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Is a Salt Water Pool for You?

shutterstock_4282489Salt water pools have been growing in popularity in recent years, and not just at luxury resorts. People are putting salt water pools in their own backyards with increasing frequency. However, before asking your Charlotte pool builder for a salt water pool – or converting your traditional pool to salt water – make sure this is the right choice for you and your family. Salt water pools, like any pools, come with pros and cons.

Advantages of Salt Water Pools

Salt water pools have lower levels of chlorine. It’s a myth that salt water pools don’t contain chlorine at all, but it is true that you do not have to add it manually. These pool systems convert the salt into chlorine with special chlorine generators. This lower chlorine level is gentler on your skin and eyes and is less likely to aggravate allergies or sensitivities.

In addition, while their name makes salt water pools sound like they are filled with ocean water, they actually contain much less salt than that. The amount of salt in these pools is about the same as your tears – meaning that opening your eyes under water is safe. A self-cleaning salt water pool also requires less maintenance than a chlorine pool, so you can go out of town for weeks without worrying about returning to green water.

Disadvantages of Salt Water Pools

A regular pool can be more economical to install, making it the best choice for many. Once installation of a salt water pool is complete however, you will spend less money on chlorine, meaning that in the long run, you can actually save money.The higher upfront cost remains a deterrent for some people.

Also, the wastewater or backwash from a salt water swimming pool may kill nearby plants. For this reason, you should be familiar with the ordinances concerning salt water pools in your area to make sure you are in compliance. Even though salt water pools do require less maintenance, they do use more electricity, which may be a concern for some.

It’s up to you to decide whether the benefits of a salt water pool outweigh the disadvantages. Ask your Houston pool builder for more information. 

Choosing the Right Appliances for Your Outdoor Kitchen

shutterstock_150192149Cooking in an outdoor kitchen is a fun way to entertain or even just feed your family, and come summer, you’ll be glad for a way to cook without heating up the indoor kitchen. If you grill often (or want to), love to host cookouts, have available patio or deck space, and would love to branch out in your outdoor cooking beyond hamburgers and steaks, an outdoor kitchen is a great option for you. Make sure to design it for optimal enjoyment, convenience, and ease of use.

Selecting the Grill

Your grill will end up being the centerpiece of your outdoor kitchen. Choose one with wheels if you want to be able to move it around. However, if the kitchen is to be a permanent part of your outdoor living in Charlotte, then choose a built-in grill with countertops on either side. You will need a grill cover, and all parts of your outdoor kitchen must be made of weatherproof materials, such as stainless steel or slate.

Once you have chosen the grill, other components of your kitchen to choose include:

–        Grill accessories: baskets for grilling vegetables or fish; a good set of tongs; a meat thermometer; and more

–        Side burners: most grills include these already; you usually have your choice of how many you want

–        Lighting: direct light for the cooking and prep area is best. Softer mood lighting is nice for the dining area, and don’t forget the candles.

–        Patio heaters: using these can turn your outdoor kitchen into a year-round amenity.

–        An exhaust hood: nice for keeping smoke from blowing onto your guests.

–        A refrigerator

–        A sink: you can either connect this to your garden hose or to the water supply in your house

–        Warming drawers: nice to have so that food stays hot until ready to serve

–        An ice machine: eliminates the need to drag a heavy cooler around

–        A wood-burning stove: perfect for pizza and for roasting vegetables or meats

The sky’s the limit when designing your outdoor kitchen. Think about how you will use it the most and which appliances you would like to include. The great thing about outdoor living in Charlotte is the homeowner’s ability to design a custom space that suits their individual preferences perfectly.


Holiday Backyard Decorating Tips

shutterstock_198737273Whether you have a backyard paradise complete with a swimming pool, spa, fireplace, and outdoor kitchen, or you are still planning your outdoor entertainment, these backyard decorating ideas can liven up your space and create a festive and inviting way to celebrate the holiday season. 

Decorating Trees and Shrubs

Hang colored or white lights around trees or shrubs to add some glamor and sparkle, or place white, red, green, or blue accent lights under bushes. Solar-powered lanterns, hung from tree branches, add traditional charm. You could also trim outdoor trees with plastic ornaments or those designed for outdoor use, or tie red bows around tree trunks and box-shaped bushes to simulate giant presents.

Decorating the Fence and Patio

Evergreen garland, made from something like cedar or cypress, draped over patio doors and fence or deck posts is attractive and simple. You can also outline the perimeter of your fence or patio with decorative markers such as candy canes, snowflakes, or stars.

Decorating Outdoor Structures

One of the most beautiful holiday decorating ideas, and one that makes great use of elements like pergolas or arbors, is to wrap their poles and beams with twinkling lights. Hang glittery snowflake ornaments from the beams of a pergola or the railings of a gazebo. Place a wreath or stockings over an outdoor fireplace for a little taste of indoor warmth outside.

Use empty garden containers or fountains for displaying poinsettias, pinecones, or evergreen boughs. Or, fill empty planters with stacks of “presents”: wrap plastic containers of varying sizes (put a few rocks in first for weight) with foil-type gift wrap, stack them together and tie it all up with a wide ribbon.

These are just a few backyard decorating tips to get you started; there are endless ways to deck your backyard for the holidays and make it a beautiful area for entertaining even during the chilly holiday season. 

How to Plan Your Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen

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If you are planning an outdoor kitchen, chances are you have been thinking about it for a while and are excited about the prospect of having it completed. Outdoor kitchens are modern, fun, and elegant; they add an irresistible entertainment option to your Charlotte outdoor living experience. For the best outdoor kitchen, choose a unique design that expresses your style and personality. As with so many other projects, thorough advance planning is key to ensuring that you get exactly what you’ve been wanting.

Plan for Your Entertaining Needs
Thinking about how often you will entertain, as well as how many people, can help you determine the optimal size of your outdoor kitchen. The size and layout of your outdoor space will also factor in, of course. If you plan to grill often – several times a week, for example – then you will want a top of the line grill with plenty of features to suit your style. Built-in griddles and side burners can optimize your outdoor cooking possibilities.

If you plan to entertain often, a large grill and plenty of storage space will come in handy. Don’t overlook small details that cut down on trips inside, such as paper towel holders and trash bins, for the best convenience and ease of use.

Construction Planning
Outdoor kitchens must be built of all-weather materials so that they last. Think about the look you want in your outdoor kitchen. If your kitchen is built of concrete blocks, for example, they can be covered with a stone or masonry veneer for a stylish appearance. Granite is a great choice for countertops; so are tile and stainless steel.

You will also need to plan for plenty of electrical outlets. An ultimate outdoor kitchen includes great features such as grill lighting, rotisserie systems, refrigerators, and more – which all require electricity. A licensed electrician is essential for installing electrical outlets safely.

There are many aspects of planning your ultimate outdoor kitchen; this is just a starting point. Choose a builder that will help you with your custom design as well as answer all of your questions, and one you are confident will provide you with good quality craftsmanship and the finished product you deserve.

Things to Consider When Building a Charlotte Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor living areas are more popular than ever, and the Charlotte outdoor kitchen is a favorite addition to many backyards and other outdoor spaces. Turning an outdoor space into a kitchen takes planning and design know-how. Here are some things to consider when you are planning your Charlotte outdoor kitchen.

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Assessing the Site
It’s best if you have a site that is located conveniently close to the indoor kitchen; this makes it easy to carry food and equipment back and forth. The site should be protected from rain, wind, and the sun, and should have the ability to be connected to the home utilities. You also need to be able to level the site out if necessary.

Grouping of Elements
The parts of your outdoor kitchen should ideally be grouped into zones or areas according to their use. For example, the “hot zone” will contain the grill, oven, burners, or other cooking equipment. The “wet zone” is for the sink, ice, beverage tubs, and the like.

Choosing Your Equipment
What kind of equipment is appropriate for your outdoor kitchen depends on the style of entertaining and outdoor cooking you’d like to do. You may want a grill, a pizza oven, a wine or beer cooler, or another type of kitchen equipment. Fans or misting systems are nice extras that help keep guests cool and comfortable.

Safety Considerations
Don’t forget to outfit your Charlotte outdoor kitchen with its most important element: safety equipment. A fire extinguisher should be stored nearby; the whole family should know where it is and how to use it. The patio in the outdoor kitchen should be slip resistant and corners or countertops should be rounded. A gas safety shut off valve should be available and not too close to the grill.


7 Landscaping Ideas for Small Spaces

Trying to come up with landscaping ideas for small spaces can be a challenge, but there are ways to make a small space appear larger while also creating a beautiful garden environment.

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Color.  Using bolder and brighter colors at the forefront of a landscaping space will make the background seem to recede.  This will make even a very small space appear larger.

View.  Creating a grand view in even a small space can make it seem larger.  An arbor or an archway is one of the best ways to accomplish this landscaping idea for small spaces, but small trees or garden artwork can achieve the same end.

Coziness.  In some spaces, the best thing to do is embrace the smallness.  Landscaping ideas for small spaces do not need to be extensive or elaborate.  Creating a cozy atmosphere with shrubs and a comfortable seat can be one of the best uses of a littler space.

Water features.  Water features like fountains and bubblers can create a beautiful focal point in any small space.  The sound of water can also enhance any relaxing and soothing garden atmosphere.

Perspective.  Straight, long lines can create the illusion that a space is larger than it really is.  A subtle slant of lines, creating with benches or fences, toward an interesting focal point is a great way to play with perspective in a small space.

Interest.  Creating a unique area of interest draws the eye and distracts from the smallness of any space.  Using an unexpected mixture of materials or foliage is one of the best landscaping ideas for small spaces.

Destination.  A great way to make a small space feel larger in the garden is to highlight a destination.  Creating a path toward a small patio or seating area can make even the tiniest area seem larger.