• Patio Material Options! …What To Choose When Extending Your Living Space

    Are you thinking about extending your living space by using more of your front or back yards ? No doubt that adding living space will require additional patio for dining or other recreational use. What are my choices you may be asking yourself…well, please allow me to assist here and give you numerous options. We’ll touch upon what materials we can use, the differences in cost, and longevity & maintenance. The two most popular “flatwork” options besides standard grey concrete are pavers and flagstone. There are of course others like: exposed aggregate & stamped or stained concrete, Travertines, Saltillo & other tiles, Canterra and acrylic coatings to name the most popular. These half dozen options represent about 95 percent of what people are using for patio extensions. We’ll concentrate on the three most popular.

    Pavers are probably today’s most popular flatwork option. First of all the word “paver” is the generic term for that type of material. There are dozens of companies throughout Arizona and the United States that manufacture their own brand of paver. Here in the valley there are companies like: Belgard, Arizona Block, Phoenix Pavers, Acker Stone, Pavestone (sold at Home Depot) & Artistic Pavers just to name a handful of the most popular. These are pressed concrete products done at a factory and shipped to suppliers by the pallette, but the new “IT” material are Travertine pavers. Besides both products come in different colors and there are different sizes and patterns. The cost of pavers in my opinion is the best overall value and typically ranges anywhere from $6 to $7 per square foot for concrete pavers and $8 to $10 for Travertine pavers depending on how much you are installing and the type of paver you choose, since there are few cost differences in material. The sub base (or what is under the paver) is compacted using a material called ABC and then a layer of sand ranging from 3’4” to 1 ½ inches deep is applied, graded, and set. The edge of your patio known as the border or soldier course is set with mortar to keep the main area from falling apart on itself. Polymeric sand is applied to the finished patio by brooming and watering which helps it set up nicely for heavy traffic. There is an additive in the sand which acts more like a grout than sand. A good paver with the proper installation should last 15 to 20 years with little difficulty. Negatives…hot under foot and patio has to be periodically re-sanded when rain washes some of it away.

    Flagstone is also extremely popular. It comes in a variety of colors, can be mortar or sand set, saw cut (clean look) or snap cut (a more rustic look). More than 90 percent of the flagstone we use is quarried right here in northern Arizona in a place called Ashfork. Flagstone is commonly used for BBQ counters, wall & pillar caps, and step stones to name a few other uses. Flagstone costs between $12 & $14 per square foot, depending on the type of flagstone chosen, and cleans up nicely with a strong hose or power washer. Flagstone is not a DIY project. It takes a true artisan to work and lay the stone for a professional look. Negatives…warm under foot and grout joints have a tendency to “spider crack” away from the stone while the patio settles. Joints may have to be re-grouted once or twice during its’ life span and lasts 15 – 20 years.

    Concrete products give you a wide variety of looks. There are broom & salt finishes…you can add color or use an exposed aggregate (small rocks in the concrete mix) and you can stain existing concrete yourself for about $1 per square foot with products found at any home improvement center. You can stamp concrete (during the install) with a variety of patterns and colors, or use an acrylic topping to create a variety of different looks. Acrylic finishes get applied over existing or new concrete and of course the most popular is the standard “kool deck” finish around our pools. There are acrylic coatings that can mimic old stone like a Tuscan look, flagstone, or saltillo tile to name a few. Standard grey concrete is between $4 & $5 per square foot depending on quantity installed. If you already have concrete and just want to spruce it up, coatings range between $4 & $7 per square foot depending on the pattern chosen. If you are starting from scratch and need to pour concrete and then add the coating, your starting cost will be at least $8 per square foot and can be as high as $11 per square foot. That’s why pavers are my flatwork recommendation when possible because you can’t beat the price point and overall beauty. Negatives…costly if you don’t already have concrete, and it also has a tendency to crack with our expansive soils here in the valley. Lastly…not easily repaired if it does.

    If you have any questions on patio extensions, or are looking for a quality landscape contractor for your yard makeover, please contact me personally for a complimentary consultation. We offer a free landscape design on an approved budget! Remember…when it comes time to designing & building great landscape, it all starts with a master plan!

  • SPAS & SURROUNDS…Relax & Enjoy

    So you’ve managed to make it through another long day at the office or a tough day with the kids, and all you can think about is a quiet moment to yourself. One of the most popular ways to relax and recharge is spending 30 minutes in the hot tub to massage those aching muscles and put your mind at ease for a good night sleep. WHAT? You don’t have a spa? Then you don’t know what you are missing! SPA SURROUNDS

    The spa built with the pool usually has one bench around the perimeter, everyone sits in the full, upright position, water is warm and bubbly, but you only have one jet concentrated at the small of your back. Not the most comfortable seating when you are trying to relax. If you were to have your pool company attach a spa to your existing pool, or dig you a new one from scratch, you’ll be spending a minimum of $18,000, but closer to $24,000 when it’s all done. Here is how you can get a lot more for LESS!!!

    A quality prefabricated spa with a good filtration system gives you many more choices…. comfortable seats and head rests, 30 to 60 jets wherever you need them, lighting, stereo or TV, attached seating areas…the list goes on. The best part…you can buy a quality spa for around $6,000 to $9,000 that is much more comfortable and therapeutic. Because most spas operate on 50 Amp/220 Volt power, electrical run and hook up adds between $750 and $1,500 depending on how far the spa is positioned from the main electrical panel. The farther away, the more it will cost. Please use a licensed electrician when running those lines who is familiar with the different makes and models. The requirements vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so do your due diligence here.

    Now to give that new portable spa, the “built in” look, we have many SURROUND options. Once you decide where the spa will be located, the next thing is to think about orientation…in other words…the angle the spa is placed in the yard. Remember, all spas have equipment that may need to be accessed, so whatever we do for a surround that access is first and foremost. When doing your orientation, think about the views each of the occupants will have when the spa is ready for use. You can choose to keep the spa above ground and use a variety of materials to complete the surround as seen in some of these pictures. You may also choose to sink the spa for that “lower profile look”, but there are pros and cons here.

    I do not recommend taking a portable spa that was designed to be fully above ground and installing it completely in the ground for many reasons. The equipment for these spas is underneath, so sinking them in the ground 36 inches will usually make for tough equipment access, but most importantly, getting in and out of the spa will be very difficult because you don’t have a step entry like a pool.
    Think about it…it would be very awkward getting in and out at ground level. If you do choose to sink the spa, do it about half way. This would make the finished surround about 18 inches above ground, which is the standard chair height. Simply sit on the edge like you would any regular chair, swing your feet around and then using both arms ease your way into the spa, safely and comfortably. You do the exact opposite on the way out. You can use the same type of materials to complete the surround as you would the fully above ground version. You can add seating and a bar on one side, small columns for pots, steps & landings, inset lights, face with stone, stucco & paint… just about anything. When you choose to sink a spa, there are a few things to keep in mind:

    First, the cost to sink a spa adds at least $1,500 to the total surround cost as opposed to a homeowner who chooses to keep it fully above ground and just enclose it. Second, you have to maintain that access we talked about earlier should you have a mechanical malfunction. Also, make sure there is proper drainage underneath so your equipment never is immersed in water. This will instantly void any warranty! Third, when you choose your materials and physically start construction, you may want to carefully engineer the walls and caps in a way that the spa can be totally removed from its enclosure in the future. The cost for a surround that is fully above ground starts at about $3,500 to $5,000 depending on the materials chosen and the accessories you may want to add. Again, if you choose to partially sink it, add at least $1,500 to that. You can buy a quality spa and do a very artistic surround for as little as $10,000… far less expensive than the ones attached to the pool and you have so many more features and options.

    I have done more than a hundred surrounds over the years and have worked with about every make and model. Although spas and surrounds are not complicated, I have learned dozens of those “little things” that keep the construction process smooth, and I am trained to avoid those costly mistakes that I have seen others make time after time. Feel free to e-mail me with questions, or to set up a free consultation and design for your spa or other landscape project. I can be reached at RCHAVENS@COX.NET I can also recommend a few quality spas on the market today and direct you to a knowledgeable sales person to fill your needs. Lots more pictures of surrounds on my website www.outsidelivingconcepts.com

    Good Luck!

  • Tips On Filling Your Landscape Wish List While Saving Big Bucks

    So you have decided to do a landscape makeover , but unfortunately, your grandiose vision and your budget aren’t in the same solar system…welcome to the club! There is good news, so follow me here. You can fill a good portion of your wish list cheaper than you think by making a couple of key choices and doing the following:

    First, get on the same page with your wife or significant other as to exactly what the both of you want. Create a vision with your partner that you can confidently share with your designer/contractor without disagreeing in front of them. Second, take measurements of the space you are adding to or remodeling. Lay it out on graph paper and work in a comfortable scale. Usually 1/8 scale is preferable and simply means each inch on a ruler represents eight feet. Once you are finished, you will have a mathematically accurate drawing… or what a painter would call….a blank canvas. In landscape contracting, there are multiple forms of measurement to calculate a jobs cost. Lineal foot, square foot, unit (per tree/per plant, etc.), ton, yard…many as you can see. Third, if you are doing both hardscape and landscape design, layout your hardscape first, then you can work your softscape in gently and effectively around all these new things later. Fourth, after you have an idea of what hardscapes you want and where you want to see it in the yard, look up plants on the internet. This has been a superb resource to educate my clients on plants. Another great idea is to take your digital camera, drive around, and take pictures of what you like. You could go as far as drawing symbols on your plan where you would like to see certain plants. Designing is a lot of fun…try it sometime!

    Now that you have several important steps out of the way, the next is to decide how much you want to invest in the project. Set a budget, but also decide the absolute maximum you are willing to invest. I find people have a tendency to underestimate how much things cost. You are now ready to find a contractor and set an appointment. You have no idea how much money you have just saved to this point…more in a minute. When your landscape contractor arrives, you are now perfectly prepared to show them your vision of things. If you are open to ideas, he/she can “piggy back” some of your thoughts, which eventually turn into one exciting vision. A good designer often makes your vision even better! The good part…because material costs can vary drastically, have your contractor recommend a variety of material options so you can compare costs from one to another. This can save thousands in certain cases. Have the contractor price out the job one way, then another if necessary, using a different materials list to see where you might save. Sometimes, this alone makes all the difference. Another thing…you are more likely to get discounts and lots of “favors” during the course of construction because the contractor you hired had less time vested in your project from start to finish…all because of your preparation!

    Save even more by not doing the following: don’t come across as high maintenance or constantly change your mind during the course of construction. Nothing hurts a project more than constant addendums. This only increases frustrations and costs simultaneously. By following these simple steps, you are more likely to fill most of your wish list than not.

    Feel free to visit my website at www.outsidelivingconcepts.com or e-mail me with questions at rchavens@cox.net. Good Luck!