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Get Ready for Summer: How to Clean Your Pavers

Pavers are a beautiful addition to any home, but, unfortunately, in high traffic areas, they can become dirty and dingy. To avoid hours of scrubbing your pavers to get them back to new it is best to stain and seal them when you install them. But if you have chosen to leave them natural there are a few methods available to clean them based on what made them dirty.

Get Ready for Summer: How to Clean Your Pavers | Artistic Pools Atlanta Georgia

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How to clean your pavers for summer:

First you need to determine what is soiling your pavers. You will handle food and beverage stains differently than oil based stains or dirt. If dirt is the culprit, cleaning is simple. Sweep the excess dirt off the pavers and blast them with the garden hose or a power washer to get them like new.

Food, beverage, and grease stains require immediate action but can be managed. First, you will need to blot any liquids or grease (don’t rub as it will spread the stain) or remove any leftover food from the paver. Pour full strength dish liquid on the spot and let it sit for a minimum of 30 minutes. Then you will rinse the area with hot water. If the stain remains you may need to use a commercial product meant for removing stains from concrete. These can be found at your local home improvement stores.

A new oil stain can be managed by sprinkling kitty litter over the area to absorb any oil above the surface of the pavers. Let the kitty litter sit for a few days to absorb the oil and remove the stain. If the oil has penetrated the pavers you will have more difficulty removing the stain. Again, you can try using a commercial product intended for removing stains from concrete. Follow the directions carefully for best results.

Based on the specific area you live in you may also have hard water which can leave mineral deposits on your pavers making them look less than appealing. To remove hard water buildup from your pavers you can use a commercial product or spray on solution that contains equal parts of white vinegar and water. You may need to scrub a bit, but this is a more environmentally conscious option for removing hard water buildup. As the buildup comes off, rinse, and repeat as needed.

With a little work your pavers will be ready for summer in no time.

How to Train Climbing Plants to Attach to an Arbor or Pergola

Arbors and pergolas are beautiful on their own, but the addition of climbing plants and vines adds to that beauty, adds additional shade, and provides an opportunity to customize your backyard area. Training climbing plants and vines is simple once you know the different types of climbers and understand what will work with your design of arbor or pergola.

How to Training Climbing Plants to Attach to a Arbor or Pergola | Artistic Pools Atlanta Georgia

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There are three main types of climbers: scramblers, clinging climbers, and twining climbers.

  • Scramblers require the most training since they don’t have a natural way to cling to a surface. Scramblers include climbing roses and bougainvillea. To train scramblers you will need to plant them close to the base of the structure and provide a way for them to attach. A simple solution is to place small hooks into the wood and attach the plant to the hook with a twist tie, leaving room for growth and movement. Once the plant is established the twist tie can be removed. However, if you want your plant to continue climbing, you will need to continue this training method up the side of the structure as the plant grows.
  • Clinging climbers have a natural ability to adhere to just about any surface with their adhesive pads or root system. Boston Ivy is a popular example of a clinging climber and is easy to train. To train a clinging climber you simply need to loosely weave cuttings close to the base of the structure so that they have access to the ground for nutrients. Be careful with clinging climbers! Given the right conditions they can grow rapidly and cause damage to your structure if they get too heavy. 
  • Twining climbers are natural climbers as well and climb up a structure via shoots called tendrils. There are several examples of twining climbers and many of them produce fragrant flowers when in bloom. Popular choices of twining climbers include: Jasmine, Honeysuckle, and Wisteria. Like clinging climbers, twining climbers are made to climb, but need a pole to initially attach to since their method of climbing is for their tendrils to wrap around a pole and move along it. You can also use the method for training that is used for creepers to help move a twining climber upward.

Now that you know how to train plants to climb your arbor or pergola, you can create a beautiful focal point in your backyard.

Is a Salt Water Pool Right for You?

Since people are focusing more on trying to be “green” and healthier, they may be looking towards their pools. Salt water pools claim to be more environmentally friendly, easier to maintain, and provide a healthier option to traditional chlorine pools; however, whether installing a new pool or converting an existing pool, you will need to decide, “Is a salt water pool for you?”

Is a Salt Water Pool Right For You? | Artistic Pools Atlanta Georgia

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Salt water pools are the same as traditional pools except they are fitted with a system called a chlorine generator. The chlorine generator filters salt (sodium chloride) through electrolysis to separate the chlorine from the sodium. The chlorine is then dispersed into the water at levels considered more tolerable than traditional chlorine systems. The chemical reaction also creates sanitizing byproducts that help keep the pool water safer to swim in.

Salt water pools have become increasingly popular and have been used by hotels, resorts, and water parks since they were developed.

Benefits include:

  • Possibly reduced maintenance time and costs.
  • Limited storage of chemicals that can be hazardous.
  • Water with a more natural and improved feel.
  • Lower chlorine levels meaning reduced irritation to eyes and skin.
  • Lower chlorine levels also result in reduced chemical odors. Your pool will smell like clean salt water at the beach!

However, there are always drawbacks to consider when planning a new pool or pool conversion. Drawbacks include:

  • Salt water pools are costly to install and repair.
  • Maintenance schedules and schedules for adding salt will vary based on use and region.
  • Different systems require different salt compounds or additional chemicals to keep the water safe.
  • Salt is a corrosive and will damage the rubber seals, tile, concrete, etc… over time. It can also damage furniture or fixtures in the area.
  • There are still chemicals in your pool so it’s not completely “green.”

Swimming pools provide a healthier and more active lifestyle whether they are the traditional chlorinated pools or a new salt water pool, but can be difficult to maintain. When making your decision, consider the benefits and drawbacks to determine if a salt water pool for you.

Choosing the Right Outdoor Furniture for You

Kick back and relax with outdoor furniture that fits your particular taste and comfort levels.  There is a wide variety of outdoor furniture choices available for you. Be sure to consider:

  • How well does the furniture withstand the elements?
  • Will the furniture be in the sun for a large part of the day?
  • How hot will the furniture be if I sit down on a summer day?
  • Is the furniture kid friendly?
  • What colors and designs are available?
  • Should I be concerned about moisture with rain, dew, and poolside splashing?
  • How much maintenance will be required?
Choosing the Right Outdoor Furniture for You | Artistic Pools Atlanta Georgia

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All of these questions are very important to ask when looking at outdoor furniture options.  Below are some ideas to get you started on your hunt:

To the Beach – To remind you of waves splashing and beautiful sunsets, consider a beach-themed outdoor furniture design.  You can use wicker, sea shells and natural woods combined with fabrics that are light green, tan or sea foam blue.

Big parties – For those who love to entertain, consider having outdoor furniture to accommodate a lot of guests without over-crowding your entertainment area.  Choose bar stools, lounges, and even large bed-lounges as well as cushioned chairs and tables for dining or socializing.

Dark wood – For the feel of a remote lodge, opt for dark wood or rustic outdoor furniture that surrounds a fire feature.  This provides a cozy setting for intimate gatherings.

Cushions – Consider durable fabrics that can be easily rinsed or cleaned but still have comfort and an attractive design.  Large cushions are always a hit for guests, and you can use numerous small cushions in a variety of ways to decorate around your outdoor patio or pool.

Bar Area – You can have an island tiki bar or a very solid yet friendly bar that allows people to stand or sit on stools depending on their preference.  The bar could be built-in or a stand-alone unit if you like.

Different Materials – There are several materials to choose from, the most popular being teak, redwood, cedar, iron, and wicker.  Create a foundation that is consistent and then add variances of colors where appropriate.

Wheels – Adding wheels to your furniture can help you to organize and re-design on a whim.  Plus the wheels make it easy to move furniture to safety in the event of a storm.

 5 Design Trends for Ultimate Backyard Entertaining

Are you ready to make backyard entertaining something to remember?  Consider some innovative landscape design trends that will wow your guests!

5 Design Trends for Ultimate Backyard Entertaining  | Artistic Pools Atlanta Georgia

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Swim Up Bar

Pool-side bars are always a hit.  Why not take it up a notch by installing a swim-up bar?  You can keep the party hopping inside the pool and create some terrific conversation as well.  If you have an existing pool, consult with a professional on how best to install a swim-up bar.  Be sure to consider the plumbing requirements, storage, electrical needs and trash disposal.

Fireplaces and Fire Pits

Gathering around a fire is a primal instinct.  You can add a fire pit to your landscape or have a hearth with a fireplace as part of your outdoor living design.  Fire is a great conversation starter and it helps to keep insects away.

Outdoor Kitchens

Nothing says summer like a good barbecue. A custom outdoor kitchen barbecuing possible year round, in any weather. Outdoor kitchens can be designed around every budget range. Whether you create an extended patio with stone floors, custom cabinetry and granite countertops, or simply repurpose a pergola into a dining and food-prep area with a grill, furniture and a refrigerator- outdoor kitchens create the perfect gathering place for food lovers and make dining el fresco possible throughout the year.

Backyard Cinemas

If you’ve ever been to a drive in movie, you know first-hand the unique pleasure of watching a movie outdoors. With portable screens and projectors more affordable that ever, it’s easy to create a cinematic experience in your own backyard. Entertain your guests with summer classics like Jaws and The Beach while they float in the pool, or gather the kids around a campfire to make s’mores while watching the latest Disney movie. Backyard cinemas create a unique party experience that guests of all ages will love!

Water and Rocks

Nothing creates a mood quite like moving water. Whether you have a pool or choose stand-alone water features, these landscape options bring tranquility and relaxation to your backyard. Fountains, ponds and other types of water features are relatively easy to maintain and install to give your landscape a boost. Stones and rocks of various shapes and sizes can be incorporated into your landscape design to create texture and contrast and make for a perfect focal point and conversation piece. 

How to Build an Arbor for Your Backyard Living Space

If you are looking for a way to add beauty as well as function, you might consider adding an arbor to your backyard landscape. Arbors are a fun and creative way to accessorize your Atlanta outdoor living environment.Artistic Pools | Backyard Living

Here is a quick guide on how you can build an arbor for your backyard living space:

Materials:

Two 4×4 posts (10 feet long)

Two 2×6 (6 feet long)

Two 2×6 (7 feet long)

Twenty-six 2×2 rails (45 inches long)

Eight galvanized lag screws

Galvanized nails

Gravel

Concrete 

Tools: Jigsaw, Posthole Digger, Hammer, Drill, Ladder, Framing Square, Level 

1. Start by using a posthole digger to dig 2 holes that are 2 feet deep. Place the posts into the holes and pour approximately 6 inches of gravel in the hole. Check the posts for proper straightness and then fill the hole with concrete.

2. Now, take your two 2×6 pieces of wood and cut them into 4 even sections. Using the drill, and the square, place these crossbeams on the front and back of the posts. Attach with the lag screws.

3. Using a jigsaw, shape the ends of your 7-foot 2×6. The design could be inspired by your home or an existing structure in your yard.

4. Using the galvanized nails, attach the 7-foot beams to your posts. Be sure that the 7-foot beams are perpendicular to the 3-foot crossbeams. Use a minimum of 2 nails per end.

5. Cut your 2×2 rails to proper length allowing each end to have approximately ½ an inch of overhang. Drive one nail through each end. Place another rail beside the existing rail to determine the proper spacing. Proceed until all rails are used.

6. Your arbor structure is now structurally complete. You can either stain or paint the arbor to match your home. 

This arbor will serve as a great entrance to your backyard living space or as a unique place to hide away and read a good book.

 

Get Ready for Spring: How to Remove Hard Water Build Up from Windows

Spring is the perfect time to get your home in tip top shape and clean as a whistle, but if you live in an area with hard water you may have unsightly hard water buildup on your windows. But there is no need to worry, there are solutions for removing hard water build up that are easy on you and your pocket book.

Get Ready for Spring: How to Remove Hard Water Build Up from Windows | Artistic Pools Atlanta Georgia

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Hard water occurs when the water in the geographic area contains a high level of dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium. It is not a health risk, but does cause unsightly streaks and build up when not treated. Unfortunately, while you can install a water softener system in your home, there’s not much you can do about controlling the hard water buildup on the outside of your windows.

This is how to remove hard water build up from windows:

Use a commercial method.

There are products on the market that are specifically manufactured to battle hard water buildup. A popular brand is CLR and can be used on a variety of surfaces. The liquid comes in a spray bottle version for convenience and in larger bottles with concentrated liquid that can be mixed based on the amount needed. You simply spray on the CLR or apply it with a sponge. Allow the CLR to sit on the windows for a few minutes, rinse clean, and dry with cloth or paper towels. Depending on the level of hard water buildup, you may need to repeat the process.

Use the homemade “green” method.  

Easy on the pocketbook and using items probably already in your pantry, you can battle hard water build up. In a spray bottle mix equal parts water and vinegar. You can use regular white vinegar or cider vinegar. Since your area has hard water you will want to use water that has been through a water softener system or bottled distilled water for best results. Simply spray on, let it sit, and wipe clean. You may need to repeat the process depending on the level of buildup. For the best and streak-free results, use crumpled up newspapers or a squeegee for the final cleaning.

To avoid hard water buildup in the future, make sure to clean windows at the first sight of hard water buildup if possible. It is easier to remove when it has not had an opportunity to set and harden.

Outdoor Living DIY: How to Build a Pergola

In an effort to maximize space home owners are venturing outdoors and creating additional living areas in their backyards. A pergola is a simple way to define additional living space and create a point of interest. 

Outdoor Living DIY: How to Build a Pergola | Artistic Pools Atlanta Georgia

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Traditionally, pergolas were square or rectangular garden features constructed of wood beams and used to guard grapevines from the sweltering sun. Today, they are still the same shape and construction, but provide an extra living area that can be used for outdoor entertaining.

Building a basic pergola is simple and there are several kits and plans available. However, based on your level of experience, you can modify and customize a pergola to fit your personal style and needs. To get started, follow these easy steps on how to build a pergola for your backyard.

  • Define your space. Pergolas can be mounted to a concrete slab or supported by sinking the supporting timbers into the ground. Measure the area to determine the length you will need for the cross timbers. When selecting the area, make sure the area is level to avoid an uneven look. 
  • Select your wood. Cedar is the best choice due to its ability to withstand the elements. Based on your personal style you can let it age naturally or stain and seal it to maintain the desired look. 
  • Construct your basic structure. Either mount or sink your framing posts. 4×4’s work well, but you can also use larger size posts or stylized columns. Around the top create a frame that boxes in the top of the posts. Next, evenly space and secure 2×4’s across the top of the box frame. Make sure they sit with the narrow edge facing up. To create additional appeal you can cut the ends of the timbers into a curved or angled pattern.
  • Pergolas are traditionally completely open, but once your pergola is complete you can add trellises, climbing vines, or screens to help protect you from the elements. Another option is to fasten plexi glass to the top of the pergola before you attach the cross timbers. This will allow light to come in, but protect you from the elements.

Now that you know the basics on how to build a pergola for your backyard you can create an additional living space you will enjoy for years to come.

5 Things to Consider When Building an Outdoor Kitchen

When it is time for you to design an outdoor kitchen, there are several considerations.  To make the most out of your outdoor kitchen be sure to review these five things:

5 Things to Consider When Building an Outdoor Kitchen | Artistic Pools Atlanta

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  1. What will you cook?  If you love grilling an outdoor kitchen is ideal.  But outside of grilling, will you want to have a brick oven?  Would you like some side burners for sauces or soups?  Is a rotisserie something you would enjoy?  Would you like the ability to roast marshmallows as well as grill?
  2. How much space do you have?  Take a look at your outdoor area and determine how much space you would allocate to an outdoor kitchen.  This can make a big difference in what appliances you will choose.  Professional designers can help to optimize outdoor kitchens so they have all of the luxuries that you would like while still allowing space to have fun.
  3. Are there weather extremes?  Would your outdoor kitchen be exposed to extreme heat or cold?  Are rain storms or wind storms a problem in your area?  Think about how moisture, heat, wind or cold could affect your outdoor kitchen choices.  Weather can impact counter tops, the seams in the materials, and the electrical wiring or plumbing of the appliances.  Be sure to choose materials that can endure your particular climate area.
  4. What protection should be used?  While you will need ventilation for cooking, you should also consider shelter to reduce exposure for your outdoor kitchen appliances and materials.  The protection can include patio umbrellas, built in covers for grills or cook tops, or patio covers that can resist rain and wind.  Another option is to have enclosures that will keep bugs and other pests away as well.
  5. How can space be optimized?  Can you leverage countertops as eating areas?  Could a sink work with the bar as well as for the kitchen?  Can trash cans be placed under countertops? 

Your outdoor kitchen can be an exciting project.  Make sure to plan properly so you get the most out of your outdoor cooking and dining experiences for years to come.  Explore all of your design options first to determine what will work best for you.

Top Accessories for Your Atlanta Backyard and Patio

To make your outdoor landscape design pop with your particular style and flare, add some accessories!  Everyone has a style that can be brought out in an outdoor landscape design. It is time to wake up your style for your pool, patio, garden or landscape!

Try these accessory ideas on for size:

Plants – Choose from different plants that will work well in your climate while making your outdoor landscape shine.  Consider using large planters, interchanging plants throughout the year to match the seasons.  You can incorporate hanging plants, garden trees and other ideas.  Having a spice garden near your outdoor kitchen is a great idea to consider.

Top Accessories for Your Backyard and Patio  | Artistic Pools Atlanta Georgia

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Bird Baths – To create a restful scene on your outdoor lawn, install a bird bath to bring life to your landscape.  There are types of bird baths that have water features incorporated, or you can stick with a very simple ceramic or stone design.

Stones – Rock gardens can be extremely beautiful.  Choose stones that blend with the colors of your landscape design and use different sizes and shapes.  Some may have a circular area with rounded stones as the base and then a bird bath or sun dial in the middle.  Open up your inner Zen and let your creativity flow.

Lawn Gnomes – These whimsical creatures are almost a requirement in landscape design.  Thankfully, you do not have to go with gnomes all the time.  Instead you can have ceramic squirrels, bronze birds or other types of garden art tucked away into little corners or around a turn to catch the attention of any passerby.

Playground – A playground, perhaps with a tree house, can be a great addition to an outdoor landscape design.  Not only will children adore a play area but you can also turn it into a very attractive part of your garden or lawn area. 

Recycled materials – Tires, bed frames, antique furniture and other items can be resurrected as an outdoor accessory.  They can be used as garden art, added to a boring brick wall, or used as planters or ivy stands. 

Storage – Implement storage containers that blend into your outdoor environment but also serve a practical purpose to store tools, hoses and other items.