Different Mulch Types: Pros and Cons

If you have a garden or landscaping installation that you want to properly take care of, mulching is probably tops on your list. Mulching has many benefits. Of course, mulch can add a certain aesthetic value to your garden or landscape; while sometimes beautiful and rich topsoil can do the job, other times having mulch, which can come in a variety of shades, textures, appearances, can add the extra bit of pizzazz to your garden.

The Many Benefits of Mulch for Your Garden or Landscape

Mulching also has other benefits besides look. It can help moderate temperature, so that your plants will better withstand high and low temperatures. Putting down this material will keep the soil moist; this will help the plants stay alive even in dry weather, as the moisture that’s held in to the mulch will help keep the plants hydrated. It will also help prevent the sun from drying up the surface of the soil by preventing the evaporation of said water.

In addition, mulch can be a deterrent of weeds, given that the mulch material is free of weeds and is applied correctly so that it will prevent the growth of new weeds and/or kill existing weeds.

In addition, mulch can help protect the surface of the soil itself from crusting or compacting. This keeps the flow of water running through your garden project. It will also protect the soil from the effects of water and wind erosion, as it will help keep it all in place.

Another feature depends on the type of mulch you use (more on this in a minute), so picking the right kind is certainly important, as some mulches (organic ones) will add nutrients to the soil to keep your garden healthy.

The Two Major Mulch Types

Of course, the key question here is the type of mulches you should use for your project. Of course, as you might expect there are many factors involved that help determine the kind of mulch you should use. For the rest of this article we will discuss the different kinds of mulch, their advantages and disadvantages, and other factors that may come into play when it comes time to select your mulch type.

There are two general mulch types: organic and inorganic. Organic mulches are made from things that were previously alive in some form, usually vegetable or plant matter. Thus, common varieties of organic mulch include wood chips (of various types of trees, such as cedar), grass clippings, bark, leaves,a nd others. One of the biggest benefits of this class of material that can be stated outright is that, given the material is made from (formerly) living matter, it will decay into the soil, thereby adding nutrients to it to help support your plants for the long haul.

Of course, there are also inorganic mulches. These are made from non-natural, or man-made, materials, and these include plastics, stones and pebbles, fabric, gravel, and others. These materials generally do not biodegrade, so you won’t get the beneficial effect described above. However, this kind of material has advantages over organic ones too, which I’ll explain in a minute.

More on Organic Mulch Types

As stated above, organic mulches add nutrients to the top soil, helping to support a thriving garden. They also look natural and beautiful, and they will enhance the look of any garden. There are some drawbacks to keep in mind. First, since this material does decay, you will have to replace it more often than not. Second, this dead matter can attract bugs and other pests. Third, some of these materials may have the propensity to blow or wash away, so keep that in mind when you’re filling in your beds.

At the bottom of the organic totem pole are grass, hay, and straw. These should be used with care, because if used in correctly they can cause more trouble, such as weeds, than good. Still, these are popular given that you will probably have these as ‘waste’ products of other parts of your landscape care. In all cases, the clippings should be dry before use to prevent forming a ‘mat’ that will prevent the drainage of water. Furthermore, out of this group, grass and straw are best, because sometimes hay can contain weeds. Overall, the mulch in this category will have to be replaced often given the speed with which they will decay. This speed of decay will provide a nice, quick burst of nutrients to the soil, however. Another thing to be careful about: don’t use clippings in your garden if they come from a lawn that had pesticides applied to it!

Another disadvantage of grass, hay, and straw is that it doesn’t look particularly pleasant. These materials are best reserved for vegetable gardens or other gardens whose primary function is, well, function and not beauty.

Depending on the garden, using plants as “mulch” to cover the surface of the flowerbed may work well. Popular mulches in this category include ivy and different kinds of grasses.

The next kinds of organic mulch come from trees. First in this category come leaves. These work really well, but you’ll want to make sure to slice and dice them with a shredder. Putting them down whole is not the answer, as you want to avoid putting down a thick layer of any kind of mulch that won’t drain properly and will in effect cut off the plants’ water supply. In addition, whole leaves may be picked up by the wind, causing a big mess. (Depending on the wind, this may still happen!) On the other hand, you don’t want to make the leaves too fine, otherwise they will just form a mat on the surface and defeat the purpose of the mulch. Thus, you’ll want to be careful with the size of the leaves.

Another tree product includes bark and pine needles. These work well at many different thicknesses simply because they are so porous. However, beware about the composition and content of your soil and plants; needles, for instance, can be acidic, and this may not work well in some environs. Pine bark is a popular variety of this material. You can get it in a variety of sizes and shapes, though this wood material may obviously attract certain kinds of pests. In general, though, pine needles and bark will look very nice for many gardens.

Finally, we come to the most popular variety of mulch of all: wood chips. These of course come from the wood of the trees themselves. There are many reasons to use these wood chips, including their insulation properties and their weed-preventing aspects. However, because they are made from wood, you will have to beware the invasion of termites who will see the mulch as quite the feast.

More on Inorganic Mulch Types

Let’s move on from the organic to the inorganic. This material doesn’t decay like organic matter does; while this may be a drawback in some instances, in others it may be a boon. Another advantage of this material is that it will not attract pests like organic matter can. In addition, it is relatively maintenance free if installed correctly. In general, this material is more ‘permanent’ than organic varieties, especially stones and pebbles which are difficult to remove.

One popular variety is plastic, especially black plastic (or polyethylene film). One advantage of this material is that you can use it to support and protect your garden better; in addition, you can plant seeds earlier with the protection and aid of this material. Plastic can also help keep in water, which is great as long as the area you’re mulching isn’t too wet. However, note that plastic doesn’t do well in the hot sun, as it will soften and deform in it. Thus, you’ll want to reserve it for the cooler parts of the year. Second, as stated above, this material won’t decay like organic varieties do, so you’ll lose the benefit of the nutrient deposits with this kind of material.

Another popular man-made mulch is woven cloth, plastic, and paper. These will be porous to allow water and air to reach your soil.

If you’re looking for a distinctive aesthetic, stones and pebbles also work well. These are not man-made, but they are not inorganic as they are not, for all intents and purposes, descended from organic life. Just like with the needles and other organic materials, you’ll want to be sure that your particular plants can deal with the alkaline conditions that some of these rocks can cause in the plants. In addition, the stone can sometimes absorb or reflect the sun’s rays, increasing the local temperature around the garden. As always, knowledge of what your plants need is the key! More information can be found in this article on landscaping rocks.

Don’t forget that you can combine some of these varieties together! For instance, black plastic can go well with wood chips or pine needles if the plastic is buried in the soil. This will give you the structural benefits of the plastic with the aesthetics and nutritional value of the wood mulch.

For more landscaping advice, check out this article about some useful front yard landscaping ideas. And for more articles about gardening, check out these articles on garden fencing

A Garden Fencing Guide: What You Need to Know

If you put in the time and effort to grow and maintain your garden, you will obviously want to protect it from outside enemies such as animals. This is the main reason, though not the only one as we’ll see, to put up a vegetable garden fence. This article will give you a basic guide to the kinds of fences to use, how to install them, and the benefits and drawbacks to using particular kinds of fences to protect your vegetable garden.

The Reasons to Use Garden Fencing

The first thing you need to figure out is what kind of fence you need, and to do this you need to know why you need the fence.

The first major reason people use garden fencing is to protect their garden from animals and other pests. Rabbits, groundhogs, deer, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, and other animals can all get into your garden and absolutely wreak havoc on your creation, destroying your hard work. Thus, you’ll need a physical barrier to keep them out. Protection is probably the main reason that people use a garden fence system. Note that you want to protect the animals from the garden as much as you want to protect the garden from the animals! Using this physical barrier is thus the most humane solution here, lest you resort to using pesticide or farm dogs and cats to protect the area and potentially harm the critters!

The second major reason people use a garden fence is for safety and utility. They can use it to make sure they keep the garden separate from other parts of the yard, preventing small children or pets from wandering into the garden where they don’t belong and could get injured. In addition, you prevent other people from snooping around in your garden. (You may want to couple this with garden lights to really make sure your installation is safe). Another reason to use this fencing is to ‘mark off’ particular areas of your property, or as a way to separate different sections of the garden as an organizational aid. You may also have reason to keep particular plant life separate, giving you another reason to use garden edging fence.

There is a third reason to install garden fencing, and it’s one that many people don’t think about – beauty and aesthetics. The right decorative garden fencing can add a lot to your hardscape and landscape. The wrong garden fence can be an eyesore on your property, one that you hate looking at. Thus, don’t forget that the fence is something you’ll have to live with for a long time, so it should be something that you at least don’t mind seeing. It is possible, with enough planning, to get fence customized for the look and feel of your yard if aesthetics really matter for you.

How to Pick the Right Garden Fence for You

If you are creating a fence to protect your garden from animals, you’ll have to first determine what kinds of animals are damaging your crops. This can be done by examining the evidence and tell-tale signs that they leave behind; there are plenty of guides out there on the Internet that can help you do this. For instance, the way they dig, tooth marks, and scat can all be helpful; pest or animal control can also help you in extreme cases. You might also put up some wireless cameras or lights in order to see the creatures, especially at night.

The kind of barrier you use will depend on your enemy. For instance, if you are just dealing with some birds and squirrels, you might able to put up a mesh or wire cover for that particular area of the garden. Thus, you will be able to avoid the expense of putting up even the most basic garden fence, saving you a lot of time and trouble and making the barrier a bit more ‘mobile.’ Otherwise, you will probably have to put up a more permanent structure.

For more serious creatures like deer, rabbits, and the like will have their own solutions:

Deer – you can put up plastic mesh fencing to deter these animals. Realize, though, that other animals like rabbits can quickly chew through this plastic garden fencing and render the barrier useless. These guys are a pain in the neck when it comes to regular fences, though, because they can easily jump even a relatively high fence. Thus, if you are really having a severe deer problem throughout your entire garden, you might want to ‘double up’ and use two consecutive fences to really keep them out. The nuclear option here is electric fencing, but the safety issues and maintenance inherent in them make it a last resort for many garden owners. There are also some other methods you could use to scare away or deter the deer, but for this article we’re just focusing on fencing.

Raccoons – these animals are best deterred with an electric fence.

Rabbits, gophers, skunks these animals (along with any animals with sharp teeth) can present a special problem because they are able to chew through weak defenses. In addition, they can burrow through the ground if necessary to try to get under the fence. For these burrowing animals, materials such as poultry netting or hardware cloth will have to be buried underneath the fence to prevent this from happening.

Dogs, goats, pigs, chickens – these and other domestic animals can be kept out with any kind of large fence that is able to deter these sized critters.

Types of Vegetable Garden Fence

Now that you know what kinds of animals you’re dealing with, and the kinds of fence you will need to use, let’s talk about the different kind of fence materials that you can use to create your installation.

Wire Garden Fencing – One kind of this wire is stretched between very sturdy posts, made from wood or metal and buried into the ground, and is used to cover the perimeter of the garden in question. Though this can be harder to install than other kinds of wire fencing, you’ll find that it works better on uneven terrain due to its ‘adaptability’ and flexibility. Another kind of wire fencing is more sturdy, so it’s easier to install as it just needs to be strung around the perimeter posts. However, it should be used primarily on even ground.

Garden Fencing Panels – These stock panels are great to use, either made from metal or wood, as they can be easily attached to the metal or wood posts around the perimeter. In addition, they can be easily removed when necessary, allowing them to be mobile and flexible. In general, metal garden fencing is the best you can use because it cannot be gnawed by animals and it can withstand the rain and elements that may otherwise rot or damage wooden fence.

Wrought Iron Fences – These can come in many different styles and patterns. The main advantage with these is strength and durability. They also allow the plants to growth through the fence, or at least if they need room to breathe – especially if they are trellis fencing.

Electric Fences – These are necessary to keep out certain kinds of critters, such as raccoons, but they come with their own annoyances. First, of course, they need to be connected to a power source. Second, they can be a safety hazard to innocent animals and humans alike. Third, many people have an ethical problem with hurting animals with an electric shock. However, sometimes it’s a necessary evil if the infestation is serious enough.

Wood or Picket Fences – Many people enjoy this material for garden fencing simply because it gives your yard a natural and quaint look. Wooden garden fences are generally composed of fence panels, fence posts, and garden gates. The different kinds of paneling available, such as timber, chestnut, closeboard, and more, all depend on your needs for the fence. These fences can also be supplemented with other kinds of fencing, such as netting, to add strength and function to your fence.

Bamboo Garden Fences – Many people are leaning towards bamboo fences due to their ‘natural’ character and if they want a cheap garden fence. They look great and come in a variety of styles and designs, allowing you to do something a bit different than the typical wood or metal fence.

Vinyl or Plastic Fences – These materials are more ‘artificial’ than wood or metal, but some people like their look and durability. They are usually easy to install and easy to maintain.

Stone Fences These are more walls than fences, but they may be an interesting choice if you’re looking for something more permanent and a bit more fashionable and attractive.

Shurbs or trees – You could even use natural hedges to protect the side of your garden, though of course this is only good for larger animals, as smaller ones could easily crawl underneath or through these plants.

Other – I’m sure there’s other kinds of fencing (like trellis fences) that I didn’t cover (yet), so obviously make sure you do your research if you’re looking for something really specific and unique. It probably exists!

Garden Fence Designs – Beauty Matters Too!

Another note – don’t forget aesthetics! We mentioned this as one of the important points above. You want to have a fence that you can stand looking at and, in a perfect world, a fence that complements the other aspects of your home and landscape. A nice fence can actually add some character to your yard, so it might pay to think beyond utility and function when it comes time to select your structure.

The first principle is simple: try to minimize the use of the fence as much as possible. If you can use other parts of your property – such as a side of the house or shed – to protect your garden, this is obviously better than having to surround it with a ton of fence.

The second thing to do is sketch out the design for your fence – what are its dimensions? What is its depth? Are there any accessories? Where will you enter and exit? What kinds of materials will you use for your fencing?

In addition, you need to know what animals you are protecting your garden against to generate these garden fence ideas. If aesthetics matter to you, you’ll obviously have to visualize how the fence will look to see if it meshes with the other parts of your property.

What accessories do you want to add? For instance, some homeowners like to cover their fencing with vines or other plant life to make it ‘blend in.’ Let your creativity shine. Some mix in plant life, stones, and man-made hardscape structures to really add some pizzazz to their project. However, sometimes just a simple wire fence is all you need and, probably, all you really want anyway. The fence should do what YOU want it to do, nothing more, nothing less.

Installing Your Garden Fencing

Most homeowners can install garden fences by themselves, though the option to hire a contractor or landscaper is always on the table. The specifics obviously depend on the kind of fence you are using, but the basics are generally the same: you’ll have to dig some holes to put the fence posts in securely, and then you’ll have to attach the planks or wires to the posts to create the secure fence.

You want to dig your posts deep enough so that they will be stable and withstand pressure from people, animals, and weather & wind. Note as well that you might have to do some digging along the fence itself if you have to install mesh or to bury the fence a bit to prevent burrowing animals from getting through.

Depth is not the whole story, either. You want to make your fence high enough to protect the garden, but not too high so as to waste your money or materials. You can combine a fence with barbed wire, for instance, to get the height without dealing with the increased prices of using more material.

Other Garden Fencing Ideas and Final Thoughts

  • Again, as mentioned above, you may need to use chicken wire or hardware cloth to put underneath the fence (in the ground) to prevent burrowing animals from circumventing your main fence. The depth of the barrier will depend on exactly what kinds of burrowers you’re dealing with.
  • Garden lighting may be useful to scare away critters at night, especially if it’s set to a motion sensor.
  • Don’t forget to add garden fence gates for your conveninence. You want to make sure that you can enter your garden at will without having to climb over a fence of course!
  • Note that some kinds of fences may come with maintenance costs. Wood fences, for example, may have to be replaced or repaired relatively often, while metal fences should hold up well over time.

A Granite Tile Guide: What You Need to Know

The Basics of Granite Tiles

One of the more elegant and desired home improvement materials out there is granite. Granite is a natural stone that actually forms from hardened magma (liquid rock). Granite is incredibly hard, as it is composed of many different rock types, including quartz, feldspar, mica, and more. It can be used for many home improvement projects, and it is a popular choice for those who want to make a statement with their home. Thus, this article will discuss the basics of this elegant and beautiful, but expensive, material.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Granite

Granite has been used for centuries due primarily to its versatility and its strength. Granite is so hard that it will withstand almost anything your or nature can throw against it. Thus, it can be used for both outdoor applications and for indoor ones, as you won’t have to worry about the effects of weather or of messy children on your granite projects. Granite is also beautiful and value, and it makes a statement to any onlookers about your style and class.

There are a few drawbacks to granite that you need to know about. First, due to its hardness, it is not easy to cut the material, so your ability to customize the tiles on the fly is very limited. In addition, you will be relatively limited in the colors of granite available; however, this is a small price to pay for the beauty and quality you will receive when you use this material. Finally, as we’ll discuss later in this article, granite is notoriously expensive, so it shouldn’t be something you should go into debt over!

Note as well that granite is very heavy, so it may be difficult to work with if you don’t have the right skills, tools, and equipment. This is why, in most cases, installing granite tiles is not a simple DIY project and will require the services of a professional.

Projects With Granite – Esp. Granite Tile Flooring

Granite can be used for both indoor and outdoor applications. In this article, we are going to focus mostly on the outdoor uses of the material in the form of tiles, but we must make a few notes about its use indoors. Granite tiles can be used for indoor flooring just as it is used for outdoor flooring. Granite can also be used for other structures in the home; perhaps the most popular are granite tile countertops. This is due in part to its resistance to heat, its strength, its durability, and its beauty. Note however that granite can stain due to its highly porous nature; thus, you will want to seal the surface with a water-based sealer to help prevent the stains from setting.

However, in this article we’ll be focusing mostly on the outdoor aspects of the material, and in particular its use in granite tile flooring. Granite can be used for many structures outside the home, including patios, walkways, walls, veneers, pool decks, garden and landscape structures, and much more. Note that you can also used granite tiles not just for flatwork (i.e. floors) but also for walls – you can use the tile for outdoor (and indoor) wall veneers to give the structure an elegant and natural look.

As with the indoor projects, you’ll want to make sure that the outdoor granite is sealed to prevent stains, especially if the granite will be used in an area that may be exposed to oils, paints, heavy dirt, etc.

Designing With Granite Tiles

One of the things you need to decide on when it comes time to deciding on your next granite project is the finish, or outward texture and appearance, of your granite. There are four main kinds. The first is polished, which is the smoothest and shiniest. Next is honed, also known as matte. It is also smooth, but it has a more complex texture than simple polished. Next come the last two, more textured varieties: flamed or brushed. These two varieties do not reflect much light at all, so they are not shiny, and they may have rougher, less elegant edges, sides, and backs.

The kind of finish you pick will depend on the project. In general, the flamed and brushed finished granite tiles are best for outdoor projects, such as walkways, benches, patios, external flooring, decks, and more. This is because they will be more slip resistant and will require less maintenance to keep up their beautiful appearance. The honed surface can also be used for indoor and outdoor flooring and sidewalks, so it can give you a good balance between smooth finish and durability. Finally, the smoothest, polished granite should be reserved for indoor applications, primarily counter tops, vanity    tops, and other three dimensional structures, though you may use these polished granite floor tiles for flooring that receives low daily traffic. Polished granite tiles are generally not recommended for bathroom flooring – this is because they will get slippery when wet, providing a significant safety hazard.

Granite tiles also come in a few shapes and sizes, but due to the hardness of the material, it is not at all easy or cheap to customize the size and shape of it. If you want something that you can modify on the fly, you’ll want to go with a softer natural stone or even concrete. Some common sizes include 12” x 12”, 16” x 16”, 18” x 18”, and 24” x 24”. Note as well that the thickness of the tile may also vary; common thicknesses include 3/8” and 1/2″.

Note that for some projects, you may have to have custom sized and shaped granite. This is possible to do, but you’ll have to work directly with a supplier or manufacturer to make it happen. You will also have to pay more for this than if you simply bought the material ‘as is.’

You’ll also have to decide on the granite colors you want to use for your project. In general, you will find colors in the range of blacks (such as black galaxy), greys, tans, blues (such as blue pearl), yellow, brown, and other natural colors. Note that getting consistent color within a pallet of granite can be challenging, as it is with any natural stone, so make sure you don’t rely on a picture only when making your color decisions, as the actual color of the material when it’s on the ground may appear very different.

Next, figure out the square footage of your project. In general, you’ll want to make sure you order plenty more above the square footage of your project, because you DO NOT want to be short in material. Getting replacement material that will match the texture and color of your granite will be very hard. You’ll also want to make sure you have plenty of granite tile edging – machine cut, smooth, or whatever – you need to finish the structure off, if this is something you need (particularly necessary for indoor projects).

One final note: don’t forget that you can get granite in other shapes than simply ‘tiles.’ One example of this different kind of material are granite pavers, described in this article on this site. Another example are granite slabs may be very useful for some outdoor and indoor installations, so consider that size as well when designing your project. Note that these slabs are much harder to work with, as they are relatively large (around 105” x 54” at the minimum) and can weigh hundreds of pounds each. Thus, this material may work best for large scale projects.

The Cost of Granite and Finding Granite Tiles for Sale

One of the biggest drawbacks of this material, as mentioned above, is its price. Granite is simply expensive, and it may not be as good of an investment as you may think or hear it to be. Granite tile prices, for just the material itself, may run you anywhere from $3 to $10 per square foot or more. The actual price will depend on the color, quality, finish, total square footage, and other factors. This price doesn’t even include the cost for shipping and installation, which could triple or more the total price per square foot. Thus, expect to pay in the neighborhood of $10 to $30 per square foot. I know this is a large range, but it’s so hard to give you an exact price given all the factors that could affect the final tally. Just know, going into your project, that you could be paying a decent chunk of change for your granite vision.

One of the main reasons for this high price is the transportation costs required to move the material from mine to factory and factory to your home. Granite is found all over the world, but you may end up ordering it from mines and factories in China, India, and Brazil. Thus, the high cost of this material is simply sunk, and lost, in these transportation costs.

Still, it may be worth it to do your homework when it comes time to find granite tile for sale. While you may not find discount granite tile, you may be able to get a cheap deal from one site for the exact same material that you find for a higher price on another. You will also want to consult your local mason supply yards and home improvement stores for local quotes, though you may find your best deals could be direct from manufacturers online. This is because shipping direct from manufacture sites will lower the cost of shipping, thus passing on the savings to you. Also, don’t forget to keep an eye on Craigslist; a homeowner demolishing an old granite installation may have some material left over to sell to you for reduced cost.

You may be tempted to go with super cheap granite to save a buck, but make sure you’re not compromising on quality. Make sure that your granite is, preferably, mined without dynamite or explosives, as this may cause invisible fractures in the material that could haunt you later. Make sure the granite is cut with water cooled, not kerosene cut. Make sure the quality and standards of the granite are properly controlled and inspected. If the granite passes these tests, then go for it, but if it doesn’t, you may want to hold back even though you think you’re getting a great deal. The deal may not be so great a few years from now when the granite starts to crack, rust, and give you problems.

Installing Granite Tiles

Granite tiles are generally laid or installed according to a ‘wet’ method. Unlike concrete pavers, you cannot simply lay them and compact them together with sand between the joints. You must use mortar and/or grout to hold them to the ground and to hold them together as one unit structure. While it is possible for a homeowner to install this material him or herself, in general its best for a specialized contractor to come in and do the work. This is because the quality of the project depends so much on the quality of the installation, and you don’t want to risk the big money that you’ll be spending on the material simply to try to save a few bucks on the installation end of the process.

A Travertine Tile Guide: What You Need to Know

What is Travertine Tile?

Before we discuss the tile, we need to discuss what they are actually made of. Travertine is a natural stone – a kind of limestone, to be exact – that is formed in mineral and hot springs. It occurs when carbonates rapidly precipitate (or fall out of solution) from the water, which then deposits and builds up to form the natural travertine deposits. Travertine can be found naturally in many places, though Italy is well known for these deposits. While Italian travertine is highly sought after, you can find travertine deposits in many areas of the United States. However, note that much of the travertine in the United States is imported, not only from Italy but from South America and the Middle East. Thus, the travertine will be shipped to whatever location it is needed, and the costs for this transfer may be higher as you move farther away from a mine or deposit.

Note that the formation of this stone means that the material is relatively soft compared to other stone. This doesn’t mean that you’ll see it cracking and breaking all the time, just that it may be prone to wearing away. In addition, the surface of the travertine may change its appearance as it wears and new holes and air pockets are revealed. There are ways to prevent this from occurring, which we’ll discuss in a bit when we talk about maintenance. Still, travertine, being a natural stone, will stand up well to all that nature and humanity can throw at it, so you’ll have an indoor or outdoor installation that will stand up well to the test of time – it’ll probably outlive you and your descendents!

Uses for Travertine Tiles

Travertine has been a popular building material throughout the ages. Given its presence in Italy, the Romans made heavy use of the material for temples, statues, fountains, bath complexes, theaters,  aqueducts, and even the Colosseum!

This stone is still used today for many other buildings – all you need to do is look around and you’ll probably find it everywhere! However, you are probably not interested in building a structure with travertine – that would be quite expensive – but instead using it for flatwork.

Let’s discuss the indoor variety first, as you don’t need to limit your use of travertine building material to outside projects! One popular use for this material is as flooring. Travertine tile flooring can be used in kitchens, entrance areas, and bathrooms – travertine tile showers are especially popular. Note that travertine can also be used for other structures and fixtures in the home, but we won’t be discussing them in this article.

Travertine tile and the other forms of this material can also be used for outdoor hardscape projects such as walkways, patios, garden paths, and the like. They are also popular for pools, given that they stay cool even in the harshest sun, and they are slip resistant so you don’t have to worry about anyone falling near the pool.

Travertine Tile Colors, Shapes, and Sizes

Travertine tiles can come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes to satisfy any project demands. Sometimes you may hear to this material referred to as ‘travertine limestone’ or ‘travertine marble,’ though technically this stone is a limestone and not a marble.

The first thing to realize is that this material is naturally derived – this means that the exact colors, shapes, and textures cannot be totally controlled. Obviously, cutting, selecting, and polishing can change the appearance of the material to a point, but if you’re looking for consistency in your building material when it comes to aesthetics, you may want to settle for a ‘manufactured’ product such as concrete pavers or other paving stones.

In addition, due to the natural development of this material, and due to wear over time, travertine will usually exhibit pits and troughs in the surface. If you like the way this looks, then you don’t have to do anything – the material will still be strong as ever. But if you want a smooth look, you can have the holes in the surface of the tile filled in with grout. This is why you can buy travertine in ‘filled’ or ‘unfilled’ varieties. If you really want the material smoothed out, you can get the tile ‘polished’ for a very clean and smooth finish. If you want an ‘aged’ or ‘weathered’ look, you can also find tumbled travertine tile. More rugged stone will be in the “chiseled and brushed” category, a kind of travertine that is best for outdoor projects, while “honed and filled” stone will be smoother and less maintenance, thus perfect for indoor applications.

Travertine, since it is quarried and removed from the mine, can be cut or shaped into whatever shapes, sizes, thicknesses, etc. that you need for you project. Note that custom formed travertine will cost more than getting the ‘standard’ sizes. As for the ‘standard’ sizes, it varies, going from somewhere as small as 4” x 4” to 6” x 6”, 12” x 12”, 16” x 16”, and 18” x 18”. Other sizes and shapes will also be available, so check with your manufacturer or supplier for a full menu of options. For instance, check out the ‘travertine pavers’ that I, even as the owner of Concrete Pavers Guide, would recommend!

The natural colors for travertine generally are white, tan, cream, and other related hues. However, you can get this material in other colors as well, from everything from grey to red. Thus, note that the colors and textures of the material will vary greatly, even within the same ‘kind’ of tile. Thus, don’t 100% trust the image of the tile that you may see on a website or in a photo – what the material looks like in real life may be very different, both due to how the material looks in the photo as well as the natural variation in the stone itself. Thus, you’ll want to peruse as many travertine options available to find the variety and style that’s just right for you and your home – there is no one size fits all option!

How to Install Travertine Tile

Travertine tile installation can be a DIY paving job for many homeowners as long as you are comfortable with ‘wet’ installations – using mortar and grout, that is. For the purpose of this article, we are going to assume that you are installing travertine tile floors – installing travertine patios, walkways, or three-dimensional structures will have other requirements! At this point, we are not going to give a full discussion of how to lay travertine tile, but we can give you the basics.

First, you’ll want to make sure that the underlying foundation is sound. Make sure to remove all flooring and subflooring to reveal the surface below. You may then have to prepare the surface to be ready to hold the weight of the tiles, such as adding cement backing to the floor. You may also use special “membranes” to help keep the structure together, manage water vapor, etc.

Next, inspect all the tiles to make sure they are in good condition before you lay them down. Sketch out the layout of the tiles with chalk lines. Make sure to leave some room for the grout when you do this. You may have to cut the tiles using a wet saw in order to get them to fit into corners or fit into the pattern you’ve selected; make sure the tiles are dry before you lay them. Then, apply the thinset adhesive to the underside of the tiles and lay them in the design you’ve drawn out. Let them sit for about a day, then apply the grout in between the cracks to hold the floor together strongly. You may then want to seal the tile immediately, though you should make sure to test the sealer on a small, hidden part of the floor to make sure it doesn’t damage the surface.

A Travertine Tile Cost Estimate

The price that you’ll pay for your travertine tile will vary widely, due to many different factors. We could write a whole article about this topic alone, but for now we’ll just settle for a general discussion of travertine tile price.

In general, expect a range anywhere from $2 – $5 per square foot, though sometimes you’ll find particular varieties closer to $10 per square foot. Note that these travertine tile prices does not include two major factors: shipping and delivery costs, which can cost just as much as the material, and installation costs, which can be high, due to the fact that installing travertine tile can be a challenge, as the material can be brittle until it is put into the ground. In addition, the tile must be laid by hand in the precise travertine tile patterns that are desired by the customer. You can expect this installation to run you another $3 – $4 per square foot, though this price will depend on a ton of factors too. Thus, all told, you may be looking at anywhere from $10 to $20 per square foot for the laying of your travertine tile bathroom, shower, floor, patio, or whatever.

There is actually quite the market for travertine online, so if you are looking to buy travertine tile, especially for cheap, you may want to start there. This is especially important because you can avoid the ‘retail game,’ where you pay much more per square foot due to dealing with the ‘middleman.’ Your contractor may also help you find the material for a discount, as they may know where to find your choice of travertine tile for sale without having to go through the retail outlets.

Designing With Travertine

If you want some travertine tile design ideas, then look no further. Here are a few ideas that we’ve discovered or invented that you might find useful for your next project. Even if you don’t use them, at least it’ll get you thinking about the creative ways you can use this awesome material.

*One great aspect about travertine is that it can be used inside and outside, so why not make a seamless transition between an indoor party area and an outdoor patio, all using the same flooring?

*If you have the budget, consider mixing different kinds of natural stones, such as marble, slate, flagstone, and granite, to get the best balance of warm colors, natural, old-world charm, and beauty.

*Don’t limit your travertine tile bathroom ideas to simple floors – travertine can be used in showers, in basins, and in many other applications! This goes for the rest of your house, indoor and outdoor, as well.

*For 10 great travertine paving ideas, check out this article!

Maintenance of Travertine Tiles

Note that any natural stone will stand up well to the rigors of its environment, so constant maintenance won’t be needed. However, even a little amount of attention will go a long way in preserving the beauty, strength, and appearance of your tile. One great way to protect your stone is to get travertine tile sealer. Sealing travertine tile is almost a requirement, especially in bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor environments, due to the possibility of foreign substances hitting the ground. This will help protect the surface of the material from stains; being porous, travertine can often suck up stains very easily, making it hard to remove them. Sealer will help prevent the stain from setting deeply. This is also true about dirt – dirt can often be grinded into the surface of your travertine, especially in outdoor structures, so you’ll want to make sure the surface of your travertine is kept relatively clean. Never use acid cleaners on your project, as the acid will totally eat away and damage your travertine. (Remember, it’s made from calcium carbonates, and these don’t mix with acid at all!!)

In addition, if you are finding that your travertine is wearing away to an unacceptable degree, you can have it polished or honed to bring back the smooth finish.

A Patio Slabs Guide

If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive and easy to install material for your new patio, patio slabs, also known as paving flags, may be just the ticket. In this guide, I hope to give you some of the basic information you’ll need to know when thinking about your next outdoor project using this material. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

The advantages of patio slabs are quite obvious – you enjoy the benefits of concrete (strength and durability) while not sacrificing much in terms of money for their installation and upkeep. The disadvantages, aside from aesthetics (how they look) are relatively few; for example, the large sizes may crack due to freeze-thaw cycles if they are not properly set on the subbase. The larger the slabs, the more likely they are to crack when the ground freezes and thaws, so keep this in mind when picking the size and shape of the patio slab for your next project. A few more disadvantages are mentioned below.

It should be noted that you can use these patio slabs on any other area in your house. Though we call them patio paving slabs, they can use for driveways, walkways, pool decks, gardens, and more. Garden paving slabs, for instance, are a great material to add to your landscape/hardscape partnership. In this article, we simply restrict ourselves to discussing their benefits for patios.

Types of Patio Slabs

Patio slabs are generally rectangular or square in shape, though other shapes may be available, such as circular and irregularly shaped. In general, if you are installing the slabs yourself, it’s best to go with the rectangular or square shapes, because they are the easiest to work with and install. The circular and irregular shapes are often used for stepping stone walkways and other more “natural” looking projects.

There are two ways to obtain patio slabs. The first is to simply buy them preformed or pre-made. This is relatively cheap, while also  easy to install, though you’ll be limited in the shapes that you have given the one kind you buy. The second way to get the slabs is to pour them with fresh concrete. With this method, they can be made on the job as needed. This provides you with custom slabs that you can use for your patio, so you won’t be boxed in to the ‘standard’ sizes.

Patio slabs come in many different kinds, sizes, shapes. In this article, we will focus mostly on the concrete variety. However, you can get slabs and many other materials. Natural stone is quite popular, while also being quite expensive. Examples of natural stone slabs include sandstone, granite, slate, and limestone.

Disadvantages of Slabs for Patios

There are few disadvantages of this material to be aware of. First, if you get in the regular concrete variety, they can be rather boring. They are gray and rather drab, so the are more utilitarian approach to creating your patio. If you pick natural stone, or at least colored concrete and other fancier varieties, expect to pay more for your material.

In addition, it may be very difficult to cut concrete paving slabs into the specific shape you want, so you may be relatively limited in the design options at your disposal. Pavers, on the other hand, can be cut and arranged in a variety of shapes and patterns. However, what you lack in design options will be made up for in the ease of installation of this material, and if you’re on a budget, you probably shouldn’t expect much in the way of luxury for your patio material anyway.

Finally, this material is relatively heavy compared to other materials if you get purchase them preformed. Thus, you may have to pay a high delivery charge if you cannot pick them up yourself. In addition, their heavy weight may make them difficult to deal with if you are installing them yourself, so be careful when working with the material.

How Much do Patio Slabs Cost?

One of the benefits of patio slabs (at least the preformed variety) is their relative inexpensiveness when compared to pavers and natural stone, such as travertine. This is because they come fully formed and ready to lay, so no pouring will be necessary. Pouring patio slabs isn’t that expensive either – it just requires some skills or the services of a contractor, which may up the price of the project. In addition, there relatively inexpensive to install, because there are fewer slabs to lay that if you had to lay the equivalent number of concrete pavers. Even though the price is lower, you’ll still enjoy many of the same benefits as paving stones, such as their ability to resist freeze/thaw cycles, while also enjoying the ease of installation and relatively lower price when compared to both poured concrete and pavers.

In general, expect to pay anywhere from $2 to $5 per square foot for the material and installation of the material – less if you are doing the work yourself. It will depend on the type of slab the purchase as well of any finishing and other tasks that need to be done to complete the work. Obviously, you will pay much more for natural stone and decorative kinds of concrete slabs.

Installing Patio Slabs

Concrete patio slabs lie in between poured concrete and concrete pavers on the scale of hardscape materials. Thus they combine both the virtues and drawbacks of each type of material – ultimately depending on whether you get the ‘pre-formed’ slabs or pour them yourself.

One of the great advantages of this material, however, is that it is relatively easy to install yourself regardless of the method you choose. Concrete pavers and paving stones have certain learning curve to them, as does poured concrete and hot asphalt. However, concrete slabs and their ilk are very forgiving to newbies. If you make a mistake, you can often simply just pick up and replace the offending slab. This may not be so true if you are using mortar and grouting to lay your slats, which is why I often suggest people to use a sand base just like you’d use for concrete pavers.

Of course, as with any hardscape installation, having a good subbase is critical to the lifetime survival of the project above. Make sure you have enough aggregate base below that has been compacted properly and is at an appropriate thickness, usually around 6 to 8 inches.

Once your base is ready, laying patio slabs is quite simple. Simply put them in the pattern or arrangement that you like, making sure that they are properly lined up with house other straight-line features of your landscape and home. In addition, make sure that your grades are correct, as you do not want any water flowing into your basement or other sensitive low-lying areas.

In fact, installing patio slabs much like installing concrete pavers, so for more detailed information on how to set up your project and do the work correctly, check out the installation section of this website. If you do end up hiring a contractor, and want more advice on how to secure the best one, check out this discussion on how to hire the best paver contractors – much of the same advice applies here.

If you want to know more specific details on how to lay patio paving slabs, contact a local contractor or home improvement store for more information. Or you could just leave some questions in the comments below!

How to Save Money on Patio Slabs

Since concrete is a popular material, it should be relatively easy to find cheap patio slabs. One way is to simply use reclaimed patio slabs that other homeowners have decided to get rid of. You can often find advertisements in online classified ad sites, like Craigslist, where homeowners will be advertising that they have slabs available for anyone who wants them. Often you can get them for free, as long as you come and pick them up yourself. Thus, if you’re looking for lowest prices possible for your materials, finding them in the secondary market is probably your best bet.

The usual way to get cheap paving slabs, if this above method doesn’t work, is to look at local home improvement stores and mason supply yards for patio slabs for sale. Obviously, you’ll want to shop around to find the best deal available. If you can buy them in the off-season, that is, in the fall and winter, you’re likely to get a better deal, so preparing ahead is probably the best way to make sure you save the most money possible.

Perhaps one of the cheapest ways, but most time-consuming, is making your own patio slabs out of fresh concrete. You’ll need to create the concrete patio molds and forms required to shape the slabs into whatever size you like. Once you do this, simply pour the concrete to fill the forms. If you don’t have much experience creating your own concrete, it’s best to do a little practicing first. Another thing you can do is pour the whole concrete patio as if you were doing a solid slab – you can then use boards or other materials to “cut” the larger slab into smaller pieces. Be careful with this method, though, because inexperience could get you into trouble if the job goes wrong.

A Landscaping Rocks Guide

When creating a new landscape, or sprucing up an old one, we usually think of the grass, soil, and other organics that usually define a landscape. But we also shouldn’t ignore the use of stone and other hardscape materials to increase the beauty of our landscape! One of the best materials to use for this purpose is the landscape rock. Landscaping rocks come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, and they can be used for a host of projects and design ideas. This article will give you a brief run-down of many of the landscaping rocks and stones that are out there.

Landscaping with rocks is more of an art than a science; there are pretty much an infinite number of ideas that you could fruitfully apply to your own home project! Hopefully it helps to stimulate your creativity and your own ideas!

Types of Landscaping Rocks

There are as many types of landscaping rocks as there are rocks and stone in the world. Thus, we’ll give you a quick rundown of some of the more popular stones out there so that you can get a general idea before you start your research. One great advantage of these stones is that they are nearly maintenance free. At most, you may have to remove weeds from the stone beds or rake the stones to keep them in order.

One popular kind of stone is river rock. They are smooth and round stones, and they are generally used to fill in areas where grass might normally be; they can also be used to surround beds and create borders between patios and fences. Really, this is the default stone you’d use if you’d want to lay down and kind of rock in your landscape, so if you just wnat something basic, start here. This stone is also great for drainage of water, so you can use it around pools, hot tubs, and in any area where you need water to drain quickly and with little hassle.

If you’re looking for larger, single pieces, consider boulders or decorative rock. You can either get real, natural stone, or fake, artificial stone. The latter is lighter, cheaper, and easier to work with, but may look ‘unnatural’ even in the best of conditions. However, this stone may be just right for your project and budget, so don’t discount it. These can be used as a decorative centerpiece to help break up an area, or they can serve a more functional purpose by covering up and blocking certain unsightly areas of your landscape.

If you want a kind of stone that is larger than river rock but still easier to work with, consider volcanic rock. This ‘lava rock’ is made from the expulsions of volcanos. It is porous and very light, and can thus be shaped into whatever forms you need. It is also a very cheap kind of stone, so many newbie landscape-homeowners may want to start out using this material at first to get their feet wet.

Don’t forget, as well, that you can use concrete pavers – in the form of landscape pavers and garden pavers – to add walkways, driveways, patios, stepping stones, borders, and other hardscape installations to your landscape to complement your landscaping rock choices.

While size and shape is important, don’t forget to consider color, as well. You’ll want to pick a stone that goes best (complements) your home’s color theme already, as well as the colors in your landscape and garden. The entire spectrum is covered by different stones, so you won’t be short on options.

Where Can Landscaping Stones Be Used?

The obvious places are quite clear to most homeowners – flowerbeds, gardens, and other borders cry out for these rocks. However, don’t forget the pool, hot tub, walkway, patio, driveway, and other aspects of your hardscape that can be brought in harmony with your new landscape. This site has tons of ideas in this area, so feel free to browse!

Ways to Use Decorative Landscaping Rocks

Obviously, how and where you can use this material is only limited by your imagination and budget. Here are just a few ways you can use this material to increase the beauty and function of your landscape:

One thing to do is to use these rocks for a border around your flowerbed, garden, or other landscape areas. They can separate these landscape installations from your lawn, patio, walkway, and so on.

Another use for small stones and gravel is as a place to walk. It’s a great way to lay down a ‘hardscape’ without having to get involved in installation of concrete pavers or other materials. You can either have large stepping stones in the center of your rock path, or just settle for the small rocks by themselves. Realize, however, that this will require some maintenance, as the stones will often get kicked up and spread out of their original location (into your lawn, flowerbed, etc.).

Don’t forget using large stones or boulders as well. You can lay down a single large boulder in a central area of your landscape, or you can use more than one to create a mound or other attractive installatio. This is where your artistry and creativity can come through; a boulder installation can be a great eye-catcher and would be the centerpiece of your lawn.

You can also just skip soil altogether and use the stones for the base of your flowerbeds and garden. You’ll obviously need good topsoil underneath to provide a nice foundation for your plants, flowers, and shrubs, but you can then lay small stones or gravel on top of the bed to highlight colors or simply give the installation a unique look. This may also be a great idea if you are having problems with water drainage or mud in that particular area.

If you really want to go all out, you can also jsut use rocks throughout your entire yard. Instead of having a lawn, use rocks; instead of a driveway, use rocks; instead of a flowerbed with top soil, use rocks. In some areas this looks very nice, particulary where the land is very dry, but it can also be a pain to maintain at times. It will require regular maintenance to keep it looking clean and in order.

The Cost of Landscaping Rocks

The prices of landscaping rocks depend on a large number of factors. The primary factor is the kind of rock you’ll get, of course.

If you buy smaller stones, like river rock, you’ll pay per ‘yard,’ or by the square foot, depending on the stone you select. For instance, river rock can go from $20 to $30 per ton or higher, though the size of the rock matters here. Don’t forget transportation and delivery costs, too! Exact costs will depend on the kind and color of your rock as well, in addition to the costs associated with your location.

If you go for larger stones, like boulders, the price will depend on the size and kind of stone you select. Artificial or decorative boulders can go from $30 to $100 and up per boulder.

In addition, any special features of your stones, such as if they are artificially colored, may inflate the costs.

Tips on Finding Landscaping Rocks for Sale

Your first bet is to go to a landscape supply yard, mason supply yard, or home improvement store, and price out the options available. Obviously, some places will be less expensive than others, so to find cheap stone, you’re going to have to do a bit of shopping. Luckily, most of these projects can be done ‘DIY,’ so you won’t have to pay a contractor to come in and do the work. However, large scale projects may require the services of a landscaper, and he or she will often include the costs of the material in the total price, so be sure to check the estimate before committing to any bid.

If you want a deal, consider getting ‘used’ material. It’s even possible to get free stones by checking sites like Craigslist, where fellow homeowners may be getting rid of material that they no longer need due to the demolition of an old project around their home.

Don’t rule out scrounging around yourself, either! Stones are natural objects, so you may find them by simply walking around in local parks, forests, and other natural locations. Of course, this options works best with larger stones and boulders, but you should always keep your eyes peeled for exciting and interesting pieces that you can add to your home! This is the best way to bring a little bit of nature back to your landscape.

Asphalt Prices: A Guide

Time to get a new driveway, huh? Well, you’re probably thinking about getting asphalt installed; why else would you be here, then?

It should be said straight out that the main reason people choose asphalt is due to cost. Among all the paving solutions you can have for your home, asphalt is the cheapest and most common. The only cheaper option really is loose stone, but this material comes with its own headaches (mostly maintenace) that makes it a relatively weak option for most homeowners driveway needs.

To that end, this article will give you a brief run down of the main factors that affect the price of asphalt, along with a very broad and general estimate of what you might pay for the material for your next outdoor hardscape project.

What Determines Asphalt Prices

Asphalt is a hot mix of ‘liquid asphalt,’ which is actually the stuff that is distilled from oil byproducts, and aggregate, which is a fancy word for stone. The price of these components together determines the asphalt paving pricing that you can expect.

The main causes for the changes in asphalt pricing depends on a number of factors. Those interested in the exact prices per ton can find an asphalt “price index” that shows how these prices have changed over time; for instance, check out this government resource. This resource gives you the price of the asphalt per ton; to figure out how much you’ll need will depend on the price of the asphalt per square foot. Note though that it’s the prices in California, and it’s somewhat old, but at least you can get a general idea – you can expect to be quoted anywhere from $80 to $130 per ton for your asphalt, and this number will continue to increase as oil prices increase. In addition, the thickness of your driveway will also affect the price; thus, you’ll come up with a ‘volume’, measured in yards or some other quantity, that you will need to purchase.

To do this, multiply your square foot measure by the thickness of the driveway in feet. This gives you cubic feet; multiply this by 145 pounds per cubic foot to get the weight of your asphalt. Divide this by 2000 to get tons, and then check the table (listed above) for a general price.

The exact amount you need will depend on your project; your contractor should give you an estimate on this. In addition, the price will also depend on the quality of the asphalt you purchase, as well as how much aggregate it contains relative to liquid asphalt.

The main factor that affects the price of asphalt is oil costs. Asphalt is made from oil-based products, so as the price of oil increases, the overall price of the asphalt will increase. The increase in oil pricing can also have secondary effects on the price of asphalt aside from the affect on the price of its components. For example, contractors who install asphalt may have to charge higher prices due to increased fuel costs and delivery costs for their work. Thus, oil price pressure can have a profound impact on not only the base price of the material but also on the overall costs of installing it.

Note that these costs will affect any other asphalt products, such as asphalt shingles. This just goes to show how critical oil prices are to our economy, and how increased pricing pressure can trickle down to all areas of the broader economic picture.

The second major component is the price of the aggregate. This depends on a number of factors as well, but also note that it is oil (e.g. fuel) dependent.

So How Much Will I Pay?

As we’ve seen above, the raw price you’ll pay will depend on many geo-economic factors, so whatever number we quote you will inevitably be wrong a month from now. In addition, there are other factors that affect the price of the material, factors that are particular to your local area and project. For more information on asphalt driveway cost, see the article linked.

We can, however, give you a decent range of the prices, or an average, that you may expect to pay for the material. A good measure for the full installation of your driveway is around $1 to $5 per square foot, though you’ll probably pay more towards the lower end of this range. Note that this may or may not include the $1 – $3 cost required to install a new aggregate base, if needed.

To get a more specific price, you’ll have to ask contractors for an estimate. This estimate should be free, so don’t think you have to pay for this service. You could also try to find cost calculators on the internet, though these too will only give you a rough guideline as to the costs associated with your project. Here is a cost calculator that may give you a good idea. Note, though, that they will also not give you any notion of the ongoing maintenance costs you’ll incur, so use them with care, just like you’re using the information from this page.

Additional Costs

Note that the installation is not the only aspect of the asphalt driveway prices that you have to worry about. To keep your new driveway looking nice, you’ll have to maintain it every year or so. This will require sealcoating, resurfacing, and overall repair of your asphalt driveway as it cracks, fades, and wears away. For example, you’ll pay somewhere around 8 to 30 cents per square foot for resurfacing. Granted, you could skip this maintenance, though the lifespan and overall appearance of your new project will greatly suffer in the short and long term.

An Enclosed Patio Guide: What You Need to Know

On other places on this site, we’ve discussed the merits of installing concrete paver patios, along with using other materials to create a backyard getaway. One of the best patio ideas – an amazing way to continue to add to your backyard paradise – is to create an enclosed patio. Also known as enclosed porches or an enclosed decks, these structures allow you to enjoy your patio paving while being sheltered from the elements.

There are a lot of choices and other things to consider when thinking about adding a new patio enclosure. To help guide you in this decision, we’ve assembled a brief enclosed patio guide that will show you the major aspects of your project to consider. Come back often, as we’re always adding new material and updating this site to continue to bring you valuable information and insight.

Types of Patio Enclosures

There are two major kinds of enclosed patios that you can add to your home. The first is a room that is simply part of your house; these so-called sunrooms simply have lots of windows that allow in lots of light. Thus, you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful elements, especially the sun, without having to actually be outside and deal with the heat and UV rays and other weather conditions. This kind of project is more of a ‘room addition’ than an enclosed patio, though some may tend more towards a patio than a room given their properties. The main difference that sets them apart from enclosed patios is their expense – because they are added on directly to your house, you’ll end up paying more for the work.

The second is more like a patio in that it is primarily an outdoor structure that has been ‘enclosed’ or ‘covered’ in order to protect the inhabitants from the elements. The degree to which a patio is enclosed varies from design to design. One covered patio may simply be topped off with an awning; thus, bugs and wind and other elements can get inside your covered patio, while the sun and heat will be diminished. Others are more like outdoor rooms, in that they are enclosed with screens or other materials to completely surround the patio and guard against bugs, wind, and even hot and cold temperatures (when the room is climate controlled).

Which one you want depends on how you want to use it and on how you conceive of your enclosed patio. For instance, if you think of your room as simply an extension of your home, and you want it to be climate controlled and comfortable and usable year round, you’ll probably tend more toward the sunroom approach. However, if you see this space more as an enclosed porch, one that is part of your yard as opposed to your home, you’ll want to look into enclosing a patio instead. This patio will only be usable during temperate or hot times of the year and depending on how enclosed it is.

Note that you can also use your enclosed patio for many different purposes. Some simply like to have a covered place where they can entertain guests in the more temperate seasons without having to worry about inclement weather and other worries. Others, however, like to make the space an area to hang out continually; some even turn them into family spaces, exercise rooms, libraries, and dining rooms. Thus, give some thought as to how you want to use your space, as this will largely determine what kinds of materials and designs you’ll use for your project.

If you crave flexibility, you can also buy retractable patio covers that can be deployed when you need them, such as on an especially hot or rainy day. Thus, you’ll have the flexibility to manage how much of the ‘outdoors’ you want to experience.

The Benefits of Enclosed Patios

The first obvious benefit of your enclosed patio is its beauty and aesthetic appeal. Looking outside while inside your patio is one great aspect, but patio rooms look almost as good from the outside looking in. In addition, this beauty and function will add value to your home, both financially and in terms of increased living and working space for you and your family.

Second, you can enjoy the ‘outdoors’ in comfort. How much of the outdoors you feel will depend on if you only have a patio roof or if you opt for the more enclosed structure. Nevertheless, you’ll be blocked out from the sun, deal with cooler and more comfortable temperatures, and not have to deal with mosquitos and other annoying bugs.

You can also enjoy the safety and privacy of your enclosed patio. You won’t have to worry about nosy neighbors watching you at all hours of the day, and you can be sure that you can be safe from the weather or anything that bumps in the night.

Enclosed Patio Designs

The first thing to think about is how enclosed your patio room or sunroom will actually be. At the very least, you’ll have canopies or awnings that will cover the top of your patio and block the sun and rain from reaching the contents of your room.

You’ll then need to decide how best to enclose your patio on the sides, if this is something you want to do. Some opt to have nothing blocking the sides; this makes the room more of a covered patio than an enclosed one. As for enclosing materials, you can opt for many different types, from screened patios to patios with nets covering the side. If you build in walls and windows as part of an extension to your home, it’s more of a sunroof and thus more expensive but also the most beautiful and valuable. You may also opt for glass enclosures to allow the maximum amount of sunlight in, though you will also sacrifice privacy and increase the structure’s vulnerability.

To save money and decrease the time and hassle involved with installing your new patio, some companies sell ‘modular’ systems that are pre-assembled and then assembled on the spot.

Another thing to think about is what the ‘floor’ of your patio will be. If you already have a patio made from concrete or concrete pavers, then you can simply add your patio roof or patio covers, screen porch, etc. and be done with it. Or you can install an entirely new patio surface out of these materials or others; if you want a more ‘indoor’ feel, you can go with tile, carpet, wood, and other options, though keep in mind that some of these materials won’t be viable with particular patio designs.

Your best bet is to get design plans created by a professional architect. They will best know the options available for you and what you can create given your resources. They will also give you an estimate so that you can get an idea of how much this will cost. There are an incredible number of different designs, products, and variations to the sunroom/enclosed patio, so you’ll need to do further research to find what suits your tastes and budget. Look for images of sunrooms that you like and present them to your contractor or sunroom company. They can then use these images as a guide to best create the addition that’s right for you and your family.

Building an Enclosed Patio

While creating these projects may be out of the reach of many homeowners, some may still seek DIY solutions, especially if they are looking to install modest enclosures. For instance, if you already have an outdoor porch or ‘framed’ patio, it’s relatively easy to buy thin mesh screen and put it up around the sides of the patio. This will not be the most elegant solution, but it will serve its primary purpose: keeping out bugs and irritants. You can also buy screen with vinyl attached so that you can easily assemble your enclosed patio to the proper specifications without having to deal with plain mesh.

It is also possible to buy sunroom ‘kits’ that you can assemble yourself. They may not look as great as the professionally installed kind, especially since those will be exactly customized to your taste, but they are great in a pinch. The great thing about these DIY projects, however, is that you can easily take them down and put them up at will, so you’ll have flexibility as seasons and weather changes.

You’ll also want to make sure that you don’t need to get any permits from your local municipality, as some require paperwork to be filed if you’re at all adding on to your ‘home,’ so make sure to check with officials in your area.

A Definitive Driveway Paving Guide

The first thing visitors and passerbys will see when they look at your house – besides your house, of course – will be the driveway. A well designed and well installed residential driveway, made from quality materials, will accentuate the fine appearance of your home, even taking a modest home and turning it into something more. A pathetic driveway, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect – a crumbling mess can make even the nicest home look less valuable.

So, you’re probably considering a new driveway paving project, either for functional or aesthetic reasons, or perhaps both. Fortunately, and unfortunately, there are plenty of driveway paving materials available for you to choose from. Fortunately, insofar as you’ll be able to pick the perfect driveway for your home, given your budget, but unfortunately because the inexperienced homeowner may feel overwhelmed by choice. Paving a driveway is a complex affair: Which material should you use? Should you install it yourself as a DIY paving project? How do you hire a contractor? These and many other questions might be going through your mind right now. To help you out, this driveway paving guide will help you sort out the various aspects of this process, both to help answer questions you have and to better inform your ongoing research process.

A driveway is a huge investment in your home, both in your time and financial resources, so you’ll want to spend time doing your due diligence. The more research, the better. We hope that this article reveals and guides you in your quest!

BUDGETS AND COSTS

Before going further, you’ll need to sketch out your basic budget. Obviously, you’ll want to have a range, as sometimes costs can add up faster than you expect, especially if your job will require special work.

Which material is the cheapest? This is a different question from “which material is the most valuable?” You may pay more money, in absolute terms, for one material, but end up making more in the long run given the quality of the material and the potential to increase your home’s value. Thus, don’t necessarily think only in terms of sheer prices per square foot, but rather in short and long term costs and value.

If you’d like a general cost estimate to get you started, here is a general scale for price for the most common driveway materials for both materials and labor, all other things being equal: To

Stone < Asphalt < Concrete < Concrete Pavers < Brick Pavers < Natural Stone Pavers

To get a more specific estimate, you can read this article on driveway paving cost or you can find  a cost calculator for these products for a decent guide, but the only true measure will be an estimate from a local contractor.

Let’s talk about the relative merits of each material.

WHAT DO YOU WANT IN A DRIVEWAY?

After budget, the next questions you need to ask yourself are about performance and looks. First, performance – you’re going to be driving and parking on this surface, so you want to make sure it won’t break apart. Most driveway materials will have no problem standing up to this kind of abuse – as long as they’re installed in a proper manner. This is why it’s critical to find a skilled contractor – if you look for a bargain, you may get a disaster instead. Go with quality.

Next, aesthetics. This may be a very small concern of yours after the above two – paving cost and how well and long the driveway holds up – but it’s still important, especially considering you’ll be living with the driveway for many years. In general, go with the materials that have more design options – usually, these are your paving stone materials, as they come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, and thus give you more freedom to create.

Depending on your project and circumstance, you may have other concerns to consider. For example, you may have environmental concerns to balance; in this case, you’d want to avoid materials like asphalt that damage the environment or any driveway material that isn’t permeable in order to allow for proper water drainage. A good material to look into in this case are grass pavers or other permeable alternatives.

DRIVEWAY PAVING MATERIALS

As stated in the cost section above, the most popular materials for your driveway include loose stone (gravel, for example), asphalt, concrete, concrete pavers, brick pavers, and natural stone pavers. The material you choose will depend on a large number of factors, not least of which is your budget. This will probably be the main determinant of your final selection. Truth be told, if you had an unlimited budget, you’d surely go for one of the pavers options, and probably with the most expensive option – one of the natural stone pavers. However, most of us need to settle with more affordable options, which is why concrete and asphalt, in particular, are so popular.

For a long discussion of the relative merits of each material, check out this discussion on the merits of stamped concrete vs pavers and a comparison of all the other materials mentioned above in terms of strength, durability, maintenance, price/value, and more. Note, however, that there also other materials out there, from paving flags and concrete slabs to macadam and block paving and everything in between. Thus, this discussion isn’t exhaustive, but it will at least highlight the most common and popular material types available.

Even if we go with these inexpensive options, we still shouldn’t settle for “cheap” necessarily. There is a big, big difference between high quality and low quality asphalt driveway paving, for example, so keep this in mind when shopping around with potential driveway paving contractors.

MAINTENANCE AND YOUR DRIVEWAY

The sticker price you pay at first installation may not be the only money you lay out over the lifetime of the driveway. Consider what maintenance costs, both in dollars and in your time, may also come with that material. It may be prudent, for example, to invest more now for a low-maintenance material (concrete) than to pay a little bit now for a material that won’t hold up as well over time and will require more maintenance and repair (e.g. asphalt).

Blacktop, for instance, will require periodic maintenance to keep it looking fine. Over time, it will fade and crack, showing the aggregate within the structure, and will thus not look as nice. To keep it looking great, you’ll probably have to get some sealcoating or resurfacing work done; if you don’t, that’s fine, but be ready to deal with a less than optimal driveway. Even paving stones will require occasional concrete paver sealer; usually homeowners will be able to go on sealing pavers themselves, so it usually is not much more of an added expense aside from the time spent working on the project.

TEN DRIVEWAY PAVING IDEAS

To finish this article, we’d like to leave you with ten design ideas and construction tips that you may want to consider when getting your new driveway. Of course, these are just suggestions, but hopefully they’ll spur your own ideas and thoughts when it comes time to craft designs and plan your own outdoor creation.

1. If you’re going with the traditional materials, like concrete or asphalt, don’t limit yourself to the standard iteration of these materials. For instance, you can get stamped concrete to look like paving stones at a fraction of the cost. You can also use stains and finishes to make your concrete look totally different from the typical drab, grey appearance.

2. Consider adding a walkway, patio, or pool deck at the same time as your driveway. You can have an integrated project while also saving more money overall if you get it all done at once.

3. Watch out for scams, especially for companies that will come in, excavate your old driveway, and leave you hanging for weeks or even months while they get other jobs in the area, all just to save them a few bucks. Read reviews, do your research – for instance, here’s some information on how to hire the best paver contractors. These questions can be asked of any contractor, as well.

4. Consider matching your new driveway with new landscaping.

5. Don’t just automatically copy the old design for your new driveway. Consider making the driveway bigger or smaller, depending on your needs, and think about the design flairs you can add, such as curves and sections.

6. You can mix and match options – if you can’t afford driveway pavers, for instance, consider mixing an asphalt or concrete driveway with a paver apron, border, or walkway. Thus, you can capture some of the beauty of this material without the full expense.

7. Don’t balk about hiring professional design services if you need the help. For a small investment up front, you can have a driveway created for your that will go best with your decor and your home’s style and theme.

8. Consider adding other flairs to your driveway, such as fans, circle kits, benches, retaining walls, and more.

9. Pick a color that complements, not necessarily matches, your home’s colors.

10. Finally, if you really need to save money but want to use a brilliant material, consider the driveway a do it yourself project. If you know how to pave a driveway yourself, and have the skills and experience and tools to do the job safely and correctly, you can save money on labor, making a job more affordable, though of course you’ll be paying some of the ‘cost’ of the driveway in your time.

Concrete Stamps for Sale: Finding and Using Them

One of the great advantages of concrete is its relatively cheap price and ease of installation. However, its main downfall, besides the problem of cracking, is its looks – concrete is grey, drab, and pretty boring to look at. It goes fine with most decors, but it isn’t the most optimal material to use for most projects.

However, there are ways to spruce up your concrete project so that it will be more stylistically interesting. The most common method is installing stamped concrete. Stamped concrete has particular designs, shapes, and textures ‘stamped’ into the wet concrete in order to make it look like something else. Combined with concrete paints and finishes, an otherwise boring slab of concrete can be made to look like something finer – concrete or natural stone pavers, bricks, and even wood! Luckily, making your own stamped concrete is relatively easy, as long as you can pour it yourself, making installing stamped concrete a viable DIY project for many homeowners who have the skills and time. Note, however, that some stamping projects can be challenging, so when in doubt, go with a professional whose work you admire to ensure that your project turns out right.

If you are interesting in a do it yourself stamped cement project, you’ll need to buy concrete stamps that you can use to create the designs you want. This article will describe the tools, materials, and products you’ll need for successful concrete stamping. It will also give suggestions for how to find and save money on concrete stamps for sale.

The Different Kinds of Concrete Stamps

The number of concrete stamp patterns out there is simply astounding. You can find every kind of designs, from regular patterns like brick and stone to irregular shapes and textures. You can also find interesting shapes and designs that you can use to make your concrete patio, walkway, driveway, pool deck, or other installation uniquely your own.

The following is a list of decorative concrete stamps – it is not an exhaustive list, of course, but it does cover many of the most popular varieties of designs and textures. Using stamps, your concrete can look like:

  • Stone
  • Rock
  • Tile
  • Brick
  • Pavers
  • Granite
  • Cobblestone
  • Wood
  • Pebbles
  • Slate

You can also add the following textures and designs:

  • Seamless textures
  • Beach
  • Borders
  • Fans
  • Circles
  • Animals
  • Names
  • Words
  • and much, much more.

In fact, it may even be possible to make or obtain custom stamps – you are thus only limited by your imagination and your budget.

The Properties of Concrete Stamps

Most stamps are made from rubber and plastic, making them flexible, light, and easy to work with. They can be easily washed and reused from job to job, so you won’t have to worry about having to buy new ones.

There are two main types. For small jobs, you can simply buy one unit stamps or stencils. For instance, if it’s a shape of dolphin, you only need to have a single dolphin stencil that you apply where needed. However, if you have a pattern that repeats, such as a cobblestone, paver, brick, or stone appearance, you’ll need to buy mats. Mats are simply big versions of normal stamps – they contain the “unit pattern” so that you can have it repeat regularly throughout the entire surface of the concrete. These mats vary in size, depending on the pattern, but most are in the 4 square feet range.

Using Concrete Stamps – Some How To Notes

How many stamps will you need? Stamps can be expensive, so you may feel tempted to save money by skimping on the number you purchase, but don’t! You’ll need at least enough to go across the whole width of the project, plus a couple to start the next course. Think about it – you want the texture or pattern to be even and nicely distributed. Any mistakes can be costly to the appearance of the final project. In addition, you want to be able to stamp everything necessary within the time that the concrete is wet and amenable to stamping. If you are too slow, you may have serious problems with the final result.

Note that stamps should only be used on concrete 2 inches thick or more. While stamping and staining may be a potential DIY project for someone with the experience and skills to do it, it can be challenging, and mistakes can make a concrete slab look terrible – this can be a very expensive mistake to make. Unless you have the chance to practice and find out what works, it may be best to leave all this to the professionals. In that case you wouldn’t have to buy or rent concrete stamps, so it may be worth it in the end.

The Cost of Concrete Stamps

The cost of the stamps depends on a number of factors, including the size and pattern of the stamp. In general, expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $250 per stamp. Most of the time, these stamps are bought by contractors who will use them on the job. This is due in part to the fact that these stamps are incredibly expensive for many homeowners to purchase in the quantity necessary. However, there are other options available to these homeowners, including renting and buying used stamps. See the saving money section below.

What Else You May Need

There are some other concrete stamping tools and products you might need to fill out your concrete project. First, in terms of using the stamps, you may need floppies or flexes; a tamper; and other hand tools. If you want to give your concrete a different color or stain, you may need acid stains, colors, release agents, and other materials. You may also need particular forms and molds to properly shape your concrete creations.

Saving Money on Concrete Stamps

One way to save money if you need stamps for a single job is to find stamps for rent. Finding rental concrete stamps may be difficult to do if you don’t have a supply yard or a contractor in your area willing to do this. You may also be able to find used concrete stamps for sale, either from individual homeowners or from professional contractors.

Note that it also may be possible for you to create your own stamps and patterns out of materials and objects laying around your house. Use your creativity and don’t be afraid to test on sample (and eventually disposable) concrete.