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Outdoor Kitchen Tips – Create Your Cooking Oasis

More and more people are choosing to create an oasis in their backyard over traveling away or to a cottage. These “Staycation” backyards can include many features including a fabulous outdoor kitchen. Outdoor kitchens are a fast growing trend because they not only become a great gathering spot for family and friends but they add incredible value to your home.

Things to consider when designing outdoor kitchens and entertaining areas:

Landscape Kitchen Design

  1. Work with a designer so your kitchen functions well. Cold areas (refrigeration), hot areas (grills and cooktops), wet areas (sinks) and dry areas (prep counters and storage) must all work together effectively in proper proximity, each with enough allocated space.

  2. Remember that indoor and outdoor kitchens are simpatico. The most significant difference between indoor and outdoor kitchen design is often the exposure to the elements (shelter and durability considerations). Other differences include more difficulty in running utilities such as water. And there is usually no outdoor wall, so the outdoor kitchen equipment typically defines the room boundaries. Outdoor rooms bring a whole world of additional cooking options, like open-wood flame or smoking.

  3. It’s important to consider the relationship between the indoor and outdoor versions of your kitchens and entertaining areas. How will they be used together when cooking or entertaining? What is the traffic pattern between them?

  4. Select low-maintenance materials and equipment designed to withstand the rigors of an outdoor kitchen. The easier the kitchen is to clean and maintain, the more you will use and enjoy your investment. High-quality stainless steel provides a sanitary surface that’s easily cleaned and corrosion-resistant. Counters and patio or decking material should be highly resistant to grease stains and able to withstand high temperatures.

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  6. Complement the design of the home’s architecture and landscape. Use compatible materials and incorporate subtle architectural details.

  7. Plan the entire outdoor entertaining space as part of a single functional plan. Dining areas, cooking areas and pool areas often coexist. Think of these as outdoor rooms and consider the flow of traffic as part of the design. Don’t isolate the cook from the rest of the party.

  8. Plan for utilities. When planning layouts, keep in mind the best practical placement or installation of the necessary gas, water and electrical supply.

  9. Extend the outdoor entertaining season with heaters, shade and rain shelter. Incorporate shade trees, pergolas and awnings in cooking and dining areas, but don’t put a combustible ceiling or awning above an outdoor grill.

  10. Incorporate music and other entertainment so you don’t face the design challenge of adding it later. Keep in mind that televisions need to deliver a good picture in bright sunlight.

  11. Provide adequate task lighting as well as ambient lighting to accommodate after-dark cooking and entertaining.

  12. Consider your outdoor entertaining needs. How many people and how often do you entertain?

Pool Maintenance Tips for Swimming Pool Owners

Keeping your pool sparkling clean doesn’t have to be as cumbersome as you might think. All pools are different, and so are their maintenance needs. However, they all share one commonality: The secret to pristine pool health is regular, routine care. If you choose to handle common problems like murky water or broken pumps on your own, make sure to always consult manufacturers’ manuals before fixing or using equipment. No matter if you rely on a service company to take care of your pool, you still need to do a few things on your own to ensure your pool stays in good condition for years.

pool maintenance tips infographic

Infographic of the main tips you need to know to keep your pool sparkling clean

Skimming the pool’s surface by hand every few days is one of the fastest and easiest ways to keep your pool clean. Floating debris will eventually sink, becoming harder to remove. Use a long-handled net called a hand skimmer or leaf skimmer to remove leaves, bugs and other unwanted items. Skimming significantly increases the efficiency of the pool’s circulation system and lowers the amount of chlorine you’ll need to add to your pool. Cleaning out strainer baskets at least once a week also helps circulation and lowers chlorine demands. Locate strainer baskets attached to the side of aboveground pools and in the pool deck of inground pools. Simply remove the plastic basket and shake it out; spraying the inside with a hose can help dislodge stubborn objects.

A pool should be vacuumed every week to keep water clear and reduce the amount of chemicals you need to add to it. There are many types of pool vacuums. If you have a manual design, work it back and forth all over the surface of the pool like you would if vacuuming carpet. It’s good form to slightly overlap each stroke. Check the filter each time you vacuum, and clean it if necessary.

But vacuuming isn’t the only maintenance that should be done once a week. Brushing the walls and tile helps minimize algae buildup and calcium deposits so they don’t fester and become larger problems.

There are three kinds of pool filters: cartridge, sand and diatomaceous earth. While there are different pool maintenance procedures for each type, all require periodic cleaning depending on the type of filter and how often a pool is used. Cleaning the filter more often than recommended can actually hinder the filtration process. A clean filter is less efficient than one with a mild amount of dirt in it because the dirt helps trap other particles, which removes debris from the water. However, you don’t want to let the filter get too dirty. A sign that it’s time to clean is an increase in flow between the pressure gauge and flow meter. Clean the filter when the difference reaches 10 to 15 pounds per square inch.

Pool heaters typically require the least maintenance of all pool equipment. Gas heaters can work fine without being serviced for a couple years, and electric ones can last even longer. Consult your manufacturer’s manual for specific care instructions. Sometimes, calcium scales build up inside the tubes of a heater and restrict flow, preventing the water from heating adequately. If this happens, recruit the help of a professional because the heater may need to be disassembled and have its tubes cleaned out with a wire brush or acid.

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Pool water should be tested regularly to make sure it’s clean and healthy. The pH scale is a measurement of acidity or alkalinity that runs from 0 to 14. A reading between 7.2 and 7.8 is ideal; this range is safe for swimmers and helps sanitizers work at top efficiency. You can monitor your pool’s pH level with a testing kit.

Organic contaminants like ammonia or nitrogen build up in a pool over time. Massive amounts of such contaminants can interact with a pool’s chlorine to form chloramines, which give off that potent chlorine smell that many people associate with pools. To get rid of this harsh odor, it’s necessary to superchlorinate — or shock — pool water back to normal chlorine levels. While it may seem counterintuitive, adding a large amount of chlorine to a pool can make the undesired odor go away. Some pools should be shocked once a week, while others can go a significantly longer time. Follow manufacturers’ instructions before superchlorinating your pool to get the best results.

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine if low water levels are due to evaporation or a leak. You can discover leaks in your pool by conducting a simple bucket test. Fill a plastic bucket three-quarters full of water. On the inside of the bucket, mark the water line. Place the bucket in the pool, then mark the water line on the outside of the container. (If the bucket has a handle, remove it to allow for better stability while floating.) Let it float for two or three days. If the water inside and outside the bucket has gone down the same amount, your pool is losing water due to evaporation. However, if the pool water level has gone down more than the water inside the bucket, your pool has a leak. That’s your cue to call a professional to have it patched.

Winterizing your pool is very important. Residual pool water left in pipes can freeze and cause damage. To prevent this from happening, use an air compressor to blow water out of the pool’s plumbing when swimming season is over. Also, drain as much water as possible from the filter and heater. Any remaining water can be eliminated using nontoxic antifreeze (caution: this is different from antifreeze for vehicles). Disconnect the heater, pump and chemical feeders, the latter of which should be cleaned and stored. Finally, clean the pool: skim, brush walls, vacuum, empty skimmer baskets, close skimmer line valve, lower water level to approximately 18 inches (45 centimeters) below the coping and supercholorinate. Lastly, cover the pool to keep out debris. There are many companies that can perform the pool closure for you.

If a pool is properly winterized, it can easily be reopened come swimming season. Most importantly, don’t remove the pool cover until you’ve cleaned the area around the pool. Sweep or hose away debris to prevent it from getting into the pool. Next, use a garden hose to fill the pool to its normal water level. Reconnect everything that was disconnected. Water will need to flow through the circulation system, so open the skimmer line valve. Test the water for its pH level, then shock the pool. It’ll take a week or more before the pool gets balanced and becomes swimmable. Leave the pump running 24 hours a day, and reduce the run by only an hour or two each day until the water is balanced. There are companies that can perform the pool opening for you.

Ian McGregor Pools And Landscapes is a leading landscaping company and swimming pool contractor that offers residential and commercial pool landscaping services.

Shade Gardens – Create A Kaleidoscope Of Color

Shady areas of your landscape can be turned into beautiful gardens if you know what to plant there. There are several choices, many of which produce flowers, so that your little shady corner of the world can be a blooming kaleidoscope of color just like your sunny gardens.

There are also different degrees of shade. A full shade area receives no direct sunlight and is usually located under trees or on the north side of a building. Partial shade means the area receives two hours or less of direct sunlight each day. Dappled sunlight is a shady area that has sun penetrating through tree or shrub leaves.

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As a leading landscaping company, Ian McGregor Pools And Landscapes offers beautiful landscape design ideas for garden.

How To Maintain A Healthy Lawn In 7 Simple Steps

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Tips to maintain a healthy lawn in seven simple steps