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A Seamless Blend
Successfully Unifying Old Landscape with New

By Mike Dahl, LC/DBM



An uninviting backyard that a husband and wife had owned for years in the Columbus, Ohio, area was transformed by Two Brothers Brick Paving and Will Lehnert, ASLA, of Outdoor Space Design following the guiding principle to leave features that were in good shape intact and use materials that seemed to fit the original look.

According to the popular home improvement network, HGTV, "Outdoor living spaces can easily become the most popular area of your home and also can yield one of the highest return on investments compared to other improvements you could do to your home."

As with any large investment, careful planning of an outdoor living area is key to its success.

As the owner of Two Brothers Brick Paving, Mark Rhodus, advises, "It's important to make sure you understand why you want the space and how you and your family plan to use the space so that as you progress from idea to design to completed project, you can make sure you haven't ventured too far away from the reason you wanted the space to begin with."

Starting from the bare dirt of a new residence's surroundings, or complete overhauls of an older home's backyard are often what owners call for but sometimes they request that existing features remain.

Such was the case recently for Two Brothers of Springboro, Ohio, located between Dayton to the north and Cincinnati to the south, as a property renovation in the Columbus area had to be completed with the understanding that the family's pool and pond remain untouched. The reason for this desire was that the pool was completely operational, and the access to the project site was limited in size. The largest piece of equipment that could be used was a mini-skid steer. This, by Rhodus' estimation, would have made building a new pool too cost-prohibitive.

"The pool worked, it worked with the design, so lets just do some minor upgrades to it - clean it up and save some money," he remembers as the logic for the decision.


Retaining the pool did cause some hurdles that were overcome with creative solutions. The old pool has a liner that snaps into a metal track around the top edge and is covered by a vinyl trim piece. To make it less unsightly, the landscape company used a remodeling coping. Set over the edge of the pool, its L-shape helps hides the vinyl trim. The existing concrete pool deck was in great condition besides some cracks that did not affect its structural integrity so it too was left intact as the bottom layer of the base for the pavers. But concerned that sand (the second base layer), could sift down through the cracks and cause settlement, the installers first put down a non-woven geotextile material. Taking good measurements and closely monitoring the progress as the pavers were set around the pool ensured that everything stayed in square and the final pieces dropped right into place, as opposed to having to cut and fit them in like a jigsaw puzzle.


The homeowners, the designer and Mark Rhodus, Two Brothers' owner, decided that the pergola should have a more rustic look to better fit the rest of the build. So they found white oak lumber from a 100-year old barn in eastern Ohio. The wood, which was left unstained, had the original notches where the boards were attached to each other. Instead of trying to hide them, these details were emphasized. For a defined transition from the travertine pool deck, the pavers under the pergola are dimensional-cut bluestone. The stone columns and walls that the pergola sits on are built from full-bed-depth limestone with limestone caps. The gas fire pit is also built of this limestone with a similar cap. Volcanic rock is in the center of the fire pit with an HPC gas burner.

The landscape design/build company, which has thousands of outdoor living projects to their credit, here installed a new travertine pool deck and travertine pool coping, limestone curbing, irregular and dimensional bluestone patios and walkways, custom cedar fencing and gates, a fire feature and a custom pergola constructed with white oak they sourced from a barn in eastern Ohio that was more than 100 years old. Some of the existing hardscape was also left in place.

"The idea behind the project was trying to make the renovation look like it was of the same era that the house was built," says Rhodus. "So we didn't want anything feel like it was modernized or an afterthought or an upgrade. We wanted it to look like we're back in the '30s or '40s. So anything we were able to leave intact helped us achieve that."

The pergola was originally planned to be in sort of a craftsman style but the homeowners, the designer and Rhodus gave some thought to alternatives and agreed that a rustic lumber option would be more fitting to the project. After looking at photos to get ideas, they came upon one with old barn lumber.

"If we can locate one of those companies that tear out barns and salvage the wood, we can achieve that same look," Rhodus told the homeowners.

After finding a source for the century-old wood, Two Brothers had that company mill some of it down to get the desired sizes of lumber. They also processed it to remove some of the imperfections caused by age and bring out more of the natural color.

Rhodus' team did all of the woodwork, as well as the stonework. Natural materials were used for all of that - the travertine imported from Turkey was supplied by TruStone Diststributors of Cincinnati, limestone caps came from Gregory Stone in Dayton, the full-bed-depth limestone, the bluestone and the sandstone curbing were sourced from Lang Stone in Columbus. The reason sandstone was used for the curbing is because it reveals a softer texture than limestone when split.


The team built the lattice-like fence from cedar to hide the pool equipment, draw attention away from the existing fence behind the pool equipment, and frame the pool well. The cedar was left to weather until it looked closer to the white oak pergola and was then going to be clear coated.

One of the problems encountered by they installers was due to leaving the existing concrete decking intact, which drained away from the pool towards the house.

"There were a couple of areas where we had to get creative to make sure everything drained well," remembers Rhodus.

For example, in one area, they decided to stop the travertine about 1/4 " short of the sandstone edge and installed aluminum paver edging instead that was fastened to the concrete to hold the pavers in place. The small gap that this left in between the sandstone edge and the pavers allows water to drain into it and exit out at the end of the run.

As for advice to other contractors tackling a similar installation, Rhodus points out the necessity, when laying pavers around a pool, of taking good measurements and closely monitoring the progress so that everything stays in square and the final pieces fit seamlessly.


On the other side of the pool from the pergola are three steps up to another area. These were limestone slabs in very good condition so they only needed to be cleaned up. The columns with lanterns on top were also retained. On the upper landing, the existing concrete was taken out and more bluestone pavers were installed. Because these pavers had a little bit wider joints, polymeric stone dust (inset), which in spite of its name actually has a larger aggregate than polymeric sand, was used.


Behind the upper patio, Two Brothers switched to irregular-shaped bluestone for the path down the side of the house to somewhat mimic the old path, which was irregular shaped flagstone. For the border around most of the hardscape, the company used sandstone vertical edge pieces.

"Some contractors, when they get back around to the starting point, just cut up the pavers to make them fit," which he describes as a less-than-professional process. "We frequently had to check our lines and our measurements to make sure that when we got back around the pool that the last piece dropped right into place perfectly, which it did."

Another measure of the success of the job was the strong relationship that Josh Castro, who was the project manager and "did a phenomenal job with it," according to Rhodus, formed with the customers. One of them was a well-known doctor, and he even helped Castro get special care for his daughter when she needed it for an injury she received.

As attractive as the completed project looks, the true mark of achievement is gauged by how much pleasure the family derives from it.

"Once a client begins to use the space, they realize how much thought and planning went into making the outdoor living space make sense," recounts Rhodus. "These elements usually aren't appreciated until they're used."

Echoing this sentiment, one customer summed it up with; "We will enjoy our new backyard/pool area for many more years to come."


Blending In to a Historic Neighborhood
House Demolition Creates Blank Canvas for Two Brothers Brick Paving


This house to the right of the vacant lot, located in area in Cincinnati called Over the Rhine, sat empty for many years. It was bought by a couple that wanted to live in more of a downtown setting, which in this case was being rehabilitated. They hired a builder to restore the house, keeping it as original as possible. The new homeowners also went to the city and asked to lease the empty lot, where another house once stood, so they could have a yard. After completing a 15-year deal, they decided that Two Brothers Brick Paving was the best fit for the project.

The company installed nearly every aspect from the turf to the paver patio to the custom privacy panels. Company owner Mark Rhodus said that things went pretty smoothly with the exception of one of the subcontracted jobs; the installation of the fence. Keeping all the elements symmetrical was an important part of the project but the first fence builder deviated from that when they hit rock underground and instead of taking steps such as drilling through the rock to keep to the plans, started moving things around, which changed the symmetry. Rhodus halted their work and brought in Eads Fence Company.

"They took down what the other contractor started and did a beautiful job to help finish off the project nicely," he recounts. Place Workshop designed the project.


The initial idea to provide for some privacy was to build screenings with an Asian look. Thought was also given to installing a green wall there. Instead, Brazilian ipe was selected for the frames' construction and the customer found a pattern that they liked for the screen panels, which were fabricated by Fortin Ironworks of Columbus, Ohio.


The patio was built with sand-mold pavers - produced in molds with sand in them to give the rough look that you would have seen back when pavers were handmade. So it lends to the age of the home. These pavers are bordered with limestone.

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, June 2017.

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May 23, 2019, 3:06 am PDT

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