Designing The 2nd Place Dream Backyard Makeover Patio

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.

Archadeck Dream Makeover Contest - Before

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.

Breaking Ground for Dream Backyard Makeover PatioNext they put the base in, getting everything set for the new Belgard Pavers. The Halls chose a wonderful combination of Buckingham Cobble and Weston Wall for their seat wall.

With the bricks laid, we put down grass seed and green matting to fill in the dirt that is left from building the patio.

Creating the Dream Backyard Makeover 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.

Archadeck Dream Backyard Makeover - 2nd Place Winner

Archadeck of Chicagoland named 2013 Best Pick

We are excited to share that we have been named 2013 Best Pick by EBSCO Research for the second year in a row.  We are honored to receive this recognition because it is based on testimonials directly from the Chicagoland homeowners we work with day in and day out.

See more Chicago Suburb projects!

According to the Local Tribune, “Only top-rated companies that qualify in EBSCO Research’s rigorous research process can earn “Best Pick” status. Archadeck of Chicagoland excelled throughout this research process, boasting an overall “A” grade based on more than 100 candid telephone interviews with Chicago-area homeowners.”

Overall, the Best Pick status reinforces our mission, to design outdoor living spaces that blend with our customers’ homes and fit within their lifestyles, while delivering high quality work and service throughout the process.

Read the full article here.

Top Outdoor Living Trends for 2013

It’s that time of year again.  Spring is just around the corner and it’s time to start designing or decorating your outdoor living space. What are the hottest trends for outdoor living spaces? According to ASLA’s recently published survey, homeowners across the country are investing in fire pits and fireplaces, grills, lighting, decks and patios.

“In this uncertain economy, homeowners want to get more enjoyment out of their yards,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA. “They want attractive outdoor spaces that are both easy to take care of and sustainable.”  Take a look at the complete survey; you just might find a few creative ideas for your own backyard.

See you in the Backyard!

A Year Of Achievements in Chicagoland

As we move forward in the new year, we can’t help looking back on 2012 with a smile, remembering it as a great year at Archadeck of Chicagoland.   We spent the year creating and designing outdoor living spaces that blend with our clients’ homes and fit their lifestyles.  We have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some amazing people. Even as our company continues to grow, we are able to enjoy learning each client’s vision so we can help bring it to life. Creating outdoor living spaces to draw families closer together is our great passion.  Knowing a family is enjoying their backyard dream puts a smile on our faces.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife Kristen and I attended Archadeck’s Annual Convention in Charleston, South Carolina.  We love these conventions because we continually return motivated  and full of new ideas for the upcoming season.  You’ll read more about these new ideas in the coming weeks as we begin rolling out the new plans.  While in Charleston, we attended workshops and seminar, dinners and award ceremonies.  Kristen, myself and our Chicagoland Archadeck team earned several awards. It is exciting to receive such recognition for all our hard work!

Kristen earned the 2012 award for Top Rookie Design Consultant.  This is quite an achievement for someone who Awards Archadeck of Chicagoland earned in 2012.started this position in April last year!  I earned recognition for leadership as President of the Midwest Region of franchisees and for leadership as Chairman and President of The National Guarantee Corporation (a third party guarantor that all Archadeck projects will be completed and warrantied for at least two years).

Archadeck of Chicagoland also earned the Customer Satisfaction Award for the fifth year in a row and recognition for sales in excess of $1,000,000 in 2012.  Perhaps most exciting, we earned two design awards – one in the patio category and one in the deck category.

The multi-level patio and pergola we designed allowed the homeowners to create different outdoor living spaces while maintaining a beautiful flow from one space to the next.  The separate areas featured a living space, a dining area, and a section that incorporated a hot tub and fire pit.  We utilized Belgard walls and integrated natural blue stone and flagstone.

Multi-level Patio with Pergola and Fire Pit

The deck was a top of the line combination deck and patio project.   Everything was set to impress, from the beautiful stone columns and flagstone patio built with Belgard pavers and walls to the multi-level deck built with TimberTech Evolutions, Radiance rails and Deckorator pickets.  A built-in bench, beautiful decking pattern, and stone fire pit added to the beauty, comfort, and functionality of the design.

Deck and Patio with Fire Pit

Last year shaped up nicely and this year is already appearing to be an exemplary one as well.  Here’s to 2013, may it be joyous and full of family fun.

See you in the Backyard!

Win a Dream Backyard Makeover

If you had $70,000 dollars to create the backyard retreat of your dreams, how would you design it? Would you build a stylish screen room or gorgeous deck for entertaining?  Would you include an elaborate multi-level patio that features a custom fire pit or fireplace? Maybe you’ll take it a step further and add water features.  There is nothing better than having a relaxing outdoor retreat right in your own backyard.  Relax in the sun on your deck, laugh with your friends around a fire pit, watch your children run and play while you sit on the patio, curl up with your morning coffee in your screen room.  Throw the best summer barbecue of the year.

Archadeck is running a Dream Backyard Makeover contest.  You could win the backyard of your dreams, valued at $70,000!  Come on over to our Facebook page for details on how to enter.  While you’re there, be sure to like our page so you can enjoy our conversations, find exciting new recipes, see new design ideas, and learn new tips for keeping your outdoor living space in tip-top shape.

Combo

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.

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.

How to choose a contractor you can trust, part 2

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.

Plan your 2010 outdoor project now!

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.