Summertime Concepts


Exterior Concepts has had outstanding project management through the sweltering heat of a Florida summer this year. When the sun is high and the job has only just begun, our experienced carpenter and project manager Justin is ready to take on any unpredictable challenge a work site can throw at the outdoor living construction process.



Over the course of this summer season, Justin has handled over a dozen projects with his own crew and many others he has overseen as the representative of the Exterior Concepts construction process. He handles a project with the utmost integrity and leaves nothing but certainty at the end that the project was built with quality and care.



Carpentry is Justin’s forte but he does not flinch at the opportunity to work with other medians as you can see from this water feature he built back in June. The materials were ordered and a few days later, the water flowed beautifully into the pondless reservoir completely concealed underneath the polished mexican river pebble below adding nature’s music to what once was an unused outdoor space.

A Beautiful Day in Palm Bay

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.


LawnStarter Recognizes Exterior Concepts

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.

Top Landscapers in Tampa

A Touch of Glass

We were given the pleasure of rejuvenating an older second story deck in Riverview, Florida. This particular deck had several different elements brought together. This project has truly come full cirle, from an interlocking paver landing, two flights of stairs, a durable Trex Select composite decking, a newly set hot tub, custom lattice work, and a view through custom tempered glass railings. 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 that beautifully conceals the underside of the deck. There is also a double lattice gate at the private dock entrance that 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 Trex come in an array of appealing color options, but also it will last through many years of use and look just as good as the day it was installed. Putting 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 one would ever want to go back indoors.

The Clarion Courtyard Make-Over Pergola and Waterfall Installation

The Clarion Courtyard Make-Over Pergola and Waterfall Installation

rsz_imag0937A few years ago, we constructed a series of cypress pergolas and water features 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 five big timber Cypress Pergolas were constructed surrounding three sides of an existing L-shaped swimming pool. All five pergolas were constructed in similar fashion with similar components. Each pergola was built rsz_imag0933approximately 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, while 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.

rsz_imag0932We used two milled 2”x12”s, 32 feet in length, as girders for a pergola that was 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 blended in with the courtyard patio. The second water feature was built using a 2” copper pipe inset between the two cypress 2”x12” girders. rsz_imag0934A 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 a low voltage lighting transformer, and concrete blocks, leaving the center hollow to house the pump. We used a Pentair (intelliflo xf) pump with a 2”2” intake and a 3” outtake to supply both water features. The Pentair pump was sufficient, even with the 10 feet of head pressure needed for the pergola water feature.

We constructed a third water feature as a backdrop to the raised travertine patio, that was built to be utilized as a bandstand. This water feature was basically a rectanglular, raised retainment pool veneered in tile, that projected a sheet of water approximately 8 feet across and 8 feet off the ground.

rsz_imag0945Finally, because this entire travertine courtyard area would be occupied more often in the evenings, 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 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 our customer’s goal. The space has a lot of appeal and can accommodate a large volume of people for enjoyment and entertainment. It has the rsz_imag0950variables 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. Even my own daughter, who is not easily impressed after years of exposure to my organic designs, 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.

Five Leaves of Oak

Five Leaves of Oak

IMAG0204One 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.IMAG0199

AERT_051 (2)A multi-tiered deck wasn’t exactly an option after looking at the cabin in the mountains of Tennesse and working with a tree wooded hillside. 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.

After being back in Tampa this deck design was unconsciously put on the back burner of my creative psyche, being as most of the Tampa homes and outdoor spaces I design are 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.

IMAG0208Firstly, 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 which gave me a good deal of artisticAERT_034 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. 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 degree angle and radiating upward IMAG0196from the composite vein to help emulate the look of a natural oak leaf. In addition to the decks, composite steps were added 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 with 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 for 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.

IMAG0189As with many other projects, the two remaining “Leaves of Oak” were concepts conceived after construction of the project was well underway. As the layout between composite decking, stone, water, and the existing large Oak trees unfolded, it was decided that two additional leaves, approximately the same size and shape would nicely anchor both ends of the exisiting design. These two decks were at ground level, and instead of using composite decking, were constructed using an “Appian Stone” interlocking paver manufactured by Oldcastle Coastal. A darker color Knightsbridge was used for the vein and soldier row to emulate the darker composite used in the decks, while 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 to incorporate water; not just one water feature, but weaving water IMAG0179throughout. In the end six actual waterfalls or water features were constructed at various points of this project.

The first and larger pond was a two tier koi pond starting approximately 10’ from the screen room, 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 are, by the lower tiered pond. A large, 1000 lb. basalt imported from the northwest part of the country was 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 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 intoAERT_033 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.

AERT_054The second pond, although smaller and simpler in size is basically a two tired koi pond with 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, we basically 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 was 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 IMAG0174height 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. Finally, 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 IMAG0170counter 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. Lastly, Miami Pathway lights were balanced throughout the landscape.