fire pit instantly becomes everyone’s favorite gathering spot. It’s the ideal place to relax, unwind, tell stories, and get to know one another on a deeper level. If you’re thinking of adding a fire pit to your backyard, there are a lot of options to consider before you begin.

Decision 1: Mobile or Built-In

Many people opt for a mobile fire pit that can be moved around to various locations. Movable fire pits are certainly less expensive than a built-in pit, come in a wide variety of designs, and have the added benefit of portability. The primary drawback, however, is that a movable fire pit tends to only last a season or two before the materials begin to deteriorate.

An in-ground fire pit can be a cost-effective option.

Decision 2: In-Ground or Above-Ground

An in-ground fire pit can be cost-effective, however above-ground pits are more common. One trend is to create a “sunken living room” design for an above-ground fire pit. This offers the added benefit of built-in seating. In addition, the surrounding wall can act either as a wind barrier or a heat reflector, creating a warm and cozy room.

Decision 3: Gas, Wood or Hybrid

There are a number of benefits to a gas fire pit. It’s easy to start, there’s no mess, there’s no smoke, and it can be placed closer to the house. For purists, however, burning wood is one of the primal reasons to even have a fire pit. For the best of both worlds, consider a wood-burning fire pit with a gas starter. One popular trend is to install a gas starter with a switch that can be operated either locally, from inside the house, or with a mobile app.

Decision 4: Placement

An above-ground pit becomes a focal point of your outdoor living design. Be sure and place it where it balances with other large design elements. A gas fire pit can be placed just about anywhere, but a wood-burning pit will need to be at least 10 feet away from any structure. Before putting in a permanent fire pit, check for wind patterns that may cause potential smoke issues. Also, remember to leave ample room for seating around the pit.

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This sunken fire pit room uses a combination of natural stone and manufactured hardscapes.

Decision 5: Materials and Shape

Above-ground fire pits can be constructed from a variety of materials. The most popular options are brick, natural stone and concrete blocks, such as Belgard retaining wall products. Although design options are endless, most fire pits are either round or square. One reason has to do with the shape of standard fire pit liners. Fire pit liners are highly recommended and may be required by your local municipality. In addition to adding a finished look, a steel liner keeps excessive amounts of heat from absorbing into the surrounding stone. By reflecting the heat up and out, it adds to the life of the stone and creates a safer environment. It also increases the feeling of warmth for those around the fire.

Decision 6: Seating Options

Built-in seating is currently one of the top trends in outdoor living and makes an excellent addition to a fire pit design. Some people like to place seat walls four feet away from the fire pit, which allows for walking room. Others prefer a three-foot distance, which can allow you to prop your feet on the ledge of the pit. If using seat walls, consider leaving one or two sides open. This will allow for the option of furniture placement, which softens the look and adds interest to the design. To add comfort and color to seat walls, use a variety of throws and outdoor pillows.

The combination of built-in seat walls and open seating provides ample seating space an accommodates those who want to control their seating distance in relation to the fire.

The combination of built-in seat walls and open seating provides ample seating space and accommodates those who want to control their seating distance in relation to the fire.

Fore more fire pit design inspiration, visit our “Fire Pit Ideas” Pinterest board. To discuss your ideas with a Belgard authorized contractor or dealer near you, visit our contractor and dealer locator page.

Winging It for Backyard Tailgating

Add zest to your next backyard tailgate party with mouth-watering chicken wings and three delicious sauces that are sure to please every palate.

Grilled Wings

Ingredients

3 pounds chicken wings
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Light one side of grill, heating to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat; leave other side unlit. Dry each wing well with paper towels. Toss together wings and oil in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  2. Place chicken over unlit side of grill, and grill with lid closed 15 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to lit side of grill, and grill with lid open 10 to 12 minutes or until skin is crispy and lightly charred, turning every 2 to 3 minutes. Toss wings immediately with desired sauce. Let stand, tossing occasionally, 5 minutes before serving.

Alabama White Sauce

Ingredients

1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Creole mustard
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 garlic clove, finely grated

Preparation

Whisk ingredients together. Use as a drizzle or toss wings in sauce to coat. Yields about 2/3 cup.

Buttery Nashville Hot Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter, melted
3 to 4 tsp. ground red pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Preparation

Cook butter, ground red pepper, brown sugar, salt, paprika, and garlic powder in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until fragrant. Remove from heat, and stir in vinegar. Toss wings in sauce to coat. Yields about 1/3 cup.

Vietnamese Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 to 3 tsp. Asian chili-garlic sauce
3 tablespoons finely chopped toasted peanuts
1/4 cup torn cilantro and mint leaves

Preparation

Sauté garlic in oil in a small saucepan over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes or until golden. Stir in fish sauce, brown sugar, and chili-garlic sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and stir occasionally for 4 to 5 minutes or until thickened and reduced to about 1/2 cup. Stir in peanuts. Toss wings in sauce to coat. Sprinkle coated wings with cilantro and mint leaves.

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Photo Credits:

Photo courtesy Time, Inc. Photographer: Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Erin Merhar; Prop Stylist: Caroline Cunningham