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How to Improve Your Landscape’s Runoff

Does your outdoor living space get flooded or washed out when it rains? It’s hard to enjoy this extension of your home when it doesn’t drain properly. The presence of standing water will damage your lawn, create mold and attract pests. In some cases, it can even jeopardize the structural integrity of your home. So, follow these steps to improve your landscape’s runoff and regain control of your outdoor living space.

Clean Gutters

The first step to improving your landscape’s runoff is to clean the gutters. Consisting of metal or composite drainage channels, gutters are responsible for catching and guiding water safely away from your home. When it rains, any water that lands on your roof will flow to the gutters, down the downspouts and, hopefully, away from your home. If your gutters are clogged with leaves, dirt, branches and other debris, however, water will simply fall off the side of the roof. Clean your gutters at least once every six months to encourage better runoff and drainage.

Position Downspouts

The way in which your downspouts are positioned will affect your landscape’s runoff. A good rule of the thumb is to include at least one downspout for every 30 feet of gutters. Assuming your roof runs 60 feet wide, that means you should have at least two downspouts on the front and back. These downspouts should be positioned at a slight pitch so that water flows rather than stagnates.

Position Splash Guards

It’s also important that you place downspout splash guards in the right position. Some homeowners assume that the widest end should be placed closest to their home. The correct way to position splash guards, however, is to place the narrowest end closest to your home. This allows water to flow freely down and out the catch basin. When positioning a catch basin with the widest end closest to your home, water will accumulate at the opposite end. Check all your downspout splash guards to ensure they are positioned properly.

Aerate Lawn

Aerating your lawn isn’t just good for the grass; it also improves runoff. As you may already know, aerating involves the use of a special tool that “scores” the soil by creating small holes that are a few inches deep. The primary purpose of aerating is to nourish grass with additional water and nutrients. As water fills the holes, grass is able to absorb it more easily. A secondary benefit, however, is its ability to control runoff. A significant amount of rainwater will run into the holes created through aerating instead of pooling up around your home or patio. Just remember to use caution after aerating your lawn and avoid walking over it. The soil be delicate for the next few days, so you want to avoid any pressure or stress that could otherwise disturb it.

Reseed Grass

In addition to aerating your lawn, you should also reseed bare or dying patches. If there’s one or more areas of your yard where grass is missing, reseeding can help fill it in. Just remember to water and fertilize the area shortly after reseeding it.

Rain Garden

Thousands of homeowners from across the United States use rain gardens to improve their landscape’s aesthetics and control rainwater. What is a rain garden exactly? A rain garden is simply a collection of flowers or plants that’s used to catch rainwater. When it rains, some of the water will fall onto the plants and flowers, and some of the water will flow to the base of these plants and flowers. When it makes contact, water will absorb into the garden. Creating a rain garden is an excellent way to improve your landscape’s runoff while enhancing its aesthetics in the process.

Permeable Sidewalk and Driveway

While concrete is the most popular material used to construct sidewalks and driveways, it’s not the only material. There are permeable materials that can absorb water and improve runoff. Known as permeable paving, it’s a porous material that’s highly useful for controlling rainwater. Some studies have even found that using permeable paving reduces pollutants and, subsequent, promotes a cleaner environment.

French Drain

When all else fails, consider building a French drain to improve your landscape’s runoff. Also known as a filter drain or sub-soil drain, it’s characterized by a relatively shallow trench that’s filled with gravel or pebbles. As rainwater flows into the trench, it’s guided away from the home. One of the great things about the French drain is its simplicity. Although you can create it with a pipe, the only thing it actually requires is a shallow trench with rocks on top. Rocks stabilize the soil while still allowing water to flow through. Using nothing more than a few bags of rocks from your local home improvement store and a shovel, you can build a French drain in your yard.

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/

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7 Design Tips to Make Your Patio Appear Larger

How big is your patio? Even if it has limited space, there certain things you can do to make it look bigger. In turn, this will create a more attractive, enjoyable outdoor living space for you and your family.

#1) Create a Focal Point

Whether it’s used in the living room or on the patio, a focal point will create the perception of a larger and more open space. It works by drawing by drawing your attention away from the surrounding design elements so that the patio appears bigger. So, what can can you use as a focal point on your patio? A fire pit is always an excellent choice, as it’s typically the center of attention during backyard parties and barbecues. Just remember to keep it at least 10 feet away from your home or any other combustible structure. Another idea is to use a water fountain as your patio’s focal point. Unfortunately, though, most water fountains are bulky and large, making them a poor choice for a small patio.

#2) Decorate With Small Plants

Decorating your patio with small plants creates the optical illusion of a small space. Rather than using large containers to hold your patio’s potted plants, use small containers. Granted, not all plants will grow in a small container; many have complex root structures that require large containers. If you’re worried about lack of space hurting your patio’s aesthetics, though, decorating your outdoor living space with small plants in small containers will have a positive impact on its appearance. It’s also worth noting that small plants are easier to grow and maintain than large plants. They require less water and sunlight, and you can easily move them indoors when the fall season arrives.

#3) Maintain the Lawn

Neglecting to mow and maintain your lawn will hurt your patio’s aesthetics by making it appear smaller and less spacious. To prevent this from happening, you should mow your lawn at least once a week during the spring and summer months. And if you discover any fast-growing weeds emerging through the soil, remove them ASAP. Maintaining your lawn at 2 to 3 inches will improve your home’s curb appeal while making your patio look bigger and more spacious in the process.

#4) Trim Overhanging Branches

Not only to they pose a safety hazard — they could fall and injure you or anyone else on your patio — overhanging tree branches have a claustrophobic effect that makes the surrounding area appear smaller. Unless they are essential for shade, you should consider removing them. There are special chainsaw-like tools designed specifically for removing tree branches. You extend the tool to the branch, grasp the branch between its teeth, and it does the rest. If this sounds too difficult, you can also contact a professional tree removal company in your area.

#5) Use Colors That Blend With Your Home

When choosing furniture and accessories for your patio, consider the color and how it corresponds with the color of your home. If your patio furniture contrasts to the color of your home’s siding, it will create the appearance of a smaller space. On the other hand, using furniture in the same or similar color as your home’s siding will make it look bigger.

#6) Use Fewer Pieces of Furniture

Don’t make the mistake of using too many pieces of furniture on your small patio. If you’re tight on space, adding a half-dozen chairs will only hurt its aesthetics. A smarter solution is to include just a few chairs and a single table on your patio. You can still keep extra chairs in a storage shed or your garage. That way, when you have friends and family over, you can offer them somewhere to sit.

Using fewer pieces of furniture also reduces the need for maintenance. Whether it’s Adirondack chair, chaise lounge chair or a bench, you’ll need to clean your patio furniture to protect it from mold and mildew. The more pieces of furniture you use on your patio, the more time and effort you’ll have to invest into maintaining it. Stick with just a few pieces of furniture to make your patio look bigger and minimize maintenance.

#7) Decorate With Mirrors

A common interior design trick used in small rooms is to hang mirrors on the wall. This creates the perception of a larger room room while enhancing its decor in the process — and you can use the same approach to make your patio look bigger. Assuming your patio is right against your home, try hanging on one or two medium-sized mirrors against your home’s siding. The only downside to this design trick is that you’ll need to clean your mirror or mirrors on a regular basis. When used outdoors, they’ll accumulate dirt, dust and moisture.

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/

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Innovative Patio Storage Solutions

Is your patio messy or otherwise cluttered? Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common problem experienced by homeowners. Once they begin using your patio, they allow clutter to accumulate. Before long, there’s garden hoses, tools, cushions and other items strewn across the deck. Not only does this affect the patio’s aesthetics, but it also affects its function. Clutter prevents homeowners, family members and their guests from using the space as intended. If this sounds familiar, consider the following storage solutions to de-clutter and improve your patio.

Deck Box

Perhaps the best all-around storage solution for the patio is a deck box. Basically, this is a large rectangular-shaped box that’s designed specifically for outdoor storage. They are usually made of a heavy-duty waterproof material, allowing for the perfect patio storage solution. Using a deck box, you can store everything from gardening tools and fire pit accessories to seat cushions and decorative items. Best of all, they usually feature a stylish design that enhances the patio’s decor.

When choosing a deck box for your patio, consider the following:

  • How big is the deck box?
  • What material is it made of?
  • What color is it?
  • Does the style match the rest of your patio decor?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Does it double as seating? (some deck boxes feature a seat on top)
  • What’s the quality like?

Taking these factors into account will help you choose the perfect deck box for your patio storage needs.

Garden Hose Storage

With an average length of 25 to 100 feet (though sometimes longer), the garden hose is a major source of clutter on the patio. Sure, you can toss it on your lawn, but this doesn’t solve the problem, rather it moves the problem to a new area. Thankfully, there are several storage solutions available for garden hoses. One idea is to place it in a large tin bucket. Another idea is to mount hardware on the wall, allowing you to wrap up the hose and store it here.

Additionally, you’ll find that many home improvement stores and gardening nurseries sell storage solutions for garden hoses. Some are retractable, consolidating the hose into a smaller size, and others are designed to conceal and hide the hose when not in use. Regardless of which one you choose, you need some type of storage solution for the garden hose.

Outdoor Storage Ottoman

Of course, another idea is to use an outdoor storage ottoman. Like indoor “living room” ottomans, they typically feature a soft cushion on top — for sitting or propping up your feet — with a removable top and empty interior. From an outsider’s perspective, it looks like a regular piece of patio furniture. However, the top of an outdoor storage ottoman should either come off completely or fold up; thus, allowing you to store items inside.

You’ll find that patio furniture sets are often sold with matching storage ottomans. So, if you’re looking to buy a new set of furniture for your patio, consider a set with a matching ottoman. This helps to balance your decor, creating a more cohesive appearance in which all of your furnishings flow together. But if you only want to buy a storage ottoman, look for a style that matches your existing patio furnishings.

Storage Shed

You can always invest in a separate storage shed for your patio. Because of the large size of storage sheds, however, you won’t be able to place them on your patio. Instead, you’ll have to place them in your yard or next to your home.

Storage sheds have their own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the primary advantages include large storage space, protection from the rain and elements, and a stylish design. On the other hand, disadvantages include a high price and difficult/time-consuming to set up. If you’re willing to spend the money and invest the necessary time and energy into setting it up, however, a storage shed is a great way to de-clutter and improve the appearance of your patio.

What You Shouldn’t Do

When storing items on your patio, don’t simply shove them underneath your furniture. Nine out of ten times, they’ll still be visible — and this doesn’t exactly reflect positively on your patio’s decor. For proper storage, items should be fully hidden and concealed from plain sight.

You should also consider whether or not the item is suitable for patio storage. Even with a deck box or storage ottoman, certain items may damage when stored on a patio for long periods of time. Moisture from rain and humidity may soak inside items like cushions, causing them to develop mold and mildew. Therefore, you should only store water-resistant items on your patio. Seat cushions made of cotton or similar indoor materials, shouldn’t be stored on the patio.

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/

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Maintaining Your Patio During Summer

Now that summer is here, you’ll probably find yourself spending less time indoors and more time outside enjoying the warm weather and sunshine. For millions of men, women and children, summer is the preferred time of year. The comfortable climate allows you to host backyard parties and barbecues, as well as perform other activities. To enjoy your home’s patio or outdoor living space this summer, though, you should follow some basic maintenance tips.

Do Inspect for Pests

Take a few minutes to inspect your patio for pests this summer. Assuming it’s made of wood, an infestation may cause serious damage that’s difficult and expensive to repair. Some pests will bore holes into wooden structures, including your patio, so that they can build nests or eat the cellulose material. Either way, it damages your patio and can jeopardize its structural integrity.

Some of the most common wood-boring pests in the United States include the following:

  • Carpenter bees
  • Powderpost beetles
  • Termites
  • Deathwatch beetles
  • Longhorn beetles
  • Ambrosia beetles
  • Carpenter ants

Don’t Place Fire Pit Too Close to Your House

There’s nothing wrong with using a fire pit on your patio. On the contrary, it’s a great way to enhance the decor and functionality of this space. Once set up, you can use it to grill food, roast marshmallows or simply create a relaxing ambiance in the evening. However, it’s important that you keep your fire pit at least 10 feet away from your home and all other combustible surfaces. While rare, there have been cases of stray embers from a patio fire pit  setting fire to homes. This problem is easily avoided by placing your fire pit at least 10 feet away from your home.

Do Choose the Right Seating

Comfortable, attractive seating is essential to a modern patio. Without seating, neither you nor anyone else can fully enjoyable the patio and everything it has to offer. Rather than tossing up a half-dozen cheap plastic lawn chairs, though, consider using higher quality seating. Teak lounge chairs are always an excellent choice because of their unparalleled strength, durability, weather-resistant properties and style. Other seating options to consider for your patio include hammocks, benches, swings, stools and chaise lounge chairs. Just remember to strategically place them around your patio’s focal point. If you have a fire pit on your patio, this will be the focal point, so arrange your chairs and seating so that they face it.

Don’t Leave Fabrics Exposed to the Elements

If any of your patio furniture contains fabric — either on the furniture itself or an attached cushion — don’t leave it exposed to the elements. When you are finished using the furniture, bring it indoors to protect it from damage. Although it seems harmless enough, allowing your furniture to sit outdoors exposed to the elements may degrade it. The combination of moisture, dirt and ultraviolet (UV) sunlight can wreak havoc on fabrics, causing them to wear and fade. By bringing your furniture indoors, you’ll make it last a little longer, allowing you to get more bang for your buck.

Granted, not all fabrics are all susceptible to damage when left outdoors. Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and nylon, typically don’t suffer from the same weather-related degradation as natural, organic fabrics. Unless your patio furniture is made of a weather-resistant synthetic fabric, though, you should bring it indoors to protect it from damage.

Do Secure Your Furniture

Make sure your patio furniture is secure so that it won’t fall over or blow away during storms. Loose, lightweight furniture can easily topple during a sudden summer storm. And once the storm is over, you may be forced to search your yard and your neighbors’ yards for your missing furniture. There are a few ways to secure your furniture, one of which is to anchor it to the bottom of your patio using bungee cords or straps. Alternatively, you can choose heavier furniture, such as cast iron, instead of lightweight furniture.

Don’t Leave Standing Water on Your Patio

What’s wrong with leaving standing water on your patio? Standing water poses a few problems for homeowners. First, it attracts pests like mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, with a single female laying up to 100 eggs every three days. Second, standing water encourages mold and mildew. Upon walking out on your patio, you may discover the planks are slick from mildew buildup. Finally, standing water contributes to rot and decay. If your patio doesn’t contain pressure-treated wood, or if it’s not treated with a waterproof finish, standing water may cause it to rot.

Pressure Wash It

Summer is the perfect time of year to pressure wash your patio. Going over your patio with a pressure washer will remove stubborn dirt and debris, making your patio look 10 years younger. And even if you don’t own one, you can rent a pressure washer from your local home improvement store.

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/

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10 Fall Landscaping Tips All Homeowners Should Follow

The beginning of fall marks the end of the warm summer weather. With this seasonal transition, you can expect cooler temperatures and shorter days. As a result, it’s important for homeowners to give their landscape a little TLC during this time of year. By following these 10 tips, you’ll create a cleaner and more attractive landscape that enhances your home’s curb appeal.

#1) Keep Mowing the Lawn

Some homeowners assume that they can stop mowing their lawn during the fall. Although grass grows slower during this time of year than summer, you’ll still need to mow it. Mowing your lawn encourages a healthy, manicured landscape while keeping weeds and other unwanted, invasive plants in check.

#2) Raise the Mower Blade

You should raise your mower blade so that it doesn’t stress your lawn. Depending on the particular grass species, a blade height of about 2 inches might be ideal for the summer. During the fall, however, 3 inches will give your lawn a little extra breathing room while minimizing stress.

#3) Test the Soil’s pH Level

There’s no better time than the start of fall to test your soil’s pH level. If it’s too acidic or alkaline, grass, flowers and trees may struggle to grow. Using a disposable or reusable testing kit — available at most home improvement stores and gardening centers — you can measure the pH level of your soil. Healthy soil should have a pH reading of around 5.5 and 7.0.

#4) Remove Leaves

Depending on the number and variety of trees in your landscape, you may discover an excessive amount of leaves blanketing your lawn. Turning a blind eye to these leaves won’t make the problem go away. Rather, they’ll prevent your grass from receiving the sunlight and nutrients it needs to survive during this seasonal transition. To promote a healthy lawn during the fall, either rake or vacuum the leaves.

#5) Winterize Flowers

You’ll need to winterize the flowers in your landscape so that they aren’t killed off by the cold fall weather. This involves pruning shoots and stems as well as adding mulch. The latter is particularly important because mulch acts as insulation. When added around the base of a flower, mulch traps in heat, thereby keeping the flower warm during this otherwise cool time of year. Of course, mulch also contains valuable nutrients that further promote healthy flower growth and development. So, add an extra layer of mulch in your flowerbeds to winterize and protect them from the cold weather.

#6) Fertilize

Spring isn’t the only time of year when you should fertilizer your lawn. It’s also a good idea to fertilize it during the fall. A high-NPK fertilizer — either synthetic or organic — will provide your grass with the right combination of nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium, as well as other “micro” nutrients, that it needs to grow and stay healthy. Fertilizer also encourages lawn grasses to rise earlier in the spring, which is another reason to apply it during the fall.

#7) Trim Dead Branches

Even healthy trees will suffer from dead branches. Rather than leaving dead branches on a tree, though, you should consider removing them. Assuming the tree is relatively low, you should be able to trim them using a ladder and gardening shears. Remove all dead, dying, diseased or injured branches from trees in your landscape.

#8) Trim Perennials

If your landscape includes perennials, trim these flowers during the fall to discourage pests. It’s not uncommon for plant-eating slugs to feast on perennials. And large perennials are more likely to experience pest infestations than smaller, more manicured perennials. You can encourage healthy growth for your perennials while minimizing the risk of pests by trimming them.

#9) Water Lawn

Your lawn still needs water during the fall — just not as much as it does during the spring and summer when the temperatures are warm. Give your lawn at least one more watering of at least 1 inches during the fall. The water will soak into the soil, providing your grass, trees and plants with valuable moisture. Just use caution not to overwater your lawn, as the cool temperatures reduces water evaporation and can subsequently lead to soggy soil.

#10) Bring Container Plants Indoors

If you have container plants on your patio, outdoor living space, garden or elsewhere, bring them indoors before the winter season arrives. Because they typically container smaller, more confined root systems, container plants are susceptible to injury from the cold fall weather. Thankfully, you can protect your container plants from shock and injury by bringing them indoors. If you have a climate-controlled basement, consider bringing them here for the fall and winter months. Once spring arrives next year, you can take your container plants back outside to further enhance your home’s landscape.

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/

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10 Landscaping and Exterior Design Tips to Increase Your Home’s Value

Neglecting to create and maintain an attractive landscape can have a negative impact on your home’s value. It creates an unkempt atmosphere that discourages prospective buyers from considering the property. Whether you plan on selling your home in the near future or not, though, you should invest your time and energy into touching up the exterior. By making a just a few small changes outside, you can increase your home’s value.

#1) Pressure Wash

Pressure washing your home’s siding, the driveway, sidewalk and patio will make it look cleaner and newer. Over time, mildew, dirt and debris will accumulate on the aforementioned surfaces of your home’s exterior. This typically won’t damage the surfaces, but it can make look them dirty and dingy. Pressure washing, however, will blast away stubborn dirt and debris to restore the original appearance of your home’s exterior.

#2) Replace Mailbox

If your mailbox is rusted, faded, decayed, falling over or otherwise damaged, you should consider replacing it. With an average cost of just $20 to $50, a new mailbox is an inexpensive outdoor accessory that won’t send you in debt. Just remember to fall the United States Postal Service’s (USPS’s) guidelines. Among other things, this includes positioning your new mailbox so that it’s 41 to 45 inches tall and 6 to 8 inches away from the road. Your mailbox should also feature your street address number as well as a carrier signal flag.

#3) Grow Trees

Growing trees in your landscape can increase your home’s value. According to Turf Magazine, homes with tree-filled landscapes sell for 10% to 12% more than homes with grass-only landscapes. This is because homeowners want trees in their landscape. Trees improve the air quality, provide shade, create wind blocks and more. So, if your landscape currently consists solely of grass, try planting some saplings. They may take a while to grow — five to 20 years on average — but they’ll eventually enhance your home’s exterior and increase its value.

#4) Add a Fire Pit

You might be surprised to learn that adding a fire pit can increase your home’s value. A survey conducted by The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLS) found that fire pits and fireplaces were the most wanted accessory for outdoor living spaces in 2015. Although you can use either in your home’s outdoor living spaces, fire pits offer the highest level of versatility due to their portable design.

#5) Edge

Edging is an important step to creating an attractive landscape. If you don’t edge your driveway, sidewalks and other paved paths, you may discover weeds encroaching them. Using a string edger, however, you can define these areas to protect against weeds and other invasive, unwanted plants.

#6) Water and Fertilize Lawn

Watering and fertilizing your lawn is essential to creating a lush green landscape. This is particularly true if you live in the South, where the summer heat can scorch an otherwise healthy landscape. By watering at least once a week and fertilizing a few times a year, you’ll promote a healthy, lush green landscape that makes your home more valuable to prospective buyers.

#7) Add Seating

The right outdoor seating can increase your home’s value. When furnishing your home’s outdoor living space, don’t use cheap plastic chairs. Instead, invest in a high-quality furniture that’s made of premium materials like hardwood or iron. A few premium chairs, swings and/or benches will create a more functional and attractive outdoor living space — something that may increase your home’s value.

#8) Mulch Flowerbeds

Mulching your flowerbeds offers several benefits. First, it provides additional nutrients to support healthy plant growth. Second, it retains moisture so that your plants don’t dry out and die. Third, it protects against weeds by covering otherwise open areas of the soil’s surface. The culmination of these effects may, therefore, increase your home’s value. To take advantage of this, sprinkle a 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch throughout your flowerbeds.

#9) Prune Trees and Plants

You should also prune any trees and plants growing in your home’s landscape on a regular basis. Many homeowners have a linear mindset regarding landscaping. They focus all their time on mowing the lawn, neglecting the trees and plants in their landscape. When neglected, though, trees and plants will become overgrown and unkempt. You can prevent this from happening by using a pair gardening shears or scissors to prune the trees and plants in your home’s landscape.

#10) Install a Ceiling Fan

If you have a patio or deck with a covered ceiling, consider installing a ceiling fan. Along with high-quality seating, a ceiling will create a more functional outdoor living space. When the weather is hot, you can turn on the fan to create a cool and comfortable environment. It won’t necessarily offer the same cooling power as air conditioning, but it still creates a pleasantly cool breeze that’s guaranteed to keep you and your family comfortable during the summer heat.

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/

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How to Make Your Outdoor Furniture Cushions Last a Lifetime

Furniture is essential to your home’s outdoor living space. It creates a more functional area by providing you and your family with a place to rest, relax, cook, eat and enjoy the outdoors. But if your outdoor furniture has cushions, you’ll need to follow some basic steps to protect them from damage. When neglected, outdoor furniture cushions can fade, develop mold or otherwise become damage. To prevent from this from happening to your outdoor furniture cushions, consider the following tips.

Choose a Water-Resistant Fabric

If you’re shopping for new outdoor furniture cushions, choose a fabric that’s resistant. Traditional fabrics like cotton and linen aren’t recommended because they absorb and hold a significant amount of moisture. If you leave cotton or linen furniture cushions outside, they’ll likely develop mold or mildew. Vinyl, olefin and textilene, on the other hand, are designed specifically to repel moisture, making the ideal for outdoor furniture cushions.

Use a Fabric Sealant

Even if your outdoor furniture cushions are made of a water-resistant fabric like vinyl, olefin or textilene, you should still use a fabric sealant on them. Fabric sealants work by creating an invisible layer of protection over a fabric to protect against moisture, sun damage, insects, spilled liquids and more. They are typically sold in aerosol cans — like spray paint — that you spray over the surface of your furniture cushions. Along with choosing a water-resistant fabric, using a fabric sealant can protect your cushions from damage.

Keep Furniture in the Shade

Sun exposure won’t cause any serious damage to your outdoor furniture cushions, but it can cause discoloration due to fading. If your cushions are left under the direct sun, they’ll naturally fade to a lighter color. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light bleaches fabrics to create the appearance of a lighter, more faded tone. This isn’t something you’ll notice overnight, however. It can take several months for sun exposure to cause any noticeable change in the color you cushions. To prevent fading, try placing your furniture — with the cushions included — in a shaded area. The cushions will still receive some sunlight here, but it shouldn’t be enough to cause fading.

Clean Them Regularly

Outdoor furniture cushions made of a water-resistant fabric can still develop mold and mildew when dirty. This occurs when mold- or mildew-causing fungi feast on the organic matter covering a dirty cushion. The dirt essentially acts as food for mold and mildew, allowing it to thrive. The good news is that you can easily clean your cushions. Assuming they are made of a water-resistant fabric, you can clean them using warm water and liquid laundry detergent. Just wet the cushions with soapy water, and scrub them with a clean washcloth. Try to get into the habit of cleaning your cushions at least once every one to two weeks to prevent the buildup of dirt.

Enclosure Your Outdoor Living Space With a Screen

It’s not uncommon for insects and yard debris to end up on furniture cushions. A simple way to prevent this from happening to your cushions is to enclose your outdoor living space with a screen. Neither insects nor yard debris can enter a screened-in space. Not only does this preserve the original appearance of your furniture and cushions, but it also creates a more comfortable lounging space for you and your family. With a screened-in outdoor living space, you can enjoy the outdoors without worrying about common backyard pests like mosquitoes, flies and wasps.

Keep Them Dry

It’s important that you keep your outdoor furniture cushions dry. You might be wondering why this is necessary with water-resistant cushions. Well, water resistant isn’t the same as waterproof — and most cushions only feature the former type of fabric. As a result, they may succumb to damage when left outside and exposed to the elements. To make your cushions last a lifetime, you’ll need to keep them dry. Ideally, your cushions should be placed in an area where they won’t be rained on. And when they do get wet, use a clean towel to dry them. Keeping your cushions dry will prevent the moisture from saturating and damaging the fabric.

Remove and Store Them Indoors

When all else fails, you can always remove the cushions from your outdoor furniture and store them somewhere inside your home. Depending on the type of furniture, you may be able to detach the cushion. Chairs and benches, for example, often have Velcro cushions that you can easily remove. If your furniture features removable cushions, take them off and store them indoors when you are finished using your outdoor living space for the day. Alternatively, invest in a durable outdoor box or storage container for your furniture cushions.

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/

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How to Prepare Your Landscape for Winter

Even in South, winter brings cold temperatures, dry air and shorter days, all of which can take a toll on your landscape. You may discover your grass turning brown, wilting or even dying during this time of year. Not only doesn’t affect your home’s curb appeal, but it also affects the functionality of this space. With a degrading landscape, you won’t be able to fully use your outdoor living space to the best of its abilities. But there’s still some time before the winter season hits, so consider the following ways to prepare your landscape for this seasonal change.

Aerate It

In the latter half of fall, aerate your soil one last time for the year. This involves the use of a special lawn tool, known as an aerator, that “scores” the soil with many small holes. As the aerator pokes holes in the soil, it allows water, oxygen and nutrients to reach the roots of your grass more easily. Depending on the size of your lawn, however, you may want to invest in a walk-behind aerator. Available to rent at most home improvement stores, walk-behind aerators are powered by gas, so you don’t have to physically push them across your lawn.

Add Mulch to Plants

Plants are often susceptible to shock during the winter because of the cold temperatures. When the first cold snap of the year hits, you may find your once-healthy flowers falling over and dying. You can give your plants a helping hand, however, with mulch. If you have a flowerbed that you’d like to protect this winter, for example, add about 2 inches of mulch to the top layer. A high-quality organic mulch adds valuable nutrients that keep your plants healthy. Most importantly, it creates a layer of insulation that protects your plants from the cold winter temperatures.

Reduce Watering

You don’t need to water your landscape as frequently in the winter as you do in the summer or spring. As the temperatures begin to drop, less water will evaporate from the soil. Therefore, your grass and plants will absorb more water throughout the day. If you continue to water your lawn during the winter the same amount as you did during the spring and summer, you may inadvertently make it “waterlogged.” When this occurs, the soil will turn soft and mushy — and it will eventually kill your grass and plants. You can still water your landscape if there’s a drought. Assuming Mother Nature is providing you with adequate water, though, keep your sprinkler turned off.

Rake It

You should also use this opportunity to rake any leaves covering your lawn. Leaves aren’t just an eyesore; they can harm your lawn by restricting it from sunlight and contributing to fungal disease in the process. When left unchecked, leaves will create a blanket-like layer over your grass that reduces or eliminates the amount of sunlight it receives. And without sunlight — or without enough sunlight — grass will cease to grow on your lawn. Furthermore, the presence of leaves on your lawn creates a wet environment, as moisture will remain trapped under the leaves. Without anywhere to escape, this moisture allows fungus to thrive, thereby increasing the risk of fungal disease. To promote a healthy lawn through winter and beyond, rake and dispose of all leaves covering your landscape.

Eliminate Weeds

Spring isn’t the only time of year during which weeds are common. You’ll also find them scattered throughout your landscape during winter. Dandelions are particularly common during this time, with many homeowners struggling to keep them under control. Whether it’s dandelions or any other weeds, though, you should eliminate them from your landscape before winter arrives. You can do this by pulling them up by the root, or you can you can use an herbicide. A homemade herbicide that works wonders for weeds is vinegar mixed with regular table salt and dish soap. The vinegar and salt kills weeds — and grass, so be careful — while the dish soap encourages the solution to stick to the weeds.

Bring In Container Plants

If you have container plants outside, you should bring them indoors to protect them against the cold winter temperatures. Regardless of size, nearly all potted plants are susceptible to frost shock. The good news, however, is that you can bring them indoors during this time of year. Before the first cold snap, make a point to bring in all your potted plants.

Mow One Last Time

Finally, you should mow your lawn one last time immediately before winter. Mowing your lawn to an appropriate height for the specific grass species encourages healthy growth while improving your home’s curb appeal in the process. After winter arrives, though, it should stop growing until the following year. So, mark your calendar for the last week of fall to mow your lawn one last time.

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/

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How to Keep Your Fire Pit Burning All Night Long

It’s frustrating when you light a fire pit, only for the flame to die out. In some cases, it may burn for 10 or 20 minutes. In others, it may immediately die out after lighting it. While you can always relight your fire pit, this is only a temporary solution that doesn’t solve the underlying problem. So, if you’re tired of constantly lighting and relighting your fire pit, consider the following tips to keep it burning all night long.

Use Dry Firewood

Even if it looks dry, your firewood probably has moisture in it. Whether oak, maple, cherry, elm, chestnut or hickory, all types of wood absorb moisture. Normally, this isn’t a problem. But if firewood contains too much moisture, you may struggle to keep it lit. This is why it’s recommended that you only use dry firewood — classified as a moisture content of 20% or less — in your fire pit.

Use Larger Pieces of Firewood

You can also keep your fire pit burning all night long by using larger pieces of firewood. Granted, larger pieces of firewood are more difficult to light than smaller pieces. Once you get them lit, however, they’ll burn longer while creating more heat in the process. Try placing some smaller pieces of firewood underneath larger pieces. After lighting the smaller pieces, the flame should ignite the larger pieces, providing you and your guests with a long-burning fire.

Place Fire Pit Next to a Windbreak

The placement of your fire pit will affect its ability to retain a flame. If it’s placed out in the open, wind gusts may extinguish it. You can prevent this from happening by placing your fire pit next to a windbreak, such as a retaining wall. With that said, the golden rule of using a fire pit is to place it at least 10 feet away from any flammable or combustible surface, including your home. If it’s too close to these surfaces, a stray ember from your fire pit may cause an unintentional fire, which is something that you probably want to avoid.

Dry Your Fire Pit Before Using It

Before placing firewood inside it, wipe dry the inside of your fire pit with a paper towel or cloth. Moisture has a tendency to accumulate inside of fire pits, especially if they are left outdoors. And if you don’t dry it out, any firewood that you place inside will immediately become saturated with moisture, thereby making it difficult to light and stay lit. It only takes a couple minutes to wipe out the inside of your fire pit, but doing so encourages a sustainable fire.

Let Your Firewood Breathe

Fire pits need oxygen to stay lit. If you stack your firewood so that it can’t breathe, the fire will likely die out shortly after being lit. There are several different ways to place firewood inside of a fire pit so that it can breathe, one of which is to use the teepee method. As the name suggests, this involves arranging the wood in the V-shape of a teepee. The bottom center of the fire pit remains open, thereby allowing air to enter and pass through. As this area heats up, it ignites the rest of the firewood. Alternatively, you can arrange your firewood in log cabin stacks. This involves placing a row of firewood in one direction, and then topping it with another row of firewood running perpendicular to the first.

Beware of Weather

Pay attention to the weather, as Mother Nature can hinder your ability to create a long-lasting fire. If there’s rain in the forecast, you may want to postpone your fire-burning activity. Even high humidity can make it difficult to create and maintain a fire. Ideally, you should wait until the weather is dry with clear skies to light your fire pit. Otherwise, you may struggle to keep it lit throughout the night.

Add More Firewood

Even if you follow all the tips previously mentioned, you may still discover your fire pit going out. This is bound to happen if you there’s no enough firewood inside of it. To keep your fire pit burning all night long, you must continue to resupply it with additional firewood. When the fire begins to die down, toss a couple extra pieces on top. Assuming there’s still some hot embers or coals left, the new firewood should easily ignite to keep your fire going. Just remember to arrange the new firewood so that it doesn’t smother the existing embers or coals.

Whether you’re using your fire pit to grill burgers, roast marshmallows or simply provide a relaxing ambiance for you and your guests, you should follow these tips to keep it burning throughout the night.

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/

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7 Tips to Follow When Smoking Meat

Nothing compares to the rich, savory flavor of smoked meat. While grilling over a bed coals is always an option, smoking creates a unique flavor while helping to preserve foods in the process. It’s been used by countless cultures throughout history, and in that time little has changed regarding the general concept. Smoking exposes meat to smoke — typically created from wood — that seeps into the protein to make it even more delicious. If you’re planning to smoke meat, though, you’ll want to follow these seven tips to achieve the best results.

#1) Choose the Right Type of Meat

Some meats are better suited for smoking than others. Generally speaking, ribs, pork chops, steak and fish are all great choices. You can even choose some of the tougher cuts, as smoking breaks down the protein to make it more tender. Because of its large size, though, many inexperienced backyard chefs have trouble smoking beef brisket.

#2) Place Coals to the Side

Unlike grilling, you shouldn’t place your meat directly over the coals when smoking it. Rather, you should place all your coals to one side of your grill, fire pit or smoker. Doing so allows you to place the meat on the other side so that it cooks more slowly. Depending on the type of meat that you are smoking, as well as its size and other factors, it may take anywhere from two to four hours to smoke. With the coals stacked on a single side, your meat will slowly smoke over this time.

#3) Place a Water-Filled Pan on Opposite Side

After placing coals to one side of your grill, add a water-filled tin or aluminum pan to the opposite side. This is arguably one of the most important steps to smoking meat, as water promotes the formation of smoke while also promoting a long, slow burn.  Without a pan of water, your coals will burn hot and fast, resulting in poorly smoked meat. To prevent this from happening, add a couple inches of water to a tin or aluminum pan and place it on the side of your grill opposite to where you placed the coals.

#4) Choose the Right Wood Chips

While smoking requires coals, you’ll need to add wood chips as well. The coals are responsible for producing the heat, but it’s the wood chips that produce the smoke. As the coals heat the wood chips, it releases smoke that rises up and leeches into the protein-rich meat. But contrary to what some people believe, not all wood chips are made equal. Different varieties have different effects when used for smoking.

Some of the top wood chips for smoking meat include the following:

  • Hickory
  • Oak
  • Maple
  • Walnut

Although there are many other types of wood chips available, you can’t go wrong with any of the four listed above. Hickory, oak, maple and walnut create a delectable flavor that compliments most meats.

#5) Soak Wood Chips

The golden rule of smoking meat is to soak the wood chips before adding them to your grill, smoker or fire pit. When dry, wood chips will burn hotter and faster than coal. As a result, you may discover that your wood chips have burned down in just a half-hour, resulting in little or no smoke. You can keep your wood chips burning for hours by soaking them in water. Simply fill a large pan, dish or bowl with water, and submerge your wood chips inside it for about an hour. After an hour has passed, remove the wood chips and place them directly over the coals. Some people use a separate container to store their wood chips when smoking meat, but this isn’t necessary. Assuming you soaked them for at least an hour, you can place them directly over the coals.

#6) Add Coals Periodically

Because it takes anywhere from two to four hours, on average, to smoke meat, you’ll need to add coals periodically. A good rule of thumb is to add coals about every hour or hour and a half. You should keep a hot bed of white coals burning at all times. If they go out, there won’t be enough heat to effectively cook and smoke your meat.

#7) Don’t Open It

An all-too-common mistake made by backyard chefs when smoking meat is constantly opening the grill, smoker or fire pit. Some chefs open it as frequently as every 15 minutes to see how their meat is cooking. While mostly harmless, each time you open your grill, smoker or fire pit, it releases some of the smoke (and heat). As a result, meats take longer to cook, and they don’t have the same rich flavor that’s commonly associated with smoking. Leave the top on your smoking accessories, and only remove it when you are adding new coals.

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/

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Fire Pits: The Perfect Focal Point for Your Outdoor Living Space

When designing an outdoor living space, it’s essential that you create a focal point. As the name suggests, this is the space’s point of focus. It’s the object or element that naturally attracts your attention, making it the single most important component of your home’s outdoor living space. And while there are several solutions available for creating a focal point, a fire pit often works best for the following reasons.

It’s Unique

One reason to use a fire pit for your outdoor living space’s focal point is because it’s unique. This doesn’t necessarily mean that no two fire pits are the same. Rather, it means that a fire pit is a unique decorative element when used in your outdoor living space. Unless you have two fire pits, it will create a unique appearance that’s not found in other decorative outdoor accessories. But the unique appearance of a fire pit is just one of many reasons to use it a focal point for your outdoor living space.

It’s a Natural Gathering Area

When a fire pit is lit, people will naturally gather around it. It’s only human nature to gather around as fires, as we’ve been it since the dawn of mankind. Whether you’re lounging outside with your family or hosting an outdoor party with the entire neighborhood, you’ll probably discover people gathering around your fire pit when it’s lit. As a result, their attention will be focused on the fire pit, thereby enhancing its utility as an outdoor focal point.

It Repels Pests

Designing your outdoor living space with a fire pit as the focal point will also repel pests. If you place it in the center of your patio, for example, the smoke it produces will deter mosquitoes, wasps, gnats and other common outdoor pests. Most insects hate smoke, so a fire pit acts as a natural pest repellent. To take full advantage of this, though, you’ll need to place it in the center of your outdoor living space. Otherwise, the smoke won’t adequately cover the surrounding space.

It Improves Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Want to improve your home’s curb appeal? Try using a fire pit as the focal point. High-quality fire pits, such as those sold here at S&S Fire Pit, are designed with premium steel materials that compliment most outdoor living spaces. They introduce a new metallic finish and visual style that, ultimately, will improve your home’s curb appeal. If it’s not used as the focal point, however, it won’t have the same, positive impact on your home’s curb appeal.

It Creates Warmth

Using a fire pit as the focal point will help you create a warmer and more comfortable outdoor living space. Even if you live in the South, you’ll probably get at least some days of the year when the temperatures are brutally cold. A fire pit in the center of your outdoor living space, however, will create warmth that allows you to enjoy this extension of your home throughout the year. From spring to winter, you can rest assured knowing that a fire pit will provide ample warmth for your outdoor living space.

It Makes Cooking Easier

Regardless of where it’s placed, you can use an outdoor fire pit to cook meats, vegetables and other foods. But when used as the focal point, it makes cooking a little easier. When your fire pit is the designated focal point, you — as well as your family members and/or guests — will gather around it. This means you won’t have to walk long distances from your seat to the fire pit.

How to Use a Fire Pit as the Focal Point

Now that you know the benefits it offers, you might be wondering how to use a fire pit as the focal point for your outdoor living space. The key thing to remember with focal points is that they should be the center of attention. Assuming your outdoor living space has seats (which it should), it’s usually best to place the focal point in the middle of them. In other words, arrange your outdoor living space’s chairs, benches, stools or other seats around your fire pit.

Also, remember to draw attention to your fire pit using lighting. Installing a new light fixture can illuminate your outdoor living space while drawing attention to your fire pit in the process.

A fire pit is just one option to consider when choosing a focal point for your outdoor living space. As revealed here, however, it offers several unique benefits. Among other things, using a fire pit as the focal point creates a unique appearance, serves as a natural gathering, repels pests and makes cooking easier. Just remember to choose a high-quality fire pit rather than a cheap, generic brand.

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/

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How to Protect Your Outdoor Furniture From Fading

It’s not uncommon for furniture to fade outdoor furniture to fade over time. A table that was once midnight black may turn to a lighter, charcoal gray color. This typically doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it takes months or years of exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays to cause any noticeable change in color. As a homeowner, though, seeing your outdoor furniture fade can be frustrating. You purchased your furniture with the assumption that it will retain its color, only to discover this isn’t the case. So, what can you do to protect your outdoor furniture from fading?

Choose High-Quality Furniture

Don’t try to cut corners with your outdoor living space by purchasing cheap, low-quality furniture. You may save a couple bucks, but there’s a greater risk of fading. A cheap plastic chair, for example, will probably fade more quickly than a high-quality teak wood chair. This is because manufactures use thin coats of paint on low-quality furniture to save money, thereby making them more susceptible to fading from sun exposure. High-quality furniture, on the other hand, is made with thicker coats of paints to achieve greater protection from the elements.

Apply UV Protectant

Perhaps the most effective solution is to keep your outdoor furniture from fading is to apply a UV protectant product. These products live up to their namesake by protecting fabrics and surfaces from UV light, which is the catalyst of fading. Like sunscreen, it’s designed to reflect the sun’s UVA and UVB light. By blocking out these otherwise highly penetrating rays of light, UV protectant is able to keep your furniture from fading.

You can use UV protectant on a wide variety of furniture types, including plastic, vinyl, rubber, fiberglass, wood and more. Furthermore, it’s easy to use, as mot UV protectant products come in a spray bottle. Just spray the product over the surface of your furniture, and it will remain protected from the sun’s UV rays. Keep in mind, however, that it’s effects will wear off. For maximum, long-lasting protection, it’s recommended that you reapply the UV protectant once every few months.

Place in Shade

Conventional wisdom should lead you to believe that placing your furniture in the shade will protect it from fading. If it’s not exposed to the sun, it won’t fade — not fast, at least. Your furniture will still receive some indirect sunlight, but it typically takes many years of exposure to indirect sunlight for outdoor furniture to fade. Therefore, you should consider placing your furniture in the shade. Assuming your patio or outdoor living space has a roof, place the furniture in an area that receives the least amount of direct sunlight. If it doesn’t have a roof, on the other hand, use a large patio umbrella or awning to create shade. By reducing the amount of direct sunlight your furniture receives, you’ll discourage fading and, subsequently, retain your furniture’s original color.

Clean Furniture

It’s important that you clean your outdoor furniture on a regular basis. When left outdoors for a long period of time, furniture will attract dirt, pollen, dust, insects and other debris. As this debris accumulates on your furniture, it can wear down the fabric or outer layer of paint, thus increasing the risk of fading. The good news is that you easily clean most outdoor furniture by spraying it down with a garden hose. There’s no need for a pressure washing, as it typically does more harm than good by blasting away the outer layer. Instead, spray your furniture down with a garden hose every few months to keep it clean and protect it from fading.

Bring Cushions Indoors

For outdoor furniture with fabric-based cushions, you can prevent fading by removing and bringing the cushions indoors when they aren’t being used. Most outdoor chairs, benches and other fabric-based furniture feature removable cushions. Bringing these cushions indoors will reduce their exposure to the sun and protect them from fading.

Use It

The more you use your furniture, the less likely it is to fade. If you and your family sit in chairs, for example, those chairs will be protected from the sun. You can’t expect to use your outdoor furniture 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Nonetheless, this can still help to protect your furniture from fading, especially when combined with the other tips listed here.

What If My Furniture Has Already Faded?

If you discover that your furniture has already faded, there are a few options to restore it. If it features a painted surface, you can repaint it with a fresh coat of the same color. Alternatively, if you faded furniture has cushions, consider replacing the cushions with new ones of the same type and color.

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/

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8 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing an Outdoor Living Space

Are you looking to design an outdoor living space for you and your family? Well, you aren’t alone. According to the AIA’s Home Design Trends Survey, it’s the single most popular “special function room” among homeowners in the United States. The survey found that consumer demand for outdoor living spaces increased by 38% from 2012 to 2017, attesting to its popularity. While an outdoor living space can open the doors to new activities and entertainment for you and your family, you should avoid making the following mistakes when designing it.

#1) Insufficient Lighting

If you intend to use your outdoor living space in the evening or at night, you need to design it with sufficient lighting. When the sun goes down, you should be able to illuminate this spaces so that you and your family members can use it. There are countless lighting solutions available for outdoor living spaces, including string lights, solar lamps (they work at night), pendant lights, sconce and traditional overhead fixtures. To save money on power, choose a lighting solution that uses an energy-efficient bulb like compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED). CFL and LED use a fraction of the energy of conventional incandescent bulbs, making them a smart investment for your outdoor living space.

#2) Incohesive Decor

It’s important that you use a cohesive decor when designing your outdoor living space. Some homeowners make the mistake of using a half-dozen colors and multiple decor styles, only to create an eclectic eclectic design that hurts their home’s curb appeal. Stick with a single color scheme and design style to create an attractive, lively environment that reflects positively upon your home’s aesthetics.

#3) Installing Non-Water-Resistant Appliances

There’s nothing wrong with installing appliances in your home’s outdoor living space, but they need to be water resistant. Even if the area is covered with a roof or awning, your appliances will still be susceptible to moisture damage from humidity exposure. It may not happen immediately, but constant exposure to high humidity will eventually damage these outdoor appliances. A simple solution, however, is to choose water-resistant appliances that are specifically designed for outdoor use. Whether it’s a refrigerator, stove, grill or even a TV, it must be designed for outdoor use.

#4) Overlooking a Fire Pit

What’s the most important element for an outdoor living space? According to a survey cited by Kleber and Associates, that accolade goes to a fire pit. Unfortunately, many homeowners overlook this feature when designing their outdoor living space. Instead, they use a traditional charcoal or propane grill. Just because your outdoor living space features a grill, though, there’s no rule stating that it can’t have a fire pit. In fact, adding a fire pit will create a more attractive, entertaining area. You can use it to set a relaxing ambiance for nighttime parties, ward away mosquitoes, roast marshmallows and more. The bottom line is that all outdoor living spaces should feature a fire pit.

#5) Choosing Seating Based Solely on Aesthetics

When choosing seating for your outdoor living space, consider both aesthetics and function. Even if a chair or bench is attractive and flows cohesively with the rest of your space, it might be comfortable to use. And without comfortable seating, you probably won’t use your outdoor living space very often.

#6) Too Big or Small

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for an outdoor living space. Rather, you should design it according to your own needs. If you plan on hosting large outdoor parties with all your friends, family and neighbors, you should design it large to accommodate these people. But if you live by yourself, you should design it small. An appropriate size will help you get the most use out of your outdoor living space while minimizing maintenance and upkeep requirements.

#7) Inaccessibility

Your outdoor living space needs to be easily accessible. In other words, neither you nor anyone else should be forced to walk a long ways — or through difficult terrain — to reach it. This is why many homeowners create their outdoor living space on their patio or back deck. You can still create it farther away from your home, but it’s recommended that you use pavers or stones to form a walking path.

#8) Overlooking the Direction of the Sun

Don’t forget to consider the direction of the sun when designing your outdoor living space. If the sun beams directly down on your outdoor living space, you may find it unbearable to use during the “dog days” of summer. Of course, there are ways to overcome this challenge. You can build a roof or install an awning, for instance, to create shade. Another idea is to install a misting system that sprays a cool water mist over your outdoor living space.

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/

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10 Things to Consider When Building a Patio

A patio is an invaluable upgrade to your home that extends its living space to the outdoors. You can use it to host backyard barbecues, parties or just lounge under the sun. But if you’re thinking about building a patio, there are a several things you must consider.

#1) Location

Where exactly do you want the patio? Most homeowners choose to build a patio either on the front or rear of their home. When choosing between these two locations, consider privacy. Building a patio on the rear of your home will likely provide you and your family with greater privacy. The downside, however, is that it won’t have the same positive impact on your home’s curb appeal.

#2) Size

it’s also important that you consider the size of your patio. A larger patio will provide you and your family with more space, but it also requires more materials and resources to build. According to The Concrete Network, the average size of a patio in the United States is about 16 feet by 18 feet. This is an appropriate size that allows for a pleasant outdoor living space without requiring a substantial amount of materials and resources to build.

#3) Raised vs Ground Level

Building a raised patio requires more work than building a ground level patio. You must include the appropriate supporting structures, and ensure that the foundation is solid and not vulnerable to erosion. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a sinking patio in the near future. While optional, many homeowners also install stairs on their raised patio so that they can access their yard. A ground-level patio is undoubtedly easier to build for these reasons, but you may or may not have this option depending on your property’s layout.

#4) Materials

Of course, you should consider the materials used in your patio’s construction. Most patios are constructed with either wood or concrete (or both). Concrete is an excellent choice for ground-level patios because of its superior strength, longevity and ease of use. Wood, on the other hand, is preferred for raised patios, as it’s lighter and more structurally sound. You can also stone and brick for ground-level patios, both of which offer similar benefits as concrete.

#5) Roof

A can improve the functionality and aesthetics of your patio in several ways. First, it creates a more comfortable space for you and your family by casting shade. A roof will keep the sun out of your eyes, allowing you to enjoy your patio just a little more. Second, it will protect your patio furniture from sun and moisture damage. Without a roof, furniture will be exposed to the elements, resulting in faster degradation. Third, a roof enhances the appearance of your patio, and home, by adding a new design element. So, if you’re willing to make the investment, add a roof to your patio.

#6) Maintenance

How much maintenance will your patio require? It’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine exactly how much work is required to maintain a patio until it’s constructed. At minimum, you’ll need to clean your patio’s surface on a regular basis. This can be done by scrubbing it or by using a power washer. For wooden patios, you may also need to inspect the fasteners — nails, screws, anchors, etc. — to ensure they are secure. When fasteners begin to work their way out, you must drive them back in place to preserve the structural integrity of your patio.

#7) Utilities

Consider the location of utilities like underground electricity, water, plumbing and gas lines when building your patio. Never perform any construction that requires digging into the ground without first identifying the location of all underground utilities. If you aren’t sure where these lines are located, contact your utility providers. Alternatively, hire a contractor to build your patio.

#8) Lighting

You won’t be able to fully enjoy your patio at night unless there’s adequate lighting. Therefore, you should consider lighting when building your patio. Just a single high-lumen fixture should suffice for most average-sized patios. Of course, you can install other lighting solutions like string lights, solar lamps or tiki torches as well.

#9) Building Codes

It’s always a good idea to check your city or county building codes before constructing a new patio. Many municipalities have strict laws regarding residential construction, and failure to comply with these laws could result in a fine and forced removal of your patio.

#10) Furniture

Finally, consider the type of furniture that you want to use on your new patio. At minimum, you should include chairs or other forms of seating on your patio. Additionally, however, you may want to include a fire pit. With a fire pit, you can cook foods, roast marshmallows and create a warm, comfortable environment on your patio during the otherwise cold winter months.

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/

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How to Protect Your Patio Furniture From Rusting

It’s not uncommon for patio furniture to rust when left outdoors for long periods of time. Whether it’s a chair, table, bench, etc., any furniture that’s made of metal may rust when certain safeguards aren’t taken. And once a piece of furniture begins to rust, it can quickly eat through the metal, causing permanent damage that’s difficult or impossible to repair. So, how can you protect your patio furniture from rusting?

Why Patio Furniture Rusts

Rust is the result of the oxidation from oxygen and moisture exposure. Of course, not all objects are susceptible to this phenomenon. Rather, rust only occurs in objects and materials that contain iron. Unfortunately, iron is all around us; it’s even steel. If you have patio furniture that’s made of iron, steel or other iron-containing metals, it may rust when exposed to moisture.

Choose Non-Metal Furniture

Because rust involves the oxidation of iron, you can protect your patio furniture from this phenomenon by choosing non-metal furniture. As long as your furniture isn’t made of metal, it won’t rust. The downside to choosing an alternative material, however, is that it may lack the strength and durability of metal.

Some alternative, non-metal materials for patio furniture include the following:

  • Wicker
  • Rattan
  • Plastic
  • Teak
  • Resin
  • Polymer
  • Vinyl

Cover Your Furniture

Try to keep your patio furniture covered so that it isn’t exposed to the rain and elements. When you’re finished using your patio for the evening and ready to go inside, store your furniture under a covered area. Leaving it exposed to the rain and elements will only increase the risk of it rusting. After just a few days of exposure, patio furniture can develop rust.

If your patio doesn’t have a covered area under which you can store furniture, consider investing in furniture covers. Most home improvement stores sell covers for as little as $15 a piece, which is a small price to pay considering the protection they offer from rusting. The covers are usually made of a heavy-duty, waterproof material that keeps your furniture dry even when it rains. Just toss a cover over each piece of metal patio furniture to protect it from rusting.

Dry Your Furniture

Even if you cover your patio furniture, it may still rust. This is particularly true if you live in a region with a humid climate, such as the Southeast. Humidity is essentially nothing more than moisture vapor in the air. When there’s a high level of airborne moisture vapor, the air is humid. When there’s little or no airborne moisture vapor, the air is dry. Humidity can saturate the exterior of metal patio furniture with water droplets. And when left unchecked, these water droplets will serve as a catalyst for rust, causing your furniture to rust and corrode over time. This is why it’s important to hand-dry your furniture on a regular basis. If you discover your furniture is wet — regardless of whether it’s stored under a roof or furniture cover — wipe it dry with a clean towel.

Apply Rust-Protective Coating

There are dozens of anti-rust products that you can use on patio furniture. Most paints, for example, will create a waterproof barrier over your furniture’s metal exterior, preventing the intrusion of moisture and, subsequently, protecting it from rusting. There are also transparent products that, when applied to furniture, protect it from rusting. Rust-Oleum makes an entire line of rust-protective coatings, which are available for as little as $4 a bottle. Assuming you have just a half-dozen pieces of patio furniture, you should be able to cover them with two or three bottles.

Wash Your Furniture

Washing your patio furniture on a regular basis will help protect it from rusting. Using a small amount of mild dish soap with water, scrub down your furniture to remove any lingering mildew or grime. While mildew and grime may seem harmless enough, it holds a significant amount of moisture — and this moisture can lead to rusting. You can easily clean your patio furniture, however, using mild soap and water.

Clean Rust

Following these tips should protect your patio furniture from rusting. But what if your furniture has already rusted? Don’t haul it off to the local dump just yet. With a little work, you can often restore rusted patio furniture back to its original condition (or close to, at least).

To clean and remove rust from your patio furniture, scrub the affected area with a piece of steel wool or wire grill brush. The abrasive properties of steel wool and a grill brush will remove the rusted metal, thus exposing the underlying layers of the furniture’s metal, which aren’t rusted. After you’ve cleaned the rust from your furniture, add a fresh coat of paint for increased protection.

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/

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Common Patio Pests and How to Prevent Them

As the weather continues to warm, you’ll probably find yourself spending more time outside. A properly designed patio with comfortable seating and a fire pit is the perfect area to enjoy the warm and sunny summer weather — but only if it’s free of pests. Unfortunately, pests are a common occurrence on patios. From mosquitoes to termites and bees, these pests can wreak havoc by inflecting pain or causing structural damage. Here are a few of the most common patio pests and how to prevent them.

Mosquitoes

It’s difficult to enjoy your patio when you’re being constantly bombarded by blood-sucking mosquitoes. Normally, mosquitoes are only problem if there’s standing water on or near your patio. Female mosquitoes lay about 100 eggs in water every third night after they mate. By eliminating areas of standing water around your home, you’ll discourage mosquitoes from reproducing and create a more harmonious outdoor living space.

Adding the following plants to the landscape surrounding your patio may also help to deter mosquitoes:

  • Lavender
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Lamongrass
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Marigold
  • Rosemary
  • Mint

Fleas

If you own a cat, dog or both, you may notice fleas on your patio. Research shows that a single female flea can produce 600 eggs per month. Like mosquitoes, fleas feast on blood, though they generally prefer the blood of small animals rather than humans. Therefore, eliminating them from your patio requires treating your pets. Talk to your veterinarian about a flea treatment regimen for your cat or dog. He or she should be able to recommend an effective flea prevention and treatment product, such as Fipronil. Additionally, applying a layer of cedar mulch across your lawn can deter fleas and other common pests. Cedar contains a combination of unique oils that, for whenever reason, fleas hate. By adding it to your lawn, you’ll discourage fleas from taking refuge.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) aren’t your typical fire ants. While fire ants are bad enough, carpenter ants are particularly concerning because of their ability to destroy wood. They don’t necessary consume it for nutrition but, instead, for building nests. Using their long mandibles, carpenter ants can chew through a wooden patio, leaving behind holes and tunnels. Over time, the presence of these holes can create an unsafe environment for you and your family.,

Termites

If your patio is constructed of wood, you should inspect it for signs of termite damage on a regular basis. These wood-boring pests cause billions of dollars in property damage to houses each year in the United States. The most effective way to prevent termites on a patio is to use pressure-treated lumber. As you may know, pressure-treated lumber is sprayed and treated with chemicals to protect it from pests, rot and decay. You can expect to pay more pressure-treated lumber than non-pressure-treated lumber, but it’s a smart long-term investment because of the increased protection that it offers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also offers some helpful tips to protect against termites, some of which include filling cracks in the foundation, storing firewood off the ground (don’t store it directly on your patio), finding and fixing water leaks and ensuring your lawn has proper drainage. And if you discover termite damage on your patio, have it repaired as soon as possible to mitigate the damage.

Yellow Jackets

Normally, bees and wasps will keep their distance from humans unless provoked, but there’s one common exception: the yellow jacket. Classified as a wasp, these aggressive pests may seek out and sting nearby people unprovoked. It’s important to note that yellow jackets feed on protein, so keeping them off your patio requires removal of protein sources. If you grill burgers or cook other food on your patio, be sure to bring it indoors when you are finished. Leaving protein sources on your patio will only attract yellow jackets and other pests.

Yellow jackets are also attracted sugar. Whether it’s a watermelon rind, cup of sweet tea or plate of leftover dessert, you should avoid leaving sugary foods or beverages on your patio.

Flies

And then there are flies. The good news about flies is that most species have an average lifespan of just one month. The bad news, however, is during that time a fly can lay up to 500 eggs, so you need to take action to keep them off your patio. A simple solution to keep flies, mosquitoes and other flying pests away from your patio is to build a fire. The smoke from a fire is a natural insect repellent and will deter most flying pests. You can also keep flies away from your patio by using a fan. Assuming your patio has an overhead fan built in, turning it on will literally blow away the flies so that they can take over patio.

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/

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Why Your Home Needs an Outdoor Living Space

Does your home have an outdoor living space? If not, you should consider creating one. Whether it’s a patio, porch, garden or even an area of your lawn, an outdoor living space will open the doors to new opportunities for you and your family. Of course, some homeowners believe they aren’t worth the time and energy to create. While setting up an outdoor living space certainly requires work, it can pay off in the following ways.

Host Parties

With an outdoor living space, you can host parties with friends, family members and neighbors. Just set up some chairs around a fire pit, and you’ve got the perfect space for a party. You can even host parties year-round by installing a patio heater. These outdoor heaters are designed to warm the surrounding space, typically using propane or gas. Even when the otherwise cold fall or winter weather arrives, you still host outdoor parties using a patio heater such as this.

Health and Wellness

An outdoor living space also promotes health and wellness. Statistics show that up to three-quarters of Americans suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is essential because it allows our bodies to absorb calcium and build stronger bones (among other things). Although certain foods contain vitamin D — salmon, beef liver, cheese, eggs, etc. — the easiest way to get vitamin D is to lounge outdoors under the sun. Spending just 20 minutes under the midday sun will trigger your body to produce the recommended daily intake of vitamin D.

Increased Property Value

A lesser-known benefit of outdoor living spaces is increased property value. Prospective home buyers today pay close attention to a home’s exterior. If it’s poorly designed and lacks an outdoor living space, they may choose a different home to purchase. As a result, adding an outdoor living space can increase your home’s property value. The key thing to remember, however, is that you need to create an appealing, functional space that’s easy to maintain. Installing a swimming pool may sound like a good idea, but the labor and costs of maintaining a pool may deter some buyers. So, design your outdoor living space with aesthetically pleasing, functional elements while ensuring that it’s easy to maintain. Otherwise, it won’t have a positive impact on your home’s property value.

Improved Curb Appeal

You can increase your home’s curb appeal by creating an outdoor living space. Some homeowners assume that their lawn defines their home’s curb appeal, but this isn’t necessarily true. Although it plays a role in curb appeal, the overall design of your home’s exterior — including the presence of an outdoor living space — will ultimately define its curb appeal. To take advantage of this benefit, though, you should design your outdoor living space with a cohesive theme. In other words, don’t use colors or design elements that clash with one another and, instead, stick with a central design theme.

Saves Money

You have to think of an outdoor living space as a financial investment. You’ll have to pay for furniture and accessories, but it can save you money in the long run. Once your outdoor living space it set up, you and your family can use it instead of driving to the local park and performing other paid activities. Over the course of a year, or several years, the cost-savings benefits of an outdoor living space really add up.

Cooking Outdoors

Tired of cooking in the kitchen? With an outdoor living space, you can grill and smoke foods outside. There are several different outdoor cooking accessories that you can use for this purpose, including a grill (propane or charcoal), fire pit or even a complete outdoor kitchen. Of those options, however, a fire pit is arguably the most versatile. You can use a fire pit for grilling or smoking, and you can even experiment with different types of charcoal and/or wood chips.

Shade and Comfort

It’s hard to enjoy the outdoors when the midday sun is glaring down on you. Depending on the angle, it may create a glaring, blinding light. Thankfully, an outdoor living space with shade can protect you from this phenomenon. You can install an awning over your outdoor living space, for instance, to create shade. Alternatively, you can set up a table with a patio umbrella. These are just a few ways to turn your home’s outdoor living space into a shaded, comfortable oasis for you and your family to enjoy.

Easy to Set Up

Furthermore, an outdoor living space is relatively easy to set up. Even if you have little or no experience with do-it-yourself home renovation projects, you can still create an outdoor living space. All it takes is some chairs, a fire pit and a few decorative accessories.

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/

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How to Protect Concrete Your Driveway and Sidewalk From Cracking

If you have a concrete driveway or sidewalk, you should take a few basic precautions to protect it from cracking. When properly installed, concrete typically lasts for decades, offering you and your family countless years of use. There are times, however, when it may develop hairline fractures or cracks. And when left unchecked, these otherwise small cracks can develop into larger cracks that jeopardize the structure integrity of the driveway or sidewalk. So, if you have a concrete driveway or sidewalk, you should familiarize yourself with the following tips to protect it from cracking.

Mix Correctly

First, it’s important to understand what causes concrete driveways and sidewalks to crack. While cracking can occur from any number of issues, one of the most common causes is an improper ratio of water to concrete. When too much water is added, the moisture will evaporate as the concrete sits, causing to shrink and, eventually, crack. It’s not uncommon for concrete slabs to shrink by as much as 0.5 inches per 100 feet. Therefore, it’s important that homeowners, builders and general contractors alike use the proper mixture of concrete and water.

Grade and Compact the Soil

In addition to using an appropriate ratio of water to concrete, you should also grade and compact the soil when installing a concrete driveway or sidewalk. When concrete is poured on uneven or loose soil, it increases the risk of cracking. Over time, the soil will shift and place stress on the concrete. As this stress increases, it can literally pull apart the concrete, leaving large cracks or fractures behind. By properly grading and compacting the soil, however, you can prevent this from happening. Again, this is why it’s important that all homeowners, builders and general contractors invest the necessary time and energy to prepare for proper installation.

Use a Sealer

Once you’ve installed concrete, you should use a sealant product to protect it from moisture. Freeze-thaw damage often creates cracks in concrete sidewalks and driveways. This phenomenology occurs when water seeps into the porous holes of the concrete and turns into ice. This creates pressure that loosens the concrete, causing it to crack. A simple solution to protect concrete from freeze-thaw damage is to use a sealer. Available at most home improvement stores, a sealer will create an invisible waterproof barrier over your concrete, protecting it from the intrusion of moisture and subsequent cracks that may develop from the freeze-thaw cycle.

There are many different types of concrete sealant products available for sale. While they all serve the same basic purpose of sealing concrete, there are subtle nuances between them that shouldn’t be ignored. See below for a list of the three main types of concrete sealers and how they differ:

  1. Penetrating Sealer: As the name suggests, penetrating sealers are designed to penetrate deep into concrete to create a superior level of protection from moisture and debris. They are often preferred in harsh environments where there’s a high risk of damage. Penetrating sealers are an excellent choice for protecting your concrete driveway or sidewalk from freeze-thaw damage.
  2. Decorative Sealer: Available in a wide variety of sheens and tones, decorative sealers offer an exceptional level aesthetics when compared to other concrete sealant products. They also dry and set more quickly than other sealers. The downside to decorative sealers, however, is that the lack the protection offered by penetrating sealers. Therefore, they should only be used in applications where there’s low risk of cracking of structural damage to the concrete.
  3. Durable Sealer: The third type of concrete sealer, durable sealer, offers a longer lifespan the aforementioned types. It’s designed to create a strong, long-lasting barrier of protection over the concrete. Durable sealers are also available in a variety of sheens and tones, and they are usually resistant to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Ensure Proper Drainage

While there’s no substitution for a high-quality sealant, you can further protect your concrete driveway or sidewalk from cracking by ensuring the surrounding landscape has proper drainage. Poor drainage is a common cause of cracking in concrete. When water collects on or around a concrete driveway or sidewalk, the excess moisture will seep under the concrete, causing the land to shift, thus stressing the concrete. This usually doesn’t happen overnight, but rather it takes months or even years for cracks to develop.

You can reduce the risk of cracking in your concrete driveway or sidewalk by ensuring it has proper drainage. Check your downspouts to ensure they are directed away from your home and towards a nearby storm drain. And the next time it rains, pay attention to your landscape to see where the water flows. If it’s pooling up in certain areas, you need a new drainage solution to keep the moisture away from your driveway or sidewalk.

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/

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7 Tips to Prevent Your Lawn From Becoming Waterlogged

Water is usually good for lawns. Whether your lawn has fescue, bluegrass, ryegrass, bentgrass, St. Augustine, Scutch grass, crowngrass or any other common variety, it needs water to survive. Your lawn might be able to go a couple weeks without water, but it will gradually turn brown and die shortly thereafter. With that said, too much water — combined with poor drainage and runoff — may cause waterlogging. When this occurs, water collects at the top of the lawn rather than flowing away.

Aside from its unattractive appearance, a waterlogged lawn presents several challenges for homeowners. When the soil remains saturated over a long period of time, grass roots will literally rot. Known as “root rot,” for obvious reasons, it’s the beginning of a slow death for your lawn. Furthermore, a waterlogged lawn contributes to fungal disease, which is another key problem. And depending on where you live, you may find a higher number of pests like mosquitoes and gnats when your lawn is saturated with water. So, what can you do to prevent this from happening to your lawn?

#1) Check Downspouts

First, check the downspouts to ensure they are directed away from your house. If possible, connect the end of your downspouts with tubing that runs to a nearby creek or drainage ditch instead of the base of your home. If your lawn isn’t properly graded (e.g. angled away from your home), water will collect on the surface and contribute to waterlogging. By guiding downspouts away from your home, you’ll protect your lawn from excessive runoff.

#2) Check the Gutters

Of course, you should also use this opportunity to check the gutters attached to the downspouts. If there are trees growing next to your home, there’s a good chance your gutters will fill with leaves and debris. Over time, this debris will restrict the flow of water, causing it to pool up and flow off the sides instead of down through the gutters and downspouts. You can prevent this from happening by cleaning your gutters on a regular basis. Using a ladder, carefully climb and access to the top of your gutters, removing any leaves, limbs or other debris. When you are finished, flush them with a garden hose.

#3) Aerate the Soil

Aerating the soil can help protect your lawn from becoming waterlogged. Waterlogging often occurs when the soil is too compact for moisture to drain properly. Normally, water will soak into the soil. When the soil is compacted, however, it sits at the top and contributes to waterlogging. A simple solution is to aerate your soil, which involves scoring your landscape with many small holes. Not only will this prevent moisture problems, but it also encourages nutrient penetration, thus promoting a lush-green, healthy lawn.

#4) Reseed

Reseeding your lawn can reduce the risk of waterlogging. Grass acts as a natural barrier against erosion. When there are bare patches of missing grass on a lawn, rainwater may erode the soil and contribute to waterlogging. Thankfully, you can prevent this from happening by reseeding your lawn. Wait until you’ve aerated the soil, after which you can spread a mixture of grass seed and fertilizer. When the grass grows in, it should reduce or potentially eliminate drainage problems with your lawn.

#5) Dig a French Drain

If your lawn has severe drainage issues, consider digging a French drain. As explained by The Spruce, this otherwise simple drain consists of a buried pipe with gravel on top. When water lands on the gravel, it soaks through and into the pipe, at which point it’s carried away from the lawn. A French drain is a simple yet effective solution for waterlogging. Aside from a few bags of gravel, some plastic tubing and a shovel, it really doesn’t require anything else to build.

#6) Add a Top Dressing

Adding a top dressing to your lawn can protect it from drainage problems. Top dressing is essentially sand, leaves, mulch or soil that’s placed over the surface of the lawn. It offers a variety of benefits, including supplying your grass with additional nutrients, discouraging weed growth and preventing drainage problems. Simply add a 1/2-inch layer to the top, ensuring that the grass is still visible (the top dressing shouldn’t cover the grass completely).

#7) Don’t Walk on Your Waterlogged Lawn!

Finally, try to avoid walking on your lawn when it’s waterlogged. When grass is waterlogged, it’s susceptible to stress and damage. Even minor pressure like your foot pressing against the surface may damage or kill it. So, wait until your lawn has fully dried out before walking on it. If necessary, walk around the waterlogged portion of your lawn when entering and exiting your home. By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to healthier, drier lawn.

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/

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6 Springtime Landscape Maintenance Tips All Homeowners Should Follow

Spring is in the air, which means the temperatures will become warmer and the days longer. This seasonal transitional offers the perfect opportunity for homeowners to touch up their landscape and enhance their home’s curb appeal. Doing so will not only improve the appearance of your landscape but will also make it more functional, allowing you and your family members to enjoy this outdoor extension of your home. Here are a few tips to enhance your landscape this spring season.

#1) Aerate the Soil

There’s no better time than the beginning of spring to aerate your lawn. As you may already know, aeration involves perforating the top inch or so of soil with small holes so that nutrients and water can pass through more easily. When soil hardens during the winter, it prevents water and nutrients from flowing, thus restricting the growth and health of your grass. By aerating, you’ll promote a healthy, lush-green lawn.

#2) Knock Out Weeds

Whether it’s dandelions, crabgrass, bindweed, chickweed, bluegrass, etc., you should knock out any weeds attempting to grow on your lawn. During the transition from winter to spring, weeds — like grass and plants — will emerge from their state of dormancy. And if left unchecked, they can quickly take over your lawn while consuming valuable nutrients that could otherwise be used by your grass.

Rather than using a store-bought herbicide, though, consider making your own DIY weed killer. It’s actually pretty easy and highly effective when done right. Simply fill a spray bottle with distilled white vinegar and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap. Shake thoroughly to ensure the ingredients are mixed together, after which you can spot treat any weeds you discover on your lawn.

#3) Mulch Flowerbeds

Add a layer of mulch to your flowerbeds to keep the area weed free. Mulch is designed to block out the sun so that weeds and grass can’t grow in areas where they shouldn’t (like flowerbeds). Additionally, some mulch contains valuable nutrients that will stimulate plant growth, allowing flowers to bloom more easily during spring.

Some of the most common types of mulch for flowerbeds and landscapes include the following:

  • Cocoa
  • Straw
  • Wood chips
  • Sawdust
  • Lava rocks
  • Bark
  • Grass clippings
  • Rubber pellets

Tip: even with mulch, you may discover weeds growing in your flowerbeds. This is particularly true when using nutrient-rich mulch as opposed to inorganic mulch. If weeds are still a problem, and you don’t want to constantly spot treat them, try placing landscape fabric around your flowerbed and then cover it with mulch. Landscape fabric is impenetrable, preventing weeds or other plants from growing through it.

#4) Reseed Bare Patches

Just a single bare patch will make your lawn look messy and unkempt. In some cases, though, bare patches will correct themselves. Healthy grass adjacent to the voided area will fill it in, creating a more complete appearance. In other cases, you’ll have to reseed the patch.

There are a few ways to reseed bare patches, one of which is to apply grass seed and fertilizer by hand. Sprinkle a generous amount over the patch, give it some water, and wait for it to grow in. Alternatively, you can use a lawn patch product that already has a combination of grass seed and fertilizer. Regardless of which one you prefer, go through your lawn and treat bare patches. Ignoring them may result in other patches appearing, which takes a toll on your home’s curb appeal.

#5) Tune Up Your Lawn Mower

When was the last time that you tuned up your lawn mower? If it’s been a while, you should perform some basic maintenance to ensure your mower is ready for the spring season. Depending on where you live, you’ll probably need to mow your lawn about once a week. If your mower isn’t properly maintained, you may struggle to keep it running.

To tune up your mower, replace the air filter, spark plug and oil. Additionally, you should check the blade to ensure it’s sharp. If the blade is cracked or otherwise dull, replace it with a new blade. You can buy mower blades at most improvement stores for about $10 to $20. A sharp new blade will make a world of difference in the appearance of your lawn.

#6) Prune Trees, Plants and Shrubs

Finally, use this opportunity to prune overgrown trees, plants and shrubs. When pruning, use a pair of sharp gardening shears to cut “rouge” branches and shoots. You don’t have to trim a lot. Rather, trim just enough so that you can reshape it according to your liking.

Not only does pruning improve the appearance of trees, plants and shrubs, but it also promotes healthy growth. By removing overgrown branches and shoots, you’ll reduce the nutritional needs of the respective tree, plant or shrub. Therefore, it will grow more easily through spring and into summer.

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/

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Choosing the Right Outdoor Rug for Your Patio

When designing your patio or outdoor living space, you should include a rug for aesthetic and functional purposes. Among other things, it helps to define the space while adding new color and style to the decor. Regardless of your patio’s size, chances are it will benefit from the use of a rug.

However, you must choose the right type of rug for your patio. Not all rugs are able to withstand the outdoor environment. When left outdoors for long periods of time, it’s not uncommon for rugs to develop mold and mildew — something that you don’t want to discover on your rug. So, consider the following tips when choosing an outdoor rug for your patio.

Waterproof Material

Any rug you intend to use on your patio needs to be made of a waterproof material. Traditional wool rugs are a poor choice due to their ability to attract and hold moisture. Instead, consider a synthetic material. There are four synthetic materials specifically that are great for use in outdoor rugs, including the following:

  1. Vinyl: Also known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), vinyl rugs are strong, durable and waterproof. Because of these characteristics, they are also easier to maintain than many other rugs, making them an excellent choice for patios and other outdoor living spaces.
  2. Polyester: A second material to consider for your outdoor rug is polyester. This synthetic material is inexpensive and readily available. The downside, however, is that it’s not as durable as vinyl or nylon. Assuming your patio receives minimal foot traffic, this may not be a problem. If you use your patio daily, however, you should consider an alternative material for your rug.
  3. Nylon: Nylon rugs are an excellent option for outdoor environments. Nylon is a touch, durable and lightweight synthetic material that’s used to make a variety of products, including rugs. Nylon rugs are highly effective at resisting moisture and stains. Furthermore, they are less susceptible to fading when exposed to sunlight, which is one more reason why homeowners prefer using them outdoors.
  4. Polypropylene: Finally, polypropylene is a synthetic material that’s frequently used in the construction of outdoor rugs. It’s made of a plastic polymer that’s strong, durable and waterproof. With that said, polypropylene rugs can feel somewhat rough and rugged. Nonetheless, they are still a popular choice for patios and outdoor living spaces.

Size and Shape

In addition to choosing an outdoor rug made of a waterproof material, you should also consider its size and shape. Outdoor rugs are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes. You can find large 10-foot-by-10-foot rugs, as well as smaller “runner” rugs. So, which size and shape should you choose?

It really depends on how your patio is designed. Ideally, the rug should feature a similar size and shape that corresponds with your patio. If your patio has a large open area, perhaps a traditional square-shaped area rug will suffice. On the other hand, if your patio features a smaller rectangular-shaped are, you should consider using a runner rug. Just remember to choose an area rug in a size and shape that’s relative to the surrounding environment in which it’s used.

Color

Don’t underestimate the importance of choosing an area rug in the right color. Color can make or break your patio decor. An attractive patio design should feature a cohesive color scheme in which all of the decorative accessories and furnishings flow together in a natural, fluid manner. Outdoor rugs are available in just about every color under the rainbow. Some feature a single color, whereas others feature two or more colors. Ultimately, the color of your rug should flow — not necessarily match — with the rest of your patio decor.

Tips on Maintaining Your Outdoor Rug

Of course, you’ll also need to care for your outdoor rug to preserve its appearance and integrity. While outdoor rugs require less maintenance than most indoor rugs, you’ll still need to clean them on a regular basis; otherwise, they’ll accumulate dirt and debris.

Thankfully, cleaning an outdoor rug is relatively easy and straightforward. Assuming it’s made of a waterproof material like nylon or polyester, you can clean it using water, liquid laundry detergent and a scrub brush. First, create a soapy mixture of detergent and warm water. Next, pour a small amount of the rug, after which you can scrub it clean. Place the freshly cleaned rug in an area where it will dry fast, and you’re done!

For stubborn stains, you may want to use a fabric cleaner on your outdoor rug. However, it’s a good idea to test any new cleaning product on a discreet area. This way, if it causes additional staining or discoloration, you can stop using it.

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/

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Help! My Patio Deck is Turning Green!

Have you noticed your wooden patio deck turning green. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common problem experienced by homeowners. It typically doesn’t happen overnight, but months or years of exposure to moisture can turn an otherwise clean patio deck to a yucky green-tinted mess.

Not only is a green patio an eye sore, but it can also cause structural damage if left unchecked. So, what causes this phenomenon and how to protect your patio from it?

What is the ‘Green Stuff?’

The green stuff that forms of patios is typically either mold, mildew or algae. Although you can’t see it — not without a microscope, at least — wood contains thousands upon thousands of small holes in its surface. These holes, also known as “pores,” are constantly absorbing and releasing moisture, depending on the surrounding environment. When the environment is humid and moist, they absorb moisture. When it’s dry, they release moisture.

A wooden patio may turn green when excess moisture is held inside the pores for a long period of time. Mild, mildew and algae thrive in moist conditions such as this. If the wooden patio doesn’t dry out, it may develop a slimy film while simultaneously turning green.

Increase Sun Exposure

There are steps you can take to protect your wooden patio from turning green, however, beginning with increasing the amount of sunlight it receives. Sunlight discourages mold, mildew and algae from growing in several ways. First and foremost, it dries up excess moisture. Secondly, the ultraviolet (UV) rays can destroy many forms of fungi on contact.

You can’t necessarily control the direction of the sun, but you can remove overhanging branches or brush that’s obstructing sunlight from reaching your patio. Even if only half of your patio is shaded, that half may turn green while the other doesn’t. The bottom line is that your patio needs direct sunlight to keep mold, mildew and algae at bay.

Ensure Proper Runoff

Does water collect and pool up in certain areas of your patio instead of draining off? If so, this could contribute to it turning green. Along with darkness, mold, mildew and algae thrive in moist environments. When water collects on a patio, it creates the ideal environment in which these microorganisms can thrive.

Normally, runoff isn’t a problem with traditional wood plank patios. Excess water will flow through the cracks and crevices between the wood planks. There are times, however, when this doesn’t happen. Maybe the wood planks are sealed, or perhaps they were constructed unevenly. Regardless, you need to ensure your patio has proper runoff; otherwise, it may develop mold, mildew and algae.

Remove Leaves and Debris

You should also get into the habit of removing any leaves, pine straw and other debris from your patio deck. When yard debris such as this accumulates, it increases the risk of mold, mildew and algae. Again, these microorganisms thrive in moist, dark environments. If there’s leaves covering your patio, the wood planks underneath will remain dark and moist.

Whether you use a push broom or leaf blower, clean your patio at least once a week to discourage it from turning green.

Restoring Your Patio’s Color

If your wooden patio deck has already turned green, you can typically restore its color by cleaning off the mold, mildew or algae. Start by pressure washing your patio, beginning with the lowest PSI setting and gradually increasing it until you find a PSI that works. You don’t want to use the highest PSI setting, as this may damage the wooden planks. Once you find a pressure setting that’s strong enough to remove the green slime without damaging the wooden planks, you should be able to clean your patio.

The Spruce also recommends cleaning green patios with a homemade solution of vinegar and Borax. After hosing down your patio — either with a pressure washer or garden hose — combine 1/2 cup part distilled white vinegar and 1/2 cup Borax in warm water and place the mixture into a spray bottle. While wearing protective rubber gloves, spray the solution onto your wooden patio, allowing it to sit for five or so minutes. Once soaked into your deck, scrub your deck by hand until it comes clean.

What About Concrete Slab Patios?

While wooden decks are most susceptible to this phenomenon, concrete slabs can also turn green. Like wood, concrete is also highly porous; thus, offering the perfect breeding grounds for mold, mildew and algae. Protecting a concrete slab patio from turning green requires a similar approach as wooden patios, however. This includes keeping it dry, well-lit with sunlight and ensuring proper runoff. And if your concrete slab patio has turned green, you can clean it by pressure washing it or using the vinegar and Borax solution as described above.

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/

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6 Cool and Comfortable Shade Solutions for Your Patio

A little shade can make a world of difference in your comfort level when lounging outdoors on an otherwise hot spring or summer day. With the shade protecting you from the sun, you’ll feel cooler and more comfortable, allowing you to enjoy your patio. Shaded areas technically aren’t cooler than adjacent sun-exposed areas. However, it feels up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit cooler because of the lack of solar radiation. So how can you create a cool and comfortable shaded area on your patio?

#1) Shade Sail

A shade sail is a simple and inexpensive solution to create a shaded area on a patio or outdoor living space. With origins dating back to Ancient Rome, it’s also a time-tested method that’s been passed down for centuries. A shade sail consists of a lightweight membrane fabric that’s stretched and anchored between three or or more points. You stretch the shade sail across your patio, securing the corners to anchor posts. Because of their simple design, shade sails have become a popular choice among homeowners.

#2) Awning

Of course, another shade solution to consider using for your patio is an awning. Also known an overhang, it consists of a fabric that’s stretched over a frame and secured to the side of a home or building. Once installed, it creates a supplemental roof, protecting the space underneath from sunlight, rain and the elements. Although there are dozens of different types of awnings, most fall into one of two categories:

  1. Manual: As the name suggests, manual awnings are operated by hand. You must turn a lever or similar control mechanism to take down or bring up the awning. Manual awnings typically contain less parts than their motorized counterpart, and they are also less expensive.
  2. Motorized: These awnings have a motorized function in which the homeowner presses a button to take down or bring up the awning. Because of their additional motorized parts, there’s a greater risk of failure. However, many homeowners prefer the ease of use offered by motorized awnings.

#3) Plant a Tree

If you’re willing to wait a while, you can always create a natural shaded area on your patio by planting some trees on the sun-facing side. When choosing trees, look for species that grow tall and fast. Some excellent choices include red oak (Quercus rubra), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) and London planetree (Platanus × hispanica). Just remember to plant them on the side of your patio that faces the mid-day sun. Otherwise, it’s not going to offer much protection from the sun’s rays. As a side benefit, studies have shown that adding trees to a landscape increases the home’s selling value. The Arbor Day Foundation (ADF), for instance, says that mature trees have an appraised value of $1,000 to $10,000. So, even if they cost money and time to plant, it will pay off in the form of a higher home value.

#4) Umbrellas

Another simple shade solution for your umbrellas is an umbrella. No, I’m not talking about a traditional umbrella that hold while walking to protect yourself from the rain. There are special types of large, heavy-duty umbrellas designed specifically for use on patios and other outdoor living spaces. They offer a larger coverage area than traditional umbrellas, and they are usually made of durable materials to withstand the harsh outdoor environment for long periods of time. Some of these patio umbrellas mount directly to the top of a table, while others are freestanding. If you already have a table on your patio, consider the former. If you don’t have a table, the latter is probably the best choice for your patio.

#5) Pergola

A lesser-known shade solution for the patio is a pergola. Typically found in gardens, it consists of multiple horizontal beams that are often covered with plants, flowers or fabric. Some people assume that pergolas are the same as arbors. While they share some similarities, though, they are two unique designs with their own specific characteristics. An arbor, for example, is usually characterized by a wooden bench or seats with an overhanging roof that’s enclosed by lattice panels, whereas a pergola is a larger and more open  structure that doesn’t necessarily have seating underneath.

#6) Roof

Finally, you can always a build a roof over your patio for shade and protection from the sun. This is probably the best solution in terms of sun protection. However, it’s also the most expensive. According to The Nest, a wood-framed root can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. If you’re on a tight budget, consider a lattice-top roof, which usually runs around $1,000. You can then cover the lattice with a fabric or other material to block sunlight.

These are just a few ways to create shade on your patio. Regardless of which one you use, make sure the design flows cohesively with the resto f your patio decor.

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/

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What Is an Arizona Room?

Arizona rooms have become a popular renovation project for countless homeowners. While originating in the Copper State from which it receives its namesake, they’ve since made their way throughout the country. So, what is an Arizona room exactly, and how do you create one?

Overview of Arizona Rooms

An Arizona room is a covered and screened-in outdoor extension of a home that’s typically used for recreational and leisure purposes. They are typically found in the back yard, attached to either the kitchen or living room. Arizona rooms generally follow the same decorative style as the rest of the home to create a cohesive appearance in which all of the colors and accessories flow together naturally.

It’s no secret that Arizona is one of the hottest states in which to live. Statistics show that during the summer, temperatures in the Copper State can reach up to 106 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, many homeowners prefer to relax in Arizona rooms to cool off. The Phoenix-based newspaper The Arizona Republic explains that residents here slept in Arizona rooms during the summer before air conditioning was invented to cool off. The open nature of Arizona rooms combined with the flow of air offers the perfect environment for cooling off.

Arizona Room vs Screen Room: What’s the Difference?

Some homeowners assume that Arizona rooms are the same screen rooms, but this isn’t necessarily true. While both typically feature a screened-in enclosure, there are some stark differences distinguishing them from each other.

Screened rooms usually begin as open patios and back decks that are later converted into screened-in enclosures. They are constructed with different materials than the rest of the home, and they feature a different design. In comparison, Arizona rooms are constructed as extension of the home, with an emphasis on maintaining a cohesive style and decor. Screen rooms are also smaller than their Arizona room counterparts, restricting their usability.

Perhaps the biggest difference between a screen room and Arizona room, however, lies in its purpose. As previously stated, Arizona rooms are designed for recreation and leisure. They often feature comfortable seating, stereo speakers, televisions, games and more.

Benefits of Creating an Arizona Room

Arizona rooms offer several benefits to homeowners and their family members, one of which is the ability to cool off without relying on the home’s central air conditioning unit. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), heating and cooling accounts for 47% energy usage in the average home. In Arizona, homeowners can expect to pay a premium to keep cool during the blistering-hot summer months. With an Arizona room, however, homeowners and their family members can cool off outdoors. With its covered top and screened-in design, it’s the perfect place to cool off.

Of course, an Arizona room is also an excellent place for outdoor living. According to a survey conducted by the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), 71% of consumers with outdoor living spaces want to enhance these spaces. With an Arizona room, you can easily improve your outdoor living space by adding attractive furniture and furnishings. Since it’s enclosed, you don’t have to worry about weather damaging it.

Additionally, Arizona rooms are typically protected against insects. Whether it’s mosquitoes, gnats, bees or flies, insects can force homeowners and family members to seek shelter inside their home. This isn’t a problem with most Arizona rooms, however. Because they feature a fully enclosed environment with mesh screens, there’s a barrier of protection between family members and bugs. Therefore, family members can enjoy this versatile outdoor living space without being bombarded by pesky insects.

An Arizona room is also the perfect place to grow container plants. Although it’s typically covered, some sunlight will inevitably shine through. For homeowners looking to grow container plants, an Arizona room is an ideal growing location.

Tips on Designing an Arizona Room

If you’re planning to add an Arizona room to your home, you should use an attractive, functional design. Normally, Arizona rooms follow the same or similar design as the rest of the home. This is one of the ways in which Arizona rooms differ from screen rooms. With that said, it’s perfectly fine to use a different design.

Here are some tips to follow when designing an Arizona room:

  • Install overhead fans to increase airflow and comfort.
  • Choose relaxing furniture like chaise lounges and Adirondack chairs.
  • Use indoor-outdoor rugs to enhance the space’s decor.
  • Don’t clutter furniture near the walls.

In Conclusion

To recap, an Arizona room is an enclosed, covered extension of a home that’s used for recreational and leisure purposes. They originated more than a century ago in the state of Arizona, where homeowners and family members used them to cool off. Since then, Arizona rooms have become a popular home renovation, not just in Arizona but throughout the entire country.

Photo credit: John Coley

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/

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How to Extend the Life of Your Patio Furniture

When properly maintained and cared for, patio furniture can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, many homeowners neglect their outdoor furniture, believing it will withstand the hands of time without any additional work. Granted, some furniture is stronger and more resilient than others. If you want your patio furniture to last, though, you should take some basic precautions by following the tips listed below.

Choose High-Quality, Durable Furniture

Choosing the right type of patio furniture is essential to making it last a lifetime. As explained in a previous blog post, wicker furniture is inexpensive and easy to care for. However, it’s also susceptible to damage. Typically made of either natural reed or synthetic PVC nylon, it’s easily damaged from falling tree limbs, weather and even regular use.

Instead of wicker, you should consider stronger and more durable furniture for your patio. Teak is arguably one of the best materials for patio furniture. This tropical hardwood is characterized by a pleasant leather-like smell and a rich mahogany finish. The greatest feature of teak, though, lies in its composition of natural oils. You see, these oils work to repel mold, mildew and bacteria; thus, protecting teak — and furniture made of teak — from rotting. You can expect to pay a premium price for genuine teak furniture, but most homeowners will agree it’s a smart investment.

Bring in Metal Furniture

Don’t leave metal furniture on your patio for long periods of time, especially during the winter. While teak furniture may hold up under the cold winter temperatures, metal furniture will not. This is because metal furniture contains iron, and when exposed to moisture, iron turns to rust. Some metal furniture is less susceptible to rusting than others, but the fact remains that all types can and will rust when left outdoors for long enough. The only way to completely safeguard your metal patio furniture from rusting is to bring it indoors when you aren’t using it.

Place Furniture in Shaded Area

If possible, try placing your patio furniture in a shaded area. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays will take a toll on uncovered furniture, causing it to fade. A chair that was once a pristine forest green color may not possess a lime green color. By placing your furniture in a shaded area, however, you’ll protect it from this phenomenon. Furniture, placing your furniture in the shade will protect it from bird droppings, falling limbs and debris, hail and more.

Alternatively, if there’s little-to-no shade on your patio, consider adding a UV-protective finish to your furniture. Many commercial varnishes are designed to protect against UV and moisture. Once applied, it creates a barrier of protection between your furniture and the outside elements.

Store Cushions

Assuming your patio furniture has cushions, consider storing the cushions in a storage container or box. Seat cushions don’t handle the heat and moisture of being outdoors. If not properly cared for, they’ll develop mold and mildew, which is nearly impossible to fully remove. Bringing your seat cushions indoors is one way to protect them from this type of damage, though you can also use a separate storage container. There are actually some containers designed specifically for storing patio seat cushions. They are large, heavy duty and waterproof, making them ideal for this purpose.

Wash and Clean Patio Furniture

There’s no other way around it: to make your patio furniture last, you must wash and clean it regularly. As long as it doesn’t have cushions, you can typically clean patio furniture by hosing it down with a garden hose. Some consumers go the extra mile by using a pressure washer, but this usually isn’t necessary. In fact, the high PSI of a pressure washer can damage certain types of furniture. Because of this, it’s recommended that you clean your patio furniture with a basis, low-pressure garden hose.

If a garden hose doesn’t suffice, use mild dish soap and a bucket of water to scrub your furniture by hand. With a little bit of elbow grease, it should come clean

Keep Patio Clean

In addition to cleaning your patio furniture, you should also clean your patio. Allowing your patio to accumulate leaves, pine straw and other debris can shorten the life of your furniture — not to mention the fact that it’s difficult to use a dirty patio. When debris such as this begins to accumulate, it encourages mold, mildew and insects, all of which can damage your furniture. So, if you want your furniture to last, try to get into the habit of cleaning your patio on a regular basis.

Patio Furniture Covers

Of course, you can also prolong the life of your patio furniture by covering it. Most home improvement stores sell vinyl covers for patio furniture. You can toss them over your furniture, protecting it from rain, insects, hail and more.

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/

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9 Must-Have Items for an Outdoor Living Space

Outdoor living isn’t just another fly-by-night trend that’s here today and gone tomorrow. It’s here to stay — and for good reason. Patios, porches, decks, gardens and other outdoor living spaces allow homeowners and families to enjoy the outdoors. But if you want to take advantage of your home’s outdoor living space, you should include the following “must-have” items.

#1) Lighting

When the sun goes down, you’ll need lighting to illuminate your outdoor living space. Granted, you may already have an overhead fixture available, assuming it’s a patio or back deck. However, you can still incorporate other, more stylish lighting options into your outdoor living space. This includes string lights, globe lights and free-standing lamps. Just remember to stick with an energy-efficient bulb type, such as compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). While CFL bulbs cost more than incandescent, they last longer and consume less energy, making them a smart financial investment in the long run.

#2) Insect Protection

Depending on where you live, you may have trouble enjoying your outdoor living space due to the presence of insects. Mosquitoes, for instance, are a common occurrence throughout the Southeast. Although small in size, these blood-sucking insects can create serious chaos for homeowners and their families. There are a few ways to keep them away from your outdoor living space, however. One option is to enclosure the space with a mesh screen. Alternatively, you can install citronella tiki torches around your outdoor living space. Either way, you need some form of insect protection to enjoy this space.

#3) Fire Pit

A third must-have item for an outdoor living space is a fire pit. This versatile, multi-purpose item will open the doors to a whole new world of activities for you and your family. With a fire pit, you can grill foods, roast marshmallows, create warmth and provide a more relaxing ambiance. And unlike a fireplace, you can always move your fire pit to a new location. Perhaps this is why fire pits consistently rank as one of the top accessories for outdoor living spaces.

#4) Shade

It’s also a good idea to incorporate some type of share over your outdoor living space. Whether it’s a table-top umbrella, awning or a newly constructed roof, shade is an invaluable component for a relaxing and enjoyable outdoor living space. Without shade, the blistering-hot summer sun can make it difficult to fully enjoy this space.

#6) Seating

You can’t expect to fully enjoy your home’s outdoor living space without comfortable seating. Don’t just toss some old plastic chairs here and call it a day. Instead, consider using more comfortable, stylish chairs that flow cohesively with the space’s decor. High-quality wood chairs are always an excellent choice, although they typically require staining to protect against mildew and mold. One exception is teak wood, which contains natural oils that repel mildew, mold and decay. Alternatively, another idea is to use wicker chairs. We talk about wicker chairs in a previous blog post, but basically they consist of woven organic material that’s lightweight and inexpensive. The only downside to using wicker furniture is its susceptibility to damage.

#7) Storage Chest

Why do you need a storage chest for your outdoor living space? Well, to store small items when you aren’t using them. Assuming you use your fire pit to cook foods, for instance, you’ll probably need a wire grill brush and tongs. If you have a storage chest, you can stash these and other similar-sized items inside. A popular storage solution for patios and other outdoor living spaces is a storage ottoman. Like indoor storage ottomans, it doubles as a footrest and storage chest. You can place it in front of your chairs or seating to use a footrest. And when you’re ready to go inside, you can lift the top to stash small items inside.

#8) Outdoor Rug

You should also include an outdoor rug in your outdoor living space. A rug will define your outdoor living space while adding new color and style to the decor in the process.  Keep in mind that any rugs used in your outdoor living space should be made of a synthetic material that’s not going to mildew or otherwise become damaged from the outdoor elements. Traditional all-wool rugs are a poor choice. Instead, synthetic materials like polypropylene are recommended. You’ll still need to wash your outdoor rug on a regular basis, but it shouldn’t sustain damage from being outdoors.

#9) Table

Finally, your outdoor living space needs a table. It doesn’t have to be a full-sized table. On the contrary, smaller tables often look and function better in small spaces. You can use your table to place drinks, plates and other items. However, you should choose a table that matches the chairs and surrounding decor.

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/

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7 Reasons to Include Trees in Your Landscape

Trees are an invaluable element of a home’s landscape. Unfortunately, some homeowners view them as nothing more than added maintenance, so they avoid growing them. However, trees can benefit your home and landscape in several ways, some of which we’re going to discuss in this blog post.

#1) Creates a Shaded, Cooler Outdoor Space

Thanks to the natural shade they produce, adding trees to your landscape will create a cooler outdoor space. The actual temperature underneath a tree isn’t lower than a non-shaded area. However, it feels cooler here because there’s less solar radiation. The temperature of a shaded area and non-shaded area are the same, but the former feels cooler due to the lack of solar radiation. So, growing trees on your landscape will create a cooler outdoor space for you and your family to enjoy.

#2) Encourages Outdoor Living

Of course, trees also encourage outdoor living. It’s difficult to fully enjoy your home’s outdoor living space in the summer with the blistering-hot sun. As the mercury rises, you and your family may be forced to seek shelter from the heat. This isn’t an issue if your landscape has trees, however. The natural shade will keep you and your family cool while also protecting against sunburn. As a result, you’ll be able to fully enjoy your home’s outdoor living space.

#3) Increases Home Value

Can growing trees in your landscape really increase your home’s value? Quite possibly. The Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers (CTLA) says that a single mature tree adds roughly $1,000 to $10,000 to the respective home’s property value. Other studies have shown that homes with an attractive landscape are worth 10% to 15% more than their counterparts with poorly designed landscapes. The bottom line is that homebuyers want landscapes with trees, so growing them in your landscape can potentially raise your property’s selling value.

#4) Lowers Stress

You might be surprised to learn that trees can lower psychological stress. Statistics show that 77% of U.S. adults experience physical symptoms caused by psychological stress, some of which include high blood pressure, sweating, headaches and trouble sleeping. When symptoms such as these manifest, it can affect other aspects of your life. Growing trees in your landscape, however, can help by lowering your stress levels and potentially eliminating some of the symptoms associated with stress.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong and University of Illinois conducted a study in which participants were asked to rate their level of stress after viewing images of forests in varying densities. Researchers found that the participants were the least stressed after viewing the most dense forests. Basically, viewing images of trees and forests reduced participants’ stress levels by making them feel calmer and more relaxed.

#5) Promotes Energy Efficiency

There are countless ways to reduce energy usage in a typical home, including the use of compact fluorescent lighting (CFL), installing blackout curtains, low-flow showerheads, and adding extra insulation to the basement and attic. However, growing trees in your landscape can also reduce your home’s energy usage. The National Arbor Day Foundation (NADF) explains by saying that trees planted on the east, west and northwest sides of a home will lower its cooling needs during the summer by up to 35%. Trees essentially prevent solar radiation from reaching the windows and siding; thus, keeping the home cooler and subsequently taking some of the burden off the central air conditioning system.

And don’t assume that it will take a tree forever to grow. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a 6- to 8-foot deciduous tree will begin shading the home in its first year. Furthermore, trees typically begin shading the home’s roof within 5 to 10 years. So, go ahead and plant a tree today if you want to reap its energy-saving benefits.

#6) Low Maintenance

Trees require very little work or time to maintain. Unlike grass or flowers, you typically don’t have to water or fertilize trees. The only exception is during a young tree’s first few seasons, in which case you should water it. Once the tree has matured, however, the only maintenance you’ll need to do is inspecting it for disease and damage, as well as occasionally pruning away unnecessary branches. Other than this, trees don’t require much effort to maintain.

#7) Creates Cleaner Air

Finally, growing trees in your landscape will create cleaner air. Just because the air looks clean outside your home, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. Air pollution is a serious threat that’s particularly problematic in busy cities. Growing trees, however, is one of the easiest way to promote cleaner air. Trees absorb airborne pollutants, such as nitrogen, ammonia and sulfur dioxide, and they also release fresh oxygen back into the atmosphere. This, of course, is one of the reasons why many cities and municipalities grow them.

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/

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How to Create an Outdoor Living Space On a Budget

70% Seventy percent of all homes in the United States have an outdoor living space, and roughly 70% of these households use their outdoor living space at least once per week, according to a study conducted by the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA). An outdoor living space allows homeowners and family members to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Rather than staying cooped up indoors, they can go outside to cook, host parties or simply relax.

However, one of the most common reasons cited by homeowners for not creating an outdoor living space is the cost. Some homeowners assume that outdoor living spaces are too expensive to create. Like most renovations, it usually requires an upfront monetary investment, but there are ways to reduce these costs. So, if you want to create an outdoor living space without breaking into your savings account, check out the following tips.

Create a Privacy Screen with Lattice

You don’t have to spend a fortune on an expensive privacy fence for your outdoor living space. An easy do-it-yourself alternative that costs a fraction of the price is a lattice fence. You can typically buy large panels of lattice for about $10 to $50 bucks a piece. Using just a few of these panels, you can create an attractive privacy fence that’s perfect for your outdoor living space.

When choosing lattice for your outdoor living space, make sure it’s pressure treated to protect against rot, decay and termites. Additionally, consider the color and how it conforms to the surrounding decor. The color of the lattice should flow cohesively with the space’s decor.

Use a Portable Fire Pit, Not a Fireplace

No outdoor living space is complete without a source of fire. When the sun goes down and the temperatures drop, a fire will allow you and your family to continue enjoying this space. If you’re on a budget, though, you should choose a portable fire pit instead of a fireplace.

As explained by ImproveNet, the average cost of a professionally installed outdoor fireplace in the United States is between $1,400 and $20,000. A more budget-friendly solution is a portable fire pit. High-quality fire pits are available for just a few hundred bucks. As an added bonus, you can easily move them to different areas — something that can’t be said for an outdoor fireplace.

Clone Plants

You can enhance the decor of your outdoor living space by adding some potted plants to it. Before buying new plants at your local gardening center, however, try cloning some existing plants in your landscape. Cloning involving cutting a steam off a parent plant and placing it in damp compost, either with or without growth hormones. When done correctly, the stem will grow into a new plant. It may sound difficult, but it’s actually pretty easy. And best of all, it allows you to grow new plants for your outdoor living space without paying a dime (except for the pots and containers).

Patio Umbrella

If your outdoor living space isn’t shaded or covered, consider investing in a large patio umbrella. This otherwise simple accessory will protect you and your family from the sun’s blinding rays as well as rain, snow and falling leaves.

You can find patio umbrellas available in free-standing models or table-attached models. Free-standing patio umbrellas are designed to stand upright on their own, without the need for additional support. A table-attached umbrella, on the other hand, is designed to sit atop a table, covering the surrounding space. Both styles are perfectly fine, though the former usually costs more than the latter.

Seating

Perhaps the most important element of an outdoor living space is seating. Without seating, neither you nor anyone else will be able to enjoy this extension of your home. You can check out some of our previous blog posts for more ideas on outdoor seating, though some of the top choices include wicker chairs, teak lounges, benches, hammocks, Adirondack chairs and swings.

Use Tall Decorative Accessories

According to the decorating experts at HGTV, you can enhance the decor of small outdoor living spaces by using tall decorative accessories. Tall vases or bamboo plants in a container, for instance, create the perception of a larger and more open area. Furthermore, tall decorative accessories such as these add color and vibrancy to the surrounding space.

Paint or Finish Furniture

If your existing outdoor furniture is approaching the end of its lifespan, you might be able to squeeze a little more use of out it by painting or finishing it. Buying an new set of outdoor furniture can be expensive. However, painting and finishing is a cheap alternative to revitalize your old, aged furniture. Just remember to choose a color that matches out outdoor living space’s existing decor.

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/

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9 DIY Projects to Improve Your Home’s Exterior

If you want the best looking house in the neighborhood, you need to spend some time cleaning and improving the exterior. While there are plenty of professional service providers out there, there are also projects you can do yourself. Here are the top nine do-it-yourself projects to improve your home’s exterior.

#1) Create an Outdoor Living Space

Assuming you don’t already have one, create an outdoor living space on your property. According to the Spring Houzz Landscaping Survey, 56% of homeowners plan on improving their yards for entertainment. You can instantly improve the aesthetics and functionality of your home’s exterior by designing an outdoor living space. For instance, this may include a basic lounging area with chairs, benches and a fire pit.

#2) Clean Gutters

When was the last time that you cleaned your gutters? Experts recommend cleaning them between two and four times a year, depending on the surrounding trees. If you have lots of overhanging trees, you should clean them four times a year; otherwise, twice annually should suffice. Failure to clean your gutters will result in the accumulation of leaves and debris on your roof. While this may seem harmless enough, all of that debris can hold moisture can contribute to rot/decay.

#3) Clean Windows

Cleaning your home’s windows can instantly improve its curb appeal. Over time, windows will attract dirt, mildew and grime. Thankfully, this won’t harm the windows’ structural integrity, but it will leave your home looking dirty. Using a half-and-half combination of hot water and distilled vinegar, thoroughly coat your windows and wipe them down. For tall, hard-to-reach windows, use an squeegee with an extension handle. Don’t just clean the outside of the windows; be sure to clean the inside as well.

#4) Install a Ceiling Fan

If you really want to create a comfortable outdoor living space — and enhance your home’s exterior in the process — install a ceiling fan on the patio. Aside from any electrical wiring costs, you can buy a basic ceiling fan for about $50 bucks. Once installed, it will make your patio cooler and more comfortable. And since it’s placed near the front door, a ceiling fan will boost the aesthetics of your home’s exterior, possibly even raising its value.

#5) Finish the Deck

Finishing a wood deck offers several benefits. First, it reinvigorates old, sun-faded decks with new color. Secondly, it protects the deck from mold and decay. There are several different finishes from which to choose, however. If you prefer the current look of your deck but still want protection from mold and decay, you can use a clear finish. On the other hand, if you want to darken your deck with a new color, you can use a stain finish. When staining a deck, the most important thing is to keep it dry and dust-free. If it’s wet, the finish won’t stick. If it’s dusty, imperfections will show.

#6) Pressure-Wash

Pressure-washing the siding of your home can make a world of difference in its appearance. Whether the siding is vinyl, brick, stone, synthetic stone, fiber cement, etc., it’s a simple and effective way to improve your home’s exterior. Also known as “power-washing,” it involves the use of a pressurized water to remove stubborn dirt and debris.

#7) Paint Exterior Trim

Painting your home’s exterior may sound a bit too tedious and time consuming. However, you can still improve your home’s exterior by painting just the trim. It’s not uncommon for homes to feature white trim with an alternate color for the siding. Going over the trim with a fresh coat of paint is a simple and inexpensive way to make your home look cleaner and more attractive.

#8) Replaced Damaged Shingles

If you have damaged or missing shingles on your home’s roof, consider replacing them. Granted, a single missing shingle shouldn’t cause any serious problems. If your roof is missing several, however, water may seep through the roof and into your home. Of course, this can lead to a world of other problems, including mold and structural damage. This is why it’s recommended that you inspect your roof for damaged shingles on a regular basis. And if you discover any, replace them as soon as possible.

#9) Patio Furniture

Finally, updating your patio with new furniture can enhance your home’s exterior. You can check out some of our previous blog posts for outdoor furniture ideas, though some of the most popular choices include teak lounge chairs, Adirondack chairs, benches and wicker furniture. Just remember to stick with a cohesive theme when choosing patio furniture.

Following these tips will help you create a more attractive home. Best of all, you can do these projects yourself. So, the next time you’re sitting around the house with nothing to do, head outside to perform one of these projects.

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/

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Guide to Outdoor Teak Furniture

Outdoor furniture is available in a wide range of materials, including bamboo, wicker, cast iron, plastic, concrete, wood and more. However, one of the most versatile materials in which outdoor furniture is made is teak. Found throughout Southeast Asia, teak (Tectona grandis) offers some qualities and characteristics that simply aren’t found in other materials. To learn more about teak and why it’s the perfect material for outdoor furniture, keep reading.

About the Teak Tree

Teak is a deciduous tree that grows up to 131 feet tall. It has gray and brown branches with green leaves and white flowers. The flowers of the teak tree are believed to be pollinated by insects. A study conducted in 1996 found that Ceratina bees were the main pollinator of teak flowers in Thailand.

The wood harvested from the teak tree is brown and red, usually with various spots of darkness and lightness. It’s a hard, porous wood with a density of approximately 720 kg/m3.

Different Types of Teak Furniture

Teak is used to make a variety of outdoor furniture, some of which includes:

  • Tables
  • Dining chairs
  • Benches
  • Chaise lounges
  • Adirondack chairs
  • Stools
  • Umbrella frames
  • and more…

Teak is also commonly used to make boats. Its buoyant characteristics combined with a natural resistance to mold and rot make it a viable material for constructing boats.

Why Choose Outdoor Teak Furniture

So, why should you choose outdoor teak furniture over other types? First and foremost, it offers a premium, high-end style that’s guaranteed to enhance your patio or outdoor living space. As shown above, teak is a clean, structurally intact material that looks amazing. Regardless of your personal style, there’s no denying the innate beauty of genuine teak. It’s the perfect way to upgrade your patio and create a more vibrant, aesthetically pleasing environment. However, the stylish appearance of teak is just one of many reasons why it’s such an excellent choice of material for outdoor furniture.

Teak furniture is also long lasting. It’s not uncommon for teak benches, chairs and other furniture to last for 70 years when properly maintained. In comparison, a similar type of furniture made of wicker may only last five to 10 years. If you want furniture that’s going to withstand the hands of time for countless years to come, you can’t go wrong with teak. Granted, plastic and various synthetic materials will also last a long time, but they don’t offer the same stylish appearance as teak.

Perhaps the most notable benefit of teak furniture is its natural resistance of mold, mildew and decay. Usually, only synthetic materials are protected against fungi and subsequent rot. Teak, however, is unique because it’s a form of hardwood. Teak wood contains natural oils that allow it to survive in tropical, humid climates. In addition to helping it survive harsh climates, these natural oils protect it from mold, mildew, decay and even certain types of pests. As a result, you can leave teak furniture outside year-round without fear of it becoming damaged.

Sun Fading

If you plan on buying teak furniture for your patio or outdoor living area, you’ll need to decide whether or not to treat it with a finish. While teak doesn’t rot or otherwise sustain damage when left outdoors for long periods of time, it will fade when exposed to sunlight. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays will turn its rich brown color to a soft grayish silver. Again, this fading doesn’t affect its strength or structural integrity; it only affects its appearance.

Some people prefer the vintage look of naturally aged teak. Others, however, prefer the original color of teak. If you want to keep your teak furniture looking new and protect it from sun fading, you have one of two options from which to choose: you can either store your teak furniture under a covered/shaded area, or your can apply a finish to it. Visit your local home improvement store to find a finish or varnish for your teak furniture.

Caring for and Maintaining Teak Furniture

Teak furniture requires little maintenance, which of course is one of the reasons why it’s so popular. With that said, you should still perform some basic cleaning to preserve its pristine appearance. You can usually clean teak furniture by wiping it down with a damp washcloth and a small amount of dish soap. Avoid power washing

There’s also teak oil that’s designed specifically for teak furniture. Teak oil, however, is not the actual oils contained in teak wood. Instead, it usually consists of linseed oil. When applied to teak, it adds a barrier of protection over the wood, further protecting it from damage as well as sun fading. You can buy teak oil at most furniture stores and home improvement stores.

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/

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How to Winterize Your Patio

Is your patio prepared for the upcoming winter season? With winter comes cooler temperatures, drier air and the possibility of snowfall, all of which can affect your patio. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stop using your patio for the season. Rather, you should take the necessary steps to “winterize” it beforehand. Doing so will allow you and your family to enjoy this outdoor extension of your home throughout the year.

Clean It

The first step in winterizing a patio is to clean it. Using a broom or leaf blower, remove any lingering leaves, pine straw or branches that have fallen on your patio. Neglecting this otherwise simple step can result in a stained patio deck. Moisture will accumulate in this debris, causing colored compounds to leave onto and into your deck.

Cover Grill and Fire Pit

If you have a grill or fire pit on your patio (or both), you should cover it with a protective tarp. Depending on where you live, you may not receive much rain during this time of year. However, you may still receive some snowfall — and that snow can cause metallic objects like a grill or fire pit to rust. Covering them with a vinyl tarp prevents the intrusion of water while protecting against rust and corrosion.

Alternatively, you may want to bring your grill or fire pit indoors for the winter. Bringing a large grill indoors isn’t always feasible, though. But if you own a small, portable fire pit, you can certainly bring it indoors. Just remember to wait a full 48 hours after lighting it to ensure it’s fully cooled before bringing it inside.

Stain with Water Repellent

You can further protect your patio from damage by staining it with a water repellent product. Most home improvement stores, including Lowe’s and Home Depot, sell a variety of water-repellent stains. You typically apply them just like paint, and once they are finished drying, it creates a waterproof barrier over your patio. Staining a full-sized patio is somewhat tedious and time-consuming, so be prepared to invest a full 1-2 days to this project.

Protect Patio Furniture

When winterizing your patio, you’ll need to take measures to protect your furniture from damage. Generally speaking, the material from which the furniture is made will determine the best method of winterizing it. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common patio furniture materials and how to winterize them.

  • Plastic: the most “robust” material, plastic furniture requires little maintenance, nor does it need any protection from the winter elements.
  • Wicker: susceptible to damage when left outdoors for long periods of time; bring wicker furniture indoors for the winter.
  • Teak: whether it’s treated or not, furniture made of genuine teak wood is naturally protected against the winter elements thanks to its concentration of water and rot-repellent oils.
  • Aluminum: furniture made of aluminum should either be brought indoors or coated with a layer of automotive wax.
  • Fabrics: unfortunately, fabric furniture is highly susceptible to damage when left outdoors, so bring it indoors for the winter.

Take Down Umbrellas

Patio umbrellas offer an excellent source of shade. Whether they are secured to a table or to the patio deck, it’s a great way to enhance your patio. For the winter, however, you should take down any umbrellas overhanging your patio. If it happens to snow, excess snow may accumulate on the umbrella, causing it to buckle and sustain damage.

Bring Potted Plants Indoors

If you have potted plants on your patio, go ahead and bring them indoors. While different plants are more tolerant to cold weather than others, it’s usually best to err on the side of caution by bringing them all indoors. Placing them in a sunny location next to a large window will ensure they stay warm throughout the winter season.

Winterize Outdoor Plants

Of course, you may not be able to bring all of your plants indoors. Assuming you have plants growing in the ground near your patio, you should follow some basic precautions to help them survive winter. Adding a layer of mulch around the base of your flowers, plants and trees, for instance, is a simple and effective safeguard for the winter weather. Mulch acts as natural insulation, reducing the loss of heat while subsequently protecting against frost shock.

For evergreen plants, consider making a burlap shield. Evergreens are particularly susceptible to cold weather damage, as sub-freezing temperatures prevent the roots from absorbing water. And if they aren’t getting water, they will likely turn brown and die. To prevent this from happening, set up four stakes around your evergreens, securing a burlap screen to the stakes. In addition to keeping your evergreens warm, this also serves as a windbreak, protecting your plants from strong winds.

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/

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8 Ways to Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Curb appeal refers to the collective landscape, colors, furnishings and other visual elements of a home’s exterior. By investing in a little time and energy into your home’s curb appeal, you’ll create a more pleasing outdoor environment for you and your family to enjoy. Furthermore, studies show that home’s with an attractive curb appeal have a higher selling value than their counterparts with little-to-no curb appeal. So, whether you plan on staying in your home or selling it, you should follow the tips listed below to enhance its exterior.

#1) Repaint the Front Door

A fresh coat of paint on the front door can make a world of difference in your home’s curb appeal. Over time, paint will fade due to sun exposure, resulting in a lackluster appearance. Your home’s once fiery-red front door may now have more of a dark maroon tone. With a gallon of paint and a brush, however, you can revitalize it with new color.

#2) Create an Attractive Entryway

In addition to repainting the front door, you should also decorate the area around the front door. If you have a wooden patio deck, ensure that all boards are secure and not loose or otherwise damaged. Next, place a doormat in front of the door, using a color that corresponds with the surrounding decor. You can also enhance your home’s entryway by adding attractive light fixtures, door knobs and planters.

#3) Touch Up the Mailbox

A commonly overlooked element of curb appeal is the mailbox. While it may seem insignificant compared to the front door and entryway, the mailbox still plays an instrumental role in setting the tone for your home’s exterior. The real estate experts as Zillow recommend using a heavy-duty “premium” mailbox along with statement house numbers. A high-quality mailbox should only cost about $150 to $300, while house numbers run about $5 to $10 a piece. For the price, it’s a smart investment that will pay off in the form of a better looking home.

#3) Lounge Furniture

While there are dozens of different seating and furniture options from which to choose when designing your home’s exterior, lounge furniture is arguably one of the best. According to the 2017 Houzz Landscape Study, lounge furniture is the most popular outdoor living element among homeowners. As the name suggests, lounge furniture places an emphasis on comfort and relaxation. A chaise lounge, for instance, features a long and adjustable reclining back. Often made of premium teak hardwood, it’s the perfect addition to any patio or outdoor living space.

#4) Add Mulch to Flowerbeds

Adding a layer of mulch to your flowerbeds will create a cleaner and more complete curb appeal while also protecting your flowers from frost. In winter, the sub-freezing temperatures can send flowers into a state of shock, causing them to either go dormant or die. With a layer of mulch, however, your flowers will have an extra layer of protection from the winter weather. Mulch acts as insulation, reducing the rate at which your flowers lose heat. Most importantly, though, mulch prevents the growth and intrusion of weeds; thus, creating a cleaner and more attractive landscape for your home.

#5) Firepit

In addition to lounge furniture, another accessory to consider using on your patio or outdoor living space is a fire pit. According to the same Houzz Landscape Study cited above, fire pits are the second most popular outdoor living element; they are even more popular than grills and patio heaters. Installing a fire pit on your patio will create a more “lived in” appearance while also providing functional benefits in the process. With a fire pit, you can cook, roast marshmallows or simply enjoy a quiet evening with friends or family.

#6) Manicure Shrubs

Of course, you should also manicure any shrubs and trees in your home’s landscape. Neglecting this basic form of lawn maintenance will result in overgrown brush, which doesn’t exactly help your home’s curb appeal. Whether you do it yourself or choose to hire a professional landscaper, you need to manicure all trees and shrubs on your property.

#7) Container Plants

A few strategically planed container plants can brighten your home’s curb appeal. Even if you have flowers or plants growing around your home, you should still consider adding container plants next to the front door. Doing so adds color and vibrancy, which can help define your home’s exterior decor.

#8) Pressure-Wash It

Finally, consider pressure-washing your home’s exterior. Depending on the material of which it’s constructed, it may develop mildew, dirt and grime. A simple solution, however, is to pressure-wash it. The pressurized stream of water will make easy work of even the dirtiest siding. And for stubborn areas, you can pre-treat it with soap or detergent for maximum cleaning power.

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/

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Guide to Wicker Patio Furniture

If you’re planning to update your patio with new furniture, you’ll need to choose the right material. Patio furniture is designed using a wide range of materials. However, one of the most popular is wicker.

What is Wicker?

While most people have seen or at least heard of wicker, few know what the material really is. As shown in the photo to the left, wicker furniture is characterized by a woven design, typically using natural cane materials like rattan, reed, bamboo or willow. Because of this, wicker isn’t a material itself. Instead, it’s a type of furniture featuring a woven design with one or more cane-like materials.

It’s a little-known fact that wicker has origins dating back to Ancient Egypt, specifically around 3,000 BC. Archeologists have unearthed wicker furniture made of reed and grasses from the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. The reed and grasses used in the wicker furniture were native to the surrounding Nile river. In addition to furniture, Egyptians also made wicker baskets, wig boxes, toys and other items.

Characteristics of Wicker Patio Furniture

While this doesn’t apply to all types of wicker furniture, most have some common characteristics, including the following:

  • Lightweight, often weighing just five to 10 pounds
  • Wicker chairs have wide armrests
  • White or neutral colors
  • Unique woven design
  • Stylish appearance

Natural vs Synthetic Wicker Furniture

Most wicker furniture is made of natural, organic plant matter, such as reed or rattan. However, some are made of a synthetic material. Also known as “resin wicker,” synthetic wicker furniture is made of PVC, nylon, polyethylene or a combination thereof. These are the same synthetic materials that you’ll find in other furniture, especially outdoor patio furniture.

To the unsuspecting eye, both natural and synthetic wicker appear similar. They have the same woven construction with similar-looking material. However, natural wicker furniture is made of organic material, whereas synthetic wicker is made of inorganic, man-made material. This is the fundamental difference distinguishing the two.

Benefits of Wicker Patio Furniture

So, why should you use wicker furniture on your patio? Wicker offers several noteworthy benefits, one of which is aesthetic value. With its woven construction, wicker furniture will enhance your patio decor to create a more attractive living space. This isn’t something you’ll find in other types of furniture either. On the contrary, only wicker furniture boasts this unique woven design, which is one of the reasons why homeowners choose it for their patio.

As previously mentioned, wicker furniture is also lightweight. It may take two people to move a heavy hardwood lounge chair, but wicker chairs are easily moved by just a single person. Therefore, you shouldn’t have a problem moving it. If you want to bring your wicker furniture inside, for instance, you can easily do so without straining your back.

Furthermore, wicker furniture is relatively inexpensive when compared to other types of furniture. If you’re looking to decorate your patio without spending a fortune, you should consider wicker for this very reason.

Disadvantages of Wicker Patio Furniture

There are also some disadvantages to using wicker patio furniture, however. Compared to other types of outdoor furniture, wicker is somewhat large and bulky. Assuming you have a large patio, this shouldn’t be a problem. But if you have a small patio with limited space, you may want to choose a different type of furniture.

Natural wicker furniture is also susceptible to damage. Granted, synthetic resin furniture can sustain damage too, but it’s stronger and more durable than its counterpart. Over time, it’s not uncommon for natural wicker furniture to become torn and unraveled. And when this happens, there’s usually no easy way to fix it.

Wicker Patio Furniture Tips

If you’re interested in using wicker furniture on your patio, you should first plan the design. In other words, determine what pieces of wicker furniture you want to use and where you want to use them. Wicker chairs are always an excellent choice, though you’ll also find wicker sofas and recliners as well.

Sitting on a hard wicker surface isn’t exactly comfortable. Thankfully, most manufacturers offer soft cushions with their wicker furniture. Depending on the company, however, you may have to pay extra for it. If you intend to use the wicker furniture for decorative purposes only, you probably don’t need the cushions. But if you plan on sitting and using the furniture — which you probably will — it’s recommended that you invest in cushions.

Whether it’s natural or synthetic, all wicker furniture is lightweight. And because of its lightweight properties, it may blow over during storms and bad weather. To prevent this from happening, you should either anchor it to your patio or bring it indoors before it storms. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of wicker patio furniture.

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/

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Exploring Common Porch Designs for Residential Homes

Are you thinking about adding a porch to your home? If so, you’ll need to choose the right type. While all porches are outdoor extensions of a home, there are different types of porches with their own unique characteristics.

Rain Porch

Also known as a Carolina porch in reference to its popularity in the Southeastern United States, a rain porch is a type of porch with a roof extending beyond the edge of the deck. It’s usually supported with large columns that originate from the ground instead of the porch deck. Rain porches are often preferred because of their strength and durability. The extended roof protects the porch from rain, snow and the elements while also providing a natural source of shade to homeowners and family members.

The downside to using a rain porch, however, is that they can be difficult to construct. The columns used for support must be built into the ground, adding another level of difficulty to the construction process. Nonetheless, a rain porch is an excellent porch design for areas prone to bad weather.

Rain porches are often seen in historic southern homes. However, they are also seen in Green Revival homes like Rosemount.

Screened Porch

Also known as a screened-in porch, a screened porch is characterized by a screened enclosure. The walls separating the inside of the porch from the outside consist of a mesh screen material. Because of this design, screened porches offer several noteworthy benefits, including protection from insects and debris as well as privacy.

Screened porches can also be used for sleeping when the power goes out. The mesh screen walls allow air to flow through but not insects or debris. So, sleeping on a screened porch can be cooler and more comfortable during the summer if the power goes out.

Sleeping Porch

A sleeping porch features similar design characteristics as a screened porch. It typically features mesh screen walls that protect against insects and debris. However, the key difference between a screened porch and sleeping porch is that the latter is more finished. Sleeping porches often feature furniture and decorations. While most sleeping porches feature mesh screen walls, some have actual solid walls instead.

Sleeping porches have origins dating back hundreds of years, during which families would sleep outside to stay cool. Long before air conditioning had been invented, families would use sleep on sleeping porches during the hot summer months. Like a screened porch, the mesh walls allow air to flow through the patio while also keeping the bugs out. Sleeping porches became particularly popular around the turn of the 20th century ago. Back then, it was widely believed that sleeping outdoors would benefit individuals suffering from tuberculosis, as the fresh air would cleanse their respiratory system and subsequently ease some of the symptoms of this potentially deadly disease.

Portico

A lesser used porch design is the portico. Originating from Ancient Italy, it’s characterized by a tall height and supporting columns or colonnades. Portico porches were often in contemporary Italian architecture, though they’ve since made their way into other architectural styles.

Portico porches are often prized for their aesthetics and attention to detail. The large columns add a unique touch to the porch’s style that compliments the home and surrounding landscape. Furthermore, the columns used in its construction are heavy duty, allowing for ample support of the porch roof.

There are several different variations of the portico porch, each of which is characterized by the style of columns. The hexastyle, for instance, features six columns, whereas the octastyle features eight columns. There’s also a decastyle, which features 10 columns.

Veranda

The veranda porch design is characterized by a partial enclosure with rails extending in front of the porch and to the sides of the porch.  Many houses in the Southern United States feature this type of porch.

The veranda porch doesn’t have mesh screen walls, but it still allows for a cool environment thanks to its openness. Additionally, construction is relatively easy and simple.

Sun Porch

Finally, a sun porch is a type of porch that’s designed to protect against weather. It often resembles an actual room, featuring walls, ceilings and glass windows. Sun porches, however, are designed as an extension to the home and not as part of the home itself.

Some sun porches are also designed with glass windows built into the ceiling. Like a sun room, this allows sun to penetrate through and into the porch; thus, promoting thermal warmth while keeping bugs and debris out.

These are just a few of the most common types of porches. Of course, some porch designs don’t fall under any of these categories. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to create a custom-designed porch based on their own specifications.

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/

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How to Keep Pesky Bugs Away from Your Patio

It’s hard to enjoy an evening out on your patio when you’re constantly being attacked by pests. Whether it’s mosquitoes, gnats, bees, etc., they can prevent you from enjoying this outdoor extension of your home. And while there’s no way to completely avoid all pests, there are ways to discourage them from being on your patio.

Grow Garlic in Containers

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a relatively small bulbous plant that’s easy to grow. Aside from its countless culinary purposes — used primarily as a seasoning — it also works as a natural insect repellent. Place some garlic plants in potted containers, arranging them around the area of your patio where you sit. The natural chemicals produced by the garlic plants deters mosquitoes and other insects, all while adding color and life to your patio in the process.

Other insect-repelling plants to consider growing on your patio include the following:

  • Basil
  • Lemon balm
  • Pennyroyal
  • Lavender
  • Marigold
  • Pineapple weed
  • Tansy
  • Rosemary
  • Tea tree

Remove Standing Water

If you have a mosquitoes problem on your patio, check to see if there are any standing pools of water around your home. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in containers that collect water, including buckets, overturned furniture, cups, gardening tools and water pitchers. Even small amounts of standing water can yield hundreds to thousands of new mosquitoes. Therefore, you need to remove all standing pools of water from around your home. Without water-logged breeding grounds, female mosquitoes will look elsewhere to lay their eggs.

Citronella Tiki Torches

Tiki torches are a fun and unique decorative accessory for the patio. Featuring a wick atop a source of fuel, they will enhance your patio’s aesthetics while also illuminating the surrounding environment. Rather than using just any tiki torch, however, consider using citronella torches. They look and function just like a regular tiki torch, but they contain citronella oil mixed into the fuel. So, when you light it, it releases insect-repelling citronella oil into the air; thus, helping to keep your patio insect free.

Alternatively, you can make your own citronella candles for use on your patio or elsewhere. This involves melting beeswax, pouring it into a mason jar with an affixed wick, and mixing in a few drops of citronella oil. Once the candles have hardened, you can light for them instant insect relief.

Light a Fire Pit

Sometimes all you need is a little smoke to keep the bugs away from your patio. Insects hate smoke, preferring to keep their distance even if it means missing out on a meal.

Building a campfire on your patio is out of the question, though a viable alternative is to use a fire pit, such as those offered here at S&S Fire Pit. If you’re lighting a fire pit for the purpose of deterring bugs and insects, try using wood with a higher moisture content. Normally, it’s best to use dry, seasoned wood, as it burns the easiest and most efficiently. Wet wood, however, is particularly effective at keeping bugs away because it produces more smoke. Just remember to supervise your fire at all times.

Screened Patio Enclosure

Of course, another solution to keep mosquitoes, gnats, bees and other pests away from your patio is to use a screened enclosure. As shown in the photo to the right, a screened enclosure creates a barrier between your patio and the outside elements. Without a roof, rain may still drip onto your patio, but insects won’t be able to break through.

There are a few downsides to using a screened enclosure, one of which is the cost. Depending on the size of your patio and the type of enclosure, it may cost up to $1,000 (or more). An enclosure may also restrict access to your patio. These are just a few things to consider when deciding whether or not an enclosure is a good idea.

Turn on the Fan

Turning on a fan can help keep your patio free of pests. Whether it’s an overhead fan or standalone oscillating fan, the increased airflow will literally blow insects off your patio.

Sodium Vapor Lights

Ever notice how insects migrate towards your patio lights? Sure you have! Most insects are attracted to light, which is why you see them buzzing around bulbs at night. Rather than turning off your patio lights, however, you can deter insects by replacing traditional incandescent white bulbs with sodium vapor bulbs.

Sodium vapor bulbs use sodium in an activated and “excited” estate to produce light, typically with a wavelength of roughly 589 nm. Technical jargon aside, they produce a more yellowed-colored light as opposed to the white light of an incandescent bulb. And because of their yellow light, sodium vapor bulbs don’t attract insects. As a side benefit, they also consume less energy than their incandescent counterpart.

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/

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Comparing the Different Types of Patio Covers

A patio offers the perfect area to host parties, barbecues and other outdoor gatherings. Rather than staying cooped up indoors, you can go outside to enjoy the fresh air. But it’s difficult to fully enjoy your patio when it’s exposed to direct sunlight. Without some form of protection, the sun will beat down, creating an uncomfortably hot environment. Thankfully, there are ways to protect your patio from the sun’s glaring light, including the use of a patio cover.

Lattice

An inexpensive and easy-to-install patio cover is lattice. Also known as latticework, it consists of a crossed patterns of wood that offer moderate cover with an emphasis on aesthetics. Some light will still shine through, so it’s not going to completely protect your patio. With that said, some homeowners prefer lattice because of this, as the light helps to illuminate the space without relying on artificial lighting.

You can buy lattice at most home improvement and gardening stores, though costs vary depending on the specific material from which it’s made (e.g. wood, metal, etc.). Before investing in lattice, compare prices at multiple stores to determine which one offers the best deal for your patio project.

Vinyl

Vinyl patio covers have become increasingly popular in recent years. Made of polyvinyl chloride — the same material used to make PVC piping — it’s strong, durable and able to withstand countless years of use. Like all vinyl materials, vinyl patio covers are completely waterproof and rustproof. So, you don’t have to worry about it succumbing to the elements after just a few months.

A disadvantage to using a vinyl patio cover, however, is its lackluster appearance. Many people believe it looks cheap and tacky, so they choose other patio covers instead. Of course, not all vinyl covers look the same; some definitely have a cheap look, whereas others are designed to look more high-end. If you’re worried about the cheap appearance of a vinyl cover, consider choosing one in a dark color. A premium gray or taupe-colored vinyl patio cover won’t look like vinyl at all.

Wood

A third patio cover option is wood, which is also the most common type. Wood covers offer an unmatched level of aesthetics, enhancing the home’s exterior decor while creating a more attractive patio in the process. Wood covers can also be painted and finished in just about any color, giving homeowners such as yourself more freedom over customization.

But wood is also susceptible to rot and decay. Unless it’s treated with a water-resistant finish, wood covers may rot away due to moisture exposure.  Water particles seep into the wood’s pores, at which point they encourage the growth of mold and mildew. This, in turn, causes the wood to slowly decay — and that’s not particularly safe when it’s hanging over your patio. You can still use a wood patio cover, but make sure it’s coated with a water-resistant finish to prevent this from happening.

Aluminum

Metal is a popular alternative to wood patio covers, with the most common metal used for this purpose being aluminum. It’s strong, lightweight, doesn’t rot and highly effective at reflecting heat away from your patio.

Unfortunately, aluminum patio covers can become damaged due to falling debris. This isn’t limited strictly to aluminum, however; all patio covers can sustain damage from falling tree limbs. But aluminum is particularly prone to such damage because of its thin, lightweight construction. The bottom line is that if you’re going to choose an aluminum patio cover, make sure there are no overhanging tree limbs.

Cloth

Another patio cover option is cloth. Typically made of a fabric blend containing both natural and synthetic materials, cloth covers are easy to install and look great over all patios. They are available in countless colors and styles to match your home’s exterior.

A benefit of cloth patio covers that’s not found elsewhere is the ability for them to retract. Granted, some cloth covers are fixed and stationary, meaning you can’t move them (not easily, at least). Others, however, are installed with a retractable device. If it’s warm and sunny outside and you want to get a tan, you can retract the cloth cover. But if you want to read a book without the sun glaring in your face, you can pull it back out.

Umbrella

If installing a patio cover sounds too difficult or expensive, you can always use an umbrella as a quick solution. There are free-standing patio umbrellas available as well as table-mounted umbrellas. Once installed, it creates a small but effective area of shade while enhancing your patio decor in the process.

As you can expect, an umbrella isn’t going to offer the same protection as an actual patio cover offers. The good news is that umbrellas are easy to set up, and they cost a fraction of the price of an actual cover.

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/

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Brighten Your Patio with These Lighting Ideas

It’s hard to enjoy your patio in the evenings if it’s dimly lit. Without lighting, you won’t be able to cook, relax or simply enjoy this extension of your home once the sun goes down. Thankfully, there are several different patio lighting options from which to choose, some of which we’re going to discuss.

String Lights

String lights offer the best of both worlds in terms of aesthetics and function. As shown in the image to the left, they look like regular Christmas tree lights, featuring long rows of individual light bulbs. You can run them across your patio, the side of your home, or even across the top of your yard. Once activated, they illuminate the surrounding area with a touch of style. Because of their stylish appearance, string lights are a popular lighting choice by homeowners when hosting outdoor parties and gatherings.

Uplighting

Uplighting is a relatively new outdoor lighting option that’s becoming more and more popular among homeowners. Uplighting receives its namesake for the direction in which it projects light. While traditional fixtures project light down, uplighting projects it up. Therefore, it’s often used to enhance and highlight specific areas around a home, such as gardens, flower beds, sides and windows. It’s even used by real estate agents to increase curb appeal and make homes more attractive to prospective buyers.

Uplighting is best when used in conjunction with other lighting solutions. A traditional overhead fixture, for instance, will illuminate the areas where uplighting can’t reach.

Wall Lanterns

Assuming your patio is directly adjacent to your home, you can use wall lanterns to illuminate it. Wall lanterns are installed on the side of a home, creating uniform lighting for the surrounding area. The only real downside is the fact that they are somewhat difficult to install, which usually requires the experience and skills of a professional electrician. Nonetheless, wall lanterns are a viable lighting option for the patio, especially if you want a long-term solution.

However, you should consider the following things when choosing wall lanterns for your patio:

  • Material of construction
  • Size
  • Ease of installation
  • Ease of replacing bulbs
  • Cost
  • Durability

Track Lighting

We can’t talk about patio lighting options without mentioning track lighting. Track lighting involves the use of a fixed track on which individual fixtures and bulbs are installed. The great thing about track lighting, however, is that lights can be moved on the track. If you want to illuminate the center of your patio instead of the outside, for instance, just move the light towards the appropriate area.

As explained by Lightology, track lighting has become an increasingly popular lighting solution for patios, gardens and other outdoor living spaces. It offers an unmatched level of flexibility, allowing homeowners to adjust the lights according to their needs. You should check to see what bulb types the track light supports. Some use standard incandescent bulbs, whereas others use energy-efficient CFL or LED.

Tiki Torches

With its natural bamboo design with a flaming top, tiki torches are a fun alternative to traditional patio lighting options. While they’ve been around for centuries — originating from the Tiki culture — they experienced a newfound revival in the 1930s and following years, during which homeowners began using them in outdoor decor. The standard tiki torch design features a bamboo stick with liquid fuel and a wick on top. Once the wick is lit, it continues to burn while drawing fuel from the container below. Tiki toches can be free standing or mounted in the ground.

Granted, tiki torches don’t provide the same level of lighting as the solutions previously mentioned, but many homeowners prefer them for their unique ambiance and stylish appearance. The subtle flame burns slow enough to enhance the decor without being overwhelming.

Fire Pit

Of course, a fire pit can also illuminate your patio when it’s dark outside. As long as you leave the lid off, it will brighten your patio decor without relying on electricity.

If you choose tiki torches, a fire pit or any other fire-burning method for illumination, however, you should supervise it all times. Leaving a fire unattended — even if it’s for just a few minutes — poses a serious risk of property damage and injury. While the risk may be low, this isn’t something that you should take a chance on. Always supervise your fire to ensure it’s controlled and contained.

These are just a few patio lighting ideas to consider. If you’re still undecided after reading this, take a trip to your local home improvement store to browse other solutions. With a little work, you’ll find the lighting option that’s perfect for your patio. And remember, you can always remove and replace any lighting solution if you aren’t completely satisfied.

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/

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8 Important Tips to Protect and Maintain a Wood Deck

A wood deck is the perfect outdoor extension to your home. When the weather is mild, you can go outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.

#1) Remove Leaves and Debris

First and foremost, you should get into the habit of removing leaves, pine straw, tree branches and other fallen debris from your wood deck. Allowing debris such as this to accumulate can cause discoloration while also promoting mold and mildew. Using either a push broom or a leaf flower, try to get into the habit of cleaning your wood deck on a regular basis.

#2) Use a Grease Catcher

When grilling on your wood deck, use a grease catcher to collect the grease. Not all grilled foods produce grease. If you cook vegetables, fish or even chicken, you’ll probably have little-to-no grease. Red meat, on the other hand, produces a fair amount of grease, which can cause stubborn stains when dripped onto a wood deck. Using a grease catcher with your grill, however, will protect your wood deck from such stains.

#3) Shovel Snow

If you live in a region that’s prone to snow, be sure to shovel it off your deck. There are several problems associated with a snow-covered deck: it saturates the wood with moisture, contains dirt and debris that may stain the deck, and it prevents you from fully using or otherwise enjoying your deck. Shoveling show isn’t particularly fun, but it’s a necessary step in maintaining a wood deck if you live in a region that’s prone to snow. So, after the winter storm has passed, take a few minutes to shovel the snow off your deck.

#4) Place Fire Pit on Top of Fireproof Material

Assuming you have a fire pit on your wood deck, you should place some type of fireproof material between it and your deck. Normally, a fire pit shouldn’t cause a wood deck to ignite. It can, however, scorch the bottom if placed directly on it. There are several solutions to protect your wood deck from such damage. You can create a fireproof area on which to place your fire pit using brick pavers, or you can buy a special “fire pit pad.” Either way, you need some type of material or substrate underneath your fire pit to protect your deck.

#5) Inspect for Rotten Planks

When was the last time that you inspected your wood deck for rotten planks? Regardless of species or variety, all types of natural wood are susceptible to rot. Wood contains thousands of small pores that constantly absorb or release moisture. When your wood deck is exposed to moisture — even small amounts of airborne moisture (humidity) — it may cause it to rot. The good news is that a few rotten planks can easily be replaced without demolishing and rebuilding your entire deck. To do so, however, you’ll need to inspect your wood deck regularly; otherwise, rotten planks may go unnoticed.

#6) Pressure Wash

You can only do so much when using a garden hose to clean a wood deck, which is why it’s a good idea to pull out the pressure washer on occasion. With your pressure washer set to 600 to 800 psi, you can revitalize the appearance of your wood deck. The pressurized water will easily remove stubborn dirt, mold, mildew and grime.

Even if you don’t own a pressure washer, you can still rent one from your local home improvement store. Home Depot and Lowes both rent out pressure washers for about $35 bucks per day, which is a small price to pay considering the convenience and cleaning power it offers. Just remember to wear the appropriate safety goggles, and to keep the nozzle at least six inches away from the surface of your deck at all times.

#7) Seal Your Deck

Perhaps the most important tip to protect a wood deck is to seal it. Sealing your deck prevents the intrusion of moisture, which as stated above, can lead to rotten planks. Furthermore, some wood sealers are designed with special UV-protectant ingredients, adding another level of protection for your deck. In addition to protecting against water, these sealers also protect against the sun ultraviolet (UV) light.

There are dozens of different wood sealers available for sale, so choose the one that’s best suited for your deck. You can also check out this article by Lowes for step-by-step instructions on how to seal a wood deck.

#8) Avoid Trapping Dirt and Moisture

Finally, use caution to avoid accidentally trapping dirt and moisture in your dirt. If you have furniture on your deck, for instance, move and clean underneath it regularly. If a table or flower pot is left in the same place for months on end, it will probably accumulate moisture underneath. And too much moisture can damage your deck by promoting rot and mildew.

Following these tips will help to protect and preserve your wood deck.

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What is an Adirondack Chair? Get the Facts

The Adirondack chair consistently ranks as one of the most popular types of outdoor chairs. Also known as a Muskoka chair in Canada, it offers the perfect blend of style and comfort, with an emphasis on the latter. But what exactly is an Adirondack chair, and what should you look for when buying one?

The History of the Adirondack Chair

The Adirondack chair receives its namesake from the Adirondack Mountains. Located in northeast New York with a peak elevation of 5,344 feet, the Adirondack Mountains have been a popular tourist destination for over a century. Within the mountain’s ecosystem are swamps, marshes, bogs and rolling hills of glacier-carved rocks. Statistics show that roughly 60% of the Adirondack Mountains are covered with hardwood forest, making it a prime habitat for birds like the great blue heron, gray jays, boreal chickadees, crossbills and more.

Some people assume the Adirondack chair is a relatively new invention, but this isn’t the case. The Adirondack chair has origins dating back to 1903, during which amateur American inventor and amateur woodworker Thomas Lee created the first prototype. According to various reports, Lee was vacationing with his family in the Adirondack Mountains in 1903 when he encountered a problem: a lack of seating. With some family members being forced to stand, Lee sought to find a solution, which led him to designing his own chair.

Lee soon discovered, however, that traditional chairs didn’t fare well on the mountainous terrain of the Adirondacks. Because the land was sloped instead of flat and even, chairs were either tilted forwards or tilted backwards, resulting in discomfort and poor balance. Until now, there wasn’t a solution for the uneven terrain. So, Lee began to design his own chair with a focus on making it comfortable and balanced when placed on uneven terrain.

After countless hours of hard work, Lee developed a chair with an angled seat and angled back (see image above). Both the seat and back sloped back to accommodate the uneven terrain of the Adirondack mountains. With a 25 to 35-degree back slope, the chair could be placed on an uneven terrain to create a more balanced and stable seating area. This later became known as the Adirondack chair.

You might be surprised to learn, however, that Lee didn’t receive full credit for his work. After creating the first prototype, Lee took the chair to a carpenter in upstate New York named Harry Bunnell. Lee asked Bunnell to recreated the chair for him. But Bunnell went behind Lee’s back to file a patent for the chair, calling it the Westport Chair. Bunnell even received a patent for the Westport Chair, which Lee didn’t contest. But while Bunnell ultimately won a patent for the chair’s design, most people today recognize the mountainous chair as being the Adirondack chair.

Adirondack Chair Benefits

With its unique design, the Adirondack chair offers several noteworthy benefits. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that the Adirondack chair was specifically made for uneven terrain. So, if you’re looking to invest in new seating for an outdoor living space on a sloped hill, there’s no better choice than the Adirondack chair. With its sloped seat and back, it offers a superior level of comfort and stability.

Regardless of whether it’s placed on a flat or sloped surface, however, the Adirondack chair is arguably one of the most comfortable outdoor seating options on the market. Today, most Adirondack chairs feature an adjustable back, and some even have adjustable armrests. Therefore, you can easily adjust the Adirondack chair for optimal comfort on a flat surface as well.

Another benefit of the Adirondack chair is its ability to minimize stress on the back. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) reports that nearly eight in 10 Americans will experience back pain at some point during their life. With its angled design, however, the Adirondack chair eases pressure on the spine while subsequently reducing the risk of pain back and other related problems.

Choosing an Adirondack Chair

When choosing an Adirondack chair for your patio or outdoor living space, there are several things to consider. First and foremost, check to see what material it is made of. Lee’s original design was made of natural hardwood sources from the surrounding Adirondack Mountains. Today, however, you can find Adirondack chairs made of a variety of materials, including beech, ash, oak, maple, teak and plastic. Hardwood materials typically offer the highest level of quality, though they also come at a premium price.

You should also consider the color of the Adirondack chair and whether or not it matches the outdoor decor where it will be used. Ideally, the color should match or otherwise flow cohesively with the rest of your decor.

Of course, the Adirondack chair is just one of many seating options to consider. But with its unique angled design, it’s the perfect choice for sloped landscapes.

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/

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Top 7 Benefits of Bench Seating for the Patio

Seating is an essential element of a well-designed patio. Without proper seating, you won’t be able to relax and unwind on your patio — not without standing, at least. But while there are dozens of different seating options for outdoor living spaces, few offer the same level of versatility as a bench. So, if you’re looking to update your patio with new seating, you should consider a bench for the following reasons.

#1) Encourages Conversation

The #1 benefit of bench seating is its natural ability to encourage conversations. After all, a bench is where Forest Gump spent most of his time telling his life story in the hit 1990s blockbuster movie. When two people are sitting together on a bench, they’ll feel a closer connection, both literally and figuratively. So, while traditional seating options like chairs create a distance between two people, benches bring them together; thus, encouraging conversation.

#2) Durable

A high-quality bench is perhaps the most durable seating option for the patio. As most homeowners already know, chairs made of plastic and other low-quality materials are susceptible to breakage. They may hold up just for fine for several months or even years, only to fall apart the next time you sit down. And when a plastic chair breaks, it’s nearly impossible to fix. Fixing a broken wooden chair may or may not be possible, depending on where the damage occurred.

Benches, however, offer a superior level of strength and durability. You don’t have to worry about it falling apart or otherwise breaking. Assuming it’s made of genuine hardwood, it can literally last for generations when properly cared for.

#3) Saves Space

A benefit of bench seating that’s often overlooked is its ability to save space. Due to their inherit design, benches are naturally a great seating option for tight spaces. If your patio has a limited amount of space, you’ll need to carefully choose the right furniture. Rather than cramming four bulky chairs into your patio, for instance, maybe you can use a single bench with a side chair.

How exactly does a bench save space? Well, it does so by allowing multiple people to sit. Depending on the specific type of bench, it may support two, three or even four people. That means a single bench offers the seating equivalent of up to four chairs.

#4) Easy to Clean

Of course, benches are also easy to clean, typically requiring nothing more than an occasional wipe down with a damp washcloth. For more stubborn dirt — pollen, mud, mildew, etc. — you can add some liquid laundry detergent. In addition to making your bench look 10 years younger, laundry detergent will also leave it smelling nice and fresh.

Alternatively, you can often clean minor “surface” dirt by rinsing your bench with a garden hose. As long as the dirt hasn’t settled into the bench’s pores, this should do the trick. Some people assume that pressure washing is the best way to clean a bench, but the high pressure could actually strip away the coating or even take chunks out of the bench’s wooden material. To prevent this from happening with your bench, stick with the garden hose and washcloth methods.

 

#5) Stable

Benches aren’t just durable; they are also stable. This is particularly important for homeowners living in areas prone to hurricanes and severe weather. If a storm front rolls through, the strong gusts of wind may blow over patio chairs and tables. Benches, however, can typically withstand severe weather by remaining in place.

The exceptional stability of benches is also good for theft prevention. It’s not something that most homeowners want to think about, but there are thieves out there who will steal just about anything, including patio furniture.

#6) Decorative

We can’t talk about the benefits of bench seating without mentioning aesthetics. Granted, benches are available in dozens if not hundreds of different styles. Whether you prefer the classic wooden style, rustic or a newer and more modern style, you can rest assured knowing that it will look great on your patio.

#7) Weather Resistant

Finally, most benches are designed to be weather resistant. Manufacturers add a protective coating on the outside that prevents the intrusion of moisture and germs. Furthermore, some benches are designed with a UV-protectant coating, which as the name suggests, protects against fading caused by the sun’s ultraviolet light. And even if your bench doesn’t have a protective coating such as this, you can easily apply one using a standard paintbrush.

 

These are just a few reasons why benches make the perfect seating for patios and outdoor living spaces. When choosing a patio, however, you should consider the material from which it is made as well as the size. Wood is the most popular choice of material for benches, though cast iron is a popular alternative.

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/

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How to Prevent Flare-Ups When Grilling

Flare-ups are a common problem when grilling food, especially meats. Whether it’s beef, pork, lamb, chicken or fish, meat has a tendency to flare up when grilled. When this occurs, the red-hot coals turn into a tall flame, essentially charring the meat. While a single, small flare-up shouldn’t hurt your food, consistent flare ups can burn the exterior while also making it dry and less juicy. So, how can you can prevent flare-ups when grilling?

Choose Lean Meats

Normally, flare-ups are triggered by excess animal fat dripping down onto the hot coals. When the fat reaches the hot coals, it ignites; thus, causing a tall but short-lived flame known as a flare-up. You can often prevent flare-ups, however, by choosing lean meats. If you’re making hamburgers, for instance, choose ground beef that’s 90% lean and 10% fat. Or if you’re grilling steaks, stick with lean cuts like filet mignon and sirloin instead of a New York strip or ribeye.

Cut Back on the Oil

In addition to choosing lean meats, you can also reduce the risk of flare-ups when grilling by using less oil. Cooking oil is often applied either to the meat being grilled or the grill itself. When applied to the meat, it helps the seasoning stick while also creating a non-stick surface. When applied to the grill grate, it further prevents the meat from sticking. Unfortunately, however, oil has a similar effect as animal fat when exposed to hot coals. As the oil drips down onto the coals, it triggers a flare-up. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stop using oil when grilling. Rather, try using less oil.

When it comes to oiling a grill grate or meat, follow the “less is more” approach. Use a brush to apply a small, thin layer of oil on the surface of your grill grate or meat. As long as there’s no excess oil that’s dripping, it shouldn’t cause a flare-up.

Trim the Fat

A third tip for preventing flare-ups is to trim fat from your meat before grilling it. Even if you choose lean cuts, it probably still has some fat — and that’s okay. Rather than allowing this fat to burn on the grill — and cause a flareup — consider trimming it. Using a sharp knife and cutting board, slice away the excess fat.

Open the Lid

Should you grill with the lid open or closed? Grilling with the lid closed creates more heat, whereas grilling with the lid open creates less heat. The latter, also known as “grill roasting,” reduces the risk of flare-ups by exposing your food to lower temperatures and less direct heat. With that said, however, grilling with the lid open doesn’t cook food as thoroughly and evenly as grilling with the lid closed, so you really need to consider what you are grilling. As long as it’s not too thick and doesn’t require significant heat, an open-lid grill should suffice.

Clean Your Grill

Don’t underestimate the importance of cleaning your grill, either before or after every use. Failure to clean your grill will result in the accumulation of fat and oil drippings, which can flare up the next time you use it. Additionally, it contributes to rust and corrosion by holding moisture. These problems are easily prevented by using a wire brush and paper towels to clean this debris. So, try to get into the habit of cleaning your grill before or every after use. Even if you only use it to grill a couple burgers, you should still clean it to prevent flare-ups and protect against rusting.

Grill Away from the Wind

Another contributing factor to flare-ups when grilling is wind. Going back to the basics of firemaking 101, wind intensifies flames by fueling it with oxygen. As wind pushes through the flame, the additional oxygen causes it to flare up. While you can’t necessarily control mother nature, you can choose an area to grill that’s protected from the wind. Before lighting your grill, find an area with a wind break. Grilling on your front porch instead of back — or vise-versa — is another idea that can protect your grill from the wind.

Don’t Extinguish with Water!

If a flare-up occurs when you are grilling, don’t attempt to extinguish it with water. Conventional wisdom may lead you to believe that spraying the grill with a water bottle with extinguish the flare-up. Like a grease fire in the kitchen, however, water is ineffective for this purpose. Furthermore, spraying your grill may cause wet ash to reach your food. If you notice your grill flaring up, open the lid and wait for it to burn out. Because flare-ups are caused by excess fat or oil, they usually burn out after just a few seconds.

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/

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Campfire-Building Tips for Wet, Rainy Weather

Wouldn’t it be great if the weather was warm and sunny every time you went camping? Weather such as this is ideal for camping. You don’t have to worry about your gear being washed away, nor do you have to worry about starting your campfire.

Unfortunately, there will be times when mother nature throws you a curve ball by bringing severe rain and storms during your camping trip. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or first-timer, you probably know that campfires are difficult to make in wet conditions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should pack up and head home, however. With the right approach, you can successfully build a roaring campfire in rainy weather.

Choose a Covered Location to Build Your Campfire

Perhaps the most important step in building a campfire in the rain is choosing the right location. If it’s raining, conventional wisdom should tell you that a covered campsite is necessary to your fire going. While it’s possible to build a campfire in a location that’s directly exposed to rain, you’ll have a much easier time if the area is covered.

Look for an area that offers some form of natural coverage and protection from the rain. Assuming you’re camping in the middle of woods, you probably won’t be able to find an area with complete, 100% coverage. You can, however, choose an area with a thick, dense tree canopy to shield your campfire from at least some of the rain. Tree canopies offer excellent protection from the rain, catching and distributing the water away from the base of the tree. Therefore, you’ll have an easier time building a campfire under a dense tree canopy if it’s raining.

Use a Fire Pit

In addition to building your campfire under a covered area, you should also consider using a fire pit. Using a portable fire pit, such as those offered here at S&S Fire Pit, you can further protect your campfire from the rain by keeping it off the ground.

Moisture from rain doesn’t come strictly from the skies; it also comes from the ground. When it rains, the ground will absorb and hold moisture, making it difficult to start a campfire. Instead of trying to build a campfire on the wet, water-logged soil, however, you can build it in a dry fire pit.

Strip Away the Outer Bark

You’ll need to collect the driest firewood possible to get your campfire going in the rain. Not surprisingly, downed limbs under dense canopies are usually the best source for such firewood.

After collecting a decent amount of firewood, use a sharp knife to remove the outer layer of bark. Even if the firewood looks dry, it’s probably holding some moisture due to the increased humidity levels accompanied with the rain. Being that the inner core of the wood is typically drier than the outside, however, you can strip away the outer layers so it lights more easily. Using a sharp knife, carefully scrape away the outer layers of your firewood, after which you should place the firewood directly in your fire pit until you’re ready to light it.

Use Lots of Kindling

Want to know the secret to building a roaring-hot campfire in the rain? It’s using kindling, lots of kindling. Basically, wet wood requires hotter temperatures to ignite. And in order to create these hot temperatures, you need plenty of kindling. Tinder — the smaller stuff — is still important, but it’s the kindling that will ultimately create the hot flame needed for a campfire in the rain.

When gathering small sticks and twigs to use as kindling, make sure they are relatively dry. Like larger pieces of firewood, you can also strip away the outer layer so they light more easily. Once you’ve gathered the kindling, arrange it at the base of your campfire with the larger pieces of firewood on the outside. The key thing to remember is that the center of your campfire should be somewhat open so that air can flow through.

Beware of the Smoke

Wet firewood doesn’t burn as “completely” or efficiently as dry, seasoned firewood. This means campfires built in rainy weather or other wet conditions will produce more smoke — and that smoke could pose a risk to your health.

While some people prefer the distinct smell of campfire smoke, you should keep your distance and avoid inhaling it, especially if the wood is wet. Wet firewood produces more smoke when burned than dry firewood, making it more hazardous to your health. The good news is that you can easily avoid your campfire’s smoke by positioning yourself in the opposite direction of the wind. If the wind is blowing south, for instance, position yourself north of your campfire.

Building a campfire in the rain isn’t always easy. You’ll need to choose a covered location, find dry or semi-dry firewood, use plenty of kindling and more. However, once you get it going you’ll be able to enjoy the warmth and relaxing ambiance it offers during this otherwise messy weather. Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of how to create a campfire in rainy weather.

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/

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How to Use a Chimney Starter When Grilling

There are several advantages to grilling food over a coal fire. With charcoal briquettes reaching temperatures of 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, they tend to produce more heat than conventional wood-burning fires. And with this heat, you’ll have an easier to creating a nice charred outside on your grilled meats and foods. Additionally, charcoal burns more efficiently and produces less smoke than wood. Of course, there are still benefits to grilling over a wood fire, but for these reasons many people prefer charcoal.

One of the problems of using charcoal, however, is getting it lit. Dry, seasoned wood easily burns when used in conjunction with kindling and tinder. Coal, however, can take a little bit of work to get going. Rather than wasting an entire box of matches, you should consider using a chimney starter. This otherwise simple tool will make lighting a charcoal fire ten times easier.

What is a Chimney Starter?

Also known as a charcoal chimney, a chimney starter lives up to its namesake by simplifying the process of starting a charcoal fire. As shown in the photo above, it’s a cylinder-shaped metal device (usually steel) that holds coals. Most chimney starters are about 8 inches in diameter and 12 to 18 inches tall. A few inches from the bottom is a grate with several small holes, allowing air to flow from the bottom and through the charcoal.

You’ll also notice that most chimney starters have a single handle attached to the exterior, along with a safety heat guard to protect the user’s hand from injury. The handles are insulated, so you don’t have to worry about burning yourself when using them. However, you should still use extreme caution when moving or even touching a chimney starter that contains hot coals.

Benefits of Using a Chimney Starter

Chimney starters have one primary purpose: to make lighting charcoals easier. Lighter fluid may sound like an effective alternative, but it isn’t recommended for several reasons. First and foremost, lighter fluid is dangerous and can cause serious injury when used incorrectly (hundreds of people are injured each year from using it). Secondly, lighter fluid produces noxious fumes when burned. Do you really want these fumes reaching the food you are about to grill?

A chimney starter is a simple solution to getting a stubborn charcoal fire going. You don’t have to use any lighter fluid. Just fill the chimney with coals, add your newspaper, and it does the rest. And contrary to what some people may believe, chimney starters aren’t expensive. Even if your grill didn’t come with a chimney starter, you can usually buy them for about $10 to $20 bucks at most major home improvement stores, which is a small price to pay for the convenience they offer.

Now that you know a little bit about chimney starters and the benefits they offer, let’s take a look at the steps to using them…

How to Use a Chimney Starter

To use a chimney starter, you should first remove the cooking grate from inside your grill. Next, fill your chimney starter with your preferred charcoal all the way to the top. You may need to gently shake the chimney to help knock down the coals if they get stuck.

Once your chimney starter is full, place a piece of a newspaper inside the bottom of your grill, after which you should place the chimney starter over it. You can then light the newspaper, which should ignite the bottom of the chimney starter and eventually all of the charcoal. As the bottom of your chimney starter heats up, it will easily ignite the coals with the help of increased airflow.

Now comes the waiting game. As most backyard chefs know, coals are ready for grilling once they’ve reaches a glowing orange-white color. This characteristic color indicates the coals are hot and ready to be used for cooking. Depending on the size of your chimney starter, the condition of your coals and the surrounding humidity, it should take between 20 and 30 minutes for your coals to reach this state.

Next, carefully lift the chimney starter by the handle and dump the hot coals into the bottom of your grill. You may want to wear heat-resistant gloves to further protect your hands from injury when performing this step. Once you’ve dumped the coals into your grill, use a poker or similar tool to spread them evenly across the bottom. Congratulations, your charcoal grill is now ready for cooking! Keep in mind that coals won’t stay hot forever, so don’t wait too long to add your food.

This is the traditional method for using a chimney stater. Some people, however, cook foods directly over the chimney itself without ever dumping the coals. It produces intense heat, making it an excellent tool for searing the outside of meats.

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/

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Why Your Patio Needs a Fire Pit This Fall Season

For many homeowners, fall signals the end of outdoor parties and gatherings. Once the summer comes to an end and the temperatures begin the drop, they head indoors. While there’s nothing wrong spending some extra time indoors during the fall, you can still enjoy your patio and other outdoor living spaces this time of year with the help of a fire pit.

Provides and Promotes Social Gathering

This alone should be reason enough to update your patio with a fire pit this fall. When the weather begins to cool, you may find staying outdoors is simply too uncomfortable. With a fire pit, however, you can create a warm and cozy environment on your patio or outdoor living space. Fire pits are capable of producing significant heat, usually around 20,000 to 50,000 British Thermal Units (BTU). That’s more than enough to keep you and anyone else around the pit comfortably warm providing a cool space to socially gather and entertain your guests. 

It’s a Top Design Trend

According to the 2016 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), fire pits are one of the top outdoor design trends for homes and residential properties. According to the survey, homeowners prefer fire pits over rain gardens, water-efficient irrigation and a reduced lawn area. The only outdoor design trends that ranked higher than fire pits was a lighting and wireless connectivity.

Cooking

Of course, you can always use your fire pit for cooking as well. Just because summer is over doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stop your backyard barbecues. A fire pit is the perfect outdoor cooking accessory, as it allows you to easily grill and cook food over an open fire. Whether it’s burgers, hamburgers, pork chops, chicken, shrimp, etc., the possibilities are endless. And because it uses an open, wood-burning flame (not a propane flame), food cooked over fire pits typically have a distinct smokey flavor that many people prefer. Just remember to clean the grill grate on a regular basis to protect it from rusting.

Portable

Not all fire pits are portable; some are stationary and cannot be easily moved. Assuming you buy your fire pit here at S&S Fire Pit, however, you can easily transport it. This opens the doors to a whole new world of options, allowing you to take your fire pit camping, tailgating or to your other people’s homes. If you plan on moving your fire pit, though, make sure it’s completely cool before touching it.

Roasting Marshmallows

Even if you don’t plan to cook over your fire pit this fall, you still use it to roast marshmallows, S’mores or other goodies. Just skewer up some marshmallows and hold them over the fire for a fun and delightful treat. Roasted marshmallows and s’mores are particularly fun treats for children. So, if you’re planning an outdoor party or get-together with children this fall, make sure you have a fire pit set up.

 

Lighting

When you think of the benefits of owning and using a fire pit, lighting probably doesn’t come to mind. After all, most people use them for cooking and warmth. While fire pits are excellent for cooking and creating warmth, however, they can also be used to illuminate your patio or outdoor living area. If you’re tired of replacing the overhead light bulb on your patio that keeps blowing, consider using a fire pit as an alternative. Once lit, it will illuminate your patio, even on the darkest of nights.

Ambiance

Let’s face it, fire pits offer a uniquely relaxing and enjoyable ambiance that’s not found elsewhere. When you’re enjoying a nice evening on your patio this fall, you can spark up the fire pit to create a more relaxing atmosphere. Studies have shown that fires — whether from a campfire or fire pit — reduce stress and anxiety. Perhaps this is why we’ve been gathering around them for thousands of years. When used on your patio, a fire pit will have a similar effect, creating a relaxing ambiance that you and your guests are sure to appreciate.

Focal Point

Finally, including a fire pit on your patio will also create a natural focus point. Rather than randomly arranging your chairs and seating, you can arrange them around the outside of the fire pit, facing towards the fire pit. Not only will this create a more effective design layout for your patio, but it also encourages guests to use and enjoy the fire pit.

These are just a few reasons why your patio needs a fire pit this fall. The truth is that you’ll probably find more uses once you actually own one.

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/

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Exploring Primitive Fire-Building Techniques

Fires have been essential for the survival of humankind. For thousands of years, we’ve relied on fires to cook food to a safe temperature, create warmth to protect against hypothermia, and create light. While we continue to use them for these very same reasons today, fire building is also something that many people take for granted.

You can buy a box of matches for about a buck at most grocery stores. Instead of the exhausting and tedious task of trying to rub two sticks together, you simple strike the match head against the box, at which point it will ignite into fire. Holding the lit match head under your tinder and kindling should then spark your campfire. And using a safety lighter is equally as easy, requiring nothing more than a flick of the thumb.

While matches and lighters are both effective tools for building fires, many people prefer primitive fire-building techniques. Primitive fire building is a survival skill that may one day prove useful. If you’re ever lost or otherwise stranded without access to modern fire-building tools, you can use these methods to create a fire. Furthermore, primitive fire building is always fun show off when camping with friends, even if you have access to matches or a lighter. So, what are some of the most commonly used primitive fire-building techniques?

The Hand Drill

If you watch survival TV shows, you’ve probably seen the hand drill method. It involves the use of a small but sturdy softwood stick with one end carved down to a rounded point, as well as a softwood fireboard. Once you’ve acquired these two items, you’ll need to grind the stick into a notch at the base of the fireboard. By grinding the stick back and forth between your hands, you’ll create friction — and this friction creates heat, which will hopefully create a hot coal that you can then place in your tinder. The hand drill is often preferred over other primitive fire-building methods because of simplicity.

The Bow Drill

Another popular primitive fire-building technique is the bow drill. It’s similar to the hand drill but with a few nuances. Both the hand drill and bow drill method use friction to create heat; however, the latter requires a shorter and wider spindle that’s driven by a bow. By using a bow to drive the stick into the fireboard, this technique allows for easier strokes while minimizing fatigue and exhaustion in the process. Furthermore, the bow drill method of fire-building protects the user’s palms from injury, which is a huge benefit when you don’t have access to medical supplies.

The Fire Plough

Also known as the fire plow, the fire plough is a primitive fire-building technique that involves the use of a softwood stick with a dull point and a long fireboard made of similar material with a groove in the center. When you hear about making fire by “rubbing two sticks together,” this is usually the method being discussed. You press the softwood stick into the groove of the fireboard and rub it together between the palms of your hands in a plowing motion (hence the name). Eventually this will create a hot coal, which you can place in tinder to get your fire going.

Fire Saw

A lesser-known primitive fire-building technique is the fire saw. To create a fire using this method, you’ll need to saw into a piece of thick wood using another piece of wood. The fire saw method requires two basic components: the saw and hearth. The saw is the piece of wood that you physically move and back and forth to create friction. The hearth is the piece of wood that you saw into. Although simple in design, the fire saw method can be tedious and physically exhausting to perform.

There’s a variation of the fire saw method known as the fire thong. It’s performed in a similar manner, but it uses a pullstring consisting of wood fiber or rope. The fire thong method is most commonly used in Southeast Asia by native tribes.

Other Tips for Primitive Fire Building

Regardless of which primitive fire-building technique you prefer, there are a few things you can do to increase your chance of success. First and foremost, use the driest wood possible. If the wood contains too much moisture, you may struggle to create coals, let alone getting your campfire lit. You can often find dry wood, tinder and kindling under large tree canopies that’s covered and protected from the rain.

The primitive fire-building techniques listed above are designed to create hot coals, which you can then use to start your fire. You shouldn’t just drop these coals onto your firewood, however. Rather, place place them on a ball of tinder, at which point you should gently blow to help spread the heat. When performed correctly, the heat from the coal will ignite the tinder into a ball of flame. And once your tinder is lit, you can place it under your firewood to ignite your campfire.

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/

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9 Mistakes to Avoid When Grilling Steak

Nothing compares to the rich flavor and tender texture of a grilled steak. It’s the preferred choice of meat for countless home chefs. But if you’re planning to grill steaks, you should avoid making the following mistakes.

#1) Not Covering Steaks in Butter or Oil

Why do you need to cover your steaks in butter or oil? Well, doing so serves two specific purposes: first, it encourages the seasoning to stick to the steak. Secondly, it prevents your steak from sticking to the grill. So, try to get into the habit of covering your steaks with butter, olive oil, vegetable oil or some other oil before seasoning them.

#2) Using Lighter Fluid

If you’re having trouble lighting your coals, you may feel compelled to douse it with lighter fluid. Unfortunately, this is a serious mistake that will negatively affect the flavor of your steak. The chemical-rich lighter fluid will release fumes when burned that soak into the steak, essentially altering its flavor. Rather than using lighter fluid, a better way to your fire starter is to use a charcoal chimney. After placing newspaper at the bottom, fill it with charcoal and light the bottom.

#3) Placing Steaks on a Dirty Grate

Another common mistake that you’ll want to avoid is placing steaks on a dirty grill grate. If you don’t clean the grate after each use, food particles will harden onto it. In addition to making your steaks stick, this also promotes rust and corrosion. You can clean your grill grates using a basic grill brush and a little bit of water.

#4) Not Letting Steaks Sit Before Cooking

Many home chefs toss their steaks on the grill immediately after removing them from the refrigerator and seasoning them. A better solution, however, is to let your steaks sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, no more or no less, so the protein enzymes will begin to break down. The general idea is that allowing a steak to sit at room temperature helps it become more tender. So, start a timer once you remove your steaks from the refrigerator, and when it hits the 20-minute mark, toss them on the grill.

#5) Cooking with Too Much Heat

The general belief is that the hotter the fire, the better the steak, as heat creates a nice seared/charred texture on the outside. The truth of the matter, however, is that too much heat will burn the outside of your steaks. If you’re looking to achieve a Pittsburgh-style steak, this is perfectly fine. For all other occasions, though, you should avoid this by evenly distributing your coals across the bottom of your grill or fire pit.

#6) Lifting the Lid Too Frequently

When you’re grilling some delicious filet mignon, you may want to check and see how it’s doing on a regular basis. But each time you open the lid, it disturbs the heat while subsequently affecting the way in which your steaks grill. For traditional charcoal-flamed grills and fire pits, opening the lid allows air to enter, which then increases the heat. To promote an even, thorough cooking, avoid lifting the lid while your steaks are cooking. You should only lift the lid when you need to flip or remove the steaks.

#7) Choosing the Wrong Cut

Not all steaks are created equal, and it’s important to choose the right type when grilling them. Generally speaking, the most common cuts of steak include filet mignon, sirloin, ribeye, New York strip and Porterhouse. Of all the different cuts, filet mignon is the most tender with the least amount of fat. However, it’s also the most expensive (by weight). In terms of flavor, most chefs will agree that a ribeye is the best, simply because it contains more marbling (fat). Familiarize yourself with the different cuts of steak and choose the one that’s best suited for your personal taste.

#8) Grilling Too Many Things at Once

Try to limit the number of foods you grill at once. If you’re grilling steak alongside shrimp, vegetable skewers and other foods, it may cause cross-contamination. Bacteria from the steaks may seep into the nearby foods, essentially contaminating them. And even if it doesn’t cause cross-contamination, grilling steaks next to other foods will affect the flavor at the very least. Your steaks may have a hint of flavor from the other foods. To prevent problems such as these, either grill your steaks separately or keep them far away from the other foods.

#9) Cutting Into the Steaks Immediately After Grilling

Yet another mistake that you’ll want to avoid making is cutting into your steaks immediately after grilling them. Maybe you want to see if they are cooked all the way through, so you cut the center with a knife. Seems harmless, right? Unfortunately, if you cut your steaks immediately after removing them from the grill, the juices won’t have time to settle; thus, they’ll run out of the steak, resulting in a dry texture and lackluster flavor. Let your steaks sit for at least three minutes before cutting into them.

These are just a few of the most common mistakes home chefs make when grilling steaks.

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/

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Using a Fire Pit on a Wooden Deck

37-Hemi-on-flanged base-with-SnufferA fire pit is a simple accessory that will enhance your home’s outdoor living space. In addition to cooking over an open flame, it creates a relaxing ambiance that you and your guests are sure to enjoy. But if you’re planning to use your fire pit on a wooden deck, there are a few things you should know. Keep reading for a complete list of do’s and don’t when using a fire pit on a wooden deck.

Do Clean Your Deck Before Lighting Fire Pit

It’s a good idea to clean your deck before lighting your fire pit. Depending on your proximity to nearby trees, pine straw, leaves and other debris may accumulate on your deck. Assuming they are dry, these things can easily spark an unwanted fire. A stray ember may land on nearby debris, setting it ablaze. So, using either a push broom or leaf blower, clean your deck before lighting your fire pit.

Don’t Place Your Fire Pit Against the Side of Your Home

Arguably, the single most important safety tip to follow when using a fire pit is to keep it at least 20 feet away from your home and all other flammable structures. Some homeowners place it right up against their home’s siding for “convenience.” You have to remember, though, that fire pits put out a lot of heat — and too much heat can damage your home’s siding or even set it ablaze. So, remember to keep your fire pit at least 20 feet away from your home and all other structures.

Do Dispose of the Ashes After Fire Pit Has Cooled

You should also dispose of your fire pit’s ashes after it has cooled. Allowing the ashes to sit inside your fire pit for days (or longer) is never a good idea. Some of the ashes may blow out and onto your deck, or they may soak up moisture and contribute to corrosion. Either way, these problems are easily prevented by waiting at least 24 hours and then shoveling the ashes into a metal bucket or similar metal container.

Alternatively, you can save your fire pit ashes to use as garden compost, insect repellent or other purposes. For a list of 10 everyday uses for fire pit ash, check out our previous blog post here.

Don’t Place Your Fire Pit Directly on the Wooden Deck

Avoid placing your fire pit directly on your deck or other wooden surfaces. While heat rises — meaning most of the heat created by your fire pit will be projected upwards — the bottom may still contain enough heat to singe or otherwise burn your deck. You can protect your wooden deck from such damage, however, by placing something between it and your fire pit. A small grid of pavers should do the job. Simply arrange the pavers to cover the area of the deck where you’d like to use it, after which you can place the fire pit on top. Another idea is to use a special heat-resistant fire pit mat, which as the name suggests is designed to withstand the 450+ degree temperature of a fire pit. Either way, you need something underneath your fire pit to protect your wooden deck from damage.

Do Keep Water Nearby

fire-279748_960_720It’s always better to be overprepared than underprepared. While it’s doubtful you’ll ever need, you should keep water near your fire pit in case the fire spreads outside of the pit. A pitcher, large bucket or even a garden hose will all suffice for this purpose. In the unlikely event that you see a secondary fire, you should douse it with water ASAP.

Don’t Use Lighter Fluid

There’s really no point in using lighter fluid in a fire pit. Assuming you use dry, seasoned wood, it should ignite with little effort. You can add some tinder and kindling to the middle to help get it going. Simply position your wood so it’s propped up with the center empty and allowing for air to pass through. Lighting some tinder and kindling in the middle will then get your fire going. Adding lighter fluid isn’t recommended, as it stresses your fire pit and increases the risk of injury and property damage.

Do Check for Local Ordinances

You might be surprised to learn that some cities and municipalities have laws regarding the use of fire pits and other open flames. Some, for instance, only allow then on decks when they are at least 20 feet away from your home. So, before using your fire pit on a wooden deck, check to see what (if any) ordinances are in place for your area.

Don’t Leave it Unattended

Finally, never leave your fire pit burning attended. If you need to run to the store, ask a family member or friend to watch it. This rule isn’t limited strictly to fire pits; it applies to all fires. An unattended fire could spark a secondary fire, and without something there to douse it with water, it could cause significant property damage or bodily injury.

These are just a few do’s and don’ts to follow when using a fire pit on a wooden deck.

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/

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8 Simple Tips to Make Your Fire Pit Last

36 Elliptical Decorative

30 Mid Century Modern PitHumans have been building fire pits ever since the Stone Age. While these were rudimentary — consisting of nothing more than holes dug into ground — they were still critical in allowing our ancestors to cook meat and survive the harsh winter temperatures.

Today, we continue to use fire pits for these and other reasons. According to a survey conducted by the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), fire pits are the second most popular outdoor furnishing, only behind chairs. But if you plan on buying a fire pit, you’ll need to maintain it. By following the tips listed below, you can make your fire pit last for countless years to come.

#1) Choose a High-Quality Fire Pit

Arguably, the most important thing you can do is choose a high-quality fire pit, such as those offered here at S&S Fire Pit. While other companies mass produce their fire pits overseas, we handcraft each and every fire pit here in the United States. On average, it takes at least four hours for us to complete a single fire pit, so you can rest assured knowing you are getting the highest quality available.

#2) Watch What You Burn

When using your fire pit, you should avoid burning trash or pressure-treated lumber. Instead, choose natural, locally sourced wood that’s dry and not wet. Burning trash and/or pressure-treated lumber may release toxic fumes and chemicals, some of which may damage your fire pit over time (not to mention it’s bad for your health). And wet wood simply doesn’t burn as easily, so you may struggle to get it lit.

#3) Don’t Use Lighter Fluid

Assuming you use dry wood, you should be able to light your fire pit using nothing more than small pieces of tinder and kindling. You shouldn’t, however, use lighter fluid to get it going. Aside from the risk of bodily harm and property damage it poses, lighter fluid may damage the finish on your fire pit. It’s doubtful any noticeable damage will occur after just one or two uses of lighter fluid. Nonetheless, it’s best to err on the side of caution by avoiding lighter fluid altogether.

If you struggle to light your fire pit, check out our previous blog post here for some helpful tips.

#4) Allow Fire to Extinguish Naturally

Sure, it’s easier and faster to extinguish your fire pit by dousing it with water, but this increases the risk of damage. Unless it’s an emergency situation and you need to get the fire out ASAP, you should await for the fire to extinguish naturally. Dousing a still-burning fire pit with water causes sudden temperature changes. The 1,000-degree fire is suddenly cooled, which can lead to weaken the fire pit’s structural integrity.

#5) Clean the Grate Before and After Cooking

If you use your fire pit for cooking — as most owners do — you should clean the grate both before and after cooking on it. A wire grill brush is an excellent accessory that every home chef needs. Using a wire brush, you can scrub your fire pit’s grate to remove any stubborn food or debris. Failure to do so will result in food particles hardening onto the grate.

Also, consider applying a cooking oil over the grate before adding your food. A thin layer of vegetable oil will “season” it, while also discouraging rust and corrosion. You can experiment with different types of cooking oils, though many home chefs prefer traditional vegetable oil because of its high smoking point and ease of use.

#6) Keep it Covered

Fire Pit Party01Don’t leave your fire pit exposed to the elements. Ideally, you should either place it under a covered area or use a grill cover to protect it from the rain. Without some type of protection, your fire pit will get soaked — and this can lead to rust and corrosion. Keeping your fire pit dry is essential to preserving its structural integrity and original appearance. This isn’t limited strictly to fire pits, however; this applies to all steel and iron-containing metal accessories.

#7) Remove Ashes

When you are finished using your fire pit, wait at least 24 hours for the fire to extinguish and the ash to cool. Once it has cooled, you can dispose of the ash by scooping it out with a shovel and transferring it to a safe, non-flammable metal container. Never attempt to remove ash that’s still hot. Even if it looks gray and cool-to-the-touch, it could hold enough heat to spark a second fire.

#8) Wipe Off Soot and Residue

When fire pits burn, they’ll produce small amounts of smoke. And within this smoke is soot, which can stick to the surface of your fire pit. Soot isn’t a serious concern, but it’s a good idea to remove it nonetheless. After your fire pit has cooled (about 24 hours), wipe down the surface with a damp paper towel. You don’t have to use any special cleaning products, as a small amount of water should suffice, leaving your fire pit looking nice and clean.

Following the tips listed here will allow you to get more use and enjoyment out of your fire pit.

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/

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Recipe for the Perfect Fourth of July Backyard Bash

sparklers-923029_960_720The Fourth of July is right around the corner, offering the perfect opportunity for homeowners to host backyard parties and get-togethers. Being that it’s a federal holiday, everyone who works for the government or a government-run service gets the day off work. And even many privately run companies are closed to celebrate Independence Day. So, if you’re planning to host a backyard bash this Fourth of July, here are some tips to make it a success.

Prepare Your Backyard

One of the first steps towards planning the perfect Fourth of July backyard bash is to prepare the area in which you will host the party. Whether it’s your patio, garden or even the driveway, you need to clean and prepare it before inviting friends over. This means mowing the lawn to ensure the grass isn’t overgrown, edging sidewalks and walking paths, and sweeping or blowing any standing debris.

You can also use this time to prepare seating for your guests. Think about how many people you intend to invite, and use this number to determine how many seats you need. It’s a good idea to “overshoot” your seating, however. If you plan on inviting 12 people, set up 15 or so chairs. It’s always better to have more chairs than not enough.

Choosing Your Fourth of July Foods

No Fourth of July party is complete without plenty of delicious food and beverages. Statistics show that Americans consume approximately 155 million hot dogs on Independence Day weekend. Of course, this shouldn’t come a surprise given that Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is held during this time of year. When most people thing of Independence Day foods, they immediately envision hot dogs. They are delicious, inexpensive, and can be prepared any number of different ways.

While hot dogs are always a great choice for the Fourth of July, there are other foods from which to choose as well.

Some popular grilled food ideas for the Fourth of July include:

  • Hamburgers
  • Hotdogs
  • Steaks
  • Chicken
  • Corn on the cob
  • Pork chops
  • Bratwurst

To keep your beverages cold, you may want to prepare a cooler (or several). If you’re hosting the party in your backyard, and it’s a long walking distance to your home, a cooler will allow guests to retrieve ice-cold beverages without walking up to your home. Be warned, though, many gas stations and convenience stores sell out of ice early on the Fourth of July weekend, so buy it ahead of time.

Dishware and Cutlery

You’ll also need dishware and cutlery to kick off your Fourth of July backyard bash. Rather than using your own plates, dishes, cups, etc., consider using disposable ones. No one wants to spend hours washing dishes after hosting a party, which is why disposable dishware is preferred. Guests can grab their own plates and cups, and they can dispose of them when they are finished (keep a trash can near the food and eating area).

An alternative to plastic is compostable dishware and cutlery. As the name suggests, compostable dishware and cutlery turns to compost after a short period of time, breaking down into nutrient-rich food for plants. Assuming you have a compost bin, you can ask guests to place their compostable dishware and cutlery into your compost bin. This eliminates waste while creating fertilizer for your plants and flowers in the process. The only downside is that compostable dishware and cutlery tends to cost more than traditional plastic dishware and cutlery.

Send Invitations

Don’t wait until the last minute to send your invitations. With Independence Day fast approaching, you should get them in the mail ASAP. You can create basic invitations using card stock paper, or you can buy pre-made invitations. In your invitations, let guests know where the party is taking place (e.g. your backyard, with a street address), how long it will last, whether food will be served, and what they need to bring (if anything). You can include your phone number on the invitations in case guests have trouble finding your home.

In addition to an actual invitation, you should also call and invite guests over the phone. This ensures they get the message regardless of whether the invitation arrives in their mailbox.

Fireworks Safety 101

burgers-1839090_960_720If you plan on shooting fireworks off this Independence Day, you should follow some basic safety tips to protect against injury and property damage. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), roughly 230 people receive medical treatment at hospital emergency rooms every year on Independence Day for fireworks injuries.

Here are some fireworks safety tips to protect against injury and property damage:

  • Follow all local and state laws regarding the use of fireworks.
  • Never attempt to relight a “dud” firework.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Only light one firework at a time.
  • Do not shoot fireworks from bottles or buckets.
  • Beware of sparklers, as they can burn at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep a bucket of water of garden hose nearby in case of an incidental fire.

Following the tips listed here will help make your Fourth of July backyard bash one to remember.

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/

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3 Safety Rules to Follow When Disposing of Fire Pit Ash

1280px-Leave_No_Trace_FireA fire pit is the perfect addition to any patio or outdoor living space. It introduces new style, while also allowing you and your family to enjoy the warm ambiance of a fire. Perhaps this is why fire pits consistently rank as one of the top additions to outdoor living spaces.

But if you plan on owning a fire pit, you’ll need to know how to properly dispose of the ashes. Allowing ash to sit in your fire pit isn’t recommended, as it encourages rust and corrosion. By following the tips below, you can safely dispose of your ash while preserving the integrity of your fire pit.

#1) Wait 24 Hours Before Touching

A good rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours after your fire has been extinguished before attempting to touch or otherwise move the ashes. Even if they look cool, ashes may contain enough heat to spark a fire long after the original fire has gone out. This is why it’s best to wait at least one full day before touching the ash.

#2) Use an Ash Shovel

After the ash has thoroughly cooled, you can use a shovel to remove it. It’s best to use a metallic shovel designed specifically for ash removal, just in case the ash is still hot. Ash shovels are inexpensive and readily available at most home goods stores. Simply scoop the ash out of the bottom of the fire pit, at which point you can transfer it to an approved container.

#3) Place in an Ash Bucket

And when removing the ash, be sure to transfer it into a dedicated ash bucket. Never attempt to dispose of fire pit ash in a trash can, as this may cause an unwanted fire. Instead, use a designated ash bucket that’s made of metal. If any ash is still hot, you don’t have to worry about it sparking a second fire.

If you’re looking for things to do with your fire pit ash, check out this previous post published here. We reveal the top 10 uses for wood ash, some of which may surprise you.

Following the tips listed here will allow you to safely dispose of your fire pit ash.

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/