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Fun DIY Landscape Design Ideas

Fun DIY Landscape Design Ideas
  1. String lights
    You’ve probably been to those cafes that have the whimsical string lights outside – they lend the perfect atmosphere to drinks with friends, dancing under the stars, and evening dining. What’s stopping you from having that in your own home?
  2. Build a floating deck for more outdoor activities
    Whether it’s to take up a sunrise (or sunset) yoga practice or to set a table and chairs up for more outdoor meals, a floating deck is a relatively easy day-long project that will spruce up the look and the functionality of your backyard. Lowe’s will get you started with their tutorial.
  3. Add umbrellas
    If you’ve got a pool, chic beach-resort style umbrellas immediately upgrade poolside activities. You can also create an artistic umbrella overhang as an alternative to an awning or shaded patio as seen in the streets of both Paris and Miami.
  4. Plant an herb or veggie garden
    What’s better than home-grown? Nothing, really! Plus, many herbs are actually insect repellants and smell amazing. The Urban Farmer has an excellent guide (free) for what to plant when, so you know exactly what seeds/buds to buy in order to be successfully in growing them!
  5. Build a Zen garden
    We love this idea for modern homes especially, as it plays right into the aura of the overall design. Keep in mind, beach sand doesn’t work – you need gravel. Whether you’re building it as a place to drink Japanese tea or simply using it a calm respite, this step-by-step guide makes it easy to DIY one in your own backyard.
  6. Create a planter party
    Cluster multiple planters of different sizes (and colors, if you have a colorful garden – otherwise we recommend sticking to multiple sizes of the same color) in one location (such as close to your new hammock or around your new floating deck), using multiple plant profiles to create a “spillage” or cascading effect. We recommend 3 or more at time. The best part about planters is that you can replace what’s inside at any time without any disruption to the rest of your garden.

  7. Hang a recycled wooden pallet as a planter
    Pick up a used pallet for free from your local hardware store and DIY this hanging planter for a super chic yet boho vibe – it will match perfectly with your café-chic string lights. What to plant? Herbs, of course – you’re steps away from a fresh meal made with homegrown herbs on your floating deck under your café lights! What a dream.
  8. Build a firepit for s’mores and ghost stories
    A weekly “camp” night in the comfort of your own backyard makes for excellent family bonding time (or perhaps a couple-hour respite from the kids if you’ve got one old enough to supervise activities ????). Home Depot’s quick tutorial makes it easy.
  9. Re-mulch
    Okay, so this may only be fun for you if gardening and landscaping is something you truly enjoy, but if it is, re-mulching will freshen up all your garden beds and make everything just a tad big brighter. While you’re at it, trim the edges of all beds for a super prim and clean look.
  10. Upgrade your walkways
    Whether it’s the path from your garage door to your dumpster, your driveway to your front door, or your back door to your garden, changing up your pathways is a relatively easy, low-cost project that will update your home’s exterior. You can purchase new pavers at your local store, or use these creative ideas instead:

    1. Wood rounds instead of stepping stones: just make sure they’re properly treated so that they don’t crack and cause splinters.
    2. Pavers and pebbles: concrete pavers spaced out by pebbles (try glow in the dark for extra wow-factor) and gravel create a touch of modern in any backyard.
    3. Weather-proof tile: guests will be amazed when you’ve got an extension of your indoors radiating out – just make sure they’re not slippery.
  11. Install a hammock with some shady trees
    Perfect for outdoor naps and lazy Sundays, a hammock adds a relaxed vibe to any space. Place one at the end of an upgraded walkway path and cluster some planters around it to create a world of its own.
  12. Build a garden teepee for your kids to play in
    Trust us, it’s much easier than a treehouse! Plus, you can string fruit vines and other plants along the edges, so it works double duty!
  13. Draw/write in moss:
    Draw or write something on any exposed brick or weather-proof walls with moss for true living art. Write a quote or use a large stencil to “paint” a moss solution on any brick (we recommend a geometric pattern or a family crest – super cool!). Instructions to DIY your own moss paint here.

We’d love to see what you DIY in your backyard!

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Weed killers. Chemicals and The Alternatives

Weed killers. Chemicals and The Alternatives

When we design our lawns and gardens, we’re creating a space of order and beauty. Though our landscapes are made up of natural elements such as plants, soil, and water, they’re technically artificial spaces of order that nature will consistently contend against to bring it back to what they were.

Why do you think taking care of landscape requires work?! We’re fighting nature’s natural order!

Think about it: lawns are not natural. We’re trimming grasses to be 3-6 inches tall, when naturally they’d grow to 3-6 feet! We’re structuring garden beds in perfect lines and angles that you’d never find in forests.

One of nature’s best defenses, and one of a homeowner’s worst enemies is the weed.

Why are weeds plaguing my landscaping?
Aside from nature making its way back to natural order, when we trim our grass short or do not optimize our soil, we create the perfect breeding ground for weeds, since they’re highly adapted organisms that feed off these situations.

What are my options when it comes to weed killers?
If it’s quick and easy, it’s likely not the safest, but sometimes the nature (no pun intended) of the problem at hand cannot be tamed with natural options. We’ll explore the most common:

Chemical weed killers: herbicides are chemicals that kill plants or inhibit their normal growth and vary based on 4 main traits:

  1. Selectivity: refers to what the herbicide treats. Selective herbicides kill only the specified plant they’re designed to target, while non-selective essentially kill anything they touch.
  2. Persistence: refers to how long after application the herbicide will continue to work. Persistent herbicides remain “active” and prevent regrowth, while non-persistent do not offer lasting prevention.
  3. Emergence: refers to what stage of the weed the herbicide treats; pre-emergence herbicide is applied to pre-germination (seed stage) to stop weeds from sprouting, while post-emergence is applied after weed growth, directly to the leaves of the plant.
  4. Translocation: refers to how the herbicide is circulated through the plant’s system. Translocated herbicides systematically work their way through the plant’s system, breaking it down internally, while contact herbicides kill immediately on contact.

Are chemical weed killers bad?
Chemical is a pretty scary word that has many people running for the (weed-filled) hills. Not all Chemical herbicides are the same – there are the highly toxic no-no’s like Round-Up (determined by the World Health Organization to be a human carcinogen, found to cause tumors in pigs and rats, discovered to lead to DNA mutations and cancer in humans, and the basis of 10,000 lawsuits – one of which was awarded a $2 billion settlement), whose active ingredient is glyphosate, but there are safer organic alternatives, too, such as corn gluten meal (a byproduct of corn) and acetic acid (vinegar).

Though safer options are available, it’s important to keep in mind that any chemical will change the biodiversity of your soil, which is the foundation of your landscape. Because your soil can have a ripple effect throughout the entire landscape, it’s recommended that when chemical weed killers are necessary, that they be used as a targeted spot treatment only.

Alternatives to Chemical Weed Killers:
These alternatives are not immediate quick fixes, but rather changes you can make to see an improvement in, and reduction of, weed prevalence in your landscaping over time.

  • Learn what the weed is teaching you: not to get all Mr. Miyagi on you, but the weeds overtaking your lawn can guide you as to what needs to be changed; they’re a heads-up to what is biologically going on in your soil and around the roots of your landscaping.
  • For example, let’s say you have a dandelion weed problem – by looking at the biology of the dandelion plant, you determine that it has deep tap roots which work by secreting compounds that dissolve minerals in the soil around them; basically, decompose and soak up the minerals in your soil – which leaves your soil devoid of nutrients; being a “tough” tap root, dandelions love tough soil, which signals to you that your soil may be compacted.

Aerate as needed: compacted soil breeds tough-loving weeds – but you should only aerate if your soil is compacted, not “just because!” Compaction is most common in clay soils, and the best time to aerate is in the fall.
Dethatch with caution: dethatching is (usually) not something that you need to do every year, but rather every 2-3 years. Dethatching does remove dead root material and bring air to the space between your plants’ roots to allow them to breathe, but it also exposes weed seeds that can germinate – which is why the best time to do dethatch is in fall, most weeds’ off-season.

Mulch generously: think of mulch as magic; it allows your soil to build as it slowly decomposes, while forming a thick cover that keeps light from germinating weed seeds. But, it’s important to make sure you use mulch that is not dyed and not from questionable sources.

What if these alternatives aren’t working?
The safest way to address gnarly weeds that simply won’t be tamed is to spot treat with organic herbicides. The easiest thing, of course, is to give us a call – we’ll tame your weeds in the safest way possible!

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Keeping Your Lawn Healthy During The Summer Months

Keeping Your Lawn Healthy During The Summer Months

Oh, that summer heat. With these record high temperatures, we know how important it is to protect our skin from the sun – your lawn needs extra TLC to prevent damage, too! How can you keep your lawn healthy and verdant without wasting water or overusing chemicals? These Do’s and Don’t’s will have you covered:

Don’t: over-water.
Do: water according to the stage of your lawn.

  • if you have brand new seed or new sod, you must water more frequently – starting at 3 times a day every day, then spreading out watering as it’s ready
  • if you have a young lawn (1-3 years): you need deeper watering to facilitate root growth
  • if you have an established lawn (3 years or more): water frequently in short spouts (no longer than 10 minutes) – do not deep water.

Note: a common conception of short and frequent watering is that your lawn is more susceptible to fungal growth – one fungicide treatment for the season will keep this from happening.

Don’t: overestimate the amount of rain your grass gets during a storm.
Do: track the rain and adjust watering accordingly

Are there sporadic thunderstorms and rainstorms while you sleep, while you’re at work, or while you’re otherwise away from your home? How can you know if the rainfall was enough to skip your daily watering, or the storm was all bark and no bite – just thunder and little rain? You can either invest in a rain gauge – manual or digital – or go old school and simply put a bucket out anywhere in your yard with a stone/heavy brick in to make sure that it doesn’t overturn in wind.

After rainfall (or when you wake up and get the paper in the morning, or return home from work), if see that the bucket is empty, you know you need to water the lawn pas usual; if the bucket is over ½” full, skip the next watering – if it’s over 3”, it may be a good idea to skip 1-2 full days.

Don’t: avoid fertilizer if your lawn actually needs it.
Do: switch to organic or use a whole-health fertilizer that contains more than just nitrogen.

You’ve likely heard of the rule don’t fertilize in the summer. This thanks to the fear of potential nitrogen burn, which will happen if you’re going to the big box store and buying the old school high nitrogen content fertilizer; you’ll fertilize, then because it’s summer, perhaps experience a few days of heavy rain, then a drought will come, leading to a nitrogen burn.

But this isn’t a catch-all rule; if your lawn is need of nutrients, you can fertilize it – with the right fertilizer. In fact, if you’re not already organic, summer is the best time to switch to organic fertilizer, because it’s not as strong. You can also opt for a whole-health fertilizer that contains way more nutrients than just nitrogen, so your lawn experiences a healthy dose of everything it needs. What to look for in a whole-health fertilizer? Nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, iron, humic acid, micros, and more – you want nitrogen to be 1 of many ingredients, not a main ingredient.

So, think of the rule instead, as: don’t use inorganic nitrogen fertilizer.

Note: you’ve likely heard this rule for fungicide as well. Again, that’s assuming you’re buying a catch-all, heavy-hitting fungicide. The truth is, you may be experiencing brown patches in your warm-weather grass or sod webworm in your cool-season turf which does require fungicide for treatment; in acute cases, it’s completely fine to apply fungicide, but seek out a natural, less aggressive one.

Don’t: spray full-lawn weed control
Do: spot-treat as needed.

Do not spray or use any weed control during the summer – your lawn is already under severe stress. If weeds are cropping up, use acute spot treatments in the evening, so the spots treated have some cooler “breathing” time through the night.

Don’t: cut during the day
Do: cut near the evening

It’s not just about avoiding the heat because you don’t want to suffer a heat stroke – it’s about protecting your grass. Mow in the late afternoon or evening when the temperatures are lower, so that your lawn has all evening to “relax” before the heat really sets in.

Don’t: cut too much or too often
Do: cut “high” every 7-10 days

Your grass’s roots need shade so that they don’t overheat. A general rule is to not cut more than 1” at a time, leaving the cut “high” on the blade of grass. Cut every 7-10 days. If you don’t cut at all, you risk your lawn entering dormancy, which isn’t much fun (or very cost effective) to revive.

Seem like too much maintenance? Give us a call and we’ll keep your lawn in tip-top shape – in the summer and year-round!

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Back Yard Landscaping Ideas

Back Yard Landscaping Ideas

Your backyard, especially on beautiful days, is likely the space for hours of relaxation, entertainment, and enjoyment – the best way to make it even more enjoyable is to design the perfect backyard landscaping that establishes absolute paradise right outside of your backdoor.

  1. Define the use of the backyard: it is family fun, with swing sets for the kids and kid- and pet-friendly plants coupled sprawling greens for playing sports? A pool party paradise? An outdoor entertainment center replete with dining areas, with easy access to the kitchen and grill, making considerations for the need to have access to the main house if necessary for plating? Or simply an aesthetically pleasing design that ties into the home’s structure? Perhaps it’s a mix of a few of these?
  2. Determine views: what you want to hide, want you want to showcase, and the site line from each location at which your guests will be seated.
    • Site line: what you see (your site) from whatever location you stand. For example: you want to keep in mind what the site line is when you look directly outside your door, and what the site line would be from wherever you would be sitting – is there an existing site line you are working with, or are you going to create one with your hedging and planting, such as the site line created by the hedges that the white chairs on this lawn face?
    • Showcase: is there a pond, fountain, or herb/floral garden that you’d like the rest of the landscape to center around? Or perhaps a seating area for outdoor dining that you want set off by its own edging?
    • Hide or soften: are there foundational walls or paths that are weathered by the elements but don’t need functional replacement? Plants make an excellent disguise for unsightly walls, but they also soften hard lines without sacrificing modernity, such as the growth on the concrete walls in this modern backyard.
  3. Layer: no matter what style you’re going for (bountiful floral gardens or modern greenery), layering different heights side-by-side will give you the lush growth that adds depth to your property.Soft varieties of greens give pathways a peaceful aesthetic – and layered heights feed into the depths of steps in pathways like these.
  4. When in doubt, go green (especially in modern homes): you cannot go wrong with simply layering different textures of greens – especially in modern architecture.Varieties of textures and heights of greens accent this modern concrete and gravel pathway, creating what feels like a modern rainforest oasis.

    For a simple solution with minimal soil maintenance, easy-growing trees and mulched beds with well-placed bushes lend modern greenery to the clean lines in a home or office building.

  5. Repeat: recurring elements throughout the property create a unity and rhythm that moves you (and your guests) through the property. Often, this best takes the form of a specific colored flower or plant throughout the property, such as the purples in this front lawn that will reappear in the backyard.
  6. Accent with annuals: use annuals and accents around seating areas, such as edging on pool/lounge decks or showcasing garden seating, and couple with stone around fountains and ponds for exuberant emphasis.
  7. Create walls with greenery: hedging, dense trees, and tall shrubs provide privacy and/or the ambiance of truly being in a retreat, such as the tall greenery at the edge of this pool – whether it’s dividing your backyard from your neighbor or simply the tennis court on the other side, greens make a lush solution to the hard lines of a fence or wall.
  8. Don’t underestimate the power of grass: seriously, the good grass makes a difference – just look at this gorgeous sprawling field and this supple yard.
  9. Use edging to make spaces: define paths with different sections of plants and/or styles – such as this organized row of low bushes that break the seating area away from the pool in this backyard.
  10. Plant a small herb/produce garden where you will host your outdoor dining: nothing will impress your guests more than consuming a meal that’s literally fresh from the garden!

Seem overwhelming? There are literally thousands of plants to choose from and a seemingly endless array of options for backyard layout – especially if your backyard is on the larger end of the scale! Leave it to us at Creative Design to help create the backyard of your dreams.

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Front yard landscaping ideas

Front yard landscaping ideas

A cohesive and well-designed yard is flows into and away from a well-designed interior, and just like your interior, you want to ensure that the layout, color scheme, and general planning of the design is cohesive and provides a seamless path into (or out of) the entrance of your home.

First impressions when you meet someone literally define how that person sees you moving forward and are pretty hard to change. Think of your front yard as the physical first impression anyone has when “meeting” your home.

Don’t even know where to start?

Here are a few things to keep in mind when designing your front yard:

What landscaping will best emphasize the structure of your home?

For modern architecture, it’s best to stick to clean lines and simple plants such as ornamental grasses. It’s best to stick with greenery as opposed to

For traditional and classical architecture, a variety of landscape design will flow well with the house’s design, so you can stick to greenery or introduce a variety of florals.

How much effort will go into maintenance?

Make sure you only plant what you are able to take care of. If you’re maintaining the yard on your own, determine your time budget that you’ll be able to allocate to the plant maintenance. If you have a landscaping or ground maintenance crew, determine the added (if any) cost that will be associated with maintaining the new plantings.

Keep in mind what type of plants are being used; perennials grow back every season, so there’s little maintenance, whereas annuals must be planted each year. For overall landscape design, perennials are recommended. Annuals are best in a small garden in your backyard, or for homeowners that enjoy gardening themselves.

 

Is there a functional use for the planting design, or is it simply for aesthetics?

Plants can be used solely for art and design, but can also be designed to afford more functional features such as privacy or even concealment of structural faults in the property.

Privacy: Hedges or tall grasses, tress, or plants, are a softer approach to privacy than a standard fence and can be designed to whatever height or density you’d like.

This Hamptons home makes use of tall trees and bushes to obscure the view of the house, while this home uses hedging to hide the front of the house to anyone from ground level.

Obscurity: whether it’s a wall that’s exposed to the weather that you’re just sick of repainting every year or foundational aspects of your home that you simply don’t love, plants can be used to hide imperfections.

Who is using the pathway, and what design fits its use best?

Formal pathways ensure that guests can get to your front door without ruining your beautiful design, providing ease of entrance.

Solid concrete and/or pavers or stones offer the most specific, defined direction for pathways. Traditional pathways will be a solid application with grouted/concrete seams, but many clients will opt for concrete “tiles” with grass “grout” between, which provides a beautiful contrast of greenery against the stone. Keep in mind, with this application, that the grass between does need to be properly maintained, or else it will die and completely defeat the purpose of the design. If you like the idea of the concrete “tiles” as a path but want a less-stress option, you can use the same design, but simply use gravel or fine pebbles as the “grout” lines.

To go softer you can instead use ground gravel, such as this modern application of a gravel pathway, or spaced stepping stones. When using stepping stones, make sure that they’re spaced as someone would step.

NOTE: when designing pathways that lead directly to your door, keep in mind function: do you have elderly people living in, or visiting the home often? Ground pebbles or uneven steppingstones may not be the best fit. Do you/a family member living in the home wear heels often, and use the front door as the main entrance? Definitely not a great idea to have any uneven surface; smooth pavers or solid concrete are the best fit to ensure there are no twisted ankles!

Are there specific areas you want defined?

Plantings with clean lines define areas of interest, such as the front door, pathways, or a structure in your front yard that you’d like to emphasize. For other areas of your yard, it’s best to keep softer corners and lines – unless your structure is modern, in which case clean lines are always your best bet.

We’re here to help you determine your optimal landscape design. For more ideas, take a look at our gallery, full of designs from modern to classical. Even easier – simply give us a call!

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All the Basics You Need to Know about Designing your Landscape Lighting

All the Basics You Need to Know about Designing your Landscape Lighting

The presence of light quite literally defines darkness – and how you light your landscape can define, frame, and even hide aspects of your home that you want showcased (or hidden).

 

Where to start with your landscape design:

The first place to start when deciding how to design your landscape lighting is determining what you want to hide and what you want to showcase. Then, you want to determine where light is absolutely required, such as pathways that could be considered potentially dangerous regarding tripping or that you’d like high visibility for security cameras (such as a pathway leading from the front yard to the back, or the pathway between garage and trash path or alleyway).

Consider the main areas, their functional use, and what you want showcased the most – you don’t want to light everything up, because then everything will look the same! That’s where layering comes in.

 

Layer your lighting:

Once you know what you want to light up, determine how it will be lit.

There are 3 main types of outdoor landscape lighting:

  1. Ambient: these are great for steps, edges, and general lighting that doesn’t require severely high visibility. Ambient lighting is also used to create shadows and shapes by using the actual architecture of the home or structures that it’s lighting up.
  2. Task: named for, well, tasks! Task lighting is used most often at tables and meeting spaces – such as lanterns on outdoor tables and portable lamps – they’re generally movable as needed for whatever occasion presents itself.
  3. Accent: these either add depth or showcase vegetation – they make elements of your yard sparkle.

 

How to design landscape lighting:

First, keep in mind the lantern effect that your home’s internal lights will have on the outdoor design – literally, how will the lights on in the house appear from the outside when it’s dark out? Also keep in mind that a pool will serve as a source of lantern lighting if you are lighting the pool heavily.

Then, sketch (or have your architect or designer sketch) both a birds-eye view and a street-level view of the layout of your current home as-is, from all perspectives. Will you be adding any accents or vegetation? If so, draw those in. Then, circle or highlight what items you’d like accented, what areas need lighting, and what’s functional versus decorative.

Once it’s determined where you want your lighting, you’ll need to determine what you’ll be lighting the areas with. The most common outdoor lighting fixtures are: spotlights, pathway lights, wall washes, in-ground lights, hardscape fixtures, step/deck indicator lights, and subversive lights (for underwater lighting)

 

Keep in mind:

Keep it warm: even if you enjoy bright light, as a rule, warmer light is more desirable for outdoor spaces. Light “temperature” is measured on the Kelvin scale, and you’ll find it on the package or the bulb itself. You don’t want to go any higher than 3000K – past 3000K is the bluer and white tones. The lower the number, the more ambient and warmer the light color is.

View from all angles: what perspective(s) will you be viewing your home from? Is there something (like a tree, guesthouse, or fountain) that will be seen from more than one angle? If so, you’ll want to light it up from all angles.

Low over line: you want your lighting to remain 12k low voltage as opposed to line voltage to reduce the risk of any shock. Lines often get cut in lawnmowing and weed trimming, so keeping the wiring at low voltage ensures that there are no live wires that will harm pets, kids, or adults!

The LED vs halogen debate: not sure which to choose? They both have their pros and cons, and your landscape designer is the best person to answer your questions. In general, LEDs are available in a wide array of more customizable shades, colors, and lighting levels, consume significantly less energy, and last much longer. Their con is that the fixtures themselves are usually more expensive and require more expertise to set up – so their up-front cost is higher. Halogens, on the other hand, require less expertise and cost less up front.

Solar if sunny: solar-powered LED lights are an excellent option if you live in a sunny climate, but it’s certainly not recommended if you are in low-UV rated areas. Sure, the idea of being environmentally friendly is nice, but if you’re relying on solar and you don’t get any solar power… you’re a bit out of luck when night falls!

 

Seem overwhelming? Just give us a call – we’ll be happy to sketch out your perfect outdoor lighting plan and implement the design to achieve anything from dramatic edges to ambient atmospheres.

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All you need to know about Masonry

All you need to know about Masonry

Are you looking into a remodel (or complete rebuild) and heard the word “masonry” thrown around all the time, but aren’t quite sure what it means? I mean, we don’t blame you – there are tons of different kinds! We’ll demystify the basics of masonry, so you can make informed decisions for your building process, whether it’s choosing between masonry or wooden structures, or simply deciding exactly what kind of foundation you want to use.

What exactly is masonry construction?

Masonry walls are the most durable component of any structure – it’s one of the oldest methods of construction known to humans. Any ancient structures you still see today are still erect due to their masonry – some are over 3000 years old!

Masonry refers to the process of laying down 1 masonry unit over another (brick, concrete, or stone) with mortar in a uniform manner to construct any element of a building.

What are the different kinds of masonry?

Masonry is classified in two ways – the type of material that’s used, and the use of its finished product:

Classification by Material

Masonry material includes brick, concrete, and natural stones including granite marble, and more. Tile is also considered masonry, depending on its use

Brick masonry: with readily available materials, brick masonry requires little skilled labor and is an economical solution for most construction projects. But it absorbs water easily, so it’s not recommended in wet, humid environments (you’ll never see a sea wall made of brick!)

Concrete masonry: concrete takes various forms in masonry:

  • Concrete hollow blocks, which have been replaced by fly ash breaks (FAB) recently due to environmental factors: made of cast concrete sand and fine gravel, they have a higher load capacity than bricks. They’re usually used for reinforcement.
  • Autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC): concrete based, but have a lower density than conventional concrete blocks, and generally are larger, meaning less joints and less mortar needed.

Stone masonry: uses natural stone, or concrete that has been manufactured to resemble natural stone. This masonry is more decorative rather than structural, and usually requires more skilled labor, as stones are not uniform in shape and size.

Classification by Use/Finished Product

Load bearing masonry walls: constructed with bricks, stones, or concrete blocks, load bearing walls’ specific purpose is to directly transfer loads from the roof to the foundation. They can be interior and exterior, and they’re what you’d see in place of a wooden frame or structure if a house were to be made of wood.

Reinforced masonry walls: can be load bearing or non-load bearing, but their purpose is to help the structure withstand heavy tension forces and compressive loads. When a wall is not reinforced, it can lead to cracks, which will eventually allow moisture in if not treated in a timely manner.

Hallow (cavity) masonry walls: these walls are the solution to preventing moisture from reaching the interior by providing hollow space between the inside and outside space of the wall, which also regulates temperature. When the structural wall is exposed to moisture for a sustained period, the water is captured within the hallow space, which travels down and is drained out of the building via weep holes – so it never damages the internal structure. The hollow spaces are often coated with water repellant coating

Composite masonry walls: constructed with 2 or more units, such as stones and bricks, they are usually for decorative or divisive purposes, and not load bearing.

 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of masonry construction?

The advantages: masonry construction is better suited for environments near bodies of water or high humidity areas, and in places where bug infestation is an issue – bugs don’t feast on concrete and brick! Concrete masonry is the best option for construction near the sea, as brick does still take on water (though not as much as wood). Stone masonry has a much longer life than wood, and it’s resistant to torque forces, such as wind, rain and tornadoes. In addition, stone doesn’t burn – it’s great for fireplaces and areas of high heat.

The disadvantages: masonry construction is significantly heavier than all other kinds, and relies entirely on the foundation for stability (unlike wood, which can bend slightly as foundations settle). As a result, it can sink the foundation more quickly than a wooden framed structure would. Because of its weight, it’s also highly susceptible to major damage during earthquakes.

 

What happens when stone or brick masonry needs to be repaired?

When you notice cracks in your brick or concrete masonry, it’s best to address it immediately, so that your contractor can “re-point” or “tuck-point” the joints and cracks. Simple patching and replacement in small areas will usually do the trick, but depending on the material, certain mortars and materials may be better than others.

When it comes to real stone, like marble, granite, and more, some may rely on short-term fixes such as compounds colored to look like the stone, but this may results in mismatching textures and shades. This quick, cheap fix can sometimes be more damaging in time – it will eventually fall off, taking other stones around it with it. For this reason, if you’re building any portion of your home with natural stone masonry, it’s always a good idea to purchase a decent amount of square footage of the stone to keep on hand for repairs down the line. That way, it can be used for quality repairs that will not deteriorate the quality of the work.

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Spring Lawn Care

Spring Lawn Care

The frost has melted and the sun is finally starting to warm your winter-chilled bones: spring is here, and with it, nascent buds and fresh seedlings that are ready to make your lawn look fresh and lush.

You don’t need to hire an expensive landscape artist or lawn company to achieve a thriving front lawn worthy of your neighbors’ envy – these basic lawn care tips will have you feeling like a pro on your own!

 

Take it slow

The first ray of sunshine may make you reach for your mower, but there’s much to be done beforehand. Before firing up the lawnmower, you’ll need to dethatch and aerate your lawn.

Dethatch

Thatch is the little pieces of dead grass you see between the soil and the green grass. Some is good, but too much will catch pests and prevent new seeds from their optimal growth. When the cold season is over, there’s usually excess build up that’s too much for natural processes to break it down. You can use a specialized thatch rake, but a regular rake will work just fine too.

Once dethatched, you’ll want to let your grass grow before aerating. You don’t want to aerate until you have a decent amount of green growth. If you aerate too early, you’ll be bringing weed seeds up to the surface, so the weeds will outgrow the grass.

Aerate

Once you’ve got a decent amount of green, you’ll want to aerate your lawn so that the grass roots can “breathe” – aerating creates holes in the soil that prevents over-compaction in the soil and allows air, water, and nutrients to reach the grass roots, which is key to ensure optimal growth. Aerating is easier when the soil is somewhat moist, so it’s best to do after rainfall or irrigation the day prior.

If you’ve dethatched and aerated but the green grass just isn’t coming, try corn gluten: it acts as a placeholder until grass grows – it’s not a weed killer, but a weed preventer, so if weeds have already overtaken your lawn, you will need to look into weed killers instead.

Think you can start seeding? Think again! Wait at least 5 weeks until you start!

Seeding Time

You’ve patiently waited, and now it’s time to seed. Use organic, rich top dressing, laid down at about 1/8th to 1/4th of an inch (it’s not as thick as you’d probably think!) – you want the seeds fed and insulated, but you don’t want them unable to get the nutrients and slivers of sunlight they need!

As far as soil goes, you’ll probably see that the organic soil has lower “numbers” than the synthetic ones, but that does not mean they’re less effective or that you need double (or triple) the amount of organic soil. Organic soil is actually more stable than the synthetic soil, so it lasts longer in feeding the seeds; chemically produced synthetic ones contain unstable compounds that evaporate into gases, making them pretty ineffective (the seeds need solid food, not gas!).

Seeds should be planted about 15 per square inch, tight, but not touching.

When it comes to watering, morning is best, because if the plants are overwatered, the sun will just dry the excess out. If that’s not possible for you, and a sprinkler system is out of the budget, that’s totally fine – you just need to be cautious not to over-water in the afternoon or evening.

Speaking of over-watering in the evening: do not ever water plants directly on their leaves – only at the ground! Since there’s no sun to evaporate any excess water, you’re basically just establishing a breeding ground for fungi and mold to fester in the night.

 

Grass Cutting

When do you know when it’s time to cut the grass? When the blades have reached 4 inches or more. You want to keep your grass at about 3 to 4 inches tall, so that you’re still giving it enough length to keep its roots cool.

Sharp cuts: you know that brownish tint that some lawns get? That’s from dull lawnmower blades. Think of it like split ends on your hair: when a lawnmower blade is dull, instead of slicing the grass cleanly, it essentially tears it, leaving it split, causing it to get those dingey brown edges. Nobody likes a dingey lawn – replace your blades every season or bring them to a local shop to sharpen. It’s a small investment for a world of difference!

 

Laying Sod

If you’re laying sod (whether re-sodding an entire lawn or just sodding in certain trouble spots), be sure that the ground below is level and dry – you do not want to water beforehand. You’ll place starter fertilizer on the ground before laying the sod, and once you’re ready, lay the sod like bricks: stagger the seams, but knit them as closely together as possible.

If you’re hiring someone to lay the sod, it’s a good idea to double-check that they warranty their work – if they don’t lay the seams staggered and tightly enough, you will get patchy areas.

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Stone Masonry vs Brick Masonry

Stone Masonry vs Brick Masonry

When incorporating masonry into architecture, you’ll find two options: stone and brick, each of which boasts their own benefits (along with some trade-offs).

Durability

Stone is considerably more durable than brick and will hold its color for much longer than bricks will. Brick generally lasts about 1 century, while stone generally lasts for several (or more.) Note – manufactured stone will not last as long as natural stone, and it will hold a life closer to that of brick.

Functionality

Hot and cold: Stone will keep you cool, which makes it ideal for warm climates, while brick holds heat, which makes it ideal for cold climates.

Moisture: Bricks are more absorbent in nature (they’re hygroscopic), so brick masonry is not ideal in scenarios prone to wetness, whether it’s the weather, sewage, or waste. They’ll absorb liquid from whatever atmosphere they’re in, and once moisture evaporates, white and gray spots may be left behind, which can spoil the appearance. Stones are less absorbent, and therefore more suitable in these scenarios.

Cleaning: because bricks are more porous, they’re harder to clean and more susceptible to mold growth, whereas stone is smoother, easier to clean, and less susceptible to mold growth.

Aesthetic

Bricks are (usually) made up of clay that is pressed into perfectly shaped molds, creating a completely uniform, classic look. They stack easily on top of each other and connected with mortar to form perfectly solid walls. Because of this, brick has much less flexibility regarding shape differences and color variety.

Stone tends to be less uniform in shape and size and boasts considerably more variety than bricks offer. Whether quarried or manufactured, stone offers more options for size, shape, and color than brick – however, if you’re looking for a completely uniform look, brick will evoke the uniformity better than stone will. If you are looking to create a more modern, creative, or artistic aesthetic, stone opens a world of possibilities.

2 types of stone masonry: rubble masonry & ashlar masonry

When you’re looking into stone masonry, you’ll find two main groups which each provide unique looks in the design process. Rubble masonry uses undressed stones – meaning they haven’t been cut or polished, and their sizing and shape are not uniform. Ashlar masonry, on the other hand, requires “dressing” the stone – treating it, smoothing it, and shaping and sizing it so that it’s generally uniform (much like forming a brick) – this form of stone masonry is more expensive than both rubble stone masonry and clay masonry, as it requires skilled labor that takes extensively more time than standard brick shaping (or stone cutting).

Environmental Footprint

Clay is composed of materials that are more readily abundant – clay and shale – and thus are less taxing on the environment in which they’re sourced, whereas natural stone is quarried – meaning it literally chisels away at the earth. However, it’s also possible to repurpose old stone, which is an eco-friendly alternative to quarrying virgin stone. Manufactured stone is an alternative, which uses concrete and marble materials shaped into natural-looking stones.

Installation & Construction

Brick is generally much cheaper because the materials and time that go into making it are low-cost, while the construction cost will vary depending on size and thickness of brick, and the amount of mortar required to construct it. As a general rule, construction cost with brick is cheaper because it requires less skill than laying stones that are of uneven and unequal shapes.

Stone masonry projects usually take longer to complete due to uneven shaping and cuts and may be less or more expensive than brick to build depending on stone sizes and amount of mortar used. If you’re using ashlar (dressed) stone, the cost will be considerably higher than any other option. An alternative to a stone look with a lower cost is manufactured stone or stone siding, which is only about 1-3” thick and provides the same aesthetic as stone, without the environmental footprint, hard hit to the wallet, or extensive labor.

The Verdict

The choice between stone and brick really boils down to what you, as the homeowner or architect, prefer. Though climate may play a role in the decision (if you live in a damp climate, stone may be a better option, or if you live in a very cold climate, brick may be the winter), but the reality is – it’s your home, so choose what will make you happy to come back to it every day!

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Hamptons Landscape Architecture

Hamptons Landscape Architecture

When building a home, the house itself is only one component of the overall design; a landscape architect establishes the first impression that you and your guests see. Landscape architecture merges the man-made with the natural, marrying brick and mortar with the natural elements of earth and water.

Think of your favorite house, historical landmark, or place to visit. Now imagine if you took all the natural greenery away, and only left the concrete (or wood) structure. That’s how much landscape design matters – and you’ve probably never even realized it! Landscape architecture is not solely for beautification: it’s about developing an atmosphere that enhances the environment for the people within it, for both the present and future. Landscape architects are responsible for the paths you take daily, whether it’s the sidewalk to the convenience store or the parks you stroll through; the plazas you shop at or the campuses and offices you study or work at.

Outstanding landscape design is an art form that evokes ambiance while maintaining functionality – it will take your breath away, reinvigorate it, and give it back.

Landscape Architecture: Design Planning

Landscape artists, when designing the front of the home address three components: entryway design, inclusive of planning for vehicle circulation and parking; door path design (creating a beckoning walkway to the front entry); front entry accentuation. This entails the driveways, walkways, entry gates, entry walls and barriers, water features such as fountains, and any plants and lighting that line the path from your property line to your front door.

When addressing the rear of the home, a landscape architect will establish attractive open areas for those living in the house to enjoy, which is especially important if there are young ones around (children need outdoor space to play) or if the homeowner enjoys entertaining often.

Landscape Architecture: Functionality

It’s not all about aesthetics – proper landscape design will manage rainwater efficiently, provide shade when necessary, and allow for proper air flow throughout the property. A talented landscape designer knows not only what will look good visually with the structure of the property, but also what will be maintained easily and will last for years to come, evolving beautifully over time. Landscape designers also work to hide imperfections: they can cover a deteriorating façade with lush vines and greenery or showcase an attractive element in the space to draw the eye to its beauty and away from any imperfections in the background.

Hamptons Architectural Landscapes

Southampton and Easthampton boast a wide range of structural architecture, from contemporary modern to ranch-style and shingled homes, but they do all have one thing in common: vegetation and greenery design that accentuate the home’s structure and facilitates enjoyment for the residents and visitors.

A perfect Hamptons landscape design will unify the property within its boundaries, while smoothly segueing to the space outside the property. Seeing as the Easthampton and Southampton homes are designed to be a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, most homes will maximize the pedestrian experience while minimizing the impact of the car – this will often mean “hiding” the car in a garage separated from the house, with a whimsical pathway to the front door, or veiling a garage by creating a barn-door façade or establishing a wall or gate that obscures it from view.

 

Hamptons homes feature perennials, lush grasses, and most commonly in the 1950s and classically styled architecture, designer hedges. Whether used to hide uneven walls, provide privacy, or used as a makeshift fence, they provide a green alternative to an otherwise rough boundary. Boxwoods, dogwoods, and oak trees will make their way into the design to provide shade throughout the property.

 

Contemporized homes will feature more limestone and granite, with defined spaces and transitional courtyards that mimic the structure of the modern style home.

 

Regardless of home style, the plants selected must withstand the salty, maritime environment, and the spaces will always provide space for relaxation and enjoyment of the Hamptons’ fresh air. A well-maintained pool surrounded with lush chaise lounges will often precede a deck or terrace with outdoor dining space, accented with fire pits and teak wood tables and benches to accommodate anywhere from two to twenty people.

 

The perfect Hamptons landscape architect will develop a plan in conjunction with the architect that assures an overall ambiance of a pure, peaceful retreat. It will bring the fresh air to you and memorialize the space for years to come.