Planning Tips for Your Outdoor Living Makeover Project

Outdoor Living Makeover Project Planning Guide

Whether you’re wanting to improve your curb appeal or add functionality to your backyard, these planning tips can help you start your outdoor living makeover planning process, as well as help you avoid potential pitfalls.

TIP 1:  DO YOUR RESEARCH

  • Inspiration: Spend a significant amount of time looking through magazine websites, outdoor living Pinterest boards and the Belgard Inspiration Gallery to see which styles, textures and colors tend to grab your attention. Keep the architectural style of your home in mind to ensure your design works well with your home’s color or architecture.
  • Budget: Check websites like HomeAdvisor to get a rough idea of what installation costs are for your type of project. The costs won’t be exact until you get quotes, but it will help start the planning process. And as with any home improvement project, you should include some buffer room in the budget to cover any unforeseen contingencies, like a last minute design addition.

TIP 2:  FIND A GOOD CONTRACTOR

When planning for any outdoor living makeover project, a good rule of thumb is to get three quotes. Don’t necessarily choose the lowest bid, but the contractor you feel has the best understanding of your vision and the necessary skills to bring it to life. Be sure to ask to see examples of their work and references. If you’re planning to install patio pavers or landscape walls, Belgard is North America’s leading manufacturer of hardscapes and provides an online contractor locator of pre-screened installers who are required to adhere to specific standards and are reviewed annually.

TIP 3:  PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

  • Phasing: If you have an overall vision for your property and know you can’t do everything at once, you should still PLAN everything before breaking ground on the first project. Doing so can save you a lot of money and headaches down the road. For example, if you’re installing a pool and plan to add a pavilion and outdoor kitchen later, put in column footings and pre-run needed electrical and gas lines under the pool deck. It will cost a little extra on the front end but will save significant money and time later. In addition, a contractor who understands the overall vision can help you plan the best way to phase everything out.
  • Design: Be sure to ask for design renderings so that everyone is on the same page. If your project involves Belgard pavers or walls, a Belgard Authorized Contractor can provide Virtual Reality Designs from the Belgard Design Studio free of charge. These designs offer an ultra-realistic 360-degree view of your future space including furniture, landscaping and images of your home.

TIP 4:  YOU WILL NEED MORE SPACE THAN YOU THINK

  • Driveways: Homeowners who choose to install a standard driveway (8 to 10 feet wide) often wish they had splurged and gone with 12 feet. The additional width provides more room for wider vehicles, as well as walking space around the vehicle. This will keep your future guests from having to step off of the driveway into wet grass on a rainy day, or from accidentally missing a portion of a narrow driveway and leaving tire ruts in your yard.
  • Patios: Don’t just think about furniture groupings, but also the walking and gathering space that will be needed around the furniture. If you like to entertain, you will want to plan enough space for multiple conversation zones. And if you’re planning an outdoor kitchen, remember to plan for food prep and serving space.

TIP 5:  GET THE BELGARD PROJECT GUIDE

Outdoor Living Makeover Project GuideOur comprehensive Project Guide can be viewed online or downloaded for future reference. It offers a wealth of additional project planning information — including project considerations, planning timelines, design basics, budgeting tips, contractor selection tips, long term maintenance tips and more.

GET THE PROJECT GUIDE

RECIPES: A New Way to S’more

Guest blog from Chuao Chocolatier® artisan chocolates.

Hey Belgard fam, it’s your friends from Chuao Chocolatier again! Living in sunny San Diego has its perks, including having beautiful weather all year round. That means even in August, we’re breaking out our s’mores kits and gathering ‘round the fire pit. But, that means that the classic s’mores can get a little… boring. So, in true Chuao style, we made up some SUPER fun recipes for s’mores that are so good you’ll want to s’more all year long, too!

maple donut bar, bacon s'more recipeForget The Diet S’Mores

What could possibly elevate a s’more recipe to an unheard of level? How about a maple donut bar, bacon and our Baconluxious Chocolate bar?  Sweet sticky maple with salty smoky bacon come together in a s’more that is completely out of this world good. We say, forget the diet and indulge!

What you’ll need: maple donut bar, Chuao Chocolatier Baconluxious Chocolate mini bars, marshmallows, cooked bacon.

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Dark Chocolate S'Mores with French breadQueen Bee S’Mores

We couldn’t help ourselves – we had to take ooey gooey s’mores and add even MORE sticky sweetness. The deliciously sweet honey balances out deliciously with soft French bread slices and rich dark chocolate.

What you’ll need: French Bread loaf, Chuao Chocolatier Honeycomb mini bars, marshmallows, honey.

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Breakfast Waffle S'More Recipe With StrawberriesS’More Breakfast Please!

Eat these for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, because they’re delicious any time of day. Sweet cinnamon cereal and creamy milk chocolate are met with sweet, fresh strawberries and crunchy waffle to balance everything out. It’s a s’more worth getting out of bed for.

What you’ll need: Waffles, Chuao Chocolatier Cinnamon Cereal Smooch mini bars, marshmallows, fresh strawberries.

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Oh, SNAP! S'More RecipeOh, SNAP! S’Mores

We went to flavor town with our last s’more creation. Spicy ginger cookies meet caramel apples meet chocolate meet s’mores… meets total deliciousness. We chose to buy our ginger cookies, and we went with a soft cookie instead of a typical crispy ginger snap, but either version is delicious! If you want to make these s’mores even more delectable, add a drizzle of caramel sauce to them!

What you’ll need: ginger cookies, Chuao Chocolatier Caramel Apple Crush mini bars, marshmallows. Optional: caramel sauce.

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Have Your Own Idea for a New Kind of S’more?

Belgard is celebrating fireside s’mores throughout the month of August and would love to hear your fireside stories and original s’mores recipes. Submit your story or recipe at Belgard.com/smores and enter for a chance to win a free Ashland Fire Pit Kit and a $500 gift certificate for Chuao Chocolatier artisan chocolates!

RECIPE: Homemade S’mores
(From Scratch)

Guest blog from Chuao Chocolatier® artisan chocolates.

Oh My S’mores! Chuao ChocolatierWe’re Chuao Chocolatier, a San Diego-based chocolatier known for our innovatively delicious chocolate bars, and we’re excited to share our recipe for Homemade S’mores with the Belgard family. We know the name of this recipe sounds ridiculous – of course all s’mores are homemade. Is there really any other way to s’more? Actually there is! We have a fun portable version of s’mores that you can eat anytime, anywhere, with no flame required: it’s Oh My S’mores! chocolate bar, and yes it’s delicious.

BUT we’re here to tell you about a different kind of s’more – one where the graham crackers and marshmallows are all homemade from scratch.

Oh yeah, we’re going there.

It sounds difficult, especially if you aren’t one to enjoy baking on the regular. But we promise, it’s so delicious that you will never want to use store-bought ingredients again! Plus, it’s so easy. Yes, homemade marshmallows are easy. You barely have to do anything! And you get soft, sticky, sweet marshmallows as a result.

Graham Cracker Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup graham flour
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter cut into 1/4-inch cubes and chilled
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 tbs ounces whole milk
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Place both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
  3. Add the molasses, milk, honey, and vanilla extract and process until the dough forms a ball — approximately 1 minute.
  4. Press the ball into a 1/2-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Unwrap the chilled dough and place it onto a large piece of parchment paper and top with a second sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough out until it is 1/8-inch thick.
  7. Slide the rolled dough and parchment paper onto a half sheet pan. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and cut the dough, using a rolling pizza cutter into 2-inch square pieces, by making vertical and then horizontal cuts all the way across the dough. Trim off any excess.
  8. Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the dough.
  9. Leave the crackers on the pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 minutes or until the edges just start to darken. Remove from the oven, set the sheet pan with the crackers on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  10. Once completely cool, break into individual crackers.

Marshmallow Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  • Special Equipment Needed: Candy Thermometer, Electric Mixer

Directions

  1. Combine all three packets of gelatin and ½ cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Allow to sit while you make the sugar syrup.
  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and ½ cup water into a sauce pan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise heat to high and cook until the sugar syrup reaches 240º F on a candy thermometer (about 7 minutes). Remove from heat.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin.
  4. When all the syrup has been added, put the mixer on high and whip until the mixture is very thick and shiny, about 15 minutes.
  5. While the mixture is whipping, generously (and we mean really generously) dust an 8×12 inch nonmetal baking dish with confectioners’ sugar.
  6. When the marshmallow fluff has reached the desired texture, add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.
  7. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepped baking dish. Smooth out the top, and add either more confectioners’ sugar, or desired decorative toppings. Let the marshmallows stand uncovered overnight until they’re dried out.
  8. Once the marshmallows have dried out, turn the marshmallows out onto a board that has also been dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Cut them into squares and dust with more confectioners’ sugar.

The Final Component: Chocolate

Ok, so now you have your base layer and your sticky, smoky layer. Next you need a rich, melty layer to make everything come together. We have a few pretty delicious options for you (though you really can’t go wrong with any of our chocolate stuffed into a s’more).

Oh My S’mores!Oh My S’mores!: It’s basically doubling down on your s’more game. The most fun part about this is the marshmallows, because they stay slightly soft and chewy, instead of ooey gooey like the blazed up marshmallows. The texture is killer and the creamy milk chocolate makes for the perfect combo.

Sprinkle Dreams: Imaging combining a trip to your favorite ice cream shop with an gooey and delectable s’more, all in one fabulous bite! The sprinkles in this chocolate bar keep things colorful and fun, while the bits of waffle cone and hazelnuts add a delicious crunch that brings the whole s’mores experience together!

FirecrackerFirecracker: Get ready for a totally unique s’mores experience! Rich dark chocolate makes this sumptuous and heavenly, but then a surprising kick of chipotle tickles your throat while popping candy explodes in your mouth. Trust us, you’re going to want to try this one! It’s like a party in your mouth.

Joy-Filled CaramelsJoy-Filled Caramels: This is NEXT LEVEL s’mores. If you want to make your s’mores totally and completely indulgent, throw a Joy-Filled Caramel in your s’more and let the rich, sweet caramel take your taste buds to flavor town.

There are countless other fun s’mores recipes to create with our chocolate – what would you try first? Or is there another chocolate bar you’re checking out? Well don’t be shy, tell us in the comments! And then go ahead and give it a try – you won’t ever regret eating this deliciousness.

-Team Chuao

If you enjoyed this recipe, head over to the Chuao recipe page and try your hand at all the fun and delicious treats we have there!

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COMING SOON:  National S’mores Day is coming up on August 10! Come back to the Belgard blog on that day to celebrate with us, and you’ll have a chance to enter to win a Belgard fire pit.

National Grilling Month Giveaway

National Grilling Month Giveaway
Grilling is not just a way to cook. It’s a lifestyle. That’s why Belgard will be celebrating National Grilling Month throughout the month of July by giving away fabulous 3-piece Grill Master BBQ tool sets to several lucky winners.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN

Recipes for Grilling Success

Over the years, we have featured multiple blogs on grilling tips. In honor of National Grilling Month, here are a few of our favorites:

Pizza Grilling Ideas BelgardIt’s Pizza Grilling Time!

Once you’ve tasted that smokey grilled pizza flavor, you’ll never want to cook pizza indoors again. Get helpful tips and recipe ideas for cooking pizzas on your grill.

>>Read our pizza blog

BBQ Ribs Grilling Ideas BelgardThe Secret to Perfect BBQ RIBS

Many people have a tough time grilling ribs correctly (tough being the operative word). Learn the secret to making tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs.

>>Read our ribs blog

Sliders Grilling Ideas BelgardYummy Summer Slider Bar

A slider bar is a fun way to feed large groups during summer gatherings. Get great ideas for ingredients and toppings that are sure to make your slider bar a hit!

>>Read our slider blog

Fun Facts about Grilling

  • Barbecuing ranked in the top three on homeowners’ summer to-do list, along with socializing and spending time outdoors. National Grilling Month in July might be the perfect reason to channel your inner grill master and fire up the barbecue with friends and family.
  • 48% of grill owners use their grills year-round.
  • 68% of grill owners use their grills 2-5 times a week during peak grilling months.
  • 71% of grillers use gas grills grills, while 41% prefer charcoal or wood. Some surveyed use both methods.
  • 10% of grill owners also have a full outdoor kitchen. L-shaped grilling stations give grill masters everything they need within arm’s reach, making cooking and clean-up a breeze.
  • 87% of Americans grill out on the 4th of July.

Sources: CNN.com; Allrecipies; Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association;  Super Market News; and Grilling with Rich.

Extending Your Patio Season Year Round

By guest blogger Katie Kuchta

Katie Kuchta

Katie Kuchta is a gardening guru, outdoor living expert, and self-proclaimed foodie. She can often be found cooking in the kitchen or on the hunt for the best tacos, follow her on Instagram @atxtacoqueen.

Homeowners who have recently hardscaped with a newly built patio space will want to use it year round. Adding hardscaping to your outdoor space can help to lengthen your enjoyment outdoors all year long. Depending on your location, being able to use your outdoor patio can vary depending on weather conditions and seasons in your area. However, there are many different ways that you can get full use of your beautiful new patio with these easy tips:

Use The Grill

Outdoor Patio Grill Pavers Hardscapes

Seasons in some regions allow homeowners to use their patio space well into the winter compared to other areas of the country. Areas like Kansas City, Tucson, Atlanta and parts of Texas have been reported to be ranked in the top metro areas for backyard grilling so take advantage of the extended warmer climate by choosing to grill dinner out on the patio. Making this a habit will not only help keep the house cooler by not using the oven, but will also encourage you to spend time out on the patio with family and friends.

Shield from the Elements

Outdoor Patio Paver Wind Shield

Using your patio means being outside but that doesn’t mean that you have to bear all of the elements that outdoor living can bring. Consider adding a pergola or sun shade above your patio to help lengthen the amount of time that you can comfortably use the area. Shielding yourself from the hot summer sun will help to keep you comfortable and enjoy your outdoor space. If you live in a particularly windy area, consider adding side curtains or awnings that can help to protect you from gusts of wind as well.

Add a Drink Station

Outdoor Brick Kitchen Cooler

For warm days out on the patio, consider adding a drink station that is stocked with your favorite staples such as bottled water, soda, or spirits. Many products are now available that include well-hidden coolers that will add beauty to your outdoor area without the eyesore of a cooler. Another great idea is to have a large amount of ice cold tea or lemonade in easy to use carafes. Making it easy for visitors to grab a drink will cut down on time going indoors and extend the use of your patio area.

Heat It Up

Outdoor Fireplace Brick Pavers

When in a colder area with cooler fall and winter temperatures, consider adding an outdoor heating element that will help to extend your time outdoors. Both small and large heaters can offer instant warmth to a cooler outdoor space. Incorporating a fire pit into your patio space is also a great way to add heat along with the ambience and welcoming scent of a crackling fire.

Consider the Brighton Fireplace Series from Belgard that features an impressive fireplace that is flanked by beautiful stone. Sources of heat are a great way to lengthen your time outdoors to enjoy the sights and sounds of the changing seasons.

Provide Extra Seating

Outdoor Patio Pavers Seating

You’ll want to share your new patio space with family and friends after finishing a patio project. Be sure to provide adequate seating for all of your guests by purchasing different pieces of outdoor furniture. Start with a main focal piece of furniture and then add in other easy types of seating like extra chairs or footstools that double as seats. Adding cut slabs of a fallen tree is another great way to add extra outdoor seating while also using natural elements.

Using a retaining wall as extra seating is also a great way to easily add room for everyone. Having easy to use pieces of extra seating in an outdoor space will encourage gatherings and more time spent outdoors.

There is absolutely no reason why beautiful patio spaces shouldn’t be used year round. Consider adding extra seating and heating elements to help encourage friends and neighbors to join you outdoors. Cover your patio space from the elements and provide an easy to use drink station to enjoy your outdoor space. Follow these tips to creating a patio area that will be well used all year long.

Paver Sealant: To Seal or Not to Seal

Paver sealant is an important maintenance tool to keep paver patios, walkways, driveways and pool decks looking as beautiful as they day they were installed.  However, “too much of a good thing” can come into play, and you should be wary of over-applying paver sealer by reapplying too often, which could create a haze. This week’s blog offers tips for knowing when it’s time to seal and how to best achieve the desired look.

Should all concrete pavers be sealed?

Yes. Concrete is porous and will absorb stains if not sealed. Sealants can also protect paver color from fading.

Do all paver sealant brands offer the same basic protection?

There are definitely some poor products on the market. Don’t trust the fact that you bought it at a big box store or that it’s a high-profile brand. Just because a brand is good at one product category (like paint) doesn’t mean they are the best in another. Belgard recommends Techniseal® sealants. When it comes paver sealant, Techniseal® is a pioneer in the industry has a robust R&D department, resulting in effective and durable products specifically created for paver installation and maintenance.

Is any one paver sealant finish more protective than another?

There are basically two types of paver sealants: film-forming (gloss or semi-gloss finish) and non-film-forming (matte finish). Film-forming sealants, such as Wet Look and Clear Look, offer the ultimate protection because they create a physical barrier on the paver surface. However non-film-forming sealants, Natural Look and Color Boost, still offer excellent protection and last a bit longer.

Techniseal Concrete Paver Sealer

How long should new pavers cure before they are sealed for the first time?

If using a non-film-forming paver sealant, wait one week before sealing. If using a film-forming sealant, wait 30 days to avoid trapping moisture under the protective barrier.

Is there a prep process before applying paver sealant?

Even new pavers should be cleaned with Techniseal® Paver Prep prior to sealing. Not only will it clean the pavers, but it will open the pores on the surface to allow better penetration of the sealant. Older pavers will also benefit, as Paver Prep will remove any efflorescence (or whitish salt buildup) that has accumulated. Any stains should be removed prior to applying Paver Prep, using the specific stain remover for the type of stain. For more information, read last week’s blog on paver stain removal.

How long should pavers dry after being cleaned and prepped?

The answer depends on your climate. In warm, sunny climates, the pavers will be dry and ready to seal in a few hours. In cooler climates or shady areas, it’s best to wait about 24 hours.

What are the ideal weather conditions for sealing?

Ideal conditions would be 75 degrees and sunny; however, anywhere between 50-90 degrees is generally fine. Take note that solvent-based sealants evaporate faster, so lower temperatures are better for application.

How often should paver sealer be reapplied?

The basic rule of thumb is every 3-5 years. For film-forming sealants, you will be able to notice when the physical barrier is showing signs of wear. For non-film-forming sealants, you will begin to see a significant color change of pavers during a rain when the sealant is wearing thin. Keep in mind that in cases of a really heavy rain, even well-sealed pavers may darken for a couple of days until the water fully evaporates, which is not an indication of sealant failure.

PAVER SEALANT APPLICATION TIPS:

  • Like with painting, it’s best to keep a wet edge on a continuous area. In other words, don’t let a section dry before you finish. Once you start working, keep working.
  • An application sprayer (available at any hardware store) makes it easier to work faster.
  • Apply paver sealant to saturation. Get the pavers good and wet to make sure all crevices are covered. Then use a dry roller to soak up the excess to avoid lines and drip marks.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Visit Techniseal’s website for more DIY paver sealant application tips. When in doubt, hire a professional. To find qualified contractors in your area, visit the Belgard contractor locator.