Are you looking to maximize the value of your home? Outdoor living spaces have become the latest trend to take home improvement by storm. With more homeowners moving their fun to the backyard, a deck or patio creates the perfect space to blend indoor comfort with the open outdoors.
We hope you enjoyed your summer! The days are definitely growing cooler and winter is right around the corner. Now is the perfect time to start thinking about preparing your outdoor living space for winter months; you’ll want to maintain your wooden deck, outdoor furniture, and paver patio to extend their life. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Sweep the surface removing all leaves and debris to help prevent mold and mildew forming.
- Wash with mild soap and water. If some dirt remains or if there are signs of mold, you may need to pressure wash the surfaces. It is advisable that you use a professional as pressure washing at too high of a setting may cause damage.
- If you have a deck, inspect the entire deck (slats, handrails, railings, and posts) noting any rotting, loose rails, or warping. If re-hammering the nails or tightening screws causes the nails or screws to sink into soft wood or splits the wood, then the piece should be replaced.
- If you have a patio, add joining sand and sweep evenly into the joints of your patio. Don’t put too much sand on the patio at one time. Most paver patios have tight joints between bricks and won’t need a lot of sand.
Protecting Your Furniture
- Wash and store vinyl furniture indoors.
- Inspect any wood furniture for damage and make the necessary repairs before covering or storing it for winter.
- Cover with a heavy tarp or store inside a shed or garage to protect it from the elements.
- Clean soil from planters. Any pots made of clay or other fragile materials should be brought indoors.
Tips for Snow Removal
- If you are shoveling snow from your deck, run the shovel lengthwise across the boards to minimize scratching or cutting into the wood. Another option is to use a plastic shovel.
- Avoid salt and other ice melting substances as they may damage or discolor your deck finish.
We were delighted when the Hall family, local Palatine homeowners, won second place in the national Dream Backyard Makeover, sponsored by Archadeck and Belgard. Their existing outdoor living space consisted of a cracked concrete patio closely surrounded by large bushes. The young family had recently purchased the home and dreamed of having a beautiful open space to enjoy with their friends and family.
After making the announcement that they had won, we got together to discuss how they envisioned their new outdoor living space. Custom design is our specialty, so together we walked through the tried and true process we use to create the best design for their family. To do this we focused on the four most important aspects of a design: space, function, aesthetics, and budget.
- It was important to know about any spatial issues they might have. Knowing ahead of time where property lines and natural easements are help us to determine how much space is available to use, or to prepare a plan of action in the case a client may want to request a variance from the village for additional space.
- Functional needs tie into the discussion of spatial issues. If we designed too small, the Halls would not be able to use the space as they had envisioned. If we designed to large, they would have more patio than they needed and the space would go unused. Most of us don’t build patios and decks every day, so determining how much space you need can almost feel bewildering. In order to help the Hall family determine how much space they would need, we discussed how they planned to use the space. Did they just want an area to sit and enjoy the sun? A place for a table and grill? Enough room to comfortably host an outdoor party? Each of these require different amounts of space. Knowing what they ultimately want to do with their patio helped us determine the amount of space that would suit their needs.
- Discussing aesthetics is also a key element in helping us design the right outdoor living space for our clients. We showed the Halls several pictures of previous projects we have built, asking them to point out aspects they either liked or those they did not favor. This helped us design specifically to their taste and style.
- At Archadeck, we design to a budget. We don’t want to develop a design that is two or three times what our clients want to invest. Knowing an ideal budget helps us keep a design within the parameters of what they are comfortable investing in their project. This time was no different. The Hall family won the second prize of the Dream Backyard Makeover contest, so we worked with them to design the perfect space while remaining within the designated amount alloted by the contest rules.
Once we had the design in place, we set everything in motion to begin building. Breaking ground was an exciting moment for both the Halls and our Archadeck team! We began by discussing building plans with our crew, making sure every detail was addressed before we began. The crew broke up and removed the old concrete patio and put in new drain tiles.
With the bricks laid, we put down grass seed and green matting to fill in the dirt that is left from building the patio.
The outcome was beautiful. We enjoyed the opportunity to work with them and hope they enjoy their new patio with family and friends for many years.
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!
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.
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.
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 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 second article in a blog series on how to select the right contractor.
In my last blog I wrote about evaluating a contractor’s background and experience. In this blog I would like to share some thoughts on how to evaluate the contractors approach to understanding your needs. In my business we call it “design”, but really it’s about asking questions, listening, and understanding the priorities of the client. Not all construction projects involve “design” but all of them include understanding the client’s priorities. In our outdoor living business we strive to offer designs that match our client’s needs and wants.
To insure that we understand a client’s priorities and, just as important, they understand what we are proposing to build, we provide a clear drawing with detailed specifics related to their project. Every contractor should give clear written details of your project. Of course, a written agreement and warranty are important as well.
Project specifications should include details regarding materials and finishing information. Material information should clarify the quality of the material, if appropriate. For example, we note number 1 grade decking and stainless steel screws for our deck projects. Any items the client will be responsible for should also be included in the project specifications. For example, when we build screen porches, we note that the client buys the ceiling fan which we install.
In some cases it’s valuable to visualize your project in three-dimensional photo realistic drawings. When we build decks, patios, screen porches, sunrooms, or pergolas for shade, we offer a plan view (view from above) of the project. If a client desires, we can offer custom three-dimensional drawings of their home with our proposed project shown on an image of their home. This type of design work takes more time so we charge a small project retainer, which applies to the price of the project.
Of course price is an important part of any proposal. Some contractors give estimates. Estimates can change and some contractors purposefully give a low price that they plan to increase once the project begins. We guarantee that the that we agree will not to change unless the project is changed by the client or something unforeseen occurs. We define unforeseen as not visually present or a requirement by a building department outside of those noted in the building code.
In a future blog I will discuss project management and services offered by contractors.
See you in the outdoors.
January is the perfect time to design your new outdoor living project.
January is the perfect time to design your new outdoor living project. Begin the process now by contacting Archadeck to have your new deck or patio for the full 2010 outdoor season. As the premier outdoor living builder in Chicagoland, Archadeck Is ready to discuss your new backyard space. For 30 years we have created outdoor living spaces for America’s families. Now is the prefect time to connect with our professional Design Consultants. Get in front of the spring rush and have your new deck or screen room ready when the weather comes. View our variety of projects at northern-chicagoland.archadeck.com.
We can complete your design process in one meeting for an hour or multiple meetings with a variety of design options. Most often, we can create a design with you in two meetings. Usually, your new deck, gazebo, pergola, or patio will be ready for you, eight weeks from the day we have a design & agreement. Of course, the times can vary based upon the project & village requirements. As an example screen rooms and sun rooms will usually take an extra four to five weeks to complete. Call today to get your project started so you will enjoy the outdoors with your family all spring & summer.