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Using cast concrete to create unique residential outdoor retreats

Decking treatments

These nature-inspired elements can be built to incorporate fun accessories like slides, waterfalls, and jump rocks which are then blended with pavers and other hardscape decks.
These nature-inspired elements can be built to incorporate fun accessories like slides, waterfalls, and jump rocks which are then blended with pavers and other hardscape decks.

Once the homeowner has the water feature or slide they desire, they can then look at custom deck options, which, in most cases, are determined by budget and functionality.
Many consumers want a deck made entirely of pavers or a combination of flagstone and pavers. However, this can be an expensive option especially if the consumer is looking to create a large deck and patio area for entertaining around the pool. Exposing consumers to the creative use of concrete textures and colours will often provide the look they want without the costs associated with more expensive pavers or flagstone.
“We start with plain concrete which can look quite attractive and sometimes we recommend two concrete colours that contrast to create a co-ordinated look without dramatically increasing the cost of the project,” says Schaeffer.
Staining and shading
Builders can use various concrete stains as a cost-effective method to create beautiful decks surrounding the pool. As part of this process, the cast concrete water features also are stained and shaded to match the surrounding natural rocks and pavers.
“Staining concrete is a real art form,” says Shaeffer. “In fact, we have found this to be easier than getting all of the natural stones to match and look good together.”
Cast concrete manufacturers provide kits to dye the concrete stone to mimic the surrounding natural hardscaping and deck treatments. This can take some time as builders must stand back and look at the stones, adjusting and re-adjusting to get the colours just right.
“We generally put two guys on the job with large sponges to complete the staining process,” says Shaeffer. “Most builders start the staining process at the back of the hardscape feature and work toward the front.”
It takes a good eye and some patience to get the cast concrete to look like real stone. Once professionals get a handle on the staining process they come to realize the colour will also change a bit once the concrete is sealed. Testing small sections at the back of the water feature is always a good approach as hardscape designers master the art of staining concrete.
Many pool professionals agree that using flagstone or a stone coping along the immediate perimeter of the pool helps to define the water’s edge within the hardscape. The deck beyond that can be something more affordable, or just different in colour or texture to create a more interesting visual appeal. Builders should show their clients lots of photos to get a sense from them which look they prefer.


Ladders and rails within hardscapes

Although some designers think ladders and rails interrupt the ‘line of sight’ on a pool, savvy builders realize these components can actually add to the esthetic appeal of a project. Ladders are particularly important as a second point of egress from the pool in the deep end.
“We explain to the client that just like their home, they need to have more than one egress from the pool,” says Schaeffer.
Installing ladders away from areas where people might be sitting and enjoying dinner is best.
“You don’t want pool users to be disturbing those who are enjoying the rest of the deck and backyard area (e.g. parents eating dinner while kids are using the water slide),” says Schaeffer.
Ladders indicate the second place of egress from the pool, with the steps in the shallow end being the first method.
Although most ladders are not the focal point of the water feature, they are needed and should be placed in the deep end so bathers can easily get out of the water after going down the slide or jumping off the grotto.
In fact, there are many new options available that help ladders and rails accent the pool’s overall esthetic. For instance, powder-coated or thermoplastic-coated rail goods co-ordinate with the customer’s backyard décor and can improve the overall look of the backyard. Thermoplastic-coated rails are also saltwater safe, which means they will not corrode on pools equipped with salt-chlorine generators. New ‘designer rails’ are also available which provide a high-end look, but are just as easy to install. Pool professionals can choose ladders and rails in colours to match the coping and deck. Further, many ladders and rails come with paver kits, making these accessories easier to install on paver decks.

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