Choosing the Right Contractor can Make all the Difference

Spring has sprung and it’s time to think about moving family and friend time outdoors. Whether you’re in the market for a deck, patio, or just some new landscaping, you want to feel good about who you hire and invite onto your property. Many of us have had bad experiences with hired professionals when expectations weren’t met or communication was unclear. At Archadeck Outdoor Living we hope to make you feel comfortable about hiring us and want to leave you with the backyard of your dreams.

Archadeck 2013 PhotographyIf you’re in the market for a patio or deck builder, visit our website and take a look at our Choosing a Contractor checklist. The checklist will help you to learn more about your choices and guide you as you make your decision. Some of the topics we include are:

Picking a contractor that understands your location. Each area of the country is different and what’s expected of a contractor is different as a result. A contractor should be able to clearly articulate what’s required for building permits and safety standards while also understanding the unique terrain and weather that may impact your structure.

WCOL-004Verifying their expertise and reputation. It’s one thing to say “we build beautiful decks,” but it’s quite another when a company can show you a portfolio of their work. Ask to see images of different projects they’ve built. Additionally, ask for some clients references if you’d like to speak directly with someone that they’ve worked with. A professional outdoor structure builder should have a list of happy clients they can easily provide.

Reviewing contracts is not always apples to apples. If you’re meeting with multiple contractors, be aware that not all bids can be the same. Be sure that you’re comparing estimates for the same scope of work and material quality.

Checking the warranties. If a contractor doesn’t offer a warranty on their work, not just the material warranty, there is no guarantee that everything gets completed as quoted and you may not be left with options if something goes wrong 3 months after the build date.

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

An outdoor living space that has it all

When it comes to creating a custom patio or deck design, we at Archadeck like to have a clear understanding of how you intend to use the space. Do you need space for cooking? Dining? Relaxing? Homeowners who may not know the type of structure they want still have an idea of how they’d like to use the space. From there, our trained designers can map out a space that is perfect for them.

When I saw this project from our Archadeck of Central Maryland office, I knew I had to share it. It has a ton of living space without being too overwhelming.

deck-design-idea

The owners of this property like to spend as much time as possible outside when the weather permits. By designing a multi-level space, John Barrett of Archadeck was able to create clearly defined areas for the owners, each one just as beautiful as the next.

At the lowest level (to the right on picture) is a large paver patio. It’s an open area that provides easy access to the yard below. A custom outdoor kitchen was constructed closer to the home’s back door so the chef can easily go to and from the kitchen. John and his team recommended a light stone paver with subtle grey variations since the home is brick. Brick would have been too overwhelming throughout the space.

Up a few steps is a small deck area with two lounge chairs. The homeowners enjoy laying out in the sun from time to time, and this spot is the perfect transitional area. The octagonal shape keeps it fun and interesting and because it has steps on all sides a railing isn’t necessary by law. Railings are incredibly important for safety purposes, but can make structures look closed off. Without railings, this deck is way more open to the rest of the yard.

Just one step up is a dining and entertaining area. The deck is just a few steps away from the outdoor and indoor kitchens, making it easy to serve dinner outside. Again, John and the homeowners didn’t want to block off the space with railings. Instead, a built in bench and planter were used. They not only look great, but the bench provides plenty of additional seating for friends and family.

The last level of the space is an open porch that works as an outdoor living room. Guests can escape the sun and cozy up underneath the roof structure.

If you have questions on designing outdoor living spaces to fit your needs, please contact your local Archadeck office.

Fourth of July on the Deck

Posted by: janegwalker

Whenever we are designing an outdoor living space for a client, we always ask how they intend to use the space. Many of our clients are sure to be using their deck, porch, patio, or other outdoor structure next week to celebrate the Fourth of July. If you are hosting friends and family for the holiday, here are some ideas that may help.

Family Dining Al FrescoMake sure there is enough seating. If you want to keep your party outdoors, you need to make sure there is enough seating to accommodate your guests. We often include built-in benches in our deck designs for those clients who entertain a lot. If you don’t have built in seating, most home improvement stores have outdoor chairs that aren’t too expensive or you can just bring some chairs out from around your kitchen table. As long as you remember to bring them in at the end of the night, you’ll be fine.

Think about the traffic flow. Your outdoor living space may be set up perfectly for its everyday use, but it may need some tweaking to accommodate the flow of traffic for your party. Make sure that your furniture allows for people to move around and go to different part of the space. Consider having the food scattered throughout the space so everyone isn’t always hovering in one area.

Make sure it is safe. If you have an older deck and you know that there is a good chance a lot of people will be on it at the same time, have it checked for safety. The last thing anyone wants in the middle of a Fourth of July celebration is a deck collapse. Call a professional deck builder and ask them to come out for a deck safety inspection. They will be able to tell you what needs immediate attention and what can wait. Trust us, the peace of mind of knowing your friends and family are safe is worth it.

Now that you know your outdoor space is ready for your party, let’s get to the fun stuff:

Make a festive drink. Who doesn’t love a little red, white and blue on the Fourth? Here’s a yummy and easy Sangria that screams Independence Day. Cut up strawberries and star fruit and place in a pitcher. Add blueberries and a bottle of white wine. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours and enjoy!

Get the grill going. If you aren’t in the mood for hamburgers and hotdogs but want something quick and delicious, flank steak is a great option. It doesn’t take a lot of cooking time and you can’t go wrong with this marinade: 1/2c dry red wine, 1/2c soy sauce, 1/4c olive oil, 4 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed), 1/4c parsley (chopped) and ½tsp black pepper (more if you like). Mix it all together and place in a container with the flank steak and refrigerate it overnight (or at least 10 hours). Your guests will love it.

Don’t forget dessert. If you or your guests are anything like me, dinner doesn’t feel complete without a little something sweet. Entertaining can be tiring, so make dessert simple. Last year, I was served a Fourth of July kebab for dessert that was delicious. Get some kebab skewers and skewer on some marshmallows, strawberries, blueberries, and brownie or devils food pieces. It’s yummy and patriotic!

From all of us at Archadeck Outdoor Living, have a happy and safe Independence Day!

Third Place Dream Backyard Makeover Winner Receives New Lighting Package

It’s been nearly a month since the winners of the Dream Backyard Contest wrapped up. While the first and second place winners are currently having their new outdoor structures designed by the respective Archadeck Outdoor Living  offices, the third place winner is already enjoying his prize: an outdoor lighting system from Outdoor Lighting Perspectives.

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives is our sister company who designs and installs residential, commercial and holiday outdoor lighting. They were gracious enough to offer up an outdoor lighting system (a $3,000 value!) to our third place winner. Our third place winner, William Jakes, is located in the Columbia, South Carolina area and had an unfortunate experience when trying to update his backyard:

“We hired a contractor to rebuild our deck and he did about half the work and abandoned the work site. After inspection, we found out that nothing was to code and he did not have a contractor’s license. This was part of our retirement savings and now we will have to wait until we can save up the money to have the deck torn down and rebuilt.”

lighting-winnerWilliam’s story is all too familiar and something we heard over and over again the contest submissions, people left stranded by deck contractors mid-way through a job to find out that they weren’t a reputable company. We were thrilled to award the Jakes family with a lighting system to enhance their home and sent Kenny Kaufman of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Columbia to the house to design and install a system. Understandingly, William decided to have the system installed in his front yard as opposed to his backyard (he didn’t want to install lighting on a space that doesn’t get any use right now due to unsafe conditions).

The Outdoor Lighting Perspectives team installed architectural and landscape lighting around the front of the home. The house itself had some interesting textures with its siding that Kenny wanted to highlphoto 2ight using well lights that shine up on the house. Column lighting was added to the porch columns to accentuate the covered porch structure and to allow some additional lighting on the porch as well. In front of the porch, there is a paver patio that didn’t have adequate lighting for family and friends. Copper path lights were installed in the surrounding planters to light the patio.

It not only looks great, but William and his wife are thrilled with the results. Here’s an email we received from him last week…

columbia-outdoor-lighting“I cannot express the excitement we had in winning 3rd place in a national contest. It was fantastic and the lighting is unbelievable. Since it was installed, we have stayed up at night to watch the lights. It really showcases our house. Also, I want to that your company and Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Columbia, especially Kenny Kaufman. They were very professional and have restored my faith in having work done on our house. I just wish there were more professional companies with your work ethic.”

We are so happy that the Jakes are happy with their lighting system and can’t wait to see the next steps for the grand prize winners as well as the second place winners. Our Archadeck Outdoor Living owners are currently designing the winners’ new backyards and then permitting and building will begin!

If you have questions on how to enhance your outdoor living space, please reach out to your local Archadeck office. Whether it’s a deck, porch, patio, pergola or other structure, our locations are trained to design and build custom projects that fit your property, tastes, needs and budget.

Deck and Patio Installation Begins at Archadeck Headquarters

Several weeks ago, we announced that we at Archadeck Outdoor Living’s corporate office are getting a new outdoor living area. We are thrilled to let you know that after some weather delays, we officially broke ground today!

To recap, up until now, our corporate office has been of void of any outdoor living structures (we know, it’s sad considering what we do). This year, we decided to change that and designed this custom deck and patio combination project. A large pergola will cover part of deck for shade and built in benches and retaining walls will provide places to sit throughout the space. Continue reading

Curved Deck and Sunroom Add Functional Space to Connecticut Home

When looking at our franchise locations’ outdoor living spaces, I always notice the unique ways that deck, porches, patios, sunrooms and other structures add functional space to a home. Space that doesn’t serve a purpose is just lost space, right? This project from our sunroom and deck builder in Connecticut is a great example of adding space in a different and interesting way. Continue reading

Multi-Level Deck Opens Up Yard in Arkansas

We’ve discussed at length the importance of a good deck design. It not only has to work for the intended use, but also for the home and the rest of the yard. All components of the property should complement one another instead of combat it. When our deck builder in Little Rock, Tom Duncan, shared the following project with me, I noticed it was a great example how design can impact a yard.

deck-design-ideasThis particular backyard had an existing pool, but no deck. Instead, it had an enclosed area under the the small roof structure seen in the picture. The two spaces didn’t work with each other and inhibited interaction between people using the outdoor areas. The enclosed area was too small to entertain guests and the only access to the yard was on the opposite side of where the pool was. It just didn’t make sense for homeowners who like to entertain and have pool parties and barbecues when the weather is nice.

Tom and his team looked to create an open entertaining space that created a smooth transition from the deck to the pool. They designed a multi-level deck with wide steps Deck-builder-arkansasto open up the space. By having only three steps at any one place, the different levels, although separate, don’t feel disjointed and invite conversation and interaction between people throughout the whole yard. It also created a low-to-grade deck at the lowest level. A low-to-grade deck or patio is low to the ground and doesn’t require a railing by code. Without a railing blocking views, it invites the eye out into the pool area and yard. The higher parts of the deck do include a railing for code purposes, but the homeowners enjoy the definition and seclusion of those areas.

Access to the pool and the yard was one of the biggest issues with the home’s existing outdoor living space, but the Archadeck of Central Arkansas opened it up. Not only is all of one side of the pressure treated deck open to the pool area, but there is also an opening from the far deck area to the yard below.

Deck-PorchThis once closed off and fragmented space is now open and conducive to entertaining and interaction. There is space and areas for everyone to enjoy. The built in bench on the low deck offers a place for people to sit and enjoy the sun, while the now open porch is perfect for the person who would like some shade. It was important to the homeowners to incorporate the existing roof structure into the space. By keeping the bones and support of the structure, it was a perfect shaded addition to the structure.

Tom and the Archadeck of Central Arkansas team enhanced the utility of this backyard completely by creating a space that truly works. It all comes back to design. A good design makes for a useful space. A bad design inhibits it. If you aren’t sure what will work best in your yard, make sure you consult a professional outdoor living designer.

On an unrelated topic, we at Archadeck Outdoor Living are thrilled to open voting for our Dream Backyard Makeover contest tomorrow, April 23rd! Make sure you place your vote for the homeowner you want to win the $70,000 backyard makeover!