Outdoor Living Tips for Colder Months

When the days get shorter and the nights get colder, don’t retreat indoors!  With a little planning and simple touches here and there, your outdoor living areas can continue to be a favorite gathering spot during colder months. The following compilation of blog topics offer tips on making your outdoor spaces more usable this time of year, as well as winterizing do’s and don’ts that can help extend the lifespan of your fire features, appliances and hardscapes.

Outdoor Fireplace and Fire Pit Maintenance Tips

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Outdoor Fire Pit Winter LivingIt’s important to properly maintain outdoor fire features to ensure safety and functionality, both this season and for many years to come. Improve the life expectancy of your fire features with these simple maintenance tips.

 

Winterizing Your Outdoor Living Spaces

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Winterizing Your Outdoor Living SpacesExtreme temperature fluctuations can take a toll. Keep your outdoor kitchens and living rooms as beautiful and functional as the day they were installed with these simple do’s and don’ts for winterizing your outdoor appliances, fire features and brick ovens.

Preventing Deicing Downfalls

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Outdoor Patio Fireplace PaversDeicing agents can often have a corrosive effect on paved surfaces. Get tips on how to diminish ice buildup on your patios, walkways and driveways without diminishing the look and lifespan of your pavers.

 

Project Profile: Heated Permeable Pavers

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Heated Permeable Pavers Outdoor Living Tips WinterReady to ditch deicing salts altogether? Check out this contemporary permeable paver driveway and walkway constructed with heating coils beneath the pavers. The coils are activated by temperature and precipitation settings, heating the pavers to immediately melt snow and drain it through the joints.

Protecting Pavers from Debris

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Outdoor Living Fire Pit KitWarmer climates that aren’t subject to snow and ice can still be affected by falling leaves. Decomposing leaves and other debris can stain pavers that aren’t properly sealed. Learn how to protect your pavers and keep them looking beautiful.

Decorative Ways to Enjoy Your Outdoor Living Space in Colder Months

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Outdoor Living Tips for Colder Months FireplaceCreating a sense of warmth is the key to increasing the functionality of your outdoor spaces during colder months. Learn about multiple decorative ways to increase both the visual and physical warmth of your outdoor entertaining areas.

 

Festive Backyard Lighting Ideas

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Outdoor Living Tips for Winter FireplaceWith shorter days, proper lighting is another aspect to increasing the functionality of your outdoor entertainment spaces during this time of year. However, overhead porch lights can often be too bright and diminish the ambiance. Get ideas for creating a more festive and welcoming atmosphere.

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

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.

Not All Paver Stains Are Equal

When properly maintained, Belgard pavers are guaranteed to last the life of your home. However, even if your concrete pavers were sealed when they were originally installed, sealants will wear over time, leaving your pavers vulnerable to stains from spills, dirt, grease and other elements. Pavers that have never been sealed are particularly vulnerable. However, before sealing or resealing pavers, it’s important to remove existing stains, and even more important to note that not all stains are equal. Thankfully, the experts at Techniseal® developed a full line of paver cleaning products, each specifically formulated to combat a particular type of concrete stain. Their products can be found through various dealers, including Ace Hardware stores.

Techniseal Pre-Seal Paver CleanerPre-Seal Cleaner

If you’re simply dealing with ground-in dirt or efflorescence, this general cleaner will do the trick, as well as prep your pavers to be sealed. Efflorescence refers to the whitish salt deposits that can develop on paver surfaces and make pavers look dull and lifeless. Techniseal® Pre-Seal Cleaner will gently remove efflorescence, scuff marks and dirt, and brighten paver color.

 Techniseal Rust Remover for PaversRust Remover

If you’ve ever moved a planter and discovered a rusty ring beneath it, you’ll be happy to know that Techniseal® Rust Remover for Pavers effectively dissolves stains caused by dripping rusted water, rusted metal furniture or objects, steel streaks, and fertilizer granules. Since it contains no muratic acid, Rust Remover for Pavers won’t damage the paver material. To remove fertilizer stains from a large surface, however, it’s recommended to use Techniseal® Pre-Seal Cleaner.

 Techniseal Dirt & Grease Cleaner for PaversDirt & Grease Cleaner

When you’re looking to remove motor oil stains from your paver driveway or barbecue stains from your outdoor kitchen or patio, Techniseal® Dirt & Grease Cleaner for Pavers is the ideal choice. Recommended for sealed surfaces and fresh stains, it dissolves, dislodges and encapsulates grease, thoroughly cleaning without leaving any oily film after rinsing.

Techniseal Oil & Grease RemoverProfessional Grade Oil & Grease Remover

So, how about grease stains that have been there a while? Ideal for older, penetrated petroleum-based stains, Techniseal® Professional Grade Oil & Grease Remover is an industrial strength cleaner that lifts and absorbs embedded oil stains as it dries from a liquid to a powder. Formulated to work with pavers, concrete slabs, walls and natural stone, this product works without damaging or discoloring the material and requires no scrubbing or rinsing (yes, you read that correctly).

 Techniseal Organic Stain RemoverOrganic Stain Remover

For those of us who are a bit clumsy in the outdoor kitchen, have no fear, there’s a cleaner for that. Red wine, blood, non-greasy food stains…they’ve got you covered. Techniseal® Organic Stain Remover will also effectively remove stains from moss, mildew and dead leaves from either bare or sealed surfaces with minimum scrubbing.

 Techniseal Paint, Tar and Rubber Remover for PaversPaint, Tar And Rubber Remover

If the neighbor’s kid spits his gum out on your paver pool deck, there’s a cleaner for that, too. Techniseal® Paint, Tar and Rubber Remover for Pavers effectively dissolves paint, tar or bitumen, rubber, or chewing gum on pavers, concrete slabs and masonry.

.   .   .

NEXT WEEK: To seal or not to seal, that is the question. Come back to the Outdoor Living by Belgard next week for tips on knowing when it’s time to reseal your pavers and how to get the best results.

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.