“Sometimes we dream of an outdoor space we’d love to have ourselves, — like this four-seasons outdoor room — and without fail, our team comes across a client who wants it, too,” says Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter.
That said, the idea for this climate-controlled four-seasons room didn’t come about all it once. It evolved in degrees. Deck and Patio had been contracted to build an entire backyard retreat, in three phases, for these clients. In phase one, we built a sound-barrier fence to block noise from a nearby busy street. Phase two, which eventually included this four seasons room, was for a Trex Transcend deck and railing, an outdoor kitchen, and an opened roof structure for sitting out and enjoying the yard.
“When we were creating the deck and open roof structure, however, after an evening of being pestered by insects, the clients decided they wanted it screened. Soon screens turned into windows for added protection during windy times. And, of course, once it was to be fully closed in, opportunities for special amenities opened up.”
First, to ensure the completed outdoor room would be in keeping with their two-story brick home, Renter consulted with an architect. The completed four seasons room not only harmonizes with their home, it boasts fully operating windows, as well as screens, automated Mitsubishi ductless heating and air conditioning, flat screen television, and enough room for their young child to use his ride-on toys.
In the end, the clients new outdoor room more than matched Deck and Patio’s own dream for such a space. (Note: Phase three, and the final phase of their outdoor retreat, will be a new pool and surround, and a pond.)
The outdoor room’s large Anderson windows offer a 360-degree view. These scenes will be even more enchanting when the pond, swimming pool and surround are completed in phase three. Then the clients will be able to watch children in the pool, and relax in their outdoor room at the same time.
Hydrangeas and long-blooming roses add color and brightness to the landscaping around the new four seasons outdoor room. The room’s white siding of PVC trim board is maintenance free, is paintable, and will never rot. With PVC lattice in deep brown underneath, it all coordinates perfectly with the deck and railing.
The Trex Transcend decking has a picture-frame border where two boards of a different color frame the entire deck. The framing is “vintage lantern” and the body is “tree house.” The flooring inside the outdoor room is also Trex Transcend.
The Trex deck railings have white posts and rails and “vintage lantern” balusters. Trex LED lighting is added on the post caps to shine down on the posts; the stair risers have Trex accent riser lights which shine on the stair treads.
The new outdoor kitchen, with granite top, has a cultured stone facade that goes all the way to the ground; barbecue, refrigerator, double-side burner, and three drawers are made with high quality stainless steel.
It is a common myth that you can’t leave your pond fish outside once the cold sets in. Actually, fish do just fine during winter. That said, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, does caution to be alert. When ice covers the pond, the fish might not be getting enough oxygen.
This can be remedied as long as you give them:
- two feet of water to swim in,
- oxygenate the water,
- and keep a hole in the ice with a heater, bubbler and an aerator. This allows the naturally produced gasses to escape from under the ice.
If the above efforts fail to keep it from freezing, Aquascapes Inc. designs manager, Gary Gronwick suggests using a pond de-icer. “This will keep a little hole in the ice so gases can escape,” he says. “While some recommend boiling water to create an opening in frozen-over ponds, that should be discouraged. It will only ice up again quickly.“
Gronwick also says to avoid chopping or sawing the ice to open a hole. The noise and vibrations will stress out the hibernating fish to a point they could die.
That done, Mother Nature will do the rest. The fish will spend the entire winter hibernating at the bottom of the pond, or in a cave designed for this, and then will slowly wake up as the water warms in the spring. The fish do not need to eat during this time and, in fact, shouldn’t be fed at all.
Before winter sets in, carefully look over your plant material and remove dying plant material. These materials rot and build up poisonous gases that can’t escape through ice when it forms. Such conditions might mean the koi are no longer simply hibernating, but are in a dangerous state of torpor.
Keeping any waterfalls running during cold months helps move the water so ice doesn’t form. But if ice builds up, pond aerators can put bubbles back in the water to add oxygen for the fish.
This pond has been cleared of excessive plant material and ice does not cover over the pond so that the fish are happily hibernating.
Hardy water lilies (shown here) that float on the water’s surface and have a short blooming period can withstand the cold winter months nicely. Lotuses also can withstand the cold winter months because they bloom in summer and go dormant in winter. Note that frost kills water hyacinths; water lettuce, which fights algae, should be wintered in a warm spot that is well lighted as they will not survive in the pond over winter.
Ask your pond designer/builder to create a small cave, or caves, where the fish can hide and also lay dormant during the winter months. Caves are easily made from the way rocks are positioned in and around the pond.
Fall foliage is beautiful, but then the leaves start to fall. If you do all your own lawn maintenance, taking care of the leaves is one of a variety of chores worth your time right now, says Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter.
Leaf tannin stains pavers, concrete, and decks. It is better to remove the leaves than to, say, seal your decks and patios. Sealers need to be constantly redone, which turns into a lot of maintenance. Note: New pavers, and, specifically, Trex Transcend decking materials, do not require sealants, and it is actually better not to put it on such products.
It’s equally important to keep leaves off the grass. You don’t want your healthy grass to get matted down, because, in winter, it needs sunlight and oxygen.
This is a good time of year to cut any dead tree limbs away, so that coming snow or ice storms won’t cause them to crack and fall. Falling limbs can result in accidents to people, cars, and homes.
Tip: Before all the leaves have fallen, says Renter, look up your trees to see if any branches are completely bare of leaves. This is a good indicator of what needs to be cut off. Also, look to see if any low-hanging branches are near power lines; trim these so the weight of any ice or snow won’t pull them down into the wiring.
To prep your driveway and walkway for winter, it’s helpful to get supplied with fiberglass stakes (sometimes called “plow stakes” or “snow stakes”) for placing along your driveway in advance of the first snow storm.
You position the stakes to indicate where any costly Belgium Block or other edging could be damaged from snow plows. One end of the stake is pointed for easy insertion in the ground. Also, they come in different colors and you can let a particular color indicate, for example, where a fire hydrant is, the regular curb, your driveway entrance, etc.
Plants and Falling Leaves
“If you want to greatly diminish spring pond maintenance,” says Bill Renter, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, “now is the time to take a few steps to prevent too much debris from accumulating before winter sets in.”
To get some tips on how to protect our ponds, pond expert Dave Kelly at Aquascapes Inc. (St. Charles, IL) offers this advice:
“The best idea is to put up pond netting before the leaves fall,” he says. “But if you didn’t do that in time, you can use a long-handle pond net to scoop down to the bottom and pull out leaves and other debris.”
Ideally, put your net in place before leaves begin falling. Then, simply pull it out when they’ve all dropped. You can tent the net so it doesn’t sag into the pond when it gets weighted with leaves, say experts at Aquascape Inc.
Kelly also suggests trimming back and removing dead foliage from aquatic plants to help remove excessive organic material that would otherwise decompose in the water feature.
Since some debris will make it into your pond no matter how hard you work, Aquascape recommends adding a cold water bacteria treatment, which has concentrated strains of beneficial bacteria that works well below 50 degrees (F). Dave Kelly recommends adding it routinely to help maintain water clarity and quality.
Caring for Pond Fish in Fall
You can — and should — plump up your darlings to survive winter hibernation, by gradually increasing how much you feed them as temperatures start to drop. When pond water gets below 59 degrees, use fish food made for cold water. As the temperature continues to drop, gradually reduce the amount you feed them.
Once temperatures go below 55 degrees, says Dave Kelly, the metabolisms of pond fish slow way down. And when pond water gets down to 50 degrees, do not feed the fish any more. Their systems shut down in the colder water, and food sits inside them and rots. They get very sick and diseased from this.
To get the lowdown on the best trees to plant for fiery Fall color, Deck and Patio spoke with Angelo Puleo, Nursery Division, Bissett Nursery (Holtsville, NY).
“One of the most popular and widespread deciduous trees that produces bright reds in autumn is the beautiful Maple tree,” says Puleo. “In particular, we recommend Sugar Maples, and, of course, Oaks for great Fall red color.”
Puleo also recommends the Cleveland Select Pear for robust color. Like the Oak and Maple, it is also hardy and can withstand most winds and storms, including ice storms —a real plus in our neck of the woods.
“In Spring, the Cleveland Select bursts awake in beautiful white flowers, and in the Fall, its leaves offer up a deep orange-y-red blaze of color,” he says. Another option is the Crape Myrtle tree, which, as Puleo admits, is not quite as brilliant as the other trees, but it does offer an attractive reddish-orange color. When the Crape Myrtle finishes flowering in the Fall, it also pods-up with berries, and attracts such delightful visitors as the Yellow-rumped Warbler, a sweet little visitor who feeds on these berries after insects are gone.
In addition, when it comes to smaller trees, Deck and Patio designers often consider Japanese Maples in landscaping plans; red-leafed versions of this beautiful tree offer degrees of red from Spring through Fall. Planting them in early Fall allows for new root growth in time for Spring.
Note: Be sure to ask experts at an established nursery or landscaping firm which variety of maple, etc. will produce red leaves in the Fall, as some varieties offer up a blazing yellow instead. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… that’s just for another blog post.
Beautifully situated on a bay off the Atlantic, the backdoor of this home is set high above ground. In order to bring the outdoor space up to the same level as the home, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, and his team divided the deck into three levels leading from the door, down to a new freeform vinyl pool and beautiful deck surround. Considering the vistas open to this home, maximizing them was an important factor in every part of our design.
Stepping out onto its first tier, a deep seating/lounge area offers panoramic views of the bay’s inlet. Sophisticated drama was added by framing the deck with attractive vinyl railing that doesn’t obstruct the view. Like the deck’s composite decking, the railing can last for years with little or no repair.
When we build a deck, we emphasize proper space planning in order to allow room for tables, chairs, barbecues, food pep areas and other features that make outdoor living enjoyable.
Bill thought that the particular decking we chose was also a good option to use around their pool because this manufacturer’s product provides a stable, firm, slip-resistant surface.
With temperatures hovering close to 80 during September, summer has lingered here on Long Island. And while most have already closed their pools, a few diehards are squeezing every bit of enjoyment out of them. Most agree, however, that the time has come to close the pool down.
To the uninitiated, closing a pool takes a few steps, says Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter. To get a full picture of what’s involved, our team spoke with a pool contractor who works with Bill on a regular basis — Michael Truehart, CSB, owner of True Blue Swimming Pools in Deer Park.
“In climates like the Northeast,” says Michael, “the most important reason for closing a pool is pipes and other pool equipment can freeze in cold months. Part of what we do is administer a chlorine shock, or algaecides, or phosphate remover to the pool water. Then the pool/spa equipment is taken apart and cleaned, drained of water, and underground pipes are blown out so no water can freeze in them.”
Because our changing seasons cause a lot of falling twigs and leaves especially in the Fall, a pool cover is imperative, says Michael. “We don’t recommend a plain tarp cover that sags under the weight of rain collected on it. We suggest a mesh-type cover that allows rain to seep through it. This does require another step: lowering the pool water level to about 12-18 inches below the coping. Then, as rain water seeps through the mesh cover, the pool can accommodate it.”
Our own Bill Renter adds that he finds these mesh covers, such as the Loop Loc brand, are also important to help ensure that no one gains access to the pool when it’s unsupervised. The mesh covers are very taught he explains. “A plain tarp type cover that holds water on it will collapse if a pet or child walks on it. But mesh covers, with strong straps to hold them in place, allow for water to drain through into the pool.”
“These covers are so taught, they act almost like a trampoline,” confirms Michael.
Collecting the water at the lower level of this lovely water feature (stream and waterfalls) is a pondless reservoir. The Aquascape RainXchange reservoir was designed by Deck and Patio to seemingly disappear into the gravel instead of being collected.
“Instead of an above ground pond, the stream and waterfall water is totally collected below ground. This rainwater harvesting reservoir acts as a ‘green’ maintenance-free source for the water feature that can run from March through December, 24-7,” says our Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter. “City water is not used. The water is harvested totally from rainfall on the roof of the house. Gravity alone collects it into pipes.”
The pondless system is also valued for safety reasons. With no above-ground collecting pond, our clients, who have three young children, preferred this system. The four-foot-high-by-eight-foot-wide waterfall spills into a large landing area, and then travels down a narrow stream, around the side of a lounging patio where it disappears behind evergreens into our pondless reservoir.
This water feature’s harvested rainwater not only supplies the stream and waterfall, but it can provide water for plants during droughts — helping to keep things green (in every sense of the word): Come rain or come shine.
Anyone watching the fabulous new reality series on NatGeo WILD — Pond Stars — will have seen this very Aquascape RainXchange system highlighted in its first episode.
The owners of a very large property on Long Island’s North Shore asked The Deck and Patio Company to plan a new destination pool large enough for volleyball. Also, because the pool area would be a distance from the house, they wanted the ability to cook by the pool, as well as have a place to relax — bug free.
Deck and Patio’s plan included:
- 50-foot-long and 26-foot-wide pool (approximate),
- spillover spa, waterfalls,
- 800-square-foot pool house with a 20-by-20 screened room and bathroom
- elegant Travertine patio, and
- outdoor kitchen with natural stone facade
- outdoor shower.
However, our comprehensive plan came in way over budget for the clients. They declined our bid and sought estimates elsewhere. We were thrilled when they came back to us, because, in the end, they loved our ideas. Their judgment must have been right, since the completed project won a 2010 International Silver Pool Award from the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) the very next year after winning a 2009 Bronze Pool Award from the Northeast Spa & Pool Association (NESPA).
When designing the pool house, our Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, consulted with a good friend and architect, James DeLuca. Their collaborative effort inspired a building that is in keeping with their home’s overall elegance,which inspired the reverse gable.
Bill Renter also worked with Outdoor Lighting Perspectives to create the stunning nighttime scenes.