Building Patios for Disabled Veterans

The Tunnel to Towers foundation honors both firefighter Stephen Siller, who laid down his life to save others on September 11th, and our nation’s military and first responders who continue to make the supreme sacrifice of life and limb for our country. One of the organization’s programs, Building for America’s Bravest, builds single-family housing for disabled veterans across the country.

Belgard has partnered with Tunnel to Towers and Building for America’s Bravest by providing all materials and installation of backyard patios on the 12-15 homes scheduled for construction this year.

“Belgard is incredibly honored to lend our backyard living expertise to the men and women who have given back so much for our country, so they can fully enjoy their new homes,” stated Wade Ficklin, President APG West/Canada and Tunnel to Towers project coordinator.

The first patio was completed in Virginia in March, with pavers donated by Anchor South, an Oldcastle company, and installed by a group of Belgard representatives with assistance from contractor Chris Ianndrelli with All Seasons Landscaping and Irrigation, who installed the base. The 425 square foot patio was constructed with Lafitt® pavers (Bella color) installed in a running bond pattern and bordered with Old York™ pavers (Charcoal color). The design for the patio was created by the Belgard Design Studio, who made recommendations on the products and installation pattern and provided design renderings and materials estimates to help facilitate and expedite the project.

A Belgard team member wets the patio with a hose to activate the polymeric jointing sand, the finishing touch for the first Building for America’s Bravest patio.

“I was proud of how everyone pulled the project together on such a short turnaround,” said Sam Bond, who coordinated the volunteer effort on behalf of Belgard.

Paver installation was led by Ben Hulvey and Brandon Ford of the Belgard sales team for Anchor South, along with additional volunteers from Anchor South and the Belgard retail team.

The group installed their second patio this month, this time for a newly constructed home in Sumerduck, Virginia, with the project led by Belgard sales team members Ben Hulvey and Todd Stiffler. Assistance on this project was provided by Marc Salafia of The Stone Center of Fredericksburg, who provided all of the base materials, and Jim Mauro of M&M Hardscaping who assisted with hardscape installation.

“Jim Mauro was especially excited to have the opportunity to be part of this charity installation because he has a brother who is a firefighter and other family members who are servicemen,” said Hulvey.

This second patio also included a retaining wall to control the slope of the backyard. The project included 940 square feet of pavers:  Lafitt® Grana Slab (Bella color) trimmed with Old York™ Pavers (Charcoal color). Bordering the project is an attractive 272 square foot Celtik® Wall (Bella color).

The second Virginia patio includes a covered area, shaded by an overhead balcony, and a multi-tiered retaining wall.

This same group plans to install three more Building for America’s Bravest patios int he Maryland and Virginia area this year. The remainder of teh projects will be installed by other Belgard teams in various locations across the country. The Belgard Design Studio will continue to work with each group to provide designs and materials needs.

The next patio installation is currently in progress in Pompey, New York, with two additional patios currently in the design phase in Texas. Additional locations planned through the end of the year include sites in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington, Maryland, Florida, Boston, Upstate New York and Southern California.

Built-in Grill Design Ideas

Get cooking with some of our favorite grilling station design ideas, from simple grill islands to gourmet outdoor kitchens.

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The Angular Look

These outdoor kitchens use multiple angles and countertops galore to create expansive grilling stations with ample prep and serving space, as well as bar-style seating.

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Weston Stone® clads the Bristol Brick Oven and was used to create a coordinating base to the grill station and extended kitchen, as well as the staircase leading to the back of the home, which ties the entire look together.
Rough-hewn Country Manor® wall adds a rustic touch and was used to create an angular kitchen that follows the shape of the gazebo roofline.

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The Classic L-Shape

With a classic L-shaped grilling station, everything you need is within arm’s reach.

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This L-shaped kitchen unit is part of the Bristol Series of the Belgard Elements collection and is prefabricated in a factory setting and shipped in sections for a custom look that installs quickly.
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This custom L-shaped grilling station is constructed with the chiseled stone look of Belair Wall® and houses multiple storage cabinets and drawers to keep everything you need close at hand.

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Multiple Cooking Surfaces

Gourmet outdoor chefs can’t settle for just one cooking method.

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With the design flexibility of Tandem® Modular Grid, this outdoor chef has it all…wood-burning brick oven, charcoal-burning Big Green Egg®, butane grill, sink and refrigerator!

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Gorgeous Curves

Outdoor kitchens and grilling stations don’t have to follow the limited linear rules of an indoor cooking space. Get create with curvy designs.

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Multi-level counter tops and diamond-shaped embellishments add visual interest to this Weston Stone® grilling station. A built-in umbrella stand helps protect the cook from sun and rain.
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Doric columns and curved Tandem® walls add an elegant look to this outdoor kitchen.

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Timelessness

You can’t go wrong with the classic look of brick.

A copper vent and roof add a modern twist to the traditional look of this brick grilling station and bar, which offers ample seating for guests to visit with the grill master.

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Creative Touches

For a unique design, sometimes you have to think outside of the box.

A built-in gas fire feature adds flare to this Weston Stone® grilling station and bar.
This sunken kitchen was created using rough-hewn Celtik Wall® to retain the pool and build out the kitchen structure, which includes a grill, beverage cooler and refrigerator.

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Grill Islands

Even when space is at a premium, you can still have an eye-catching cooking space.

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This grill island from the Bristol Series of the Belgard Elements collection includes a bar top for seating on the opposite side. Embellishments of Arbel® pavers add visual interest, and in this design, coordinate with the paver patio.
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The Bordeaux Series grill island from the Belgard Elements collection has a smaller footprint and offers a stacked stone look with either a midnight (shown) or limestone countertop.

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Multi-Media Mecca

Some folks want an outdoor kitchen that offers all of the convenience of the indoors.

Tandem® Modular Grid was used to build out this outdoor kitchen, which houses multiple cooking surfaces and outdoor appliances, as well as a built-in flatscreen TV and sound system.

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Wood & Stone

There’s just something earthy and fabulous about combining the looks of wood and stone together. An excellent way to do that is by adding an arbor to your outdoor space, which not only helps filter the sunlight, but adds pop to your design.

Reclaimed wood creates an eye-catching arbor for this Weston Stone® grilling station.
Arbors flank both sides of this Tandem® Modular Grid cooking station, adding an interesting look and coordinating with other wooden structures in the outdoor space.

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.

Belgard Provides Charm, Improved Function and Cost Savings for Playground

Every play element of the new Chastain Park playground is designed for group play, from multi-person swings to “racing” slides and harmony stations. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)

What happens when kids get involved in the design of a playground? Amazing things! Just ask the community surrounding Atlanta’s Chastain Park. The only public playground serving the 85,000 school-age children within a 5-mile radius, the park’s playground had not been renovated since 2000 and was in dire need of an upgrade. The existing playground had a lot of deficiencies, primarily in that it really only appealed to a small demographic (ages 5-12). The majority of the play structures were too dangerous for smaller children, yet not challenging enough for older children.

A Mega-Tandem™ retaining wall provides an acoustic backdrop for one of the park's harmony stations. (Photo: Carson Matthews)
A Mega-Tandem™ retaining wall provides an acoustic backdrop for one of the park’s harmony stations. (photo: Carson Matthews)

Enter play specialist consultant Cynthia Gentry, an expert in childhood development who met with school children from the surrounding community to begin the design concepts. Kids were asked to imagine what they’d like to see on the playground and put that imagery into drawings, which became the inspiration for the all of the designs.

Gentry then enlisted the help of another consultant, Robin Moore, who specializes in nature-based play, currently a strong movement in childhood development circles. Together, Gentry and Moore conducted a charrette, or meeting of the minds, with representatives from the private school located inside the park’s grounds, local public schools and pre-schools, civic associations, the Parks Commission, and various members of the community. At the charrette, the group reviewed all of the children’s drawings and synthesized them into rough design concepts. A second charrette was held at NC State to compound all of the concepts into one overall design.

Landscape Architect Bill Caldwell took the ball from there, handling permits and turning the master plan into design documents for drainage, utilities, elevation, landscaping, hardscaping, and construction of the restroom pavilion. Caldwell contracted renown water resources engineer consultant, Bill Jorden, to develop the stormwater management plan to meet all of Atlanta’s ordinances for stormwater runoff quality and quantity.

Urbana Stone® permeable pavers throughout the playground manage stormwater, reducing water runoff and reducing pollution. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)
Urbana Stone® permeable pavers throughout the playground manage stormwater, reducing both stormwater runoff and pollution. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)

“Our goal was to not create a detention pond on a beautiful site of rolling hills and historic oak trees. I also didn’t want to have to convert the flat spaces currently used for open play. Belgard products helped us to avoid these traditional stormwater management strategies,” Caldwell said.

With the help of Belgard Urbana Stone® permeable pavers and Mega-Tandem™ Mass Segmental Retaining Wall™, the team was able to conserve land, meet the stormwater requirements, and save a significant amount of money in the process.

“Because the playground was being built into a hillside, the project required substantial retaining walls, which initially called for poured concrete. We got two Mega-Tandem Walls for the price of one poured concrete wall. Also, using the Mega-Tandem allowed us to value-engineer the pavilion and reduce the amount of poured concrete needed for the foundation. Overall, we saved over $200,000 on the project, factoring the cost savings on the pavilion and the site walls,” Caldwell said.

In addition, the 9,000 square feet of permeable paver walkways controls the amount of rainwater runoff that rolls downhill, which alleviates erosion problems. “An impervious system would have caused a concentration of water flow to the lower elevations, which would have generated more runoff than the original site,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell also notes that the Belgard permable pavers and retaining walls allowed him to create the playground out of what was formerly unusable space. “I love the fact that we took a hillside with a 12-15 degree slope that was basically non-functional and turned it into a 1-acre parkland that is a highly functional and usable space and has become a high-value component of the park,” he said. “We created something out of nothing.”

And what Caldwell considers the best part…this playgound was designed by kids for kids, regardless of age or abilities. The entire playground is ADA compliant, with multiple handicap accessible play elements. “Even the texture of the permeable paver walkway adds a sensory element for children with sensory disabilities, which is not something they would get with a smooth poured concrete sidewalk. Addressing disabilities of multiple spectrums was always part of the discussion from the beginning,” Caldwell said.

Photos courtesy Carson MattHews and the Chastain Park Conservancy.

Utilizing Retaining Walls in Poolscape Design

Dimensional multi-level design is one of the hottest trends in modern poolscapes. Belgard segmental retaining wall products make an outstanding medium for dimensional poolscape design. Here are some inspirational ideas of how segmental retaining walls can be used to enhance a poolscape:

Multi-Level Decks and Sunken Rooms

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Steps and Columns

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Dimensional Gardens and Planters

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Built-in Seating, Water Features and Fire Features

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Adjoining Kitchens and Bars

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Parapet Walls and Fencing

Mega-Tandem™ Provides Striking Support for Utah Homebuilder

During the construction of a home in the Salt Lake City area, the landscape contractor was challenged with building a retaining wall that would support the garage and driveway area, which had an elevation drop of about twenty feet into the property line and neighbor’s yard and needed to be terraced according to city codes. The home also needed a grass ramp sloping from the driveway into the home’s own backyard, which was at the same elevation as the neighbor’s, twenty feet below. The Mega-Tandem™ Mass Segmental Retaining Wall system achieved the project’s structural goals, with the bonus of an enhanced aesthetic look of natural stone.

DEVELOPER: Ken & Kristen Keller, Keller Development

INSTALLER: Terra-Scape Landscaping – Rand Locke, Owner

DEALER: Beehive Brick & Stone – Dee Young, VP of Sales

SUPPLIER: Amcor, an Oldcastle company