February 2018

  • Deck versus Patio: What You need to Know

    Patio or deck, what’s the difference, you might ask? We’ll there is a difference between the two amenities but both share some common traits. Each will increase your home’s value and bolster its resale appeal. Both are great for the Sarasota climate and both provide a wonderful space for relaxing and entertaining. In fact, many homeowners consider their decks and patios to be extensions of their house, and can serve as a dining area, as well as a kitchen. Another similarity is both are sturdy but do require periodic maintenance (for instance, resurfacing a concrete patio or having to refinish a stained wood deck).

    Patio or Deck: What’s the Difference?

    Okay, so what’s the difference between a deck and patio and why does it matter? Well, you might believe one is inherently more costly than the other, but that’s simply not the case. You can customize a wood deckjust as you can customize a patio. And, it’s not uncommon to use the terms interchangeably. The difference between a deck and a patio doesn’t have to do with the construction materials, it has to do with the placement. A deck is typically raised off the ground, while a patio is built directly on the ground.

    If you’re a homeowner with nothing special outside your back door, you’ve probably felt the pang of patio or deck envy. You go to a friend’s house, and he has an incredible layout in his backyard. Someone is grilling, and friends and family are lounging in comfortable chairs on the patio. Everyone’s laughing and having fun, and you remember your own place and think: I want this. So how much does a patio or deck cost? And what should you know before building one? —U.S. News and World Report

    Patios generally extend from the exterior of homes or are built onto other construction features in yards. Decks also generally extend from the exterior of homes or are built elsewhere in yards, but are raised, hence the term, “floating deck.” Patios are usually constructed of concrete, pavers, stone, tile, or brick. Decks, however, are generally built out of wood, vinyl, or composite materials.  Also, decks are usually equipped with a railing system and are built on a support system.

    Deck versus Patio: What You need to Know

    As far as costs go, there’s really no hard and fast rule about which is more or less expensive. Each can be as expensive or inexpensive as desired — it depends on the material, size, customization, labor, and other factors. But, there’s more you need to know about a deck versus a patio. If you like the idea of installing both but just can’t decide which is the better choice, you’re certainly not alone. Here are some considerations to think about to make the right decision:

    • What will be the primary use? Most likely, the primary use will be a place to relax and entertain. But, if you have a pool, it’s probably better to install a patio because it won’t splinter (unless you build a deck of vinyl or composite). Just remember, a deck is built off the ground and that will play a big part in your ultimate decision.
    • How will you tie it into your house? Regardless of which you choose, understand it simply must tie or “match” your home, appearing as an intended extension. If it looks out-of-place, it won’t bring value to your home and could be a serious objection come resale time.
    • How will you fit it into your landscape? Just as a patio or deck must tie into your home’s exterior and overall theme, it should also be a good fit for your landscape, as well. If you have a wood gazebo, then a wood or composite deck will be a good candidate but if you have a rock garden, a patio will probably fit better.
    • Are you planning to add-on to it? This is an important question because some homeowners have a grand vision for the finished product. Meaning, starting with a basic build and embellishing it a few times to make it into an envious amenity. In general, if you want to add-on to it, a deck will be a better choice because it could be difficult to find the same or matching materials for a patio.
    • What’s the grade in your yard? This will be a huge factor because it will greatly influence the price, pushing it up or allowing you to save money. If you have a flat yard (as most do in Sarasota), then a patio or deck won’t be all that much different in price. However, if you have a sloped yard, a deck will be a less expensive choice because you won’t need all the specialty grading and building a patio would require.
  • How to Reduce Spring Yard Allergens in Your Landscaping

    With a change of season right around the corner, many people will wonder how to reduce spring yard allergens in landscapes. Even here in sunny, southwest central Florida, throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties, most plants remain dormant during the winter months. But as spring draws near, plenty of pollen and other allergens will become quite common in your outdoor living space. So, it’s good to know some ways to reduce spring yard allergens in landscaping.

    Common Spring Yard Allergens

    The most common spring yard allergens are found in trees, weeds, and grasses. Killing off crabgrass is always a good idea, but it won’t do very much for allergy suffers as digitaria produces only mild allergens. However, there are plenty of others which fall into the severe allergen category. Among them are the following trees: Bluejack Oak (Quercus incana), Carolina Willow (Salix caroliniana), Eastern Poison-Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia), Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), Myrtle Oak (Quercus myrtifolia), Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra), Red Mulberry (Morus rubra), Water Hickory (Carya aquatica), and Water Oak (Quercus nigra).

    Prepping your yard can give you a head start on spring landscaping, but it can also mean suffering from seasonal allergies. Ragweed pollen and lingering mold can create double the symptoms for some allergy sufferers. “The daunting task of yard work can be favorable for allergy sufferers if they know how to reduce allergens in the areas surrounding the home,” said allergist Richard Weber, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Many people think you can only control the environment inside the home, but there are also precautions you can take to help eliminate allergens outside as well.” —American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

    Weeds producing severe allergens are: Annual Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), Chinese Mustard (Brassica juncea), Florida Pellitory (Parietaria floridana), Saltwater False Willow (Baccharis angustifolia), and Spiny Amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus). While grasses which produce severe allergens are Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon) and Perennial Rye Grass (Lolium perenne).

    How to Reduce Spring Yard Allergens in Your Landscaping

    All the above trees, weeds, and grasses can really be difficult for allergy sufferers to cope with but it doesn’t end there. Pet dander, outdoor animal dander, pollinating plants, and dust are also notorious allergens. With so much potential exposure, it can be difficult to keep a landscape looking its best. But, there are measures you can take to lessen your exposure to allergens, both inside and outside your home. Here’s how to reduce spring yard allergens in your landscaping:

    • Leave flowering plants outside. If you love springtime flowering plants, do yourself a huge favor and leave these outside. While it’s certainly tempting to bring them inside your home, you’re only adding to the number of allergens already present inside your house. By keeping flowering springtime plants outside, you’ll have less to worry about.
    • Keep your home and pets clean. Often times, allergens hitch a ride into your home on clothing and pets. Both collect allergens and you unwittingly let them waltz right inside without even thinking about it. Keep all your outdoor clothing clean, including your shoes. Additionally, bathe your pets regularly. This will help to reduce pollen and it has the added bonus of reducing mold spores as well.
    • Time your landscape work wisely. During the midday hours and on into the afternoon, the pollen count is typically at its highest. It’s best to garden and landscape during the early morning or even during the evening. Morning is the best time because the pollen count is usually low, due to early morning dew helping to tamp it down. Or, just after a rainstorm is another good time.
    • Be sure to cover up your skin. Wearing long sleeved shirts and pants might not be your first choice, but it’s a good way to combat allergies with little effort. Wearing gloves is another good measure in your fight against allergens. When you’re done, be sure to wash what you’ve worn outside so it doesn’t linger in the house.
    • Keep your grass mowed. This is perhaps the most simple and easy ways to combat spring yard allergens. Just the routine act of keeping the grass mowed will do quite a lot to lessen allergen exposure. By keeping the grass trimmed to about a 2 inch height, you’ll do much because it’s at the very top where grasses release pollen.
  • Simple Ways to Update Outdoor Living Spaces

    While avoiding big landscaping mistakes will help to keep your yard from looking awkward, there are simple ways to update outdoor living spaces which add more flare and function. The trick is to infuse continuity into your outdoor living space so that it isn’t a total or weird mismatch from the interior. Moreover, your outdoor living space should provide creature comfort, while still offering ample traffic flow. With a few easy changes, you can transform an outdoor space from ordinary to extraordinary in just a weekend or two.

    Simple Ways to Update Outdoor Living Spaces

    Whether you want to customize a wood deck or spruce up a patio space, there are plenty of choices at your disposal. Just be cautious about attempting to pound a square peg into a round hole. In other words, continuity is important. Just as important is function because ultimately, that’s what everything is about. For instance, it’s great to have an outdoor kitchen, complete with a high-end grill. Even better is comfortable seating for family and friends.

    Is your outdoor living space in need of a makeover? Do you look at your patio and cringe every time you dream of inviting your friends over for a backyard barbecue? Whether you live in the city and have a small outdoor living space, or you live in the countryside and have a wide open meadow to work with, there are simple solutions for turning that drab outdoor area into a fabulous spot for your family and friends to enjoy. —

    What isn’t great is arranging the furniture and grill in such a way the seating is constantly covered in smoke. Or seats which are located under direct sunlight. These two scenarios are examples of the design actually ruining itself. But, there are also many ways to improve your outdoor space. With a bit of inspiration and some light work, you’ll be able to create a wonderful area the whole family and your friends can enjoy. Here are some helpful tips about simple ways to update outdoor living spaces:

    • Add and upgrade lighting. One element too many homeowners often neglect is outdoor lighting. When the sun goes down, there’s always a need for more outside lighting. And, it’s not only about convenience and function, it’s also about adding beautiful elements to an outdoor living space.
    • Install fans and misting fans. Here in the Sunshine State, the outdoors gets quite toasty but you can provide some much appreciated relief simply by installing fans or misting fans. These are perfect when it’s warm outside and are also one of the most effective mosquito repellents.
    • Replace old outdoor furniture. There’s nothing more disheartening than old outdoor furniture. It looks sad, unsafe, and out-of-place. But this is one easy fix. Replace your old outdoor furniture for something that’s eye pleasing and comfortable.
    • Erect a pergola and lace with vines. A pergola is a great addition to practically any outdoor space. It can be enclosed with curtains, topped with a variety of materials, like vines, and also hold a fan with lighting. It’s open and airy, plus, it adds to the overall look of your outdoor space.
    • Hang curtains for shade and privacy. A pergola isn’t the only place to hang curtains. These can be hung in different areas of your outdoor space for shade and privacy. These too, can add much to the aesthetics of your yard and patio or deck.
    • Install a multi-use fire pit with seating. Another wonderful feature is a multi-use or multi-purpose fire pit. These are great for sitting around a fire on a chilly night, roasting marshmallows, cooking kabobs, and more. Plus, they can be covered when not in use to serve as a serving table or a board game table.
    • Put-in a mini bar with a beverage station. If you want to take your outdoor living space experience to a whole new level, install a mini bar with a beverage station. Glass holders, along with plenty of other accessories, a small refrigerator, and other essentials will provide a lot of convenience.
    • Lay down an area rug or a few of them around. For those wanting to keep costs low, outdoor area rugs are a terrific way to add install appeal to your outdoor living space, while helping to define spaces. These are not only inexpensive, they bring a sense of style and are easy to care for with periodic cleaning.

    If it’s time to update your outdoor living space, landscape, or add more features, contact us. We are a full-service, professional landscape design company and serve all of Sarasota, including near Bayfront Drive, around Rolling Green Golf Club, along Longboat Club Road, and elsewhere.

  • How to Do a Retaining Wall Tear-Down

    You have a retaining wall in your yard and it’s showing undeniable signs of deterioration or is beginning to seriously slant as tree roots upend it and you begin to think about demolishing it. Perhaps another solution is to fix it or have the tree removed to save the decorative structure. Then, you start thinking about the expense, time, and effort it will most definitely require.

    It’s becoming more and more clear the only feasible solution is to take it down and save yourself the headache and wallet hit of repairing it or having it replaced. Now, the only problem is how you go about breaking it down without leaving a huge mess to clean-up. You want a realistic plan of action that will get rid of the retaining wall and not leave an eyesore after it’s gone.

    Well, there is a way to take it down, but it will require more than a little bit of elbow grease to get it done right. Depending on what it is constructed of, and how it’s laid out, the project will be labor intensive, which is why you might consider hiring a landscape architect and having it done by a professional.

    Assessing the Situation and Planning Ahead

    The first thing you’ll have to do is identify the problem because that will dictate your course of action. In other words, if it’s crumbling because of age and the weather elements, that’s one thing. However, if it’s beginning to crumble because of tree roots, that’s an entirely different situation. In other words, age and weather are normal and only require you to demolish the wall and cart the pieces away; but, tree roots mean a problem with the tree, which will have to be dealt with.

    A retaining wall is a wall that is constructed to contain soil to prevent it from eroding. Retaining walls are sometimes found in yards that are hilly, as the soil behind the wall creates a flat surface where flowers or a garden can be planted. Large, thin stones called capstones are often placed on top of the retaining wall to provide a decorative element. —San Francisco

    In any case, you’ll have to cover-up the area where it currently stands. Expect to find an unsightly trench devoid of green grass and perhaps a sizable amount of pests and/or critters nesting underneath. As you can see, there will be a lot more to deal with than just hammering down stones and carting them away in a wheelbarrow or hauled away in a rented dumpster.

    The Right Way to Do a Retaining Wall Tear-Down

    To get the best results and not put yourself into a bad situation, you’ll have to learn how to take down a retaining wall the right way. Just sledgehammering it or knocking it down with a rented tractor will do more damage to your lawn than necessary. Here’s how to tear down a retaining wall:

    • Find out if you need a permit. Depending on the wall’s height and size, you might have to get a permit to demolish it and have it hauled away. Should this be the case, call a professional and let someone with experience do the job for you and save you time and money.
    • Rent a dumpster. You’ll need to determine the size of the wall and how much cubic space you’ll need to hold all the debris. It’s better to rent a dumpster which is bigger than you need than rent one that’s too small and has to be emptied and refilled because that will take longer and cost more.
    • Turn off the power. If there are any electric powered features on or near the base of the wall, such as lights, be sure to turn off the power at the breaker box. In addition, think about any buried irrigation lines which might be near the base of the retaining wall.
    • Cover the immediate surrounding area. Cover any plants with a tarp or unearth them, place them in a temporary pot and move them out of the way.
    • Pry off the top. Retaining walls have caps along the top to help them stay secure. You’ll have to use a crowbar or pry bar to get it off starting at one end where you are standing nearest the top.
    • Hammer and chisel the bricks or stones. Next, you’ll have to chisel the individual layers, working your way laterally from one side to the other, and top to bottom.
    • Dig up the foundation. Using a shovel, dig up the gravel foundation and save the material for future use.

    Finally, replenish the soil to make it near even with the surrounding grass in the yard. Then, you can lay sod in the area and care for it to give your yard continuity. If there’s tree roots which are in the way, call a professional to have it removed and sod it thereafter.