How to Decide What You Need in an Outdoor Living Space

Updating and enhancing your outdoor living space is a big decision and can be a big investment. As you go through the process, you want to be confident that the final product will be a space that you love. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, our design process is incredibly important to ensure that the right structure and space is built, leaving you with an area you’ll enjoy and use.

100_0254When creating the perfect design and structure, we ask a lot of questions, including:

How do you intend to use the space? It’s easy to say “I want a bigger deck,” but that’s too simple. Getting a clear understanding of how you’d like to use the space makes form and function a goal. Someone who wants to have a glass of wine on an outdoor couch needs a different type of space than the homeowner that hosts large parties and eats in the backyard every night. The more ways you want to use the space, the more planning that’s involved. For example, if you want to use your outdoor space into the night, it makes sense to plan for outdoor lighting and a fire feature.

What’s the topography of your yard? Do you have a flat yard? Does it slope? The topography can make a big impact on the best structure types for your property. If you have a large slope or your main living floor is higher off the ground, a deck may be the best option. Flat land is more forgiving in structure type, be it a deck, patio, porch or other structure.

ornate-pergolaDo you have favorite views of your property? If you love looking out onto the rolling hills to the east of your home, your deck designer and builder should create a space that allows you to appreciate that. Where and how the deck, porch or patio is built impacts your view.

How is your property situated? Do you need area for shade and sun? Some people like to spend time in the sun, while others prefer the shade. If you like the shade, why have a deck that’s in direct sunlight most of the day? It doesn’t make sense. Archadeck Outdoor Living often combines projects to fulfill both needs. You may have a porch that leads to a patio or a deck with a pergola.

Getting the perfect outdoor living space really depends on your preferences. We often ask our prospects and clients to download and fill out our FREE Design Guide to help guide our conversations.

If you have questions on enhancing your backyard, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Thinking about a new outdoor living space? Not sure where to start?

With all of these cold temperatures, I am counting down the days until the weather turns and starts to warm up again. I can’t wait to sit outside, relax and enjoy some time outdoors without a freezing face. If you are considering building a new outdoor living space, now is the time to start planning. Here are some things to consider that will help when it comes time to talk to a patio and deck builder.

Archadeck 2013 PhotographyHow do you intend to use the space? Gone are the days of a one design fits all attitude to outdoor living. Say good-bye to the square deck or patio and hello to a custom space built for you and your goals in mind. Take some time to think about how you plan to use your new patio, deck, porch or combination there of. Is it an oasis for you to curl up with a book? Do you need space for grilling, dining and entertaining? With a clear idea of its use, your patio and deck designer can create something that will fit those goals.

What time of the year will the project be used? Spring and summer is the easy answer to the question, but outdoor living spaces can be used all year if it is designed correctly. If you live in the south, for example, it may entail building an outdoor fireplace or firepit, while you may need a sunroom if you live in New England.

Sierra ExifWhy type of structure or structures do you want? The first two questions definitely play a roll in deciding whether you want a porch, patio, deck, sunroom, outdoor kitchen, etc. You’ll also have to keep your property in mind. If you have a large slope off the back of your home, a deck may be a better choice than a patio for example. If you aren’t sure what is right for your goals, talk to your contractor about the best options for you. They will keep your goals and budget in mind.

At Archadeck Outdoor Living, the best project designs are often collaborations between the homeowner and us. To help guide those conversations, we created the Archadeck Design Guide a few years ago. This free download will get you thinking about what you want in your backyard right now and what you may want in the future. It will ask you questions about your goals, your property and your tastes. The guide is a great place to start if you are thinking about building a new outdoor living space.

If you have any questions on outdoor living considerations and options, please visit Archadeck.com or contact your local Archadeck office. Our trained designers and contractors are happy to help you in any way.

Patio and Deck Design, it’s all about the details

At Archadeck Outdoor Living, our motto is “better building, by design.” Not only is our construction and building top notch, but our patio and deck design in amazing. When it comes to creating something not only functional (although that is goal number one), but also beautiful, sometimes it comes down to the small details of the project.

Our trained designers think beyond the obvious and that’s what makes some of projects as stunning as they are. Here are just a few ideas of finishing details that can make your outdoor living space go from “nice” to “oh, wow.”

Deck with planterDifferent Decking Patterns – Decking boards are the base of a deck, but they can also be a beautiful design component. Our designers often place the boards in different patterns to define space or to make a deck a little more unique. We may use different color decking boards as well to add visual interest. Take deck for example; the boards were installed at different angles throughout the space. It enhances the space by helping to define each section of the deck.

patio-builder-columbusUtilizing Multiple Materials – This goes along with number one, but outdoor living design isn’t about using one color or material. When designing and installing patios, for instance, we often incorporate different materials into one project either to define or highlight different areas. The gray stone on this patio clearly highlights the step down to the lower portion of the patio. By mixing and matching material the entire space is more aesthetically appealing.

Trimming out a post or a beam. Many decks and patio require a railing to meet building codes and requirements. While they may be necessary, they can also be decorative. Trimming out a beam or a post is adding a decorative detail to make it look nicer.

Sanding rail caps – sometimes the little things make all the difference. Simply sanding down the rail caps and their edges will make everything smoother and cleaner looking. Not to mention you’ll be less likely to get any splinters!

Consider the stairs – stairs are another area for subtle deck design. Whether it’s using different colors for the horizontal and vertical components or placing them at an interesting angle, it all matters. These stairs, for example, are cornered and take up more space, but they create a more open looking entrance to the deck.

The best patio and deck design ideas are often found in the details. Make sure you talk to your deck builder about your style so that he/she can create something that you will love. Please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office if you want to experience our better building, by design.

Firepits and Outdoor Fireplaces Most In Demand Outdoor Living Feature

Posted by: janegwalker

In the last few years, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of projects that are including an outdoor fire feature, whether it is a firepit of fireplace. It’s not surprising when you look at the American Society of Landscape Architects’ (ASLA) Survey of the top Outdoor Living Features for 2013, firepits and fireplaces is at the top.

According to the ASLA, more U.S. homeowners are enhancing the outdoor areas around their home for added entertainment space. Nancy Somerville, Executive Vice President and CEO of the ASLA explains, “in this uncertain economy, homeowners want to get more enjoyment out of their yards. They want attractive outdoor spaces that are both easy to take care of and sustainable.” Source.

As people look to improve their outdoor living spaces, it doesn’t surprise us that firepits and fireplaces are at the top of the list of trends. Fire features are a great way to make a space feel more intimate and cozy.

Archadeck 2013 PhotographyAt Archadeck, we see an uptick in interest in firepits and outdoor fireplaces in the fall when the weather begins to cool down. Personally, I love gathering around a fire on a cool fall or winter night with friends and family.

Outdoor fireplaces and firepits are great add-ons to existing structures that will extend the amount of time you can use your decks, patios, sunrooms and other outdoor areas. You may be forced inside as it cools off in September for instance, but with a fire feature, you can enjoy it into November possibly.  At Archadeck, we custom design outdoor fireplaces and firepits to fit the spaces they are incorporated in. We’ll talk to our clients about how often it will be used, if it should be gas or wood burning and other aspects they may want to include.

The other outdoor trends mentioned on the ASLA survey align pretty closely with what our clients are asking us about. Here are the rest of the top 5:

2, Grills – Outdoor kitchens are growing in popularity and in most cases the grill is the focal point (you need somewhere to do the cooking, right?). Grills can be as simple or as complex as the client wants. Personally, I just need to know it can cook a mean burger.

deck-design-ideas3, Seating and Dining Areas – Outdoor living is truly about that, living. A deck or patio without a way to enjoy it is just a structure. The key to making sure that the space is as usable as possible is the design. Talk to your deck builder about how you intend to use the space so the size, shape and flow allow you to have the space you’ve always wanted.

4, Lighting – Gone are the days of floodlights attached to the side of the house. In are the days of beautiful outdoor lighting that accentuates the space entirely. Lighting will also allow you to spend more time outdoors and will illuminate traffic paths for safety and security.

5, Installed Seating – Installed seating can take the appearance of benches, seat walls, ledges, steps, etc. This plays into the seating and dining areas at number three. It is sometimes easier and better to create seating that is installed in some areas as opposed to pieces of furniture.

If you have questions on outdoor living spaces, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Deck and Patio Design for Optimal Outdoor Entertaining

Outdoor entertaining has emerged as a large theme in outdoor living. Many people really want a place for family and friends to gather and spend quality time outdoors.

When it comes to outdoor entertaining, it helps to have an outdoor space that was designed to accommodate that. A good patio or deck design will address flow and layout so that your outdoor parties are enjoyed by all.

Before we get into deck design ideas, if you are planning to have a barbecue or outdoor party and have an existing outdoor structure, make sure you have a deck safety inspection if you haven’t recently. The average lifespan of a deck is 10 years, but at Archadeck Outdoor Living, we suggest having your first safety inspection when the structure is 5 to 7 years old. Just because the deck looks OK, doesn’t mean that it is structurally sound. A professional can come and give you an idea of the current shape of your deck as well as tell you what small fixes you can do to make it last longer.

When considering a new porch, patio, deck or combination outdoor project, make sure you tell your deck designer how you intend to use the space, especially if you are looking to entertain outdoors. Be specific so they can create a space that will fit all of your needs and wants. Planning to have your guests sit around in an outdoor living room is very different than needing an outdoor dining room.

DSC_0506Defining the different areas of your outdoor space is key to keeping the flow open and useful. Take this deck for example, I love that the dining area is clearly defined. In this instance it was done by elevating the area a bit, but this can also be achieved by adding a pergola or other roof structure to create a “room” or by switching the material pattern.

A space that is well designed for entertaining takes into account that entertaining means people and people means space to sit. For some homeowners that means an open space where they can place outdoor furniture. That allows for some flexibility if furniture needs to be moved or if you would like to switch out the furniture periodically. Other deck builders will include a built-in seating bench or retaining wall to accommodate guests. Normally benches or retaining walls are used both as a place to sit and a way to designate the use of the space.

287814661210_0_BGWhen people entertain outdoors they sometimes like to do the respective cooking outdoors too. For that, an outdoor kitchen is perfect, however, the design should be able to hold more than just the chef. This outdoor kitchen is perfect for entertaining, for example, because it has space for people to circle around and talk while people cook on the grill or outdoor pizza oven. It keeps the chef in the middle of the action and conversation.

The key to any good patio or deck design idea is that it checks off your list of needs and wants. An outdoor living structure can be pricey, so it is best to be very clear with your deck builder what you want out of the space. If you aren’t sure, download our free Archadeck Design Guide. The guide asks a series of questions that will help you envision the backyard of your dreams.

March Dream Backyard Makeover Finalists Announced

It has been a busy month for Archadeck and its Dream Backyard Makeover Contest. We are thrilled that so many people have taken an interest in the contest. With over 1,000 entries, it was extremely difficult to pick two for the month of March, but somehow we did it.

We are still accepting entries through April 22nd, 2013. On April 23rd voting will open for all six finalists. If you need a reminder on the prizes, here they are…

First prize – a $70,000 backyard makeover sponsored by TimberTech Decking and Belgard Hardscapes. The winner of this will have an absolutely gorgeous new outdoor living area with both a deck and hardscape component design and built by Archadeck Outdoor Living.

Second prize – a $7,000 deck or patio renovation by Archadeck Outdoor Living.

Third Prize – a $3,000 outdoor lighting system from Outdoor Lighting Perspectives.

The full descriptions of the finalists’ photos will be posted on the Archadeck Facebook page when voting opens, but here’s a glimpse at the March finalists!

March Finalist2The first March finalist comes to us from Connecticut. The first time homeowners and parents fell in love with this home despite the old, not up to code deck and porch. The backyard has great potential to be the perfect space for this growing family. This house is not only the first home the couple has owned, but the first backyard both of them have ever had after growing up in the city! We at Archadeck Outdoor Living see the possibilities!

March Finalist1The second finalist comes out of Iowa. This family had to move to a larger home after adopting two kids from foster care. Now with four young kids (under the age of 10), the homeowners would like an outdoor space for the kids to play away from the television and computer. The parents hope to have a space to relax (maybe cook) and watch their kids enjoy the outdoors. With a large yard like this, the options for a Dream Backyard Makeover are endless!

Congrats to our March finalists! For everyone else, keep the entries coming. The last group of finalists will be announced on April 22nd! There is still time to enter!

First Finalists Announced in Dream Backyard Makeover Contest

With the first month down, we at Archadeck Outdoor Living are happy to announce the first two finalists for Archadeck’s Dream Backyard Makeover. We had just under 350 entries in the month of February, making it extremely tough to pick just two deserving families.

If you haven’t entered the contest yet, make sure you do at DreamBackyardMakeover.com. Two finalists are chosen for the months of February, March and April. On April 23rd the photo descriptions and photos will be posted for online voting. The winner of the $70,000 makeover will be chosen as a result of panelist votes and Facebook votes. TimberTech Decking and Belgard hardscapes will be used in the final project.

Here are the two finalists for February (full owner descriptions will be posted when voting begins on April 23rd).

February Finalist 1The first is out of South Carolina where the homeowners were unfortunately taken advantage of by a lousy contractor. They hired and paid a contractor to build a new deck off the back of their house only to have the contractor disappear in the middle of the project. To make matters worse, the homeowners found out that none of the work was done to code leaving an unsafe structure!

February Finalist 2The second finalist comes from the Chicago area. The homeowners purchased this house only 3 days after welcoming their first child. They hope to raise their family in this house, but it needs some work. They plan to host friends, family and neighbors in the backyard of their dreams if chosen for the backyard makeover.

Congrats to our two finalists!

Outdoor Kitchen Design Ideas for the Ultimate Cooking Experience

As many of you know, Archadeck Outdoor Living is in the middle of the $70,000 Dream Backyard Makeover Contest (make sure you enter!).  The entry form asks for a 250 word description of a photo of your backyard. Many entrants have included what they would like to see in the backyard design. One common theme is the outdoor kitchen, a perfect place to cook and entertain friends and family.

This custom outdoor kitchen design has space for several outdoor chefs to help prepare dinner

This custom outdoor kitchen design has space for several outdoor chefs to help prepare dinner

There are number of outdoor kitchen design ideas to consider. With different sizes, shapes, layouts, finishes and appliances to look out, the possibilities are practically endless. So how do you decide what is right for you? Answering these questions may help you define what exactly you want in your outdoor kitchen?

How do you pictures using your outdoor kitchen? If you are simply going to throw your food on the grill, a big outdoor kitchen may not make sense. A built in grill and small counter space may work just fine. For those people that like to prepare, cook and eat outside, more space is needed in the layout.

outdoor kitchen design ideaWhat appliances are necessary? Most outdoor kitchens include a grill of some sort, but outdoor appliances go well beyond the grill. We’ve designed and built outdoor kitchens that have included sinks, ice makers, small refrigerators, smokers, pizza ovens, stoves and more.  When thinking what appliances you need, think about how you like to cook and what you would rather have right there with you as opposed to those things you can walk inside for.

How many people will be cooking with you? No one likes to feel crammed, especially with the heat and dangers that may accompany cooking. Consider how many people may be with you while you are cooking. Some of our clients will add a place to sit so that whoever is cooking can have company. If several people in your family are known to man the grill simultaneously, you may want to look at larger outdoor kitchen designs.

outdoor kitchen designWhat finishes should be included? We at Archadeck Outdoor Living are big believers in integrating new outdoor living features in with the old structures (and the home) seamlessly. We don’t want a new outdoor kitchen, for example, to look like an afterthought. When thinking about your outdoor kitchen, think about what is needed to make it complement what’s already there? Do you have a brick patio? Maybe a brick finish will work. What color counters would look good?

Outdoor kitchens, like indoor kitchens, can be very personal to the homeowner. What seems extremely functional to me, may not work for my best friend. A professional outdoor kitchen designer and builder should ask you questions like these to make sure you get the most out of your new space. If you have any questions regarding outdoor kitchens, our outdoor living in general, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Screened In Porches – Rooms You’ll Use

As a kid, I remember visiting my aunt and uncle’s house to see their new screened in porch. It was nice, a square room that had 3 screened walls. It fulfilled its purpose as a place to sit and enjoy the outdoors without bugs, but it wasn’t special. It was pretty standard for screened porches of the time, but man have things changed. Knowing what I know now, I see that the plain square screened room is a lost opportunity for a really special space in your home.

Our Archadeck franchisees design and build some of the most beautiful screened in porches I’ve ever seen. As I look at them, it becomes more apparent that the custom design is the key to making sure the room is a true outdoor living space and not just another room added on to the house. Before designing the space, our porch designers will ask questions like: how do you intend to use the space, what time of the day do you want to do use it, how many people does it need to accommodate, etc. These questions lead to projects like these:

Screened in Porch IowaThis screened in porch in Des Moines is beautiful inside and out and may be one of my favorite examples of an “outdoor” structure that is truly usable. The homeowners wanted an additional porch where they could have a drink with friends and family, enjoy the outdoors without the elements, but most importantly, they wanted an additional outdoor living room. From there, our porch designer in Iowa, Screened Porch Des MoinesHarold, designed this space. You can see from this angle that the structure itself blends perfectly with the finishes of the home. To ensure the inside get optimum amounts of light, windows surround three of its sides and skylights were installed on the roof. While the outside looks beautiful, it’s the inside and its details that define the screened in porch as a living room. Take look at that outdoor fireplace! The large stone fireplace warms up the space both literally and figuratively, and its mantle and hearth give it a homey look. The placement of the TV is key to making the space it a true living space. It clearly isn’t an afterthought. I also love the lantern like light fixture on the roof.

Archadeck 2012The needs and wants of this homeowner in Charlotte were a little different. He wanted to add a screened in porch to back of his home for an additional place to sit and relax, but needed it to also be a smooth transition to his outdoor patio. His neighborhood is newer and because of construction as well as close neighbors, he needed the ability to block off some of the sides from time to time. Archadeck of Charlotte designed a simple space that fit all of the homeowner’s requirements. All of the woodwork was finished in whites and creams to provide the brightness. Archadeck 2012The transition between porch and patio was achieved by using the same concrete inside and outside the space. The last issue to work through was privacy. The homeowner didn’t want anything permanent and building in any privacy walls would take away from the airiness of the porch so they decide to install some curtain rods along the exterior that can be opened and shut as needed or wanted by the homeowners.

If you have questions regarding screened in porches and how one may add to your outdoor living experience, don’t hesitate to call your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Build a Romantic Escape Right in your Backyard With Above-ground Pool Decks

Above ground pools are sure to bring hours of enjoyment for your family, but they aren’t known for looking pretty. A beautiful patio design could transform your above ground pool from an eyesore to a resort.

Add a Deck

Sure, that rickety white ladder allows you to climb inside your above ground pool, but does it make you feel like you’re enjoying a getaway? Adding a deck is how you spruce up your pool design and make it more functional. Pool decks make it easier to get into your above ground pool, they add space so you can sit poolside, and they hide the unsightly sides of the pool.

For a look that really stands out, consider adding multiple levels to your deck. This could be as simple as a landing a few steps off the ground, or you could have a level of the deck that overlooks your pool. Additionally, the finishing touches of your deck are important. Don’t skimp on the rails that surround your deck; they make your space feel private… just like you would feel at a high-dollar resort.

One thing is for sure… if you don’t do anything else to your above ground pool, adding a deck will instantly help it feel more like a vacation.

Add Greenery

Beautiful flowers, hedges, and succulent plants require minimal landscaping but offer maximum appeal. Pool decks are a great space to add some greenery. Flowers and plants in pots or planter boxes around the deck bring softness to the deck and the pool area. You can also plant hedges or flowers around the side of the above ground pool (where the deck doesn’t already cover) to draw your eye away from the pool siding. Highlight it with some mulch and anyone who visits your pool will feel like they’re in a top-dollar vacation destination.

Add Functional Furnishings

A resort lifestyle includes sitting by the pool, and you can enjoy that in your own backyard with functional furniture. Look for fabric that can withstand your climate and fabric designed to catch your eye. Try out the furniture before you buy it to make sure it’s comfortable. After all, you want it to be something you’ll be able to relax in.

Taking money you would invest in a vacation and investing it in your backyard is a great option to enjoy a lifestyle of luxury. Archadeck can help you find your solution to resort living… right in your own backyard.