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In a material world: the right materials can make or break a pool deck renovation. Take a look at the latest trends and what works best for a variety of aquascapes.

Landscape designer Juergen Partridge always asks for a wish list from his clients when they want to update their pool decks and backyards. "I tell them to give it all to me, even if they can't afford it," says the owner of Juergen Partridge Design & Build in Terra Cotta, Ontario, Canada.

A spectrum of options is available these days for renovating a backyard, even if the homeowners are on a tight budget. While soil erosion, ground shifting, rotting materials or cracking foundations are the primary reasons consumers renovate decks, aesthetics and desire also play major roles.

Following is a look at the most popular decking materials, and what works best for different styles.


The look: Classic, colonial and collegiate.

Brick speaks of a time since passed, a reminder of school days and home. Its clean-cut lines give structure and a sturdy look. In addition, its traditional red shade conveys a feeling of warmth.

Brick is formed by blending clay and shale, and firing the mixture in 2,000-degree heat. It can be used to outline a deck or add a straight edge to an otherwise rustic garden, says Ariel Asturias, co-owner of Urban Refinements in Seattle. The final result: a timeless, classic and richly colored deck that complements an aquascape.

Wow: More shades and shapes.

While earth tones are more commonly used, bricks are available in a variety of shades. "You can get a paver that's literally almost a polar white to a jet black," says Stephen Sears, director of marketing and communications at the Brick Industry Association in Reston, Va. Because the color is natural, he adds, it will never fade.

Though the rectangular block is the most popular shape, unique materials for decking include long planks, and octagonal and bullnose bricks. Molded pavers, created by tumbling or formed in molds, take the sharpness off the angular look for a more rustic charm.

Whoa: Increased labor costs.

All of these attributes come at a higher price. Inconsistencies in the materials cause slight fluctuations and irregularities in size, creating more work during installation.

Wow: Durability of clay bricks.

Clay bricks are tough enough to withstand up to 12,000 pounds per inch of weight, making them stronger than most people think. "In Boston, you've got pavers that have been around for 200 years," Sears says, referring to the city's brick-lined streets and sidewalks. Clay also absorbs sound, so neighbors might not hear the tapping of dancing feet or splashing noises through a brick wall.

Whoa: Maintenance issues.

While bricks require only a hose and some detergent to clean, ground shifts can cause them to move and create an uneven surface. Weeds or grass may grow between bricks, and earthquakes will cause them to crumble. For wintry areas, the rough surface makes snow shoveling difficult and salt will cause deterioration.


The look: Rustic and Old World.

Interlocking concrete pavers are designed as brick substitutes. Made to fit tightly and uniformly, concrete pavers are placed on a sand bed and compacted aggregate base. They also provide an inexpensive alternative to the brick paver.

Wow: Imitates and mixes well with other materials.

"You can make it look like natural stone, brick or slate," says Rob Burak, director of engineering at the Interlocking Concrete Pavement institute in Washington, D.C. "There are endless patterns you can utilize."

Different textures can be added to a concrete paver to create almost any look, whether it's a smooth tile or rocklike ground. Pavers also can be mixed with other materials, such as brick. Due to different dimensions, Burak recommends using one material as a border and filling in the rest with another.

Whoa: Requires color treatment and upkeep.

Pavers are injected with color, which will fade over time. They require sealant to retain the color and prevent weeds and plants from growing between them. It's also difficult to recolor faded pavers. Sometimes they need to be replaced so the original color can be matched.

Wow: Ease of maintenance.

If any equipment beneath the deck requires replacement, concrete pavers--and brick--are easy to pull up and lay back down, Burak says. If a few crack, only those pavers need to be replaced.


The look: Contemporary.

Patterns are formed by pouring concrete and stamping shapes into the wet material. Color and texture then can be added to create a desired look.

Pool designer Scott Cohen likes the versatility of stamped concrete. "It has unlimited choices," says the owner of The Green Scene in Canoga Park, Calif. "You can make concrete look like wood, handset stone, giant boulders or cobblestone. It can be finished in any number of ways."

Wow: Affordable alternative for those on tight budgets.

Concrete offers a low-cost solution to masonry decking. It enhances texture and color with coatings to mimic any type of material. Stamps also can create an infinite number of patterns.

Whoa: May look artificial and require skilled labor.

From a distance, stamped concrete looks like an authentic reproduction of the material it seeks to imitate. Upon closer inspection, it can look artificial, especially if it cracks across stamped lines, experts warn. Also, timing of tile stamping is critical: if a stamper is too slow, the drying cement makes it difficult to complete the process toward the end. Make sure an adequate number of workers are stamping wet cement simultaneously.

Wow: Unlimited shapes and patterns.

For those who can't afford real stone, stamped concrete can be made to duplicate it. Stamping can break up a large surface area, drawing whimsical, creative patterns on an otherwise plain deck.

Whoa: No drainage options.

More and more cities require homeowners to soak a certain percentage of water into the ground rather than let it run off into a drain, which presents a problem for Cohen. The requirement does not allow for the use of poured concrete. As an alternative, Cohen either uses interlocking pavers or cuts the entire slab with a saw to allow water to percolate into the ground.


The look: Rustic, colonial and Victorian.

Stone lends a natural beauty to decking, says Ralph Williamson, president of the Ceramic Tile & Stone Consulting of Arizona in Phoenix. It offers an elegant, European look or a retreat into nature.

Wow: Lots of colors, types and shapes.

Flagstone, marble, cobblestone, slate or limestone--the choices are plentiful. Every shape is different, offering numerous patterns and designs. Due to its natural tones, the minerals within the stone provide lots of color and luster.

Whoa: May be prone to chemical and salt damage.

"You should be careful using stone because certain chemicals can be dangerous to the natural products," Williams says. For instance, polished marble cannot be exposed to any acids. Honed limestone, on the other hand, can hold up to etching and scratching better, but should always be sealed after installation.


The look: Sleek and traditional.

Created out of plastic, recycled materials, oil products, rubber, vinyl or compressed wood, synthetic alternatives for decks have become the norm in the industry. Approximately 20 brands of such wood are available, but opinions vary considerably among builders about its usefulness.

Wow: Lower maintenance than wood.

The organic properties of wood attract bugs, debris and other things that could leave a deck rotting away. Synthetic wood does not splinter or split either. "We will never use real wood again," Cohen declares, adding that the maintenance to protect a wood deck is too high. "[Wood substitute is] terrific for decking around water because it can be completely saturated."

Whoa: May present an unnatural look.

Synthetic alternatives don't always look like real wood. Asturias strongly recommends mixing the synthetic product with natural materials to balance its artificial feel.

Wow: Cost-efficient.

While alternative wood may be more expensive initially, its lower maintenance cost brings the price down over the long run.

Whoa: Mold and creaking.

Some types of synthetic wood cause mold to grow in thick black blotches, Partridge says. Plastic wood can creak and groan because it contracts and expands rapidly.

RELATED ARTICLE: All decked out.

Are you renovating a pool deck, but not sure how to mix and match the materials? Here are some tips to help you tailor a deck to best suit a homeowner's yard.

1 Look inside the house for outside solutions.

Knowing a homeowner's lifestyle enables you to suggest the right decking option. "It helps to first find out a little about the customer [before you] improve their outside situation," says Juergen Partridge, owner of Juergen Partridge Limited Design & Build in Terra Cotta, Ontario, Canada.

If the client wants an uncluttered Zen garden, but their house is a total mess, suggest something that leaves room for a little disorganization. For example, you might recommend a rustic retreat with some Japanese touches.

2 Minimize the number of materials used.

Avoid using too many elements or the result will look cluttered. "Choose three elements and be consistent," says Ariel Asturias, co-owner of Urban Refinements in Seattle. "Let them be continuous from the corners of the yard out and in. Less is always better."

3 At the same time, don't use only one material.

If the house is made of brick, use it to outline the deck, but fill in the rest with another material, Asturias suggests. Using the same material for everything creates "a mausoleum look," Partridge says.

4 Be careful when mixing imitation with the real thing.

"We don't like to use a fake stone stamp next to real coping because it screams, 'This is fake stamped concrete,'" says Scott Cohen, president of The Green Scene in Canoga Park, Calif. Instead, opt for a stone texture matting on the deck.

The same principle applies when building decks of synthetic wood. Mix some real wood in with the synthetic--carefully

5 Break the deck up into cozy minipatio areas.

"People rarely congregate in just one spot," Cohen says. "They break into different groups, so you need little patio areas." Asturias says to divide a deck into various levels and platforms, and avoid the installation of long rectangular decks running perpendicular to the house they should almost always run parallel.

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Title Annotation:QUARTERLY MARKET REPORT: Renovation Products
Author:Yu, Rin-rin
Publication:Pool & Spa News
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 20, 2005
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