4 Reasons to Plan Your Outdoor Living Project in the Fall

Make your backyard alive with fun and laughter, plan your 2016 outdoor living project now!

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Summer is winding down and the crisp fall weather is moving in, bringing with it the brightly colored leaves, bonfires and hoodies, and pumpkin spice everything. Though you may be packing up your outdoor furniture and cutting back your perennials, now is the perfect time to start thinking about next year’s projects. Plan your 2016 outdoor living project now and make your backyard alive with fun and laughter!

TimberTech composite deck with paver patio by Chicago Suburb deck builder Archadeck of Chicagoland

Continue reading “4 Reasons to Plan Your Outdoor Living Project in the Fall”

Designing a Pergola: What You Need to Know

Are you considering adding a pergola to your backyard but aren’t quite sure where to start? Here are four key elements to consider as you begin designing the perfect shade structure for your outdoor living space.

Are you considering adding a pergola to your backyard but aren’t quite sure where to start?  At Archadeck, we design outdoor living spaces every day.  Here are four key elements to consider as you begin designing the perfect shade structure for your outdoor living space.

Define Your Space

Pergolas are shade structures, usually comprised of four posts with cross rafters, leaving open spaces above to allow some sun to shine through.  One of the roles of a pergola is to define an outdoor living space, using the architecture and design to compliment your deck, patio, home, and yard.  Because there are no walls or a roof, a pergola creates an inviting, open and airy space for you to relax.  Consider the space you want to define.  Do you plan to dine, grill, or entertain?  The answer to these questions will help you determine the size of the pergola, the amount of shade you need, and other design details.

Custom design low maintenance deck with vinyl pergola - Archadeck of Chicagoland

Shade

One of the great aspects of pergolas is the ability to customize the structure to provide as much or as little shade as you prefer.  If you simply want to break up the intensity of the sun, you can space the rafters further apart, allowing plenty of sun over your deck or patio while diminishing some of that sweltering heat. Alternatively, you can space the rafters closer together and add lathing if you’re looking for significant shade for more protection and a cooler space.  For those who want to maximize the amount of shade, or to control when there is shade over their patio or deck space, retractable canopies and screens are an excellent option.

Custom vinyl pergola with mosquito curtains

Consider Vertical Gardening

Pergolas are great structures for plants and vines that need support.  Ivy,  passion-flower, and honeysuckle are great options that will help provide additional shade while adding color and fragrance to the outdoor space.  Fruit is also an option.  Grapevines are beautiful winding around pergolas.  If your yard is particularly small, vertical gardening is a great way to bring a little green, giving it a lusher look.

Design Considerations

Part of the joy in adding a pergola is designing the structure.  You can customize your pergola to match or contrast the exterior of your home.  Most pergolas are built with square wood posts; however, you can add your own flare to the structure.  Is the classic look more your style?  Consider rounded columns.  Are you more contemporary?  Consider a sleek look for you posts and end pieces for the rafters.  Do you prefer a craftsman look?  Stone bases might have the look you’re going for and are great for integrating a new pergola with an existing patio.

Pergola with Stone Base - Archadeck of Chicagoland

Do you have more design ideas?  We would love to hear them in the comment section below!

If you’re looking for a professional contractor to guide you through the design process and build your project, give us a call at (847) 749-2373 or sign up here for a free Design Consultation.

See you in the backyard!

10 Tips For Growing Your Own Herb Garden

Herbs are great for creating fresh, tasty recipes and add a beautiful touch to your outdoor living space. Here are 10 easy tips for growing your own herb garden so you can get started today!

The weather is finally warming up here in the Chicago suburbs, and with it, outdoor living ideas are blooming.  Have you considered planting your very own herb garden?  Herbs are great for creating fresh and tasty recipes, home remedies, and much more.  They also add a beautiful touch to your outdoor living space, whether they’re planted in a garden or pots around your patio or deck.  So how do you get started?

Growing your own herbs

1.  Just do it! Growing your own herbs is cheaper than purchasing fresh herbs from the grocery store. The convenience of having fresh herbs on hand for your meals and the gratification of spending some time outdoors in the sun growing your garden is invaluable.

2.  Pick a sunny spot with good drainage. You will find most basic herbs love the sun and don’t like being too wet. Only a few ( like cilantro, lemon balm, and mint) like partial shade. If you want to plant in a container, you can plant each herb separately or put them all together in one big bowl. You can also plant them in pots according to the recipes you like to use them for, a Tai pot, an Italian pot, a chicken dinner pot. Use a soil-less potting mix that will drain well.

3.  Speaking of mint… Mint will take over all the other herbs and take over your whole yard if you let it.  Plant it alone in its own pot.

Planting herb gardens in the chicago suburbs

4.  Start with a few plants for instant gratification. Plants such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano are especially good to buy as starters. Be sure to water them before you transplant. Grassy herbs (like chives and parsley)  grow quickly from seeds.   Start these and other seedlings right in the pot or the outside spot where they’ll be living permanently

5.  Pick a spot near the kitchen.  This allows you to step right outside and snip off a sprig without having to trek through your yard.

6.  Plant some perennials.  Try sage, thyme, lemon thyme, chives, oregano, fennel, marjoram, and mint.

7.  Try a few annuals.  Big-leafed sweet basil or Genovese basil are great all-purpose basils that make for easy growing. Plant them when it’s hot outside when you plant your tomatoes.  Dill or lemon balm are some other good annuals to try.

Decorate your patio with your herb garden

8.  Don’t over water or over fertilize.   Water every few days when the top few centimeters of soil is dry.  Over fertilizing will cause the plants to produce too much foliage and they won’t have the intense flavor that a good herb should have.  Once a month is usually enough.

9.  Harvest often. Harvesting promotes growth and keeps plants in their growing.  Stop by your garden before dinner each night and snip away. You can harvest up to a third of the foliage. If you see a flower, clip or pinch it off. Once a herb flowers it is trying to finish its life cycle.

10.  Eat and enjoy! If your recipe calls for dried herbs, double or triple the amount instructed with fresh herbs.  They are not as concentrated as dried herbs.  Freeze any that you can’t use right away.  They’ll make delicious soups when the weather turns chilly again.

Herb garden container ideas for your deck or patio

 

 

 

Top 10 Ideas for Outdoor Living Spaces

Are you looking for a way to turn your backyard into your very own outdoor retreat?  Check out the top 10 ideas for outdoor living spaces.

Pergola

Thinking of a patio? We can help!

There is so much to consider when designing and decorating your patio.  From flooring material and patio furniture, to landscaping lighting, the options seem endless.  We’ve found a great article that does a nice job of helping you break everything down so you can make the best choices for your backyard patio.  Check it out!

How Many Ways Can You Design A Pergola?

This weather is making our phones ring off the hook and we are thrilled. We have lots of requests for pergolas. Check out this link which contains a bunch of pictures of pergolas to give you ideas on what kind you would like us to build for you!

 

 

Front Yard Gardens…The Latest Trend?

Have you ever considered building an open front porch or patio in the front of your home?  Usually, the backyard is the first thing that pops into mind when someone says “outdoor living space.”  But let’s not forget the front yard!  Your front door is where you welcome friends and family into your home.  Why not make it warm and inviting?  St. Louis Today wrote and excellent article on the emerging popularity of front yard gardens.  Take a look at what they’ve said and what others have done to spruce up their front yards.

Love to garden?

Are you looking to improve the look of your outdoor living space? There’s an app for that!

App We Love: Garden Design

How to Choose a contractor you can trust #4

When you buy something at the store you see the finished product.  When you order something online you see a picture of the finished product.  When you hire a contractor, you won’t see the finished product until the project is built.

 

Buying from a contractor means trusting someone.  Trusting they will build what you expect.  Trusting they understand what you expect . How can a homeowner be comfortable they are choosing the right contractor for their project?  How do they know who to trust? This is the fourth & final article in a blog series on how to select the right contractor.

 

In three previous blogs I wrote about evaluating a contractor’s background and experience, how to make sure the contractor builds what you want and expect, and understanding how a contractor effectively manages a construction project.  In this fourth and final blog in the series, I will share some thoughts on safeguards that protect you from things going wrong.

 

Safeguards include some of the obvious points that most people know  to ask when interviewing contractors.  Yes, I said interviewing because that is the right approach for both parties, the client & the contractor, take in the initial meetings.   We will discuss this more, shortly.  Let’s stick to the obvious now.  Always ask a contractor about the insurance they carry, permit requirements, and the warranties they provide.

 

Insurance can be tricky, I have met contractors who spin their answer on this topic.  When asked if they have insurance, some respond yes, because they have auto insurance.  The better question is, “What insurances do you carry?”  I must admit that I am not an insurance expert, but I know that liabilityinsurance is a must.  This protects your home from any damage caused during the construction process.  Worker compensation insurance is also very important.  It protects you from an employee of the contractor getting injured on the job and suing you for their bills.  There are specific legal requirements for obtaining Workers Compensation in Illinois and most states.   I believe that any company with employees is required to carry workers compensation insurance.   Auto insurance is important as well but I am unaware of how this may or may not protect the homeowner.  If anyone reading this is more knowledgeable on kinds of insurances, please feel free to add your comments.  It is good to ask for a copy of the contractor’s certificate of insurance to verify they are currently  covered.

 

Warranties provide obvious protection once the work is done.  At Archadeck, we offer a very strong warranty as well as a third-party guarantee of performance.  Always get any warranty in writing, and yes, reading it is a good idea.    Our warranty is 1 year on workmanship, defined as pretty much anything related to the quality of our work, and 5 years on structural issues.   Of course, warranties are only as good as the company that stands behind them.  If they are out of business in 6 months, then warranties are worthless.   Those low price offers often mean they are under bidding the project and eventually putting themselves out of business.  Will they be around when you need them back?   At Archadeck we have put in place a unique third-party guarantee.  An insurance for our clients if we are gone.  As a group, all the Archadeck franchisee’s created the National Guarantee Corporation in 1998.  We fund it with low annual dues.  This fund exists to protect all Archadeck clients for 2 years after the project is built as well as guaranteeing the completion of the project.  The good news is there are very few claims on the fund but it’s a great safety net for our clients just in case.

 

Of course warranties may not protect you.  Even if they are around, will the contractor stand behind their work or hide behind a clause in the warranty?  We rarely deny coverage, even when we could.  We  do the right thing for the client regardless of the warranty terms.  Recently, a client we built a deck for six years ago, contacted me regarding a structural issue.  This was one year past our coverage and the issue was not caused by anything we did.   We could have simply said “sorry, too late” or blamed the site conditions or blamed the architect for the design or the village for approving the plans.  But I figured the buck had to stop with us and we fixed it.  Maybe we should have anticipated this issue, maybe not, but we were the people the client trusted and we built the project, so we fixed it.  This leads to one final issue, and probably the most important, to consider when hiring a contractor.

 

Previously, I suggested that the initial meetings are an interview for the client and the contractor.   What does your research and your gut say about this person and their company?  Can you trust them to do what they say, to stand behind their work, to do what is right?   One of the best compliments I ever received about my company came from a client whose project did not run smoothly.  Actually, early in construction I would have called it a disaster.  Everything that could go wrong, did.  I was replacing the crew as well as bringing in a subcontractor to build the foundation, a completely unplanned cost.    If you have read my previous blogs you know that causes me much distress.  In total, we spent about $12,000 more  than expected.  These were costs we absorbed because it was the right thing to do.   Throughout the project, we kept the client informed but we never made it their problem.  When we were done, they were really happy  and thanked me.  As I was a little embarrassed at the way the job started,  I apologized again for the hassles.  The client replied, “No need to apologize. We’re really happy that you made it right.  Many contractors would not have and some might have walked away from the job, but you stuck it out and built us a great new screen room, deck, and patio.”    Will your contractor make it right?  This confidence is  invaluable.  I hope it helps our clients sleep a little better at night.

 

See you in the outdoors.

Deck safety

Is your deck safe?

Check out this story on deck failures.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/06/24/earlyshow/contributors/susankoeppen/main5109350.shtml

If you are concerned about your deck call Archadeck @ 847-359-8002 for an inspection.