Posted by & filed under Deck Ideas.

Is your deck as tired as you? Does it lack personality? Is it generous with the splinters? There’s a solution for that. The solution doesn’t have to involve all the expense of a new deck. Spruce up you deck for less with many elements that won’t break the bank.

Gazebos and Awnings

Sprucing up your deck for less can be accomplished many different ways and at many different price points. Building onto your existing deck with a gazebo or awning can transform your outdoor space quickly and without a heavy price tag or heavy lifting.  A gazebo or awning can cost a little or a lot depending on materials and size you choose. A gazebo or awning, however, will never cost as much as a new deck. A little shade might just be what your old deck needs. When incorporating any new structures into your existing deck and outdoor space remember to clean your deck so that the addition will blend in. Cleaning all your existing structures will go a long way in sprucing up your deck.

fireplace and deck lighting


Lighting can change and enhance the atmosphere of your old, tired deck. Lighting can be retrofitted and custom designed to create the desired ambiance. Lighting projects can cost a little or lot depending on your vision.

Planter Boxes and Benching

Planter boxes and benches are very economical ways to spruce up your existing deck without the cost of a new one. Planter boxes can help to frame your space and the plants in these boxes will inevitably add colour. Benches will also give structure to your deck and provide extra seating. Add some cushions and outdoor rugs and you’ve got yourself another living room.

panter box and bench_MG_0052

Some other elements that don’t cost much but invigorate your outdoor space and breathe life into your deck are privacy screens and fireplaces. Also consider a fresh coat of stain or paint.

While a new deck might not be in the cards for you, there are many ways to make your old deck new again. Have a plan, have a budget and most importantly, have an imagination.


Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

While we all can’t afford our dream home, designing and building a treehouse might just be the trick to seeing that dream come true.

Most of us have no desire to build our home in the trees but a more popular and feasible option is to build a treehouse. While children benefit most from this outdoor element, your treehouse can become the envy of everyone in the neighbourhood.




Unlike many outdoor projects, a treehouse requires engineering, designing, professional construction and permits to ensure it’s safety and durability.

There are many kits our there that will provide you with the bulk of the necessary elements, but you’re likely to only build one treehouse in your lifetime, why not give this project all the personal touches it deserves. This is your opportunity to have all those “dream home” elements without the hefty real estate price tag.

Of course, tree houses are limited to those properties that include at least one mature tree. This should be your first consideration. And you will want to make sure that the design of the building compliments any existing structures, like your primary home and your deck. Take care of the tree you will be using to build your treehouse. Don’t restrict it’s growth by constricting branches with rope, straps or wire. This can strangle the tree.




While you probably aren’t going to be living in your treehouse,  there’s no reason the whole family and can’t spend loads of quality time there.  Don’t just consider the design and construction of the building, keep in mind it’s usage.  Will you need to install electrical or insullation. What kind of access will you use. While stairs seem obvious, maybe your treehouse includes a slide.

Options in design can be as large as your imagination.  Building a treehouse in your backyard can be a great project for the whole family and provide your family with loads of great memories.



Posted by & filed under Deck Stairs.

Who says taking the stairs can’t be fun. Designing you own deck can be exciting, but also at times confusing with all the elements to consider. Deck stairs and the multiple options available can be mind boggling but don’t have be.

Taking the stairs will take on a whole new meaning once you’ve navigated through the design options that come with choosing the right set of stairs for that new deck. Will your budget fit your vision? Many factors will determine the price of your deck stairs. Square footage, is not the only variable affecting price. The design, materials and number of stairs will bring the price up or down as well.

090 curved Veka vinyl steps 008 3 sided wrap around step


There are deck stair calculators out there that will not give an accurate estimate of cost because of the many factors effecting price. Lighting is functional and adds to the design of any deck, but will obviously cost more. Curved stairs, though interesting and easy on the eyes will cost more than straight stairs. Caping your stairs will give it a finished look but will increase the quantity of materials and therefore increase the cost of your decking project. Keep the height of your deck in mind when considering the cost as well. The more stairs it takes to reach the ground, the higher the cost.

012 spirel steps 015 800 foot Xtendex


The design of your deck stairs demand your attention to detail. Deck stairs are a natural focal point of your deck. Your deck stairs should not break the bank, but be functional and pleasing to the eye. The design of your deck stairs should fit in with the overall design of your deck. With so many options in building materials available, design options are endless. Working closely with your builder will ensure that your vision will not be lost and your decking project will be finishing off with a great set of stairs.

Posted by & filed under Deck Design, Uncategorized.

When it comes to buying your home, you buy as much house as you can afford and the same rule can apply to your deck. With design and style in mind, it is said that your deck can’t be too big.

A large deck is sure to wow but don’t lose sight of the vision you have for your outdoor space. While a large deck can be impressive, tearing up your entire back yard to achieve this, is not advisable. If you have to stand on your deck to mow your grass, your deck is likely too large.


015 800 foot Xtendex

800  square foot Xtendex deck

Many decks are simply an entry way to the backyard and a small extension to living space. If you’ve got the room, a larger deck can be so much more. Some factors to consider in determining the size of your new deck, is the neighbourhood. While you may want a large deck, you must keep in mind that your neighbours may have houses smaller than your deck dream. Building a large deck may be your dream, but you will want to keep your project in proportion to yours and neighbouring houses.

If you’ve decided on a large deck, it is most likely that you intend to entertain. There’s nothing like a good game of twister when the temperature rises above 80. It’s important to first designate uses for your new deck. Will there be a pool, furniture, or a barbecue incorporated. Be sure to give all elements consideration when designing your large deck. With a larger deck, an outdoor kitchen or fireplace might be part of your design. Know how large your outdoor furniture is,  traffic patterns and positioning of stairs.  A large deck will quite possibly need larger or multiple sets of stairs.

040 900 foot Clubhouse deck

900 square foot Clubhouse deck.

A square deck may be an efficient use of space but even if you have the largest deck on the block, you won’t be winning any design awards. With more square footage comes more design options. A well designed large deck can be magnificent and will naturally cost more money but many design options don’t necessarily have to.

Some of the things what bring the cost up are quantity of materials. This includes longer boards and possibly an extra beam. Features like pergolas and fireplaces will also bring the cost up.

There is something to be said for building a deck large enough to accommodate your growing family and interests. Even if that’s only a sweaty game of twister.

Posted by & filed under Wooden Decks.

Clear cedar is highest in industry standards and when you see the reasons why, it will also become a clear choice for your new deck. While clear cedar is used in many wood projects, it has maintained it’s popularity in the decking industry because of it’s unique features. Clear cedar is top of the line when it comes to natural decking materials. While many are choosing composites, for some, there is nothing like a natural deck to enhance the natural atmosphere of their outdoor space. Clear cedar is a wood product that comes from older trees. Demand has made this wood harder to obtain and more expensive and it is now in line with low-maintenance products when it comes to cost.

014 2 level deck in Carlisle


Despite these draw backs, clear cedar maintains it’s superior elements. Clear cedar comes in four grades. The most common are knotty and clear. Clear cedar will have fewer knots and blemishes and is considered  an excellent choice when it comes to building decks.  Clear cedar, as opposed to knotty cedar, is denser, harder and more resilient than it’s counter part. It has outstanding strength with a fine straight grain. Unlike many decking products, clear cedar also has a low rate of expansion and contraction. Take the expansion and contraction out of the equation and a clear cedar deck will offer many more design options.

018 grey clear cedar deck 014 2 level deck in Carlisle


Clear cedar and most cedars for that matter, contain natural oils (Phenols). Therefore it resists moisture, decay and insects. While knotty cedar may be a good, less expensive alternative to clear cedar, knotty cedar is cut from younger trees and therefore hasn’t had the chance to fully develop these naturals oils. These oils give clear cedar longevity. Clear cedar can be left to the elements where it will maintain it’s durability but will take on a silvery grey appearance. Likewise you may choose to apply a finish that will preserve its rich colours.

022 the beauty of real wood


A clear cedar deck will remain looking beautiful for 30 years or more. Clear cedar remains a popular choice for homeowners and builders alike.

Posted by & filed under Deck Ideas.

We are in the thick of winter,  and although, it sometimes feels like we’ll never be warm again, spring will arrive here eventually and a new barbecue is a great way to kick off the season.  You’ve done your research, you’ve chosen your heat source, perhaps even the brand you wish to purchase.  Now is the time to start shopping.

Where do you start? Deciding on a price point is a great start! This will inevitably narrow down your search. Knowing how much you can afford is always a good idea. Likewise, you may want to bear no expense when it comes to making your barbecue purchase.

Stainless steel may seem like the obvious choice in a barbecue, but not necessarily.  If you don’t know what you’re looking for in a stainless steel barbecue,  you could end up spending a lot of money on a product that doesn’t stand the test of time.  Stainless steel can rust, warp and discolour and so quality is essential when considering a stainless steel barbecue.



  • The thickness of the steel is one thing you’ll want to consider.  Will a magnet stick to it?  Any mixture of metals will enable the steel to be magnetic. The rule of thumb is, if the magnet sticks, don’t buy it.  The thickness of the steel will determine how long you will keep your new barbecue looking new.  While out shopping for your new barbecue, the simplest test of thickness is to press on the centre of the hood, it doesn’t budge, it’s probably sufficient in thickness.
  • A porous surface will attract moisture to your new barbecue.  Inspect the surface for any unevenness.  A smooth  stainless is one that will best resist the elements.
  •  A good stainless steel grill will be completely welded but this comes at a price.  Lower end models won’t offer this.

If stainless steel doesn’t interest you, barbecues made of enamel, cast iron or even sheet metal will give you the selection you are looking for. Always check warrantees and remember to register your new barbecue.




Posted by & filed under Deck Ideas.

No matter which side of the fence you’re on when it comes to grilling a great steak, you will inevitably have an affinity for charcoal, or gas. Being a proud griller will make you a prejudice griller. With the influx of gas barbecues in the 90″s, everyone was scrambling to get one.

Gas versus Charcoal

Now, just like vinyl records, the charcoal barbecue is enjoying renewed popularity. Sales have never been better for good old fashioned charcoal and lighter fluid. You wouldn’t be the first person to argue the virtues of charcoal and you won’t be the last. When you are in the market for a new barbecue, choose wisely. The neighbours are watching.


In addition to the glorious smell that comes from charcoal barbecues, it is believed that your steak will never taste better coming off a bed of red hot coals. Weather you use traditional charcoal, wood or a combination of both, these barbecues will take some time and elbow grease to clean.  Some think , the extra work involved is worth it. With the increased popularity of charcoal, your options in design and quality has also increased. Some of the new charcoal barbecues are down right gorgeous and a great addition to any outdoor space.


While charcoal may be where it’s at when it comes to your cooking experience, it can’t stand up to the convenience of the gas barbecue. Near instant and constant heat allows you to barbecue year round with less prep than heating up the oven. If you can shovel your barbecue out in the dead of winter,  you can enjoy a great cook out. For those who prefer charcoal they may also enjoy their gas barbecues and will keep both on hand.

Whether you decide on a charcoal barbecue or a gas barbecue,  this won’t be the only factor you’ll need to consider. Depending on your price point, your options for quality, size and design are endless. Keeping your personal taste in mind will help you narrow these options down. Next, we’ll look at different brands and levels of quality versus price.

Posted by & filed under Deck Ideas, Uncategorized.

All barbecues aren’t created equal and you’ve probably found this out the hard way.  Though all barbecues are designed  do the same thing, how long they last and how well they perform, vary drastically.  This can be a frustrating realization at best, but choosing a new barbecue doesn’t have to be. If you know what to look for.


Broil King, Napoleon and Weber are very reportable brands and represent the variety you’ll be looking for while deciding which barbecue is right for you. You will first want to determine what heat source will be used for your barbecue. You won’t want to purchase the best gas barbecue that money can buy only to remember that you don’t have natural gas at home. (Believe me, it’s happened.)  Keep in mind that most gas barbecues are convertible to propane.


Gas vs Propane Barbecues

While debating gas vs propane barbecues, note that there are pros and cons to both. While natural gas is economical and convenient, it represents a greater up front cost. The price of the barbecue itself won’t be greatly effected, but installation cost can climb if the gas company needs to be called in to install a line. Though the cost is increased, it can be considered an investment in your home. With a gas barbecue, there is no running around for fuel and your dinner party won’t be delayed because of undercooked meat. How many of us have found ourselves serving steaks that spent half their time on the barbecue and the other half in a frying pan. It’s a sin really and with natural gas, this will never happen.


Propane remains the most popular heat source for barbecues. Besides being economical, it affords the consumer the luxury of putting their barbecue together, (which can take days) and enjoying an awesome cookout right away. Propane is easy to come by and if a second tank is kept on hand, you’ll never have to be without heat. Simply switching the tanks out will keep the steaks cooking. Propane is a great alternative for those who don’t have access to natural gas. The price of propane can run between $20 and $30 a tank and last a considerable amount of time, depending on how often you barbecue.

Next, we’ll discuss electric, charcoal and portable barbecues.


Posted by & filed under Composite Decking, Fences.

Deciding on and erecting a new fence is not easy. With municipal by-laws to adhere to and endless options in design and materials, putting up a fence in no small endeavour. If you have neighbours within a stones throw, having a fence is not an option.

nice fence

Whether you’re putting in a new pool,spa or simply need to replace an existing fence, the process should start at city hall.

Fencing isn’t cheap and having to remove one because it doesn’t meet inspection will put a dent in your wallet and will leave your privacy at risk. Keep in mind, that while you don’t want your neighbours to know your every move, these neighbours can be a benefit to your fencing project. Your neighbours may be in the market to share in the cost of the fence and indeed many municipalities require it. Municipal by-laws vary from town to town and it is important to know yours ahead of time.  This should always be your starting point in any fencing project. For instance, in the city of Hamilton, fences that are built around pools have many regulations. They must be at least 5 feet and four inches high.  They must be self locking and must not be within six feet of your pool.  Your local town hall will see you through the process.

Now it’s time to decide on the parameters and materials of your new fence. Options in materials include, cedar, pressure treated wood, composite, metal, cement and even glass.  These are only some of the choices out there.  If you are replacing an existing fence,  you may be able to use the existing post holes. This will save your time and money.

Fencing can be erected piece by piece or in panels.  You may choose to build your own fence or have the professionals do it. either way, you will want to know your estimated cost before you begin.

The design of your fence may compliment already existing structures. Your fence will be one of the most versatile elements of your outdoor space. Your fence might include lighting and a  sturdy fence can hold planters. and may be an excellent choice for vines and gardens. Your fence doesn’t need to be simply functional but a beautiful addition to your backyard.

In the end, it’s important to remember that neighbours are only as good the fence that separates them.