Today we’re going to talk about how to pick a good contractor for your next outdoor home project and what possible red flags you should look for before hiring someone to fill that role.
To make sure we didn’t miss anything, we sat down with our supplier, Jacob, from Yorktown Materials. Jacob works closely with contractors and homeowners alike, so he has a unique view of the industry and had a lot of great information to share!
Our goal is to educate others about what to look out for and what questions you should ask before hiring a contractor for your outdoor space. After all, you’re about to invest your hard earned money into a space that YOU have to live in, so you need to choose the right person to get the job done!
Have you ever had that feeling that something was missing, but you just didn’t know what it was? That was definitely the case for this homeowner, Ray.
You see, we had already completed phase one of a backyard transformation for this homeowner. We started in his barebones backyard, I used my trusty can of spray paint, and we made a plan that we thought would bring all of Ray’s wishes and hopes for this space to life.
The inspiration for this driveway update came about because this homeowner was tired of dealing with gravel. As you can see, this driveway is long and for years he’s been out here blowing gravel, trying to maintain it. Every time he did this, gravel would end up going into the woods... These homeowners decided it was time for a change!
Back in 2018, my business was struggling a bit. I still needed to learn how to actually operate and run a business. Enter: The Contractor Fight. The funny thing about The Contractor Fight was that this group was made up largely of a bunch of pond builders, and suddenly I got to be a part of that world.
While we had already built a bunch of water features at that point, we definitely weren’t doing it at the same caliber as these people. I immediately loved the camaraderie that this group had, and the tribe that The Contractor Fight had built. I started getting introduced to different builders around the country, and ended up at Aquascapes Pondemonium event, where I met April (aka “Queen of the Lady Pond Builders”) from American Waterscapes.
This backyard was a blank canvas. As you can see from the before shots below, it was more or less nothing but dirt. While it wasn’t much to start with, the lack of pre-existing elements gave the homeowner freedom to dream up and create his ideal outdoor space with us, and that’s just what we did.
Some of our projects are in big, wide-open spaces...and then some are like this one in Newport News, Virginia, which boasts a grand total of 750 square feet in the backyard. We knew it would be challenging to create a full design in a tiny space, but we also had some big ideas and a lot of experience making seemingly impossible dreams come true.
This homeowner was, quite simply, tired of staring at the same old giant plot of grass in his backyard day after day, month after month. He's in the same situation a lot of people find themselves currently: working from home full-time. While there are some awesome perks of working from the home office, there are some definite drawbacks. After all, who wants to get tired of being in their own house?
The good news is that we had a massive plot of land and a built-in beautiful water view at this space in Lanexa to create something spectacular. We began to hatch a plan...
We're incredibly excited for this next project, because we get to build outdoor TV set for WAVY10! They will use this new space to host the Hampton Roads show, present weather in real-time, and report the news outside when possible. So what's in this exciting new area? Let's take a look...
Does the sloped yard and water run-off problems ruin our project?!
We faced some pretty big obstacles at this house in the heart of the Ford's Colony Williamsburg neighborhood, and we had to come up with answers. Here's what we did...
When the heavy rains come to Virginia, they can really wreak havoc on the backyard! Fortunately we had a lot of grading to do anyways, so all the extra mud will be cleaned out and we can leave everything back in its perfect condition.
This was a very complete project so it took some time to make everything not only look good but flow smoothly throughout the space, and we actually finished with a walkway leading to the backyard from the front of the house so there would be an easy way to get to the good stuff. And if you're wondering, there was a LOT of good stuff to get to...
We are working with Wayne Harbin Builders in Williamsburg, a company that builds beautiful custom homes in the area. We work with them to provide landscaping, install water features, and making the outside look as incredible as the inside will when the homeowners step into their new house. In this Ford's Colony home, we did a pathway and landscaping in front with lighting as well as a patio and steps in the back.
We've been waiting on this project for a long time, and it's finally ready for us to show off! When these homeowners first called us with their idea, we were excited, but house renovations - as they often do - went long on the timeline and the budget, so their back yard had to wait for awhile. Luckily, their beautiful view of the James River Bridge wasn't going anywhere, and we saw the potential of this incredible Hilton Village home from the first visit.
For obvious reasons, the homeowners wanted to maximize their sunset view while keeping the space kid-friendly, so we got to work with a few goals in mind.
You already saw part 1 of this project when we began to create a backyard paradise at this Williamsburg home, and now we're thrilled to show you the final results. This little slice of heaven is tucked away amidst already-beautiful landscaping, and our goal was to create a space where the homeowners could truly enjoy what was already growing right in their backyard.
The basic outline of the area was to add pavers with a stair landing, water feature, fire pit, and - of course - a small but beautiful water feature. The curved staircase leads down from the new landing straight to a grill, perfect for backyard cookouts. The fire pit, centered among the pavers, has some added features - a wood grain look and smokeless insert - that will make this space perfect for those outdoor summer evenings spent with friends.
And that's not all...
We're building a 3,500 square foot paver driveway! It's a tall order, especially in Yorktown, which often features groundwater issues among a host of other things. We had to approach this one knowing we could find a solution, even if we weren't sure exactly what it would be at first.
To solve the groundwater problem we decided to utilize geogrid, a material that can be used to reinforce soil and other materials like it. We used open grade construction with a combination of woven fabric, different sizes of round gravel, geogrid, and pavers laid on top for a solid base. Along the way we had to remove an aggregate walkway and add a condensation line with plenty of drainage.
But we couldn't stop there, because we knew this driveway needed a little flair...
When you walk into this backyard oasis, there are three areas where you can spend your time: the pool (now re-done), the sunken fire pit, or the hidden hot tub in the back corner. By creating a yard with multiple 'layers,' we wanted to have an oasis (or three!) within an oasis right in this Virginia Beach homeowner's backyard.
While some of this structure already existed, it wasn't welcoming - pea gravel around the pool isn't exactly friendly to bare feet! - and needed a big upgrade. We surrounded the pool with pavers and re-made their diving board, adding two full palettes of concrete to create a solid foundation. For the sunken fire pit, we made sure the space felt connected to the pool while still being separate, with a small step as a transition piece. Techo bloc creates an eye-catching area for a table and chairs to break up the paver pattern, and behind wooden panels is a hot tub area for a private, intimate setting so guests can truly get away.
We're thrilled to walk you through this three-phase project in Yorktown, Virginia. We've finished the first phase and have big plans for what's coming!
Phase 1 included a pool, waterfall, and some landscaping so while the pavilion is being constructed, the homeowners can still enjoy the summer in peace. We finished the water feature, created a walkway, and even installed an easy-access trash pad for practical use. The trees and shade panels (complete with color-changing lights!) provide privacy and a little bit of show-off flair.
The next phase includes a pergola with a gate to create an ambience every time someone enters the space. Right now there is a place for lounge chairs, with an outdoor deck coming to allow the homeowners to enjoy the view.
The centerpiece is, of course,
Phase 1 is complete for this three-part project in Yorktown, Virginia. To kick things off we built a four-season room and a deck, started in on the landscaping, and completed a walkway leading out to the front yard. The most exciting part, of course, is the 38-foot waterfall that will eventually have 20,000 gallons of water rushing over the space.
We started with a completely flat yard, which ended up being a challenge because our waterfall required almost 48 inches of elevation! Outcropping rocks will hold the soil in, and the slopes will be filled with plants like maple and cherry trees that have been repurposed into the space from other parts of the yard.
We installed 3-inch plumbing in the Aqua-Blocs to allow such a massive amount of water to flow through and, in places, bubble up like an actual brook. Big rocks and boulders will bring the whole water feature together. We love that in this backyard, even if the pool is shut down, the homeowners will still be able to enjoy all four seasons with the rushing sound of water controlled by an adjustable pump.
In Phase 2 we're adding a walkway to a pavilion with a fire pit carved into the side of the water feature, an outdoor kitchen, and a lot more landscaping, so stay tuned for some more incredible updates!
The backyard started out as just grass and ended with 2,500 square feet of a Techo-Bloc constructed patio complete with a massive sunken fire pit, two water features, a pergola, some screening walls, and a total of 91 lights. One of our favorite elements is the Boy with His Dog, a small fountain that had been dormant in their garage for over 15 years!
As large as this space was, we didn't want it to feel too big and grandiose. Instead, we want it to feel like a comfortable space for their family to be at home outdoors, especially when their grandkids get the opportunity to play in the fountain.
This project, built at a home nestled in the heart of Williamsburg, Virginia, is one of our favorites and we can't wait to see how they live life outdoors in such a gorgeous space.
This is a beautiful home right at the edge of the water in Hampton, so close to Poquoson you can see it from the shore. The homeowners needed to fix some issues with their original concrete pool and liner, but in the meantime they decided to upgrade some of the more unsightly elements. It takes a lot of sweat equity to maintain the curves of the original design, and we knew our team was up to the task.
Rather than keep the original concrete material, we installed pavers over top to add style to this beautiful outdoor living element. This video walk-through gives a quick but thorough overview of how we upgraded a backyard pool to make it even better than it was before. These homeowners are sure to love their party-and-fun space for years to come, now with a brand new look and feel!
When we arrived to this Yorktown home we pulled into the driveway...which is exactly the thing we were replacing and expanding. What started out with concrete turned into a beautiful paver-style driveway. The homeowner helped with this design process, adding curves and circles, creating a piece of art in the place that welcomes her family home every day. Of course a driveway demands a seriously stable structure, so that became key as we built the new fixture from the ground up.
What do we love about pavers in driveways? Well, if things do shift and change in the future, fixing it is as simple as moving a few of them around rather than having to rebuild it from the ground up. This driveway will last a lifetime - that's what we want for our clients!
We hit a unique challenge with an existing walkway that might look mismatched if we didn't configure it correctly, so we tackled the problem head-on and created a solution. You can see how we did it in the video below!
Our first step when creating a custom hardscape is often tearing the yard apart so we can put it back together! Here's a little 'before' sneak peek of a BIG and (one day) beautiful project in the Breezy Point neighborhood of Yorktown, Virginia, complete with a pool and a whole lot more coming!
Right now we're working to install pavers around the pool and a walkway to the front.
Who's excited to see the after?!
1220 square feet
Style: Techo Bloc Blu60 / Techo Bloc Antika
Color: Shale Grey and Onyx Black
When we first walked to the back of this home nestled in the Patriots Walk neighborhood of Yorktown, we did a double take. The deck that should have been an outdoor haven for the family was falling apart and was no longer safe, let alone usable. It took us a little over a day to replace the deck with a brand new patio that will last for decades to come.
With a lot of demolition of the existing structure and special attention paid to preserving the beautiful yard that is typical of York County homes, we created a simple but eye-catching stone patio so that life can be lived better outdoors for the entire family, from the grill master to the little ones who will use the slide over and over again.
Watch this video to see the transformation!
Belgard Highland Stone (Color: Jefferson)
12 feet of Chesapeake XL Cap
An outdoor kitchen can include tons of features, from a gas grill to stunning granite countertops to an ice maker built right into the design. Truly, the options are endless! For this project in the beautiful Hilton Village area of Newport News, we brainstormed with the homeowners to make sure we weren't missing anything, and in the process came up with two nice additions:
1) HD TV installed directly underneath the countertop so the homeowners and their guests can watch any station comfortably from their patio chairs.
2) Open-flame gas burner that lights easily, has multiple safety features to prevent any accidents, and adds some fire to any party.
They love the results and if we're honest, we are a little obsessed ourselves. Check out the finished product and leave a comment letting us know what YOU would add to an outdoor kitchen if you could. Dream big - the sky is the limit!
It wasn’t that long ago COVID happened. It was a bit rough. Travel was almost completely nixed. Consequently 2020 was coined The Year of the Home. Boy was it! As we entered 2021, the trend continued. We were asked many times to use the vacation budget to create a place where experiences, conversations, and life could happen steps from the living room. We happily accepted the challenge. We are honored to change the landscape around Hampton Roads, consequently changing the way our clients live outdoors.
Watch the video below to see some of our favorites, then click here for a brief review of our top 10 projects and take the opportunity to vote for YOUR favorite!
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then how much is a video worth? Usually our project recaps include an explanation of our process and the installation details, but for this koi pond and patio install, we thought that we would let the finished project do all the talking. It's no secret that water feature are our favorite element to build in Hampton Roads and beyond, so this one - complete with a fire pit and patio - was the perfect project for us.
If you're interested in the details, here they are: We installed a 14x10 Tranquility Elite koi pond. Complete with underwater lights, water auto fill valve, and an auto doser. We also carved stone steps into the landscape along with a 38’ retention wall and two patios.
Our goal, as always, was for this family to enjoy their outdoor space as a second home right outside their home. Let us know if this is something you would want in your backyard!
About Easton Outdoors
We started out as the neighborhood lawn boys – a group of high school friends trying to make some pocket change. It soon became more. We realized how much we enjoyed landscaping. Over the years, we've transformed hundreds of properties, beautified countless landscapes, and made many homeowners proud. This has become our passion!