When given a nearly blank canvas with environmental obstacles, it is not the difficulties that are focused on but rather the possibilities. Behind this beautiful home in Palm Bay lies a drop off into what seemed to be swamp land. The grass was gone, and just a few trees were left protruding in all directions.
After reviewing the possibilities for creation and brainstorming those ideas, we decided to construct a 3-tiered deck to account for the 36” elevation drop and allow the 4 existing palm trees to blossom through the deck floor. This seemed like the most natural approach to blending the house, deck, and backyard together with gestalt.
Project Manager, Shawn Sims, worked enthusiastically throughout the project, and took great care aligning the retainment wall with the house and sanding the beautiful curve along the 2nd tier’s step. The efficiency and accuracy of our project managers coupled with quality materials ensures a finished project that is functional, well-blended, and can stand the test of time.
Composite decking provided by Moisture Shield is our personal choice in building a deck of this magnitude and grace. It ensures the elegant appeal of a colorful deck over many decades with minimal maintenance. Moisture Shield’s composite decking, holding the original 3 patents on composite formulation, has provided a durable and reliable product and has not had a field failure for 28 years. Moisture Shield composite decking is designed and proven to withstand the world’s most extreme environments and is guaranteed under a lifetime transferrable warranty to do so. When decided how best to suit Rob’s needs we chose only the best to build with and Moisture Shield was an easy choice for Exterior Concepts.
With a clear sky and a beautiful rainbow over the horizon, this multi-tiered deck has evolved into an organic part of this backyard living space.
As an outdoor living space expert, landscaping is one of the many talents of our founder Dave Hetrick. Although landscaping is one small part of creating an exceptional experience for our customers, it is not overlooked. We are honored to have been rated among the top 8 landscape designers in the Tampa area and will continue to work with diligence and detail to give our customers beautiful outdoor living spaces.
We were given the pleasure of rejuvenating an older second story deck in Riverview, Florida. This particular deck had several different elements brought together. From the interlocking paver landing, the two flights of stairs, the durable Trex Select composite decking, a newly set hot tub, custom lattice work surround, and the view through the custom tempered glass railings, this project has truly come full circle. Each aspect of the deck took careful consideration to design and transform.
Once the demolition of the existing deck took place, the true craftsmanship started to commence. The custom lattice is hand constructed on site from pressure treated 1″ x 2″ lumber. It beautifully conceals the underside of the deck. There is also a double lattice gate at their private dock entrance which ties it all in to the home. The home owners wanted to integrate a relaxing, sunken hot tub into the deck. This decision made the decking choice an easy one. We constructed the decking out of Trex Select composite decking. Trex brings many positive factors to the table, such as their 25 year warranty. Not only does it come in an array of appealing color options, but also will last through many years of use and look just as good as the day it was installed. Having material like this up against a hot tub where water is a constant element is a huge safety benefit to the customer.
With a second story view like this, how could we cover it with traditional railing? You shouldn’t, and we definitely did not. We used a strong tempered glass, polished to perfection. Looking through the glass to see such luscious vegetation while enjoying yourself in the sunken hot tub leaves most questioning why you would ever want to go back indoors.
A series of cypress pergolas and water features we constructed a few years back when the Clarion took over the Best Western and preceded with an ‘over the top’ restoration. Our scope of work was limited to the outdoor courtyard and swimming pool area. A series of 5 big timber Cypress Pergolas were constructed surrounding three sides of an existing L-shaped swimming pool. All 5 pergolas were constructed in similar fashion with similar components. Each pergola was built approximately 10’ in height, using 6x6” posts wrapped with circular cast concrete ornamental columns. The entire upper carnage framework of each Pergola was constructed using rough cut cypress, and the members of each pergola were also in uniform. Dual ornamental, boxed 2”x12”s were used as girders, ornamental 2”x10”s were used as shades and 2”x4”s were used as purlins.
I was able to have two 2”x12”s, 32 feet in length, milled and used as girders for a pergola that would be constructed over one end of the swimming pool. This pergola would also be used as the framework for two separate water features. A stone waterfall was constructed in one corner of the swimming pool, around one of the 6”x6” pergola support posts. This waterfall was built using Navajo Fieldstone, a tannish white stone that would blend in with the courtyard patio. The second water feature was built using a 2” copper pipe inset between the two cypress 2”x12” girders. A hole was drilled every 1/4th of an inch to create an effect of a sheet of water falling. The frame of the stone waterfall was constructed using concrete blocks, leaving the center hollow to house the pump, electrical, and low voltage lighting transformer. We used a Pentair (intelliflo xf) pump with a 2”2” intake and a 3” outtake to supply both water features. Even with the 10 feet of head pressure needed for the pergola water feature, the Pentair pump was sufficient.
We constructed a third water feature as a backdrop to the raised travertine patio that was constructed to be utilized as a bandstand. This water feature was basically a large rectangle raised retainment pool veneered in tile. The water feature was a sheet of water approximately 8 feet across and a minimum 8 feet off the ground.
Finally, and probably most importantly, being as this entire travertine courtyard area would be occupied more in the evenings than the daytime, all the Pergolas and water features were lit up using LED Low Voltage lighting. In part, low voltage lighting was used for function, lighting up the sitting areas, as well as pathways, exits and entrances. Low voltage outdoor lighting was also used for an aesthetic effect by lighting up the water features, as well as lighting up some of the landscaping. Lastly, as we have done with a lot of our pergolas, outdoor ceiling fans were attached. Looking at our final product, I really feel we accomplished their goal. The space has a lot of appeal and can accommodate a large volume of people for enjoyment and entertainment. It has the variables needed to draw people in, a swimming pool, a full service bar, a large bandstand, etc. But, most importantly to me, it has a great aesthetic and artistic appeal. I have listened to many people talk about the Clarion Courtyard and its appeal, having no idea that it was our project, including my own daughter who was in awe of it after spending a few evenings there, and had no idea that I designed and constructed it until I gave her this blog to post.
One of our more artistic deck designs, the design for this multi-tiered deck was originally an idea I had a few years back for a Tampa customer’s cabin in Tennessee. I feel that in every outdoor living space we construct, the two most important aspects to take into consideration when designing are first, the customer’s goals and needs, and secondly, the style of the home and setting or the environment within.
When looking at a cabin in the mountains of Tennessee and working with a tree wooded hillside, a multi-tiered deck with stairs wasn’t really so much an option. In fact, I think that this was the first concept and design to come to mind. In addition to the multiple levels of decking following the change in elevation of the hillside, the curves of the leaf pattern in the decks and the open space between decks allowed me to wrap my design within the existing oak trees along the hillside.
Once back in Tampa this deck design seemed to had been unconsciously put on the back burner of my creative psyche, being as most of the Tampa homes and outdoor spaces I was designing for were more in style with your typical Florida home, concrete, stucco or stone facades with yards that have little if any elevation change.
When I was contacted by Bob and Rodney to design and construct their deck, the concept was revived, modified for their space, with additional elements such as interlocking paver patios, koi ponds, water features, two pergolas, an outdoor kitchen among many other outdoor living variables from our arsenal that we use and install in our designs.
To start with the beginning of this deck and go through the evolution and modifications of this project, I will begin as usual with my initial consultation with my customers Bob and Rodney. We sat down and discussed their goals, needs, and various ideas and options to obtain them. Both Bob and Rodney were very open to a more creative and unique approach to the design of their deck and gave me a good deal of artistic freedom.
My initial concept was to construct a multi-level deck, using composite decking manufactured by Moistureshield, with each deck in the shape of an Oak leaf and, in addition, composite decked steps were constructed in a similar leaf fashion, where the grade lended itself to more drop in elevation. Each composite deck was designed in the shape of an Oak leaf approximately 16’x24’. A darker brown PVC composite deck board was ran horizontally in an s-curve down each deck to replicate the vein in each leaf, as well as used vertically as a wrap to outline the border of each deck as well as each stair. A lighter color composite deck board manufactured by Moistureshield was used as the main field. These deck boards were cut in and installed on a 45% angle and radiating upward from the composite vein to help emulate the look of a natural oak leaf. In addition to the decks, composite steps were needed for the transition in elevation. These steps were constructed and decked in the same shape and style to complement the main decks.
A small outdoor kitchen was constructed on the mid-level deck using the same moisture shield composite decking and trimmed with the darker composite. The kitchen housed a 36” stainless steel grill, with blue stone counter tops and built-in storage space in the composite cabinet below. A small wooden single beam pergola was constructed above. This was built, as well as the outdoor kitchen, to follow the contour of the deck’s organic edge. Finally, two large boulders were picked, and cut into the decking used to construct the walls of the kitchen cabinets. Being as Pennsylvania Antique Fieldstone would be used throughout this project, (mainly with the water features), I wanted to blend the two mediums, as well as two concepts of outdoor living together to create a better flow and balance. In addition to the kitchen, five or six additional boulders were selected and inset into the three composite decks to continue with the concepts of blending the mediums.
A larger Pergola, approximately 20’x18’ at its widest points was constructed over the lowest deck. This pergola was designed with an organic style, and cut to follow the contour of that deck. This deck was chosen and designed as the dining space and the pergola was constructed as coverage for a table and chairs.
As with many projects over the years, the two remaining “Leaves of Oak” were concepts conceived after construction of the project was well underway. As the layout between composite decking, stone and water, and the existing large Oak trees unfolded, it was decided that two additional leaves of approximately the same size and shape would work nicely anchoring both ends of the existing design. These two decks would be at ground level and instead of being constructed using composite decking, would be constructed using an “Appian Stone” interlocking paver manufactured by Oldcastle Coastal. A darker color Knightsbridge would be used for the vein and soldier row to emulate the darker composite used in the decks, and a lighter color oak run was used as the field for the same reason. The pattern was also run in the same 45 degree fashion. One of the patios was chosen to be solely dedicated for the use of a gas fire bowl, centered in the middle of the patio with seating completely encompassing it.The next element was incorporating water. Not just one water feature, but weaving water throughout. In the end six actual waterfalls or water features were constructed at various points of this project.
The first and larger pond would be a two tier koi pond starting approximately 10’ from the screen room and to the left of the upper deck. This headed pond was approximately 12’ in length, 6’ in width, and maybe three feet at its maximum depth. It was fed, as they always must be by the lower tiered pond. A large, 1000 lb. basalt imported from the northwest part of the country would be the first water feature. Basalt is a very dense rock usually with unique coloring and shape and formed from volcanic lava or other output, which for one is why most of them are imported from the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, states and regions. The stones are bored usually long ways as boring a shaft. This process was conceived for the purpose of creating unique water features. This particular basalt was set in the upper koi pond with approximately 3 ½ “to 4’ of stone protruding above the waterline. Smaller boulders were used at the base to create more interest with the cascading waterfall. This pond narrowed to a stream bed that ran down to and under the lowest deck and into the reservoir koi pond.
This is the koi pond with the main waterfall, set between the lower deck and largest oak tree. This waterfall was approximately 4’ in height by maybe as much as 6’ in length. This waterfall would face the house directing energy back to the home. For this waterfall, Retainment would need to be constructed to allow us to obtain adequate height for the waterfall without compromising the health of the oak tree. This lower koi pond would also house all three filters, biofalls, ultraviolet clarifier, and skimmer (which houses the pump). Between these two decks an open area approximately 5’ in area was where we decided to make our transition between the two koi ponds. An 8” drop in elevation provided a very nice, subtle space for a small shear drop waterfall. The height of the spillway was an important factor, to maintain both koi ponds optimal water levels.
The second pond although smaller and simpler in size is basically a two tired koi pond, but also has an additional original concept. It is an idea that rolled around in my head early on in business. It is art and I like to push the creative limits. Without going into all the construction details and specs, what we basically did was cut out a small 5”-6” pond out of the top half of the 2”x12” joist used in framing the middle tiered deck. This space was boxed in and floored. A liner laid in, draped in and over the joist and secured in place when securing the Moisturesheild composite decking in place, with a cut piece of Pennsylvania blue stone for a spillway. The important concepts that should be said pertaining to this is that this was not a deck that is built over a pond, but a small shallow pond built within the framework of a deck. It could be constructed in a deck, at any height with multiple tiers, as we have in the past.
This system consists of our final three water features. First, the spillway from the deck to the koi pond previously spoken of. Second, a small basalt that was set into this pond. River Jack and a few smaller boulders were used in this deck pond to hide the liner. The final was a smaller waterfall that was built for the reservoir koi pond with the energy and motion flowing back towards the home and upper deck.
Next the area was graded and heavily landscaped for balance and gestalt. Finally, a low voltage system, manufactured by Garden Light, was designed and installed. 20 watt low voltage LED spots were used to accent the waterfalls well as the counter space for the outdoor kitchen. 20 watt LED deck lights were mounted on the 6”x6″” posts of the two pergolas aimed downward to illuminate the composite decking. Ten watt flash mounts were cut into the top riser to illuminate each stair. And finally Miami Pathway lights were balanced throughout the landscape.
(Photo by Julie Charlier from Exterior Concepts Holding Pond)
Five Senses of Koi:
Those whiskers are called barbels and koi have them to help taste. In a way, they are similar to your tongue, as they have taste buds on them. Many, many years ago, koi had three barbels, but now they only have two. Koi also have taste buds on their mouth and lips, so they have an excellent sense of taste.
Koi do have a very good sense of smell. Their extremely acute sense of smell and their sense of taste are their primary senses in finding food in their natural environment. When food dissolves in water it can then be detected by their nose, with the nares that are located at the base of their nostrils. The nares can be thought of as U-tubes, as the water enters through the forward opening and exits through the rear opening. Water does not flow to any other part of the body from the nares.
Yes, koi do hear, even though they have no external ears. This is accomplished by the koi sensing vibrations in the water. Koi hear with what is called the Weberian Ossicles, a group of bones that are connected to one end to the forward swim bladder and on the other end to the auditory center, a sensing organ that resembles our inner ear. Koi, like other fish, are very sensitive to sound and can be stressed to the point of becoming ill by loud noises, especially on a constantly recurring basis.
Koi see exceptionally well. They have such good sight they could probably even read a book. They actually have a greater range of vision than we do, as they have bilaterally placed eyes that are independently moveable. They also see color and black and white. The eyes of the koi are more vulnerable than our eyes because they do not have eyelids; so, great care must be taken when they are netted and handled.
The most sensitive area for this sense is located about midway down the side of the fish, called the lateral line. Holes in the scales lead to a canal beneath the surface that contain neuromast cells. Water movement in any direction striking the sides of the fish will cause the mucous in the canal to vibrate. These vibrations stimulate the cells that are linked to the nerve system and provide koi with one of the most effective survival techniques (flight reaction).
Originally published in Portland Japanese Garden’s Member Newsletter, July 2013