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Choosing Outdoor Furniture for Your Patio

outside-254716_960_720No patio is complete without comfortable and aesthetically pleasing furniture. The right furniture will enhance your patio, allowing you and your family to enjoy this extension of your home just a little more.

Wicker Furniture

Wicker is always an excellent choice of outdoor furniture for the patio. Made from all-natural twigs (e.g. rattan, reed or bamboo) that are woven together, it offers a truly one-of-a-kind look that’s not found elsewhere. When used with a cushioned padding, wicker furniture is ultra comfortable.

Another benefit of wicker furniture is its weight. Being that it’s made of twigs instead of heavy metal, it weighs significantly less than other types of outdoor furniture. As such, you can easily move it from one end of your patio or landscape to the other, without requiring a second set of hands.

Plastic Furniture

Another option for patio furniture is plastic. It’s typically the cheapest, making it a great choice for budget-conscious homeowners. You can buy a full set of plastic patio furniture for well under $100 bucks.

Plastic furniture is completely waterproof, meaning you don’t have to worry about it developing rust or mold. You can leave it uncovered for months outdoors without damage.

Hardwood Furniture

Of course, hardwood is a third type of outdoor furniture that’s suitable for the patio. Certain types of finishes and coating can protect hardwood furniture from moisture damage, but it’s generally still not “waterproof.” So if you’re going to invest in hardwood furniture, it’s generally best to keep it covered.

Here are some things to consider when choosing outdoor furniture for your patio:

  • How many chairs/seating do I need? If you plan on hosting parties, you should buy enough patio furniture to accommodate all of your guests.
  • What color scheme do I want? Unless you’re going for an eclectic look, you should stick with a general color scheme on your patio.
  • How will the furniture affect the appearance of my home? Your choice of outdoor furniture can and will affect the appearance of your home. Choose furniture that compliments and flows cohesively with your home’s exterior.
  • Is the furniture resistant to water? Again, you generally want outdoor furniture to have at least some water-resistant properties.
  • What’s my budget? As with most home improvement projects, you should set a budget for your outdoor patio furniture.

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Benefits of Using Permeable Pavers in Outdoor Design

2707929733_cec0ffce61_zMore and more homeowners are designing their outdoor living spaces with permeable pavers. As the name suggests, these pavers are characterized by a “permeable” base and subbase through which water flows. Permeable pavers are common used in parking lots, emergency access lanes, and residential sideways and driveways. So if you’re looking to renovate your home’s exterior, perhaps you should consider permeable pavers. Just take a look at some of the many benefits it offers.

Reduces Rainwater Runoff

If you notice pools of stagnant water around your home or landscape after it rains, perhaps you should invest in permeable pavers. Stagnant water such as this can cause serious damage to both your landscape and home. It erodes the soil and ground, while also soaking into the ground and making its way into the basement or crawlspace. Once the moisture reaches the inside of your home, it promotes the growth of mold and mildew — something that no homeowner wants to discover in his or her home. But permeable pavers protect against this phenomenon by managing runoff from paved surfaces.

Filters Pollutants

Although it looks clean, runoff water often contains a slew of pollutants and harmful chemicals. Thankfully, though, permeable pavers can help by filtering these pollutants before the water soaks into the ground. The permeable surface allows moisture to seep through while filtering harsh chemicals and pollutants in the process. Of course, this is one of the reasons why permeable pavers are considered Eco-friendly.

Aesthetics

Let’s face it, permeable pavers look great when used in outdoor home design. As shown in the photo above, they typically consist of a patterned brick or stone design, separated by spacers through which water flows.

Natural Irrigation

There’s also the benefit of natural irrigation offered by permeable pavers. While they effectively filter pollutants and suspend solids, water may still pass through the base and enter the underlying soil, hydrating the ground while promoting healthier plant and tree growth. The natural irrigation offered by permeable pavers further reduces the need for sprinklers and other landscape watering systems. So while it may require an initial upfront monetary investment, permeable pavers will pay off in the form of a lower monthly water bill.

These are just a few of the many benefits associated with permeable pavers.

Photo credit: Gardening Solutions

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New Outdoor Design Trend: Rainwater Harvesting

2054388346_81a87da6b6_zThe average homeowner uses roughly 320 gallons of water per day, 30% of which is used on lawns and for other outdoor applications, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This often results in high water bills during the dry summer months, especially for homeowners with large gardens and lawns. Being that grass and plant life needs water, though, you can’t necessarily turn it off. However, you could potentially save money by collecting and reusing rainwater — a trend that’s become increasingly popular among homeowners.

Rainwater Harvesting Ranked as #1 Outdoor Design Trend

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) recently released the findings from its annual  survey on outdoor design trends. Each year, the ASLA surveys residential homeowners throughout the country, asking them for their thoughts and opinions regarding outdoor design trends. According to the survey, rainwater is the single most popular outdoor design trend for 2016, followed by native plants, drought-tolerant plants, low-maintenance landscaping, permeable paving, and fire pits/fireplaces.

In comparison, rainwater harvesting was ranked #10 in last year’s survey.

There are several advantages to collecting and reusing rainwater, one of which is the cost-savings it provides. Instead of paying for municipal water, you can use rainwater. As noted by ASLA CEO Nancy Somerville, rainwater collection systems are also a part of sustainable landscape architecture, which is another reason why so many homeowners are installing them.

Water issues are hot topics for many communities, and many people are turning to landscape architects for creative green infrastructure solutions,” said Nancy Somerville, CEO of ASLA. “Sustainable residential landscape architecture, if part of a broader integrated site design, can dramatically reduce water usage and stormwater runoff over the long term while creating a healthy residential environment.

Is it Legal?

This is a question that many homeowners ask. Before starting any major home improvement project, including a rainwater harvesting system, you should check to see if it’s legal in your respective state and county. Most states have at least some laws governing this practice. In Oregon, for instance, homeowners are allowed to collect and reuse rainwater, but only if it’s collected from their roof. Rhode Island, however, now only allows rainwater harvesting, but also encourages it by offering a tax credit. Residential homeowners in Rhode Island can receive a tax credit of 10% of the cost of the rainwater collection system, with a maximum credit up to $1,000.

Photo credit: Tai

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Deck Safety 101: How to Maintain a Safe Wooden Deck

wood-926724_960_720Decks are popular additions to residential homes, creating the perfect outdoor living space. However, homeowners should follow some basic steps to maintain a safe environment on their deck.

Inspect the Handrails

It’s a good idea to inspect your deck’s handrails on a regular basis, making sure they are stable and secure. If a handrail is loose, it may not be able to support a person’s weight, in which case you should avoid using your deck until it’s fixed. Keep in mind that most states and local jurisdictions have strict building codes requiring handrails on all elevated decks.

Protruding Nails

Of course, you should also inspect your deck for protruding nails. If you recently had work done it, perhaps the contractor left behind some nails sticking through. Even if they in otherwise inconspicuous areas, a sharp nail point can cause serious injury.

Rot and Decay

Is there are areas of your deck that are rotten? When wood isn’t properly sealed and treated, moisture may seep into its pores, causing it to decay. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to fix a rotten deck, other than removing and replacing the areas of decayed wood. But if you don’t do it now, the problem will only become worse and eventually jeopardize the structural integrity of your deck.

Shaking

Something else to consider when inspecting your deck is whether or not it shakes. Conventional wisdom should tell you that decks are NOT supposed to shake. If it does, it’s usually a sign of some underlying structural problem. Problems such as these should be fixed ASAP to reduce the risk of injury, as it a shaky deck could collapse when stressed by normal usage.

Are Fire Pits Safe to Use on a Wooden Deck?

This is a question that many homeowners ask, fearing a fire pit could ignite or otherwise damage their deck. The short answer is yes, you can safely place and use a fire pit on a wooden deck, assuming there’s some type of barrier between it and the deck. While the burning point of wood is around 450 degrees Fahrenheit, the bottom of a fire pit shouldn’t come close to reaching this point. However, it’s still best to err on the side of caution by placing your fire pin on either a flame-retardant mat or pavers first.

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How to Stay Warm on Your Patio This Winter

IMG_3556It’s hard to fully enjoy a patio or outdoor living space when the temperature drops. The uncomfortably chilly winter weather often forces homeowners back indoors. But there are several ways to stay warm on your patio, regardless of the season. Just check out some of the following solutions to keep warm outdoors.

Patio Heater

You might be surprised to learn that there portable heaters designed specifically for outdoor use. Known as “patio heaters,” they typically use either electricity or liquid propane to radiate heat. Electric-powered models are often preferred because of their ease of use and safety. Some of the smaller ones can be placed on tables, while larger ones are free-standing.

Enclosure

Of course, you can also stay warm by having your patio enclosed. Enclosing your patio with a transparent film, for instance, creates a greenhouse effect. The sun’s thermal heat becomes trapped inside your patio, keeping it nice and toasty. Granted, an enclosure alone isn’t enough to fend off bone-chilling winter temperatures, but when used in conjunction with other heating solutions, it can certainly help.

Fire Pit

We can’t talk about ways to stay warm on a patio without mentioning a fire pit. Fire pits produce around 50,000 to 100,000 BTUs of heat, which is pretty impressive to say the least. And furthermore, they only require wood as fuel, not liquid propane nor electricity. This make them an excellent choice for homeowners who are looking for a simple yet effective way to stay warm on their patio.

Of course, fire pits can be used for other purposes as well. You can grill steaks, smoke meat, roast marshmallows and more.

Heated Blankets

There’s always the option of wrapping a heated blanket around your body. Heated blankets typically contain wires through which electricity runs and heats. As the electricity flows through the wire, it heats the outer fabric.

Heated Floors

A relatively new trend in outdoor living is heated floors. Although somewhat pricey, especially when compared to the other heating solutions listed above, heated floors are a luxurious addition that allows homeowners to enjoy their patio late into the winter season. Much like a heated blanket, they contain hidden wires that warms the exterior material. Heated floors can even help with snow removal, as the warmth melts snow.

Photo credit: Alison H

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Top 5 Additions to Your Outdoor Living Space

6423710721_8656918703_zHow much time do you spend outdoors? Many homeowners prefer the cool breeze and open environment of their patio over lounging in the living room. If this sounds familiar, you should consider the following additions to enhance your home’s outdoor living space.

Fire Pit

Fire pits are among the most popular additions to outdoor living spaces, and for good reason: they provide a relaxing ambiance and social-friendly ambiance, while also generating heat in the process. When the cool winter temperatures arrive, you can still enjoy your outdoor living space thanks to the warmth provided by your fire pit.

BBQ

According to a recent Houzz Landscaping Trends study, 48% of homeowners are adding BBQs to their backyard. Of course, you really don’t need a BBQ if you have a fire pit, as it performs the same function. Using either BBQ or fire pit, you can cook grill steaks, smoke meats and more. Of the two, however, a fire pit is probably the better choice. It performs even more functions than a standalone BBQ, making it the smarter investment for homeowners.

Fountains

Another trending addition to outdoor living spaces is a fountain. Outdoor fountains offer a new level of aesthetics that’s not found in traditional decorations. The sights and sounds of flowing water reduces stress while promoting a more relaxing environment in the process. Furthermore, fountains will catch pollen and dust, which is particularly useful for allergy sufferers come spring.

Ceiling Fans

While not an option in all outdoor living spaces, a ceiling fan is a fun and functional option for patios and decks. It helps to regulate the temperature, keeping guests cool and comfortable. A ceiling fan can also help to control mosquitoes and other flying pests.

Sound System

Of course, another popular addition to outdoor living spaces is a sound system. Instead of dragging your decades-old “boombox” out of storage, you can simply hit the switch to enjoy high-quality stereo sound on your patio or back deck. These stereo systems are integrated directly into the outdoor living space, featuring speakers and other components that are often hidden from plain sight. And depending on the particular model, you may even be able to use your stereo system as an intercom, communicating with family members and guests in other parts of your home.

Photo credit: Media Director

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Survey Reveals Most Popular Outdoor Furniture Purchases

14638942557_8cdec759db_zOutdoor living has become an increasingly popular trend among homeowners and their families. Rather than staying cooped up indoors, more and more people are going outside to enjoy the fresh air and warm sunshine. But if you’re planning to create an outdoor living space on your property, you’ll want to invest in the right furniture. While there are countless options available, a recent survey has shed light on some of the most popular outdoor furniture purchases.

The American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) released its findings from a 2015 survey, revealing which outdoor furniture as the most popular from 2015. According to the survey, chairs were the  single most popular outdoor furniture last year, with 39% of consumers surveyed saying they purchased at least one chair for their outdoor living space. Of course, that should come as no surprise given the importance of seating for patios, gardens, backyards and other outdoor living spaces. But there are other purchases on this survey that may surprise you.

Coming in at a close second on this survey was a fire pit. The AHFA found that 38% of consumers surveyed purchased a fire pit for their outdoor living space. Fire pits are the perfect addition for outdoor living spaces, providing homeowners with warmth, style, and a relaxing social-engaging atmosphere. For the price, it’s arguably one of the cheapest (and easiest) ways to enhance your outdoor living space.

There were other outdoor furniture purchases noted in the survey, however. 37% of consumers surveyed, for instance, admitted to buying a chaise lounge chair; 35% purchased a dining table; 35% purchased an umbrella; and 33% purchased lighting. These are all popular additions to outdoor living spaces, as noted in the AHFA’s 2015 survey.

Here are some tips on how to choose the right outdoor furniture:

  • Stick with a single primary color, along with two or three secondary colors.
  • Don’t mix brown and black. Going back to the basics of home decor 101, these two colors clash with one another, which is why it’s best to avoid this combination.
  • Consider both aesthetics and comfort/function when choosing outdoor furniture.
  • Choose furniture that’s waterproof and able to withstand the otherwise harsh outdoor elements.
  • How much time (and work) does the furniture take to maintain? Most homeowners prefer low-maintenance furniture for their outdoor living spaces.
  • Tables and benches with built-in storage are always a plus.

Photo credit: Colette Vogele

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5 Tips for Grilling the Perfect Kebabs

shish-kebab-417994_960_720Kebabs were just meant for grilling. Whether it’s steak, chicken, shrimp, scallops, veggies or a combination of all the above, you can cook some mouthwatering kebabs using a fire pit or grill.

Coat Grill Grate in Oil

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of coating your grill grate with oil before cooking on it, especially when cooking kebabs. If you don’t, some of the food may stick, making it difficult to cook properly. Using a brush, gently apply a high-heat cooking oil, such as vegetable or canola oil, to the grill grate. Once coated, you can then add your kebabs.

Soak Wooden Skewers in Water

If you’ve ever grilled kebabs using wooden skewers, you probably know how difficult this can be. Wood isn’t exactly fireproof, so placing wooden skewers on a hot grill may cause them to burn and char. Thankfully, there’s a simple solution to prevent this: soak your skewers in either water or marinade sauce for 30-45 minutes. The moisture should prevent them from burning while your food cooks.

Separate Meat and Veggies

Another all-too-common problem faced by home chefs when grilling kebabs is cooking everything evenly. Filet medallions, for instance, will take longer to cook than most veggies. To overcome this hurdle, try separating your food on different skewers. Maybe you can place chicken on one skewer, steak on another, and your veggies on a third. Once the veggies are cooked, remove the skewer and allow the meat to cook for a few more minutes or as needed. This ensures your food is cooked evenly and without some pieces being more done than others.

Cut Consistent Sizes

It’s nearly impossible to cut your meat and veggies all the same size, but you should strive to keep them a similar shape and size at the very least. If one medallion is twice the size of another medallion, it will take longer to cook. Maintaining consistent sizes with your kebabs, however, promotes thorough and even cooking.

Season Beforehand

Well-seasoned meat and veggies can make a world of difference in the quality of your kebabs. But it’s next-to-impossible to season all of your food if it’s already on a skewer. This is why it’s a better to season your food before placing it on skewers. In fact, you can place your meat and veggies in a couple dishes (don’t mix the two), followed by coating them in your preferred seasoning. Shake them around a bit and you’re good to go!

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6 Undeniable Reasons to Build a Campfire

bonfire-1354472_960_720No camping experience is complete without a fire. Whether you’re deep in the wilderness or enjoying backyard camping with your family, you should build a fire — and here’s why.

Produces Warmth

This alone should be reason enough to build a campfire. According to Reference.com, the average campfire reaches around 1,571 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to keep you and your fellow campers warm during an otherwise chilly fall/winter evening. Of course, you can control the temperature of your campfire — at least to some degree — by adding more firewood. More wood translates into a hotter flame.

Social Gathering

There’s a unique social aspect associated with campfires. Humans have been gathering around fires for thousands of years. Even today, we’re naturally drawn to fires, as it creates a social gathering point. You can enjoy the company of friend and family, sharing stories or simply relaxing. Just remember to bring enough chairs so that everyone can comfortably sit around your campfire.

Cooking

A third reason to build a campfire is for cooking. Using nothing more than a standup grill grate, you can cook everything from steaks and chicken to pork chops and smores. And if you really feel like taking your outdoor culinary skills to the next level, you can always bring pots, pans and other cookware on your camping trip.

Signal Beacon

One of the lesser-known benefits of building a campfire is the signal beacon it provides. If someone ventures away from the campsite in the middle of the night, he or she may have trouble finding their way back. If there’s a campfire burning, though, it will guide them back to the site.

Pest Repellent

There’s nothing more frustrating than being bombarded with mosquitoes when camping. These blood-sucking insects will hover over you, waiting for the right time to strike. One solution to protect against mosquitoes and similar airborne pests is to apply an insect repellent. However, campfires are equally as effective. Mosquitoes hate smoke, so burning a fire acts as a natural repellent.

Develop Survival Skills

Building a campfire also encourages the development of essential survival skills. While it’s doubtful that you’ll be rubbing two sticks together, you’ll still need to gather tinder, kindling and firewood, arranging it all in the appropriate fashion. When camping with children, you can show them exactly how to build a campfire and keep it going throughout the night.

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Backyard Games to Keep Guests Entertained

2769095066_96e30ec3a4_zIf you plan on inviting guests over for a party or outdoor gathering, you’ll want to keep them entertained — and there’s no better form of entertainment that games. For some ideas on easy-to-set-up backyard games, keep reading.

Badminton

Badminton is an all-around great outdoor game that requires nothing more than a new, a couple racquets, and a shuttlecock. While it can be played in large teams, most backyard games are played with two to four players. Badminton has origins dating back hundreds of years to British India. Even today, it has become an official sport for the Summer Olympics, featuring a total of five events. You can bring this game to your backyard by setting up a badminton net.

Ping Pong

Who says ping pong is an indoor sport? Granted, most people play it indoors, but you can still enjoy ping pong from the comfort of your backyard. As long you have a flat, paved area, you can set up a ping pong table to keep guests entertained. And if you’re worried about the price, check on Craigslist for a used table. With a little bit of luck, you can probably find a ping pong table for a fraction of its original cost.

Ring Toss

Arguably, one of the most simple outdoor games is ring toss. Players compete against each other to toss rings around a fixed peg. Pegs can be placed at any distance, making this is a versatile game that requires minimal space.

Horseshoes

Assuming you have the space, another fun backyard game is horseshoes. Played with two to four people, either 1 vs 1 or 2 vs 2, it involves tossing horseshoes at a fixed stake in the ground from roughly 40 feet. Players can score in one of two ways: by “ringing” the stake with the horseshoe to encircle it, or by tossing the horseshoe closest to the stake. A straightedge is used to settle disputes by touching two points at the end of the horseshoe.

Lawn Darts

Also known as “javelin darts,” lawn darts is a fun outdoor game that requires no prior experience or skill. A typical lawn dart set consists of four supersized darts, each of which is about 12 inches long and feature a weighted tip. Players toss the darts using an underhand throw in an attempt to land on a ground target.

Photo credit: Ashpet

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Skip the Smores and Try these Grilled Snacks Instead

Banana_boatSmores are a classic campfire treat that people of all ages enjoy. The sweet chocolate paired with gooey marshmallow and crunchy graham crackers are perfect for outdoor parties and social gatherings. But there are other snacks that are equally, if not, more delicious. So if you’re tired of roasting smores night after night, perhaps you should try one of the following.

Banana Boats

No, I’m not talking about the big banana-shaped boats that float around beach coastlines. The banana boats I’m referring to are a fun take on the traditional smores. As shown in the photo to the left, this delightful treat combines bananas, chocolate and marshmallows. Simply cut a banana open lengthwise, stuff it full with marshmallow and chocolate, wrap it aluminum foil, and toss it on the grill for a few minutes.

Apple Cinnamon Treats

Who doesn’t love apple cinnamon? Using a paring knife (or any knife) cut an apple in half, remove a small amount of the fibrous material, and fill with brown sugar, oats, cinnamon and butter. You can then either place it directly on the grill or wrap in aluminum foil. Once cooked, you’ll have a deliciously flavored apple cinnamon treat that’s guaranteed to draw compliments from your guests.

Cinnamon Role Sticks

While we’re on the topic of cinnamon, let’s go ahead and cover cinnamon role sticks. As the name suggests, these are sticks of cinnamon rolls. Pick up a roll of your favorite cinnamon rolls from the local grocery store, pierce them with a skewer, and toss on the grill. Once cooked, remove from heat, add icing and enjoy!

Marshmallow-Filled Cones

Another fun alternative to smores is a marshmallow-filled ice cream cone, without the ice cream of course. Take a waffle cone (or any ice cream cone) and fill with mini marshmallows and fruit of your choosing. Some fruits that work well for this treat include strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. Now wrap the cone in aluminum foil and grill on for a few minutes. The inside of the cone should turn into a sweet and fruity mixture. Although messy, this is a delicious treat that can be made in dozens of different ways.

These are just a few delicious alternatives to smores. Feel free to experiment with your own ingredients to see what treats you can come up with.

If you have any questions regarding how an S&S Fire Pit can enhance your outdoor living space; We can help.  https://ssfirepits.com/contact/