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A Space for the Family
Extending a Deck and Leveling a Grade Created a Space for Everyone

By Alli Rael, LC/DBM


Natural Surroundings, led by Jay Roche, was hired to expand the outdoor living area at this new home in Colesville, Md. In addition to leveling out the slope to create a better space for children to play, his team built a 'Bristol' fireplace on the patio, which they extended with 'Mega-Arbel' pavers.


To complete the outdoor living space, a kitchen grill space was constructed out of 'Celtik' wall blocks. The countertop is a natural brown flagstone.

Creating an outdoor living space at a new home comes with a host of challenges unique to it being in a new development. Jay Roche from Natural Surroundings was contracted for one such project in Colesville, Md. He started by using Belgard Design Studio, a program provided by the manufacturer to create 3D models and flythrough videos of a planned landscape.

"We used it for all of our big projects last year," said Roche. "It was seamless." Contractors can use one of the models or flythrough videos already on the manufacturer's website, or for a fee, can send plans to the company and they can create a rendering.

At this particular residence, Roche had a crew of 3-5 to create the deck, extend the lanai, create an outdoor kitchen, and install a fireplace and retaining wall segments.

"We used the Bristol fireplace and fireboxes as the wall in itself to hold the hill from the wood line," he explained. The fireplace unit stands 9' high, and with the two wood boxes, extends 11' long. A small retaining wall continues to hold the hill, extending from one side of the fireplace.

For the installation, Roche's team had to dig out more than 4" below the finish grade and pour a level concrete pad. They used a skid steer to place the base unit in the concrete, and to place the chimney on top of the fireplace. The Mega-Arbel pavers that were used for the entire patio were laid right up next to the fireplace.


Retaining walls to match the kitchen and fireplace adjacent wall were built as planters. A decorative wooden panel was installed above this wall to give the homeowners more storage space. A crew of 3-5 spent about a month on the overall project.


Belgard, the manufacturer for all the hardscape products Roche used in this project, offers a 3D design service for contractors. "I took a photograph and drew some lines on it and sent it over to them," Roche said. "They made the rendering and a 3D video." He recommends using 3D software when designing.

In addition, the homeowners requested an outdoor kitchen, which the Natural Surroundings team constructed from the Celtik wall block topped with a natural flagstone.

During the construction, he ran into some problems - literally - with utility lines in the yard. "The builder didn't bury the fiber optic cable properly, or mark it properly," he explained. "It was pretty much just below the dirt." Being that it was a fiber optic cable, Roche and his crew couldn't just splice it together after their run-in, and had to call in the utility company to correct it.

"It wasn't technically our fault," said Roche. "Once we knew where it was it wasn't a big deal and we could work around it." Drainage and grade changes also came up. "We had to adjust the drainage so water would flow properly under and across the patio," he said. They used a mini excavator to level out the grade, and to create a flat area for the homeowner's kids to play.

"We also did a lot of planting and lights out front, and some steppers in the side yard," he said. "The whole thing took about a month." When it comes to projects such as these, Roche recommends going big to start out and breaking it down into phases from there. "Everyone has a reason for doing a larger project," Roche concluded. "The biggest thing is accomplishing the homeowner's goals."

As Seen in the July 2017 Issue of Landscape Contractor Magazine

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December 14, 2018, 12:44 am PST

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