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!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

3D Virtual Designs: Your Dream Backyard Starts Here


Were virtual reality devices at the top of your wish list this past holiday season... just ahead of a new swimming pool, outdoor kitchen, and patio with fireplace?

Then you definitely need to know about Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes’ 3D Virtual Designs for your backyard projects!

What are 3D Virtual Designs?
The outdoor space you’re going to ADORE has to start with a plan you LOVE. And lines on paper just aren’t enough. 3D Virtual Designs bring our vision for your project to life so you can “step into” that new space long before any construction begins.

Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes’ 3D Virtual Designs give you a realistic view of the finished project in context. That means you’ll see the project’s elements in accurate colors and textures, along with existing components like the home and surroundings.

Why do clients love 3D Virtual Designs?
3D Virtual Designs make it easy to visualize exactly where your project is headed—and what changes you might want to make. With your input, Pittsburgh Stone & Waterscapes’ architects can revise your design before or during the construction process.

Our 3D Virtual Designs also make it possible for you to see how the project will look from inside your home. You want to know—from the start!—what the view will be from your dining area, kitchen, great room, and bedroom. After all, enjoying your waterfall or pool area while you’re outside is just part of the picture... don’t forget about the experience of sitting in your dining room and seeing that magnificent waterfall or pool through the window.

Clients also love our nighttime renders! Our backyard projects are designed to be part of your life 365 days a year, day and night. In the nighttime virtual designs, we carefully place lighting so you can see not only where lights will be, but also how they will illuminate the rest of the project and surroundings. We also do interior views, allowing a precise rendering of what you’ll see when you look out your windows after dark.

How do I get 3D Virtual Designs for my project?!
Work with us! Every Pittsburgh Stone & Waterscapes project uses 3D Virtual Designs. We know how important it is that you fully understand your project—from start to finish and top to bottom. Because 3D Virtual Designs give everyone from the client to our field crew a complete and accurate visual guide for the finished project, we are able to limit construction issues and ensure client satisfaction. (And that’s exactly how we like it!)

We can’t wait to get started on your 3D Virtual Design! February is the perfect time to begin planning your outdoor living space and landscaping projects. Call us at (412) 319-7524 and we can build a better backyard together.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Let it Snow: Your Backyard Winter Wonderland

When we design a backyard living space, we aren’t just designing for one season. Having friends over for summertime swimming and grilling is classic fun in the sun, but this is Pittsburgh... we want to make sure you can have fun in the snow, too!

Outdoor entertaining translates perfectly to wintertime when you bring together a few key elements.

Invite the whole family. Who can resist an afternoon of sledding? Whether you’re planning weeks in advance or throwing an impromptu sled party on the first snow day of the season, include the kids and the adults.

Keep it cozy. Start the party with sled riding, but have warm-up stations ready for anyone who needs a break from the chill. Your roaring outdoor fireplace will be a popular spot! Is it a Steelers Sunday? Turn on the outside TV and layer your patio seating with plenty of fleece and flannel blankets.

Choose comfort food. Sledders work up an appetite, and this is the perfect time for toasty grilled cheese and tomato soup (an outdoor kitchen like this one would be ideal for making and serving lunch!). A hot cocoa bar—complete with marshmallows, peppermint sticks, cinnamon, and whipped cream—will keep the young (and the young at heart) smiling all day long.

Don’t forget the finishing touches. Have a few extra sleds on hand…by the end of the day, you’re bound to need a replacement or two. And instead of take-home party favors, offer your guests lip balm and hand warmers as they arrive. There’s nothing better than a gift you can put to use right away!

Your backyard should be a place where you can relax, play, and entertain all year long. With 35 years of experience in landscape, hardscape, waterscape, and carpentry, our Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes team knows exactly what you need to build a backyard for all seasons. We’ll create the space…you’ll create the memories. Let’s get planning!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Backyard Projects: What You Need Know about Choosing a Contractor

Which little—or big!—backyard makeover have you been daydreaming about? From party-ready patios and cozy fire pits to complete outdoor kitchens and landscaped pools, there is a backyard project to fit every family and lifestyle.

Finding inspiration is easy: you’re probably already filling Pinterest boards, scouting designs on Houzz, and pulling pages out of magazines. But while you’re doing the fun stuff, don’t forget to put as much time and thought into your search for a contractor.

Your contractor isn’t just anybody—this is the person who brings your dream backyard into existence. So, finding a contractor you can easily work with and trust is paramount. Here are five tips to guide your search:

Start early. It’s never to early to reach out to a contractor and educate yourself about options and costs. Right now—the winter season—is ideal for starting the process. Contractors have more time to offer you, plus you’re more likely to have your pick of scheduling dates once you decide to move forward on a spring/summer project.

Think value, not price. Whether your budget is $5,000 or $150,000, you want to focus on value. That means thinking about what you’re getting for your money in terms of service and experience as well as goods. The contractor you want will meet Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes’ standards for superior quality projects:
  Suits your short- and long-term needs
  Stays within budget
  Uses structural components that will last the life of your home
  Follows up with any necessary repairs or problems after completion.

Don’t be fooled by low-end bids. If contractors are not within 5% of each other, then you’re not being offered the same product and services. Low-end bids typically mean inferior quality, which can lead to headaches and high costs later.

Look for a proven team. Backyard projects are often complex and involve several specialists. Imagine your perfect family pool. That project includes landscaping, fencing, electrical work, safety features, and so much more. Find an experienced company with their own team of contractors who work together regularly and systematically, as we do with our Trade Partners. Some homeowners think they can save money by coordinating multiple contractors on their own. Instead, this approach typically costs more (in money and stress), creates tension, delays the project, and makes it difficult to complete any necessary follow-ups.

Experience matters. To find a qualified designer or architect for your project, rely on experience more than titles. Be especially careful to find someone who has ample experience with the exact type of project you want. The contractor who has learned skills through years of working with materials, soils, and grades will be best equipped to guide your backyard transformation.

Take a field trip. Looking at a contractor’s previous work is absolutely necessary. Start with with testimonials and portfolios like these, and then go see for yourself.  If you’re planning an outdoor grilling and living area, for example, ask to tour a recent project that is similar to your design. Be sure to visit while the homeowner is there so you can ask specific questions about the project at all stages. (Don’t forget to ask about any follow-up visits or issues that needed to be addressed after completion—you don’t just want to know what happened, you want to know how the contractor handled it.)

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!