“Incorporating the latest outdoor living technology, beautifully hidden in natural surroundings, is one of my passions,” says Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter.
That passion is vividly expressed in this backyard sanctuary comprised of a new in-ground vinyl-lined pool, large patio area, outdoor kitchen, outdoor shower, fire pit, two streams and two waterfalls.
Its first, and most challenging, major hi tech component is an automatic pool cover attached to the vinyl free-form pool. These covers are difficult to attach to the free-form pool style and shape. In fact, previously, the homeowners were told it wasn’t possible to do so.
“We were glad to assure them that we could bring together all the expertise necessary to design and build it all,” adds Renter. “And when not in use, the cover retracts out of sight.”
Other technology: To heat the pool, we added a hybrid system that uses both a gas heater and an electric heat pump. The heat pump acts like a reverse air conditioner, pulling in warmth from the air and transferring it into the pool. This design not only adds heat taken from the air — and not from electricity — but the gas heater can act as back up when the air temperature is very low or when creating heat more quickly is required.
The “variable speed pump” Deck and Patio used is an extremely efficient pump that allows low energy use by slowing down the motor dramatically. It decreases the amount of energy the pump uses. It can run twenty-four-seven much more efficiently than others pumps that are used only a few hours a day.
This elegant multi-level deck, expansive landscaped lawn with play area, and pool/spa with patio surround were designed to both enhance the traditional look of this Long Island residence, and to fit harmoniously within the contours of its sloping property.
Making use of property gradations, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, designed a multi-level deck with separate functional areas open to different sections of the lawn, including a close-by play area.
For the deck levels, stairs, rails, benches and plants, he chose Trex composite materials, in a gray tone that perfectly blends with the siding on the house. As an added benefit, Trex is manufactured from reclaimed and recycled materials, and does not require preservation treatments.
The spacious wide wraparound stairs were placed to maximize the view of the pool area. The landscaping was also planned to enhance the property’s scenic views. A bluestone stepping stone path meandering to the pool ensures that too much hardscape does not disturb the pastoral scene.
The geometric vinyl pool includes interior steps, loveseats, an acrylic spillover spa, tile walls; a Nicolock multi-level patio creates an elegant surround. An aluminum estate fence winds around the property, blending with colorful evergreen and perennial plantings.
An accessible cedar barbecue cabinet with a built in stainless steel weber grill was installed close to, but out of the view from, the kitchen doors. Future plans for this property include a pavilion at the pool with a wet bar and refrigerator.
This project was an interesting one for us. Our clients’ Long Island, NY, home is part of a beach community where properties are close together, and where shade and privacy is at a premium.
Our planned backyard upgrade included new amenities such as: patio, shade pergola, wood-burning fireplace, fire pit, attractive landscaping — and, a small herb/vegetable garden. The only problem was the homeowners feared the larger of their two dogs would trample any garden created. Some sort of fencing would be required, but would that detract from the limited natural space they had?
Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, considered their concerns as work began. And when they were cutting down a large overgrown bush in the yard, a unique idea occurred to him.
“I remembered they also have a ski lodge in the Catskills and it occurred to me that a fence made from the old bush would offer a whimsical piece of Catskill design to the yard.”
The result is the bush clippings didn’t end up at the dump, and, instead, were used to good effect. The custom pergola beautifully provides shaded areas in their backyard, as well as privacy around the sitting areas. Cool evening ocean breezes are eased by the fireplace and fire pit, and the couple has fresh herbs and vegetables already budding — unmolested.
Note: Many will also wish to know that their cherished larger dog hasn’t gotten into any trouble — at least because of any harm to their garden.
Understanding what Travertine is, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it reacts in different areas, is something Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, has discussed with stone experts from around the world. He has also studied existing Travertine projects over a period of years to see what actually holds up — and what doesn’t — in our climate.
Travertine natural stone has been in existence for thousand of years. It comes in many different colors, ranging from reddish orange, beige, to white, and is sometimes mistaken for marble. Italian Travertine, revered for its hardness and porosity, is what the Coliseum in Rome was constructed of, so the durability of Italian Travertine is not in question, although it can be expensive.
However, Travertine is quarried from around the globe and is widely used beyond Italy — mostly in tropical locations for patios, walks, terraces, etc. Although it is typically used indoors in colder climates, there has been an increase in its usage outdoors, in and around pools and homes. But can all Travertine stone be used this way?
The answer is no, or at least it shouldn’t for best results. The three most common locations where Travertine comes from are: Italy, Turkey, and Mexico. Mexico’s Travertine is a much softer and much more porous and does not hold up well in our frost zone. Turkish Travertine, is very common and, in most instances, is less expensive than the Italian. It does hold up quite well in our Northeast’s freeze/thaw climate.
Be aware, however, that some companies offer very inexpensive Travertine for use outdoors and may seem to be a great deal. However, they may be using stone quarried in, say, China, where the qualities of such stone differ considerably and will not stand up to certain climates. Just because a stone is called “Travertine,” don’t assume it’s all the same. It’s not.
When a pond water feature is well designed and built, koi will naturally help balance the entire pond ecosystem. However, many pond owners fear that the fish will be harmed or will not survive.
Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, offers encouragement: “While it’s true that koi can be tempting to cats, raccoons, and herons, etc., there are precautions one can take that will mitigate these threats.”
For example, adding koi castles and tunnels at the bottom of the pond will give fish a safe place to hide from many predators. Also, including rock overhangs around the outside of the pond, which first and foremost will make any pond appear more natural, also discourages cats and raccoons from reaching into the water after the fish.
In addition, planning a water feature with sufficient water depth can dissuade raccoons and cats further, since neither enjoy swimming to get their dinner. Plus deeper water at the edges (more than 18” deep) discourages heron wading. Another helpful idea is adding a waterfall feature. The continuous movement of its water, or even water from nearby sprinklers, we have found will put off many avian predators.
Other precautions koi pond owners can take is including scarecrows, such as owl statues. In the end, if all else fails, a netting can always be installed over the pond.
Here’s some of The Deck and Patio’s favorite award-winning pond features. And, yes, even if not picked up in the pictures, there’s koi in each and every one.
Feeling like you can’t have a backyard oasis because you don’t have enough room? Here’s some good news. The Deck and Patio Company works a good deal in parts of Long Island, NY, where backyards are often small. And one thing our Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, enjoys most is surprising homeowners with what can be accomplished.
Some yards are seemingly so cramped that families rarely use them. In hot weather, some live indoors. Discovering much more was possible than they originally thought, the wife for this project worked closely with Bill Renter and the pool builder to design their new pool’s shape, which wraps around close to the house, almost into its corner. The design required variances, but it allowed Deck and Patio to fit in an expansive two-level patio, a raised spa, two waterfalls, a stepping stone path, and beautiful lush plantings — in other words: a true oasis.
When working with tighter spaces, our team ensures the chaise lounge, dining and outdoor kitchen patio areas are all large enough for furniture, and have room enough to walk around, sufficient even when entertaining. We also try not to over-build or paver the whole space. It is also important to leave room for plantings and lawn, add landscape-lighting, and make sure the overall project looks interesting, by designing curvy or geometric patterns.
There’s no need to feel because you don’t have a large yard, you can’t have your own bit of paradise. It just takes a little creativity.
The simple answer to ‘when should your landscaper and architect begin working together’ is: from the start.
This Deck and Patio backyard oasis is a good example of that wisdom. Having garnered two prestigious awards for our firm, we believe such accolades are partially due to our early collaboration with the architect and builder in the planning stages. Working hand-in-hand with them, and with the owners, both the home’s architecture and the outdoor landscape became one seamless integration.
Our outdoor living expert, Bill Renter, supervised and helped plan and execute the project which included the landscape’s seven-foot-high cascading waterfall, meandering stream with three-foot-high “sheetfalling” waterfall, and two-foot-high spillway from the spa into the pool. Initial plans by the project’s architect for the house’s turret inspired our team to create curves in the backyard’s multi-level terracing design, as well as in the backyard’s centerpiece: a glorious freeform pool and spa.
In fact, the architect changed his own plans for the home’s turret so that views from inside the turret of our planned pool area oasis could be fully appreciated. In reference to this, the architect said, “Deck and Patio’s landscaping plan was so beautiful that the windows had to be larger to fully appreciate the view. Now, when you stand inside the bay of the turret, it is just like standing in the backyard.”
Just what constitutes a healthy pond ‘ecosystem’? Basically, such a pond works with Mother Nature to provide food, shelter, and safety to the wildlife around it, while it creates a low-maintenance piece of paradise for nature lovers.
To attract desirable wildlife (frogs, birds, etc.), and even the insects they eat, requires the right circulation system (pumps and plumbing), proper filtration, aquatic plants, and, of course, fish, which are an integral part of it all.
In addition, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, frequently introduces clients concerned about water conservation to the option of ‘rainwater harvesting’ — a system which collects water from roofs, and other areas of a client’s property, and stores it in an underground tank to be recirculated. These systems are RainXchange Harvesting Systems, produced by Aquascapes Inc., St. Charles, IL which we sell and install.
Brian Helfrich, construction manager at Aquascapes, explains that this reserved tank water never stagnates because it is continuously circulated in the pond via a waterfall, or stream, or pond fountain.
“You don’t have to worry about rainfall shortages,” says Helfrich. “With such a system, City water is never being used. Even during draughts, those with an underground storage tank — stocked with water they may have collected a month ago — can not only keep their water feature fresh and moving, but can use some of the reserve to maintain their lawn, or even a vegetable garden.”
The homeowners of this property had an existing small koi pond. They dreamed of also having a pool, with landscaping and a waterfall, but felt they didn’t have the space for it all.
When viewing the property, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, saw the the main drawback was how flat the grade was. Through 3-D renditions, he showed the homeowners how different patio levels would make the yard appear bigger.
Bill designed the new pool, waterfall, patios and plant beds to fit perfectly with their pond. The new landscaping boasts hydrangeas, roses, ornamental grasses, and flowering perennials.
The homeowners children were about 9 or 10. After the project was finished, the clients say they no longer had to go to family and friends to enjoy the outdoors, but their children could love growing up in their own home.
Our clients added that bringing in a special lighting scheme allows them to enjoy the backyard retreat from the day on into night. The lighting transforms their backyard into a completely different, yet still beautiful, atmosphere.