Backyard Contest Update: Fire pits and building

It’s been a few weeks and it is time for an update on our Archadeck Dream Backyard Contest winners! Last we checked in with Rick and Merea Bentrott they had finalized their deck and patio design and were ready to start building. Harold Cross and the rest of the Archadeck of Central Iowa have been hard at work on the space!

Before we get to the building update, there was one last tweak to the design. In the last update the design looked like this:

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And now, it looks like this:

Plan F1 - B - 3D 1

The Bentrotts decided to enhance the patio portion of the space and add a fire pit and a seating wall. Extending the patio provides for more entertaining space and the kids (they have four) are sure to enjoy roasting some s’mores around the fire pit.

Much like the benches on the deck, we are providing built in seating on the Belgard patio. Retaining walls, when built with the correct height in mind, not only provide the perfect place to sit, but also another way to define the space and create the flow.

With the design plan in place, Harold and his team were set to break ground and start constructing the Bentrotts’ Dream Backyard. Videos of the build throughout the process can be seen on Archadeck of Central Iowa’s YouTube channel.

After six days of finished work, a lot of construction has been done. Demolishing the existing deck and leveling the area for the structure were the first tasks. On day two on site, a lot of dirt needed to be dug out for both the base of the patio and all of footings on the space. The footings are essential to the safety of the structure and were needed for the deck and covered porch.

IMG_7848Unfortunately, there are some things we cannot control, like the weather. A few days of rain delayed us, but we are back on track! The deck framing is finished and the boards have been installs. The decking was provided by our contest sponsor, TimberTech. The color of the boards is Brownstone and they were laid in a diagonal patterns instead of the classic straight version.

The frame and roof of the covered patio have been installed. Underneath and beside the covered area is the patio itself which will be done using Belgard Pavers. What goes beneath the pavers, called base, is incredibly important with respect to the integrity of the structure. Without a good base, the homeowner may notice some uneven areas over time. A base layer of rock has been spread over any area where pavers will ultimately be.

We can’t wait to see the final product and how the Bentrotts will enjoy their new backyard space. In the meantime, if you have questions concerning any outdoor structure, please contact your local Archadeck office.

We Have an Outdoor Fireplace!

S’mores anyone?

It’s week two of our patio and deck build here at the Archadeck Outdoor Living corporate office and a lot of work has been done. The once grassy patch to the left of our building is now a construction site with bulldozers, dirt, sand and holes! Continue reading

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!

Picking a Contractor that Won’t Leave You High and Dry

Over the past month I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and looking at the Archadeck Dream Backyard Makeover submissions and themes have started to emerge. One that seems to be recurring is homeowners being left high and dry by their deck contractors.

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Make sure you pick a contractor that will complete the backyard of your dreams, without hassle

Several entries have shown (including one of our February finalists) decks that are half or barely finished. The descriptions reference a contractor that they found out wasn’t licensed and the building they did do wasn’t to code. It’s no wonder why so many homeowners are hesitant to invite contractors to do projects on their home.

Deck construction is a serious topic that can lead to personal injury or damage to the home when done incorrectly. To ensure that the person you hire is going to treat your property as if it were they own, make sure that you ask all of your candidates these questions:

What’s your contractor license number? Many homeowners ask prospective contractors if they are licensed, but reading the contest entries has made me realize that sometimes people lie. You should be able to get the contractor license number from the people you are thinking of working with. That way, if something happens, you have it on file.

How are you insured? A good contractor has the appropriate insurance to protect you against damage that is done to or on your property. If something happens, it shouldn’t have to go through your homeowner’s insurance.

Will you pull the local building permits and have them on file? Any structures built on your property need to be built to the local code. Permits must be pulled and inspections must be made (sometimes a few times during the building phase).  A contractor who is good at patio and deck construction will do this for you, but you should have access to permit numbers if needed.

What warranties do you have? No one wants to invest is a large home improvement project just to have  it break or fail. It’s even worse when there is nothing you can do about it.  At Archadeck Outdoor Living, we pride ourselves one having 2 guarantees to protect our clients. Additionally, if you have an issue with the material, we will work with you to get in touch with the manufacturers to look at their warranties.

Could I have some references? It’s understandable that homeowners are careful about who they invite into their home. Every deck contractor should have a list of clients that you can reach out to and ask questions.

Asking these questions will help you to choose a deck construction provider that you know you can trust. If you have questions regarding our process, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Enjoy Your View on an Elevated Deck

I recently visited my mother and father-in-law about 45 minutes away. During our visit, my husband and I walked the dog around the neighborhood as it has expanded significantly over the last few years. While we walked around, I noticed a theme on many of the houses: elevated decks. You see, the neighborhood itself is VERY hilly and many of the lots slope in the back. The main living space is anywhere from 20 to 40 feet above the ground below. Elevated decks allow them to easily enjoy the outdoors.

When properties have slopes, raised decks are a great way to provide a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor spaces without any steep staircases connecting them. Imagine having to go down a 20 foot staircase just to throw your burgers on the grill when it could be so much easier?

The building of an elevated deck, however, does involve more than the standard deck. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, safety is our number one priority, both for the clients and our team of deck builders and we make sure we do everything to make the process go smoothly. It’s all in the planning of the build.

The first thing we look at is the skeleton of the deck. Elevated decks have to withstand a greater load so the footings are usually wider and set deeper into the ground. We also test the ground dirt to see how much it can bear and then use the required amount of cement at the base of the structure.

The taller the elevate deck, the taller the support posts have to be and the better the bracing. Bracing is used to strengthen the structure and prevent any sway which can cause safety concerns, especially with taller decks. The support posts, depending on weight may need to be larger than the standard width.

Different materials may also be used on elevated decks that don’t need to be considered for lower grade decks. For instance, steel may need to be incorporated for support.

Elevated decks, although they can be more difficult to build, allow for some great design features that aren’t available for other decks. For instance, under decking creates dry, usable outdoor space underneath the tall structure. And porches or rooms can be added to the structure. Take a look at these great Archadeck elevated decks.

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This deck sits atop a step downward slope. You can see that additional support beams were added to ensure the structure is safe and sound

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This elevated structure has several levels that allowed the deck design to incorporate both a sunroom and a screened in porch

elevated-deck-under-deck

Under decking was added beneath this tall deck to create a dry, usable space underneath. Stone was added around the support beams to turn them into beautiful design features

Checking Your Outdoor Living Spaces after Sandy

Our thoughts and prayers are with those that are recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, our passion is improving outdoor living spaces for families to enjoy and unfortunately strong storms and hurricanes like Sandy can bring havoc on such areas of the property.

Make sure your deck is safe for your friends and family

As the weeks and months of recovery beginning, we wanted to offer guidance to those that were impacted regarding their outdoor living areas. High winds and rains can cause damage to decks, porches, patios, etc. and it’s important to look for that damage and have it repaired by a deck professional.

Here are some things to look for:

  • Exposed or washed out footings/foundations. Especially in areas where flooding occurred, it’s important to check and see if you can see the foundations of your deck or if the structure seems to have sunk. This is one of the most important safety components of your deck, so if you are worried about the structure, call your local deck builder to come and take a look.
  • Erosion under your deck or on your patio. The ground underneath a deck helps support the foundation of it. When the ground is washed away either by high winds or rain like many areas experienced due to Sandy, it weakens the structure. For patios, the pavers are locked in by compacted dirt and sand. Under harsh conditions some of the sand may be swept away, leaving the pavers loose and unsafe to walk on.
  • High winds may weaken decks, especially older decks. If any deck boards, railings or steps are loose and shaky, it’s important to have a professional come and look at the structural integrity of the project.
  • For structures that are attached to the house, check for any water infiltration at the place of attachment. For many homeowners that will be in the crawl space or basement of their home. If there is water dripping, it can cause damage to the structure of not only your outdoor living space, but your home.

Mother Nature can cause safety issues when it comes to outdoor living spaces. After big storms like Sandy, you should have an outdoor living contractor come and inspect your spaces. At Archadeck, we offer a deck safety inspection where we check all parts of your structure and provide recommendations as what you may need to do now and what you can plan for in the future.

Construction Details that Make Your Deck Last

Deck safety is a topic that we cover regularly on Beautiful Back Yard blog because it’s important. We at Archadeck Outdoor Living want your deck, or other outdoor living space to not only last, but stay safe as time goes on. After each completed project we survey our clients regarding their experience with us and our craftsmanship is a common theme:

“The materials and workmanship are very high quality” – customer in Birmingham

“High quality of workmanship delivered with excellent communication in a very professional manner” – customer in Golden, CO

“The whole experience was positive – from the planning phase, to the construction, and then finally the finished project. We’re extremely happy with the result.” – customer in Kansas City

“The sturdy construction, the ingenuity and the way it looks like it was always meant to be on the house.” – customer in Pittsburgh

Can you see the screw heads? Yeah, neither can we.

The way you build a deck is the key to making both beautiful and worth the investment, that’s why we make sure that go above code requirements. On average, our projects are built to exceed code by 40-60% to guarantee that our clients have a solid and secure structure. Strong craftsmanship is often noticed in the details. While nails can be used to add decking to a structure, Archadeck Outdoor Living regularly utilizes screws or hidden fasteners that are less likely to back out of the board with time.

How the boards are placed is also important, especially if it’s wood. Whenever we can, we place the boards so the grain is perpendicular to traffic so that the splintering becomes less of an issue as it ages.

Our Archadeck standards also emphasize the small details that make a big difference. Risers are incorporated on stairs, trim hides unsightly board ends, and hidden fastener systems are employed where applicable. These are the finishes that make your space extra special.

If you have questions regarding Archadeck Outdoor Living and our construction process, please contact your local office.