Category Archives: Landscape Features

Brick Paved Driveways

 

They are too expensive to install……are they?  Those little bricks do not hold up to heavy vehicles……they can’t?  They are too rough to clear snow from…..they are?  These are the things that most people think when a brick paved driveway is mentioned.  In 2016, Unilock did a research on driveways with 3282 homeowners in Ontario, Canada and the Midwest and East, United States.  While most driveways (86%) are made up of the tradition material (asphalt, concrete and gravel), the 5% brick paver driveway owners chose interlocking concrete pavement mostly because of their looks and the good investment. In this survey, when the asked the homeowner if they had to re-do the driveway again what would they do differently.  Most homeowners with paver driveways loved it and really wouldn’t change anything.  But on the other hand the decorative concrete owner was very dissatisfied with their driveway. 

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Now brick pavers are initially more expensive to install but installed right can last two or three times longer than concrete and ten to twenty times longer than an asphalt driveway.  Plus, most people do not take into effect the extra benefit of curb appeal.  Not only will your home be satisfying to look at from the street and frankly from inside your house, but when you sell your home you will sell it faster and for more money.   To help bare this cost, Unilock is offering a rebate for residential driveways.  Option 1 is a driveway sized between 600 and 999 square feet.  Unilock will write you a check for $300 for any Unilock driveway-approved paving stone.  Option 2 is for a 1000 square foot plus using any of Unilock’s driveway-approved paving stones.  Unilock will write you a check for $600.

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Many people have the concern of brick pavers stability.  Installed right, brick pavers can handle the toughest situation.  The Port of Oakland, CA with 5 million sf of interlocking concrete pavement receive wheel loads as much as ten times higher than over-the-road trucks.  Unilock Michigan’s own yard is entirely made out of brick pavers.  If semi trucks and forklifts moving thousands of pallets of bricks a year can hold up, then your driveway made out of brick pavers can handle your car.  If you have seen a neighbor or family member’s brick paved sidewalk and/or patio fall apart, this is because it was installed improperly.  Common installation failures include: not enough and/or the right base material, failed edge restraints, and improper subsoil preparation.   To give you a proper product, you site would be evaluated for its soil, moisture, and use.  This information would be used to design the driveway with the proper amount of base, DriveGrid System, geotextile, and edge restraint.  Than your driveway would be installed by our Certified Concrete Paver Installers (CCPI).  To show you our confidence in our product, Thoms Bros. offers a lifetime guaranty on our brick paver installation work.

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The last concern of snow clearing of snow removal is easily handled by using the right equipment.  If you have your driveway cleared by a snow contractor with a truck or other heavy equipment plow, having him use a rubber edge will prevent any damage.  Snow blowers and plastic shovels are usually not an issue unless a heavily textured product, such as Unilock’s Courtstone is used.  In this case, it is suggested that a heating system, such as Warmzone be installed.

 

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To learn more about brick pavers please visit our page, Unilock, and ICPI.

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June is National Rose Month (Part I)

In 1986 President Reagan signed a resolution making the rose the national floral emblem of the United States. What a good choice! Roses can be grown in all 50 states and are one of the most versatile and rewarding of plants.  There are basically four types of rose: landscape roses, those bred for cutting (like what you enjoy on Valentine’s Day), miniature roses and rugosa roses for people with larger properties.  Unless we have a client who is heavily into gardening or has their own gardener, we typically deal with landscape roses.  Landscape roses continuously bloom and are typically disease-resistant. 

Oso Easy

A line from a state of Michigan plant producer, Spring Meadow Nursery, the Proven Winners Oso Easy Rose comes in color variations ranging from pink, red, yellow and orange. Touted as being “so easy” to grow, the roses in the Oso Easy series are becoming known for being disease resistant and not susceptible to black spot or powdery mildew.  In the past few years growing Oso Easy’s in our landscapes we have had no issues with disease.  These roses are self-cleaning and require little to no pruning.  As with any other rose the Oso’s are best grown in full sun and benefit from good air circulation.  They prefer well drained and slightly acidic soil with medium moisture. The American Rose Society (ARS) announced at the 2015 National Conference that Proven Winners® received the Award of Excellence for Oso Easy® Lemon Zest rose. To receive the Award of Excellence, a rose must prove its mettle in six different no-spray trial locations across the United States. This is the second Proven Winners rose to win this prestigious award; Oso Happy® Petit Pink rose received the Award of Excellence in 2012.

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Spring Meadows June 12 Plant of the Week is Oso Easy® Mango Salsa.  This Proven Winners variety grows 2-3′ tall and wide and is hardy to USDA Zone 4. It will do best in full sun and is very disease-resistant and will not need spraying to keep its foliage nice and clean. It will bloom continuously all summer and into fall.

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Here’s a rose for dad. Oso Easy® Urban Legend™ is a real tough guy, a badass, take-no-prisoners rose with intense red flowers accented by bright yellow stamens. The flowers are brilliant, but the thorns really stick out.

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They are many other varities in this lineup including Candy Oh! (candy apple red), Smoothie (hot pink), Livin’ La Vida (flamingo pink), Cherry Pie (red w/yellow stamens), Double Red (bright red), Fragrant Spreader (light pink/white), Italian Ice (soft yellow w/pink margins), Paprika (reddish/orange), Peachy Cream (peach to cream), and Pink Cupcake (reddish new growth turning pink).  Check them out at www.springmeadownursery.com.

In our next articles, we will be talking about Knock Out, Carpet, Drift and the Home Run lines.

Proven Winner Shrubs

New Fireplace Options

Fireplaces and pits have become very hot in the landscape trends.  People love to extend their seasons and stay out in the yard as long as possible before the snow falls.  Thoms Bros. is happy to announce two new products.  Both of the Rosetta Hardscape fireplaces and our StoneMakers fireplace come in kits cutting our labor time down and ultimately your cost.  Please consider these for your new landscape project or add into your current yard.

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Rosetta Hardscapes offer two lines of their precast fireplaces.  The Claremont is based on their Claremont retaining wall with same textures and colors.  These kits come with the firebox and chimney.

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Visit www.discoverrosetta.com to see more pictures.

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Rosetta Hardscapes’ beautiful Belvedere design replicates natural stone with stunning accuracy.  This product comes in there Slate Gray, Walnut, Auburn Ridge and Fond Du Lac colors.

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Part of our StoneMakers line, this fireplace gives you the look of real split faced fieldstone boulder but only at a fraction of the cost.  A real stone fireplace like this would cost $13,000+ but we can do this at a fraction of the cost.

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Optional wood burning or natural gas inserts.

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Patio Surfaces

So you are thinking about adding or renovating a patio.  There are many different types of surfaces to choose from.  A patio can be a very large investment with prices from $2000 (standard size/shape concrete patio) to more than $40,000 (raised wet laid natural stone patio).  So choosing the right surface can be very daunting. 

Pros/Cons of Patio Flooring

Natural Stone (i.e. Bluestone) (on concrete base w/mortared joints)

Pros

  • Natural stone is a very durable and versatile building material, due to its hard and dense composition.
  • Natural stone is safe to use around the pool, for they have a non-slip finish to them.
  • Natural stone will add natural beauty to your property, giving it that classical, ‘ancient’ aesthetic appeal!
  • Because natural stone is available in so many different colors, there is bound to be the right color to match any of your existing materials.
  • Natural stone can be very long living, if proper installation of concrete sub-base is completed.
  • Same material can be used for pool coping

Cons

  • Natural stone is very expensive to install in this manor (generally $30 – $45 per square foot installed)
  • If proper drainage and/or compaction is not provided when concrete sub-base is installed, then heaving and cracking could occur damaging surface of paved area
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Natural Stone (gravel base w/sand joints)

Pros

  • Natural stone is a very durable and versatile building material, due to its hard and dense composition.
  • Natural stone will add natural beauty to your property, giving it that classical, ‘ancient’ aesthetic appeal!
  • Because natural stone is available in so many different colors, there is bound to be the right color to match any of your existing materials.
  • Same material can be used for pool coping
  • Much more less expensive to install then on concrete base (generally $15 – $20 per square foot installed)

Cons

  • Extremely high maintenance especially in pool configuration, joints will encourage weeds & ants.
  • Freeze/frost conditions can damage very easily, making longetivity very short

Interlocking Concrete Brick Pavers

Pros

  • Wide range of surface finishes, colors, and styles to meet any architectural style of home.
  • Moderate cost for installation (generally $10 – $20 per square foot installed)
  • For long lasting, Thoms Bros. offers lifetime warranty on installations.
  • Low maintenance, stained or broken pavers & sunken or heaved areas can be fixed relatively easily.

Cons

  • Areas could sink easily if base is not properly compacted or washes away between boulders
  • Weeds in cracks could be issue if polymeric sand and/or sealant is not usedIMG_0009Patio28

StoneMakers Flatwork Concrete

Pros

  • Custom colors to give real stone look
  • Moderate cost for installation (generally $10 – $16 per square foot installed)
  • Expansion joints are disguised in joints of individual stones
  • Color is both mixed in with concrete and surface applied.
  • Cracks can be disguised with new stone joints

Cons

  • Must be sealed on regular basis (depending on quality of sealer) or surface damage will occur and color will fade.
  • Concrete will eventually crackIMG_0519HPIM1565

Stamped Concrete

Pros

  • Descent range of surface stamps & colors.
  • Moderate cost for installation (generally $8 – $14 per square foot installed)

Cons

  • Must be sealed on regular basis (depending on quality of sealer) or surface damage will occur and color will fade.
  • Pattern of stamp can be ruined by saw cuts
  • Repairs will stand out because matching color and stamps after the fact is almost impossible
  • Concrete will eventually crack
  • Many installers only surface apply powdered color.

Exposed Aggregate Concrete

Pros

  • Better looking than standard concrete
  • Lost cost for installation (generally $4 – $6 per square foot installed)

Cons

  • Must be sealed on regular basis (depending on quality of sealer) or aggregate will pop.
  • Less attractive alternative to above
  • Repairs will stand out because matching color is almost impossible
  • Concrete will eventually crack

Standard Concrete

Pros

  • Extremely Low cost for installation (generally $3 – $5 per square foot installed)

Cons

  • Least attractive alternative to above
  • Repairs will stand out because matching color is almost impossible
  • Concrete will eventually crack

 

 

Fire in Your Outdoor Room

05B251B6-8E32-4B06-8D32064DBAFF017A 39102871-671E-45D6-83466666737935D9Stickel12Kotenko20Bennett39Pollock06Fitzsimmons64As the economy continues to gain momentum, homeowners will be adding outdoor kitchens, fire pits and fireplaces for outdoor entertaining in 2013 according to a new survey of leading members of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).  The informal survey conducted in December, identified on the top of the list for homeowners are fire pits and outdoor fireplaces.

Homeowners are requesting landscape architects and designers to design complete outdoor rooms, such as kitchens and bars, for entertaining. Water features such as koi ponds, pools, and fountains continue to be popular.   Steve Martino, FASLA, of Phoenix—recipient of both the ASLA Design Medal and the ASLA Residential Design Award of Excellence in 2006—cites private living spaces, outdoor rooms, and water features as top homeowner requests.

Although we are not blessed with a long warm season like some other areas of the country, enjoying your backyard to its fullest is still of high demand here in Michigan.  We see more and more clients asking for these new trends.  Along with the increase in luxury items for the common person, people are just staying home more.  Rather than go on trips, or go to the local restaurant, people want to entertain family and friends in the comfort of their own home.  And, rather than being confined to the interior of their home, people want to enjoy their yard as well.

Here at Thoms Bros., we are using many products and manufactures to bring these new trends to our customers.  For outdoor kitchens, the high-end line of appliances that we are installing come from Viking (www.vikingrange.com) and Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet (http://kalamazoogourmet.com/).  They both offer a full range of appliances from refrigerators to grills to cabinetry.  They both have a long history of high quality products and are offering the newest of technologies in their products.  We also install more affordable products from Weber (http://www.weber.com/home) and Kitchen Aid (http://www.kitchenaid.com/)

Outdoor kitchens can be created as nice as any indoor kitchen.  Sinks, electricity, and weather protection can make preparing that perfect meal.  The appliances and other necessities for the kitchen can be supported in several different ways.  Manufactured concrete walls, cement block with a stone or stucco face, and even outdoor kitchen cabinetry from Atlantis (www.outdoor-kitchen-cabinets.com/atlantis) can be used.  Countertops are usually done in granite, but other choices like concrete can be utilized.

Extending the patio season later in the fall has become very common with the use of fireplaces, fire pits and other warming devices.  As with interior fireplaces, exterior ones can take on many looks.  These backyard center pieces can be made out of manufactured decorative concrete blocks, stone, and brick.  Exterior fireplaces can also be either natural wood burning or gas.  Fire pits can also be natural wood burning or gas, but are usually more informal of a center piece as compared to a fireplace.  The advantage of a fire pit over a fireplace is the 360° seating and lower cost installation.  The disadvantage of a fire pit is smoke control in a real wood burning application.

Adding one or many of these features will definitely not disappoint and be well worth the money.  We were created to be exterior creatures and incorporating an outdoor kitchen, fireplace, and/or fire pit will draw you, your family and friends outdoors.