Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Stressing about a backyard project? Cross these off your "worry list!"

When you look at your backyard, what do you see? Does your family’s ideal outdoor space come to life, complete with kitchen, living area, fireplace, and more…or do you only see potential renovation challenges?

At Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes, we don’t want anyone to waste time and energy making mountains out of molehills… or any other kind of hill. In most cases, the potential problem you think you see isn’t an issue at all. Here are some worries you can cross off your list:

Whatever went wrong with your neighbor’s backyard renovation.
Some clients are afraid to invest in backyard amenities like waterfalls or patio pavers because they know someone who had a bad experience with that kind of project. In reality, these issues almost always relate to the contractor. Choosing contractors based on the quality of their work rather than the price they charge means you don’t need to worry about problems with installation or maintenance.

Feeling like you can’t envision the final product…or final cost.
It’s normal to feel discouraged if you can’t visualize how your yard will look once it’s been transformed. Remember that a good landscape design firm will always produce layout images, product pictures, an itemized proposal, and a complete cost breakdown of the project. This will help you to clearly identify the finished project and ensure you know exactly what you are paying for. The Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes Team works with 3-D renderings so clients can really visualize and experience their project from the outset.

You live in Western Pennsylvania, so your yard is hilly.
People sometimes see rolling hillsides on their property and think there’s no chance a backyard project could work. We get it—we live with hilly yards, too. Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about those hills because they’re actually an asset! An experienced landscape designer will utilize hillsides to create elevation changes or backdrops that enhance your project.

Now that these non-issues aren’t keeping you up at night, you’re ready to start planning for that dream outdoor living space. Here are three potential problems that can be solved ahead of time, paving the way for a smooth project.

A few potential problems and solutions:

Potential Problem: Your property plan
Solution: Review your property plan first, before you tackle any other steps in the project. Your home’s property plan was issued by the builder or seller, and you should have received a copy at your closing. It discloses all setback, easement, and property restrictions you need to know about your property. Not reviewing this at the outset could mean you have to alter or even eliminate your project later.

Potential Problem: Staging and accessibility
Solution: Ensure you have at least an 8’ wide pathway to get a truck or skid steer to the project area. You’ll also need ample space to stage bulk materials as they are delivered. Without these in place, your contractor will have to do additional work and costs will climb.

Potential Problem: Existing drainage issues
Solution: Water is the #1 culprit of projects failing, so proper drainage solutions for the project area have to come first. Without this, the project has no chance of survival over time.

Creating a complete outdoor living space is well worth the time, effort, and money you’ll put into it. But there’s no need to worry when you don’t have to. Contact Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes to get started, and let us take the stress off of your shoulders!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Patio Budgeting: Where Do I Start?

It’s no secret that adding an outdoor living space elevates your home’s financial value. Luxury items like grill stations, fire pits and fireplaces, pergolas, and full outdoor kitchens are a selling point for almost every buyer.

Still, we would argue the other kind of value outdoor living spaces bring to your home—the personal value—is even more important. Adding a patio is a sure way to elevate your outdoor entertaining style...not to mention outdoor dining, lounging, and family time.

That’s why the most important factor to consider as you establish a patio budget is…you!

You want the most use and value you can get from this investment. When our Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes team approaches a patio project, our first step is getting to know the clients and their families. With a full understanding of your lifestyle, we can provide guidance on which features will be the best investment for your family.

Once your dream patio design—and budget—is focused on features that will bring the most personal value, you’ll want to consider other main factors that contribute to project cost:

Accessibility. How easily can the project area be reached? If our team can back a truck right up to the project area, you will save on costs.

Staging. Is there ample room to stage bulk materials (making the project more budget-friendly) or does everything need to be brought in daily?

Soil conditions. Has the ground been untouched for at least 10 years? Disturbed soils are unstable and typically cost more to prepare. (If you’re in this situation, stabilizing the soil is an essential step because it ensures the integrity of the entire project.)

Topography. Working with a flat area typically costs less. Slopes almost always require walls or additional materials to level out the area.

Today we’ve put you on the right path for smart patio planning, but if you have more patio budgeting questions (or are even ready for the next step!) we are here to help. Contact Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes today, and together we can create the perfect patio for your lifestyle.


Are you interested in learning more about designing a patio perfect for you? Contact our Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes, LLC team today to get started!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Attention, Grill Masters— Plan and Design your Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen Now!

The most popular person at a summer party? The one at the grill, turning out perfectly juicy steaks, best-ever BBQ chicken, and seared veggies that keep everyone asking for seconds.

When you grill like a pro, you need space and equipment to match your skills. Isn’t it time you built the custom outdoor kitchen you deserve? Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Outdoor kitchens create a year-round family and entertaining space.
Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes uses components that are designed to withstand cold and wet conditions during the Pittsburgh winter, so you can comfortably grill in either July or January.

Outdoor kitchen equipped with drop-in grill, storage drawers, trash bin, refrigerator, granite counter tops, and back splash. This project features Brussels block material built into the existing roof support.

You can bring all your cooking skills outside.
Outdoor kitchens can include all the features you need to cook like a pro, from grills and refrigerators to sinks, prep areas, and dining spaces. Gas and electric are integrated, so your outdoor kitchen is every bit as functional as your indoor kitchen.

Outdoor kitchen area equipped with drop-in grill, storage drawers, refrigerator, attached bar, and natural sandstone countertops. Built out of CMU block faced with stone veneer.

Custom outdoor kitchens never feel too small or too big.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect space to gather with family or planning to host the whole neighborhood—or even a bit of both—our team will custom design your outdoor kitchen to fit your exact needs and wants.

Double-sided kitchen and bar space equipped with two drop-in ice bins, sink, refrigerator, icemaker, pantry, storage drawer, and sandstone countertops. Built with Brussels block.

Now that you know outdoor kitchens are all-season, fully functional, and customized, we want to hear what you think! What must-have features will your ultimate outdoor kitchen include? (Need more inspiration? Check out our Project Showcase.)

The focal point of any cookout should be the fun you're having with family and friends, but this 36" DCS grill from our Trade Partner, Don's Appliances, tends to steal the show. With a rotisserie, griddle, and hybrid IR burner, it's ready to take you from brunch to dinner - and beyond.

We rely on Don's Appliances for all-weather grills and more because we know their products can hold up against Pittsburgh weather - from below zero winters to scorching summers - and that is no easy feat!

The team at Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes is ready to take you from dreaming of an outdoor kitchen to grilling in one. Contact us today to begin exploring customization options.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bring your Backyard to Life with Ponds and Waterfalls!

The experience of being near a waterfall is pure magic. At once majestic and tranquil, nature’s waterfalls draw visitors from all over the world.

But what if you could capture that magical moment in your own backyard and experience it everyday? Adding a water feature to your outdoor living space is easier than you think and has lots of hidden benefits:

The sound of serenity. Calm waters are soothing to hear. Whether you’re enjoying a cup of morning coffee from your porch swing or dining outside on the patio, listening to the sounds of your waterfall or pond will bring tranquility to your moment.. Water features also make perfect, private spots for meditation and reflection.

Give your backyard a new life. Just as people are drawn to water features, so are birds and other wildlife. When you add a waterfall or pond to your outdoor living space, we suggest purchasing a local bird guide to keep handy, too. You’ll be identifying birds by sight and sound in no time!

A natural focal point. When you transform your backyard into an outdoor living space, you introduce a lot of man-made materials. Adding a water feature breaks up the area, giving the eye a place to rest and creating a natural home for landscaped plant material.

Totally customizable. Waterfalls and ponds can work in any size space, with as little or as much sound as you want. And they can be very low-maintenance! If a skilled, experienced crew handles the design and installation, you can expect to average five minutes of maintenance a week. And options abound: choose from pondless waterfalls, water gardens, koi ponds, and more.

Want a water feature to take your backyard from ordinary to extraordinary? Contact our Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes, LLC team today to get started!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Transform your Backyard into a True Living Space

What are your best memories at home? The family get-togethers that stretch into evening because everyone is having so much fun? Sharing drinks and laughing with friends around a cozy outdoor fireplace?

Whether you prefer impromptu backyard picnics or impeccably planned parties—or a bit of both!—you need a backyard retreat where you can do it all: grill and cook, host and entertain, relax and play.

But do you have the right space to turn this backyard dream into reality? Here are three tips to help you decide.

Expect to use 750-1000 square feet. This allows room for a dining table, sitting area, and outdoor kitchen or grill area. If you plan to incorporate a fire pit or fireplace with seating (you won’t regret it—our clients love this feature!), you’ll want to be closer to 1000 square feet.

Don’t worry about hillsides. If you have a hillside in your backyard, consider it an opportunity rather than an obstacle. A hillside can be the ideal place to incorporate knee walls, waterfalls, and other features. By building into the hillside, you create a clean transition space and utilize an otherwise unusable piece of land.

Factor in your floor plan. Your first step is identifying exactly what you want from your space. What will you do there? What kind of furniture will you incorporate? We recommend scouting local outdoor furniture stores for ideas and inspiration. With your input, we create 3D furniture layouts to scale. These allow us to map possibilities that meet your needs and best suit your space.

Ready to transform your backyard? Our team at Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes, LLC is—contact us now to get started!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Swimming Pools: Makeover Edition

What spends years enduring the summer scorch and the winter freeze but never gets an upgrade?

Your swimming pool.

This year, it’s your pool’s turn for a makeover. Here’s why:

Safety first. After years of use and exposure to Pittsburgh weather, pool decks and patios begin to show signs of structural damage. Have you noticed any cracks starting to form? On its own, this kind of damage is a safety hazard for you and your family. Left untreated, it could also affect your pool’s structural integrity.

BEFORE: This pool is ready for an upgrade

Updated aesthetics. When your home and backyard are beautifully and thoughtfully designed, you want your pool to match. What does your dream pool area look like? Even a newer pool can be perfectly complemented with a gazebo or outdoor fireplace. One family we worked with loved their new backyard oasis so much they wrote to tell us all about it:

“We are once again so pleased at how beautiful our back yard is. The stone patio makes the pool look amazing. The other day a guest said, ‘No wonder you are so joyful—your life is filled with beauty.'"

Filling your life with beauty is one of the best compliments we can receive because that is exactly what we aim to accomplish!

DURING: One view of our 3D design for this pool makeover

Timing. We want to design your dream swimming area…and we want you to be able to swim in it this summer! So the time to start planning is now. Snow on the ground doesn’t stop us from taking the key first steps: talking about what you want and need from your pool area and creating a customized 3D design and proposal.

AFTER: Pool paradise dreams become reality

Are you ready to dive in? Reach out to us today so we can take your pool from “before” to “after” in time for this summer’s swim season. Let’s bring more beauty into your life!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Retaining Walls: 4 Reasons Why They Fall

What goes up must come down…or does it? When it comes to building a retaining wall, you want to be 100% certain that what goes up, stays up! So how can you be sure your retaining wall will last? Avoid these four pitfalls…


Working with unqualified contractors. If you’re settling for a low-end bid, you’re sacrificing product and service quality. A cheap retaining wall that “saves” you money now will cost you money later (typically, the only resolution for a failed retaining wall system is to remove it and rebuild). You also want a contractor who has plenty of experience working with Pittsburgh’s landscape and climate. Our advice for choosing a quality contractor will point you in the right direction.

Ignoring industry standards. If your contractor is ignoring the National Concrete Masonry Association’s (NCMA) regulations for retaining walls, you can expect problems in the future…and maybe sooner than you think. Educate yourself and ask questions. You can find NCMA standards here or request them directly from wall unit manufacturers.

Choosing the wrong material. Make sure you’re using the right material for your project. Some wall units are meant only for aesthetic applications like garden walls and sitting walls, while others are designed for reinforcement or large commercial use.

Skipping the gravel backfill. Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes’ experienced team knows gravel backfill and a drain system are essential components of a lasting retaining wall—they work together to alleviate water and gases that accumulate behind the wall. Still, many contractors will skip this step, compromising the wall’s longevity.

If your landscape or project plans include a retaining wall—and you want that wall to last—call Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes’ experts first! See a variety of our projects with retaining walls here. We’re also available for consultations if you’re having problems with an existing retaining wall.

Our experienced team is ready to design and build a better backyard that’s perfectly matched to your lifestyle. Call us at 412-319-7524 or contact us here to get started, and don’t forget to check out our Project Showcase for inspiration!