A Landscaping Blog for Appleton, Neenah and all of the Fox Cities

024Appleton Outdoor Fireplace – Part 2

posted by on March 7th, 2009

The rest of the 2008 landscaping season was a lot busier than we thought it’d be – we ended up running out of working weather before we finished the work we had on our schedule for the year.  This also meant that a good many things, like this landscape blog, weren’t kept current through the late summer, fall and winter.

But we’re looking forward to spring and with that I thought I’d provide a few updates, including information about the outdoor fireplace project we completed in mid-summer last season.  But first, a picture of the completed work:

Elevated paver patio with outdoor fireplace, Appleton, Wisconsin

All told, there was approximately 30 tons of crushed limestone placed under the retaining walls and pavers for this patio!  As you might be able to see in this picture, our fireplaces and fire pits are always lined with fire brick – it’s the best material for reflecting and evenly dissipating heat, reducing the expansion and contraction of the materials outside of the fire brick, which can lead to the beginnings of breakdown of those materials.

On of the trickier parts of this project really had nothing to do with the fireplace.  It had to do with the lights (see those small, dark triangles along the seat wall?).  But first, another picture:

Lights and a fireplace warm the outdoor night

A good deal of planning has to go into installing low voltage wiring in and through a retaining wall or seat wall, pre-cutting grooves for the wire to sit inside, mapping out the exact locations of the lights long before you ever connect the first bulb, as well as fishing what feels like miles of thick gauge wire through small holes on concrete blocks.  In the picture below, we’ve hollowed out just enough of a block to make the connections to the fixture (seen mounted to the outside of the block).

Wiring a low voltage light into a seat wall

In the end this Appleton client had an outdoor entertainment space that would feel warm and comfortable from early Spring until the chill of Fall.

023Outdoor Fireplace in Appleton

posted by on June 23rd, 2008

The trend in residential landscaping has been to bring as much of the convenience of the indoors to the outdoors. This includes built-in grills with rotisseries, outdoor kitchens with sinks and running water, refrigerators and even outdoor fireplaces. The project we’re working on right now includes an outdoor fireplace, seat wall, low voltage lighting set into the walls and steps, all built around the client’s new paver patio.

We’ll post more about this project once it’s been completed.

022Seat Wall and Retaining Wall

posted by on August 25th, 2007

Belgard Highland Stone Retaining Wall and Seat WallOn the north end of Appleton we recently completed a retaining wall and seat wall construction using Belgard’s Highland Stone. The steps were constructed using the “pedestal method”, meaning an area of block the full lateral spread of the steps was laid below the first step (on top of a 6″+ layer of crushed limestone), and each subsequent step was stacked atop that first layer. That means the very top step you see in this picture is actually sitting on top of eight layers of retaining wall block.

This doesn’t affect the cost of the project, but it does make it far more durable and stable than steps made using the “step method”, where each step is only sitting atop a single course of block and some compacted, crushed stone.

Highland Stone also comes in freestanding wall units, which have been split on both sides, making them ideal for seat walls. In the project pictured you can see an 18″ seatwall providing more privacy for people on the patio.

Finally, we constructed two columns on either side of the steps to add some grandeur to the patio entry. Line voltage outdoor lighting fixtures were converted to low voltage and mounted to those columns. To keep the look clean outdoors, we mounted the low-voltage transformer in the basement of the home next to the electrical service panel. A photo cell controls the switching on and off of the lights.