Deck Building Basics

deck building basics
In my previous article, "planning for a new deck," I outlined the steps for planning for a new deck. This article takes the process one step further. We’ll look at how to get started actually building your deck. By this time, I will assume that you have your building permit in hand, a good set of plans, and a materials list. If you don’t have a material list, simply take your plan to your nearest home center or building supply store and have them create one for you. Most lumber yards can actually arrange for delivery of all your materials at one time including all the nails and screws are you will need. This can be quite handy on large projects or if you don’t own a truck or a trailer. The lumber yard will bring all the parts and pieces you will need to build your new deck.

The first place to start, is to set some posts for your deck to rest on. Were I live in the Northeast, we have to deal with the frost and free cycle of winter. When I received my building permit, the code officer made sure to point out that all posts must be secured in country at least 36 inches below the surface of the ground. This will ensure that when the ground freezes the posts of the deck will not heave. Check with your local zoning office to find out what your specifications are for setting posts.

Renting a post hole digger makes setting the posts much easier, especially if you live in an area with a lot of playing or a lot of stone in your soil. I was able to dig a half a dozen holes in less than an hour. Digging the same number of holes my hand would’ve taken me at least half a day so the few dollars I spent on the post hole digger rental was well worth it.

Next, a port some stoning concrete makes into the holes and set the posts. My plan called for 4×4 posts. Your plans may be different. After the posts were in and let the concrete cure according to the directions on the package. I then nailed 2 x 2 joists to the side of the House and around the perimeter of the deck. I used metal choice hangers to hang all the internal joists. You can also tell nailed them but metal choice hangers are stronger and easier to use than trying to toenail large lumber.

There are lots of different types of taking you can use on top of your deck. I choose simple pressure treated lumber. To attach the deck boards to the joists you can use either nails or screws. If you use nails, make sure you use special spiral nails. These help prevent nails from popping. Deck screws are preferable as they are stronger but they are much more expensive than nails when laying out the decking, it is easier to let the deck boards run long and trim them down later once the entire deck surface is finished. When all the deck boards or laid, simply take a circular saw, and cut all the ends off the deck.

For a finished look, attach a skirt board to the exposed edges of the decking and over the rim joists. The last thing to do, if needed, would be to add railing, and or steps. However, these basics should get you started.


Choosing The Best Stone

choosing the best stone
How do you know which stone is the best stone? Before heading to the showroom to pick out your stone, consider these things to make sure you get the best stone for you.

Is the stone right for your project? While onyx and marbles are quite beautiful with their translucent colors, bright whites, and intense swirls and markings, think twice if you are putting in kitchen countertops. If you love to cook or have children, this isn’t the best of combinations. These stones, as well as travertine are best saved for lighter trafficked areas.

Granite and soapstone are both very durable natural stones and work wonderful for kitchen countertops. These will last many life times with heavy use in your kitchen. Think about how you will use the stone.

Once you know the type of stone you are going to use, narrow down your color preferences. How do you choose a color or narrow it down? Look at color charts and samples to get a feel for what you like. When you’re out and about, pay attention to what others have done with color. Think about what color makes you feel good.

Do you like dark stones? The darker stones tend to be harder, and shinier with less chance of staining or discoloring. They also need to be sealed less frequently, if even at all! But, they tend to show fingerprints and dust more readily. If you have a smaller kitchen, a dark stone may make your kitchen appear smaller.

If you love the look of lighter colored stones, they will expand a small room and make it seem larger. Dust and fingerprints aren’t so apparent. But, lighter stones are more apt to stain and they need to be sealed more frequently.

Look at the different patterns… solids, swirls, dots. There are so many to choose from, you’re bound to find one that’s totally you. Other than choosing the right type of stone for your project, color is important. You will look at it every day. Go with the look and color you love. Take your time.

Think about the thickness of your stone. A 3/4 inch stone is best suited for vertical wall applications and fireplace surrounds while 1 1/4 is preferable for countertops.

Have you thought about your surface finish? I prefer polished for its shine, ease of care, and maintenance but I know it’s not for everyone. If you don’t like a shiny look, a honed finish may be for you. This matted surface does take a little more maintenance and care and it’s more susceptible to stains and aluminum markings.

A flamed or brushed finish still has a shine but it is more dimpled or rough to the touch giving your stone a natural look. This finish isn’t a great choice for countertops because of the textured surface. It will be harder to clean. Ask your fabricator about the pros and cons of different finishes for your project before heading out to look at stone. Then, make the appropriate selection.

Your fabricator will tell you how much stone you need, as in how many slabs. Do you know What size slabs you want or need? This is so you are able to minimize your seams. Slabs of different stones come in many different sizes. Since stone is a natural product, there is no such thing as "one size fits all". If your countertop is 100 inches long and the slab is only 80 inches long, you will have a seam.

With this information in hand, you’re off to the stone yard/ showroom.


Outdoor lighting fixtures – Great selection available online!

outdoor lighting

The way we look at outdoor lighting may never again be the same, illuminating your property with designer fixtures that look just as nice as the ones inside your home, makes it possible to light up the outdoors in style. Take a drive through your town, homes are being showcased with not just one outdoor lighting fixture, instead they are illuminated in a concert of security fixtures, pathway lights, outdoor pendants, exterior sconces and barbeque lights. What’s the big to do here? Decorative outdoor lighting has come of age!


Don’t be the last landscape on the block to take advantage of the growing trend of solar and low voltage outdoor lighting fixtures. If you like to spend time entertaining in the backyard or patio at night, consider the many decorative low voltage fixtures you can use to create safe step and pathway lighting. For outdoor accent lighting, fixtures can be used to highlight and accent beautiful points in the garden and create mood. see:

Fixtures by lighting manufacturers such as Kichler and Arroyo Craftsman enable you to include both, walkway accent lighting as well as beautiful entryway lanterns, post mounts and outdoor ceiling fixtures. Arts and Crafts style fixtures by Arroyo Craftsman are made from solid brass or copper, and can be left to weather naturally otherwise are factory finished with acid patinas in true verdigris, pewter black or mission brown. Both Arroyo Craftsman and Kichler, design fixtures for use with low voltage and 120-volt house current, offering you many choices.

For the best design and quality low voltage fixtures, choose from: Focus, Unique, Rockscapes, Nightscaping, Hadco, Kim Lighting, FX Luminaire, Lumiere, Arroyo Craftsman and Kichler. So well crafted, you will find many of the brands include manufacturer warranties for 3, 5, 20 years and lifetime. Take a look online!

About the author:
Nicole Martins is a contributing author and publisher to http://www.chandeliers-and-home-lighting.coman comprehensive resource that provides you with extensive information, articles of interest and reviews of best selling chandeliers and lamps online.


Basics of Landscape Design

landscape design
George W. Vanderbilt knew exactly how to design the ultimate landscape at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC–hire Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture in America to do it. While it’s unlikely that the average homeowner has the resources to hire one of the world’s best landscape designers to makeover their front yard, it is possible to come up with a basic plan that will meet most needs.

When you begin planning your new landscape, you’ll want to begin by thinking about how the space is going to be used. Do you have children who need a play area? Do you have pets that might damage plants? Would you like to entertain outdoors? Once you’ve decided how you will primarily use the landscape, consider the basic elements of landscape design and how they apply to your needs.

Balance – There are two types of balance–symmetrical and asymmetrical. If you choose symmetrical balance, each side of your landscape will basically reflect the other in shape, form, plant height, color, etc. An excellent example of this is Biltmore’s Walled Garden with its central arbor effectively dividing the garden into two equal halves with matching beds and borders. Asymmetrical balance gives each side of the landscape the same visual weight, but by using contrasting elements. While each side will be different, they should “match” in the sense that a group of trees on the left is balanced by a gazebo on the right or a curvy flower bed on one side is balanced by a walkway and bench on the other. Stroll through the estate’s Shrub Garden for a good example of asymmetrical balance

Color – Varying color combinations can be used to set the mood in your garden. Bright, fiery colors like red, yellow and orange make a garden seem lively and warm–or even hot. Cool or pale colors like green, blue, pink and white are more soothing and make a garden seem quieter and cooler. Dark plants or tree trunks work well as backdrops to set off brighter colors. Use contrasting colors to work as a focal point to draw attention to a specific area.

Unity – To create consistency throughout the landscape, repeat like elements. These may be specific plants or plant groupings, colors or decorative pieces like statuary. Layering – Throughout your landscape, you’ll want to gradually move from one element to another. Rather than planting a bed of pansies around the base of a large tree–step down with smaller trees, then shrubs, then bedding plants with those pansies forming a border in front of the full planting.

Proportion – Make sure the plants and elements you choose suit the available space. If you have a postage stamp garden, don’t plant an oak tree and try to squeeze in a pond. Select something delicate like a Japanese maple and a small fountain. On the other hand, if you’re yard is currently an acre of grass, a 6’x6′ bed in the center will be completely lost.

Take the time to sketch out your plan on paper and start small if you haven’t done this before. Get out that tape measure and use a garden hose to mark off curved borders or walkways. Now get out the garden magazines and catalogs and get creative. You might find it easier to get started if you pick a theme–maybe specific colors such as yellow, red and white or pick a shady corner and focus on shade-loving plants or look for plants that attract butterflies. Again, don’t forget the primary use of this new garden spot. If the kids will be romping through here with balls and Frisbees, some sturdy trees and shrubs might be a better choice than a delicate flower garden. If you’re going to be entertaining, think about including a patio, deck or other surface that enhances the house and garden.

Once you have a pretty good idea of what you want, go to your local garden center and ask for help selecting plants. They can also look over your plan to make sure you aren’t planting a tree that will block a window or a shrub that’s going to overgrow the heat pump. Now get planting!


Tips to improve the quality of your outdoor space and patio

Improve patio space

Its easy to get overwhelmed trying to figure out just how to bring an outdoor room together to make it a peaceful spot to relax or enjoy quality time with friends and family. But if you think of it as yet another room to decorate and furnish, the space will come together more easily. Measuring and a simple site analysis Just as you would for a room inside your home take the measurements of your patio or outdoor room area.

This most important step is essential for scaling in comfortable sized outdoor furniture, patio accessories, planters and such. The next step is to conduct a simple site analysis. For this you will want to jot down factors such as the direction (north, south, east, west) your patio is facing, prevailing winds, if any; areas in sun or shade and any other relevant observations that will impact the quality of people spending time in that space.


Now for the fun part, create a realistic wish list beginning with how you would like to use your patio: to relax, to entertain friends, to grill/barbeque, to eat outdoors, to hang out with friends and family, to converse, etc. Now go back to your site analysis and determine, if applicable, where you can start staging the pieces to your outdoor room. But before you do so, here are some tips and ideas for you to consider.

Arrange patio furniture and elements thoughtfully In order to create a comfortable space with pleasant atmosphere it is important to consider these details:

Circulation – how will people walk through the space;

Seating – where will people be sitting;

Views – what will people be looking at when sitting. For circulation, you want to position a sitting area in a location where circulation will not pass directly through, making the space distracting, unless you have no choice.

For creating comfortable seating for conversation, orient chairs, sofas, and gliders towards each other, 6 to 8 feet apart; this is a comfortable distance for talking without feeling too close. For views, you can create focal points with trees and shrubs in the distance, or planters and ornaments closer by. Dealing with wind and sun From your site analysis you have discovered information about how the wind blows.

By knowing the direction of the prevailing winds you can make some good decisions about the placement of certain items. First, if you are going to include a grill or barbeque be sure to locate these accessories in a location in which the wind will carry the smoke from the cooking fire away from the outdoor space; there’ s nothing more irritating than the uncomfortable sting of a smoky grill.

Also, if you have an area with cold wind, you can block it by creating vertical planes; this can be done by planting trees or shrubs in the ground, or by placing them in planters within or around a part of the patio. Fences and walls can also help. As for sun, these same vertical planes can screen hot, late afternoon sun. For overhead sun, retractable awnings can be a very effective way to minimize both sun and heat. These awnings are designed to extend (open) or retract (close) to create shade or sun options.

Other ways to create shade from the hot sun: patio umbrellas and trellises, pergolas, or arbors. Creating a sense of enclosure Creating a sense of enclosure is a great way to make your outdoor space more intimate; it is also a great way to create separation and privacy from your neighbors.

Think of the walls and ceilings inside your home: the walls are the vertical plane and the ceiling is the overhead plane. Outdoors these vertical and overhead planes help create the foundations to an outdoor room. While you don’ t want to overdo it or completely enclose your outdoor space, adding elements: shrubs, trees, arbors, trellises pergolas and such in a careful way can improve the atmosphere of your patio space

Once you’ ve measured your outdoor space, done the site analysis and figured out the area where you will be putting your outdoor furniture it’ s time to begin reviewing outdoor furniture and accessory options. If your patio is very small, you may only want to buy 1 or 2 chairs or loungers for conversation and relaxing, and a small bistro table with chairs for snacking. If your space is large, you may be looking for a larger seating arrangement: sofas, chairs, coffee tables, in one area and a patio set with umbrella in another.

There are many options and styles available and you can learn more about the materials and brands available by visiting a local patio furniture store or by shopping online. Popular furniture materials include: outdoor wicker, teak, wrought iron, cast aluminum, recycled plastic and casual aluminum.

You can buy this furniture individually or as a set such as a dining table complete with chairs. With many patio furniture options to choose from you can easily create an outdoor space that will be well used. Additional outdoor decorating accessories such as patio lamps, fire pits, garden arbors and trellises, and outdoor heaters fit in well to create a great atmosphere outdoors as well as being extremely functional.

For example, outdoor heaters will greatly extend your time outside, allowing for more time to enjoy yourself outdoors later into fall, and earlier into spring. Outdoor fireplaces such as: chimeneas, fire pits or even a gas outdoor fireplace create a great atmosphere and focal point, as well the opportunity to grill, heat, or just enjoy hanging out by the fire. About the author: Nicole Martins is the editor of Everything Patio Furniture, a patio furniture and accessories review site, which provides valuable tips and information as well as great products for your outdoor space. You can visit this site at