Lighting Up the Night

Landscape Design · Landscape Lighting

You’ve got a beautiful home, and complementary landscaping which can be enjoyed year-round. How do you showcase these assets? The best way to display your property and surrounding land is to add illumination.

Aesthetic landscape lighting is a wonderful way to accent your home and grounds, provide safety to walkways, entrances and to your property overall, as well as increase the total property value.

With low voltage LED lighting, home illumination systems have become easier to install, use, and maintain. Most systems are custom designed around your particular needs rather than a one-size-fits-all system and are often paired with smart home systems. These systems can be controlled with apps and timers, and can be set for different seasons, and events.

Why Light it Up?

There are several great reasons for adding lighting your home and landscape. First, you’ll be able to add visual interest by highlighting architectural features and points of interest in your landscape, like flowering trees or a water feature.

Lighting your outdoor spaces will allow you to enjoy your property longer in the day and into the evening; you won’t have to head indoors when the sun sets, and you can use more of your property when it’s well illuminated, instead of some areas being dark voids in the periphery.

Security considerations should also be taken into account when contemplating landscape lighting. You can illuminate doors and windows, making it easier for your security system to capture clearer images. Strategic lighting also gives the appearance of someone being home. And, by illuminating pathways and walkways, you can insure safer passage around your property for family and guests alike.

Why Low Voltage LED?

Low voltage LED systems are primarily used in home lighting systems because they’re safe and cost-effective. With low voltage systems, there’s little chance of shock and the installation is quicker and easier. You can install an LED low voltage system on your own, as it’s relatively easy to learn, but for a larger home or a complex system, we suggest hiring a professional installer.

LED fixtures and bulbs use very little power, so the impact on your electricity bill won’t be as great with a low voltage LED system. The bulbs also last longer, so you won’t have to replace them as often.

LED lights come in a wide variety of colors and lenses, so you can design the lighting that works best for you and your home. The days of hot, bright floodlights are over! You can highlight some areas, have other areas softly illuminated, and of course, dimmers and timers on lights can be installed wherever you deem necessary.

Low voltage LED lights don’t get as hot as regular lights, even when they’ve been on for several hours, so they won’t add to the heat during the hot summer nights, nor will they affect any plants you may have surrounding them. And LED lights reduce light pollution, as the light they cast is more focused than regular bulbs.

How Should You Get Started?

After deciding to add lighting to your property, the first thing you’ll want to do is to create a landscape lighting plan:

  • First, decide what you want to light or showcase. Include any or all doors, windows, garage doors, pathways, and sidewalks to and from your house. Are there any areas in your yard or landscaping to which you’d like to draw attention? Flowering trees, decorative shrubbery, fountains and water features are popular choices, as are beaches, pools, and retaining walls.
  • Select the appropriate lighting techniques. Most plans have a good mixture of several techniques. You can: highlight a feature; create shadows; place a light a few feet away to “wash” the object in light; uplight or downlight with more directed beams of light; “moonlight” an area by placing a feature high up in a tree or light pole, and have soft light come down on the area; light up your path with lights running alongside walkways and drives; and place lighting in surfaces themselves, like stone walls or steps.
  • Choose the fixtures, bulbs and accessories that give you the desired effect. Again, this should be a good combination of several different items customized to your individual needs. Choices include spotlights, path lights, wall mounted lights, lights with motion sensors and/or dimmers, ground lights, and hanging lights.
  • Connect it to your smart home system and apps and set up a schedule for daily/nightly use, as well as vacations or other times away.

At Stephens Landscaping, we can work with you to create a lighting plan and install low voltage LED lighting systems that will fit your property’s needs and unique aesthetic. To get started, give us a call at 603.707.0630 or email info@stephenslandscaping.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bringing Warmth to Winter

Landscape Design

Winter has arrived here in New England, and while many activities have moved indoors, enjoying your outdoor space doesn’t have to be one of them. Consider adding a heater to your outdoor living spaces for enjoyment throughout all of the seasons.

There are many options of outdoor heating available from which to choose for your location and aesthetic—including free standing propane towers, attractive natural gas fire pits, small tabletop heaters designed for dining tables and patio sets, and more! Many heaters are combined with lighting to help in making these spaces look and feel warm and cozy.

Getting Warmer

The kind of heater you choose for your outdoor space depends on what kind of space you have, because not all heaters are appropriate for all spaces. Gas fire pits and fireplaces, for example, should not be used in enclosed spaces, and electric heaters are for smaller spaces. We’ve listed several types of heaters, their ideal settings, and other things to consider, below.

Fireplaces and Fire Pits

These are the most aesthetically pleasing options for outdoor heating. Both fireplaces and firepits use natural gas and emit a good amount of heat through real flames. They make great focal points for your backyard, terrace, deck, or patio. You can create a nice sitting area around them, and decorate the mantles with glass, stone, or tile surrounds to make it truly custom and match your décor. They are easy to use and low maintenance. These work best in large outdoor spaces because these heaters use real flames, so they are not safe to use in enclosed spaces or covered patios.

Heaters

The most commonly used outdoor heaters are some type of appliance, like the one used at restaurants mentioned above. These heaters can be quite large and include lighting or small enough to fit on tabletops; emit enough heat that they have to stand alone, or can be mounted to a wall or ceiling. What you choose depends on the size of the area you wish to heat, and how you want to heat it:

  • Propane: These are used widely, and since they heat the air itself, they will heat a big area, so they are ideal for large, open spaces. They usually have one touch ignition switches but can take a while to heat up. These are tall and have wheels so you can move and place them wherever you’d like, but be sure to keep them at least three feet from any surface, wall, furniture, etc. They come in a variety of designs and price points so you can find one that’s perfect for you and your space. With these, you’ll need to purchase/refill tanks of propane, and protect the heaters from wind.
  • Gas heaters: These work basically the same as the propane heaters but are a bit more environmentally friendly.
  • Electric: These heaters do not use any open flame, so they are the best to use in enclosed spaces like porches or patios. They emit a radiant heat, so you’ll have to sit next to them to feel the warmth, as they won’t really heat the air itself. They can be used closer to people and furniture and can be used anywhere as long as there is an electrical outlet nearby. You can place these electric heaters under chairs and tables, on tabletops, or mounted on the wall or ceiling. Of course, be sure to maintain an adequate clearance. While you won’t need as much space as you would with a gas or propane heater, with any type of heat, it’s better to be careful. These are the most environmentally friendly of all portable heaters.

Heated Floors

Another good way of heating your outdoor space is by adding heating under your patio tiles. Heat will radiate from below as you sit outside, and as an added bonus, the snow and ice won’t accumulate on these surfaces.

Heated Pergolas

A great way to enjoy the outdoors is from your own heated pergola. By adding this outdoor space and building in a plan for heating during construction, you can protect yourself from the elements a bit, and stay warm while enjoying the outdoors.

We’d love to assist with any of your outdoor heating needs, and happy to discuss the best options for your home and landscape. Reach out by email, or give us a call at 603-707-0630.

Permeable Power: Benefits of Permeable Paving

Landscape Design

The pathways, patios, and driveways around our landscaped yards and gardens are often semi-neglected strips of land that deserve their own care and attention to detail. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that there are more eco-friendly options available today which not only improve the visual aesthetic, comfort, and safety of these passageways, but can also be beneficial to the environment.

Simply defined, permeable paving is the setting of porous paving stones in sand and gravel, and adjusting the size of the gaps between to allow for water to drain into a crushed stone base below. Permeable paving has been used for roads and paths for thousands of years, but in the past century or so, has fallen out of favor due to the increased popularity and ease of laying down impervious coverings such as blacktop asphalt or concrete.

How are permeable pavers considered “green”?

Consider what happens when it rains on asphalt or concrete: The rain comes down, and water pools on the surface because they are impervious. Rainwater then makes its way to the edge of your lawn or out to the street, picking up any debris or chemicals along the way (like oil or drops of gas from vehicles, for example). This dirty water gets sent down the storm drain, and flows into lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and oceans.

Permeable pavers will act as a natural filter for this water. The water, instead of pooling on the surface of the paver and immediately running off, will instead make its way down through the crushed stone and sand layers. These sediment layers will both filter the water and slow down the rate of water going into the storm drains, alleviating the demand put on drains during heavy storms and lessening the chance of flooding.

You can up the “greenness” by installing a rainwater collection system beneath your pavers during installation, allowing you to capture this water for use in your yard or garden. There are also permeable paver stones made of recycled materials, that are eco-friendly.

Can permeable pavers make driveway or patio more comfortable or safer to walk on?

By installing more permeable materials in your hardscapes, you can absolutely make driveways, walkways, and entertainment spaces more comfortable and safer year-round.

Impermeable materials, such as blacktop or densely packed tiles, not only trap water but also heat. Have you ever tried to walk barefoot across a driveway in the summer? If you have, then you likely quickened your pace because the surface was so hot. During the winter, when the snow melts and the water freezes, it’s common to find icy patches on driveways and sidewalks, which can be dangerous for household members and guests.

However, because permeable pavers are porous and allow water to pass through them, they stay naturally cool in the summer, and safer to walk and drive on in the winter. The water drains from the surface and through the joints more quickly, and does not rest on top of the pavers themselves allowing for fewer icy patches and less safety hazards in your passageways.

Questions? Please ask!

We have years of experience in designing and installing permeable pavers, and would love to discuss your project and ideas with you. There are a wide variety of permeable paver styles available to complement your home and landscape. We will work closely with you to design and implement plan that best fits your space, design aesthetic, and budget. Contact us, or give us a call at 603.707.0630.

Additional Resources:

UNH Stormwater Porous Fact Sheet

UNH Stormwater Pervious Concrete Fact Sheet

Perched Beach Construction

Landscape Construction · Landscape Design

Adding a perched beach to your waterfront home expands your options for relaxation and entertainment as well as increases your property value. Installing a perched beach isn’t an easy task, but by getting guidance and following the State’s rules, you could be relaxing on your own private beach.

What exactly is a perched beach?

A perched beach is a sandy area that is at least 1 foot above the high-water line. It usually looks like a terraced area, with a retaining wall and steps leading from the water’s edge to the sandy area. These steps must stay 1 foot behind the high-water line. Perched beaches often need a back for supporting grade.

Love the idea, but not sure where to begin?

First, you’ll need a plan. There are many rules and regulations you’ll have to follow, so it’s best to work with someone who has experience in designing and installing perched beaches right from the beginning.

Then, you will need a Wetlands Permit from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NH DES). This permit will take at least 75 days for the State to review. It’s important to leave enough time for the process as the beach cannot be constructed without a permit.

What are some other considerations for the planning stage?

  • Your beach and other water access structures cannot be more than 20% of your shoreline frontage, so if you have 100 feet of contiguous shoreline, your beach can only be 20 feet wide, and this also depends on other existing features.
  • Be aware that you can’t build a perched beach on a slope that’s greater than 25%, calculated from the high-water line to the back of your proposed construction. However, your beach itself must be flat, and have no slope to it at all, which will minimize any runoff into the lake.
  • You’ll also want to locate your beach in an area that will impact the environment the least, where you will have to remove the least amount of vegetation, and where animals, birds, amphibians, etc. do not nest. Your beach cannot contact the water’s edge at all, and you can’t dredge the lake bottom and/or add sand to the lake for any reason.
  • Your plans must include ways to divert surface runoff around the beach to allow for sand erosion during storms.
  • Your perched beach must be 10 feet from property boundaries, unless you get permission from all effected abutters.
  • During construction, you can’t have any machinery in the water, and you can’t move any boulders along the shoreline, except to build the steps to your beach.
  • You can only use 10 cubic yards of sand on your beach, and it must be clean sand. You can only replenish this sand once every six years.

These are some of the basics to get you started with designing your own perched beach area; there’s a lot more to this process. For more information, you can contact the NH DES Wetlands Bureau by phone at (603) 271-2147, via email, or by mail at 29 Hazen Drive; P.O. Box 95, Concord, NH 03302-0095.

Let us help!

The team at Stephens Landscaping Professionals has experience in designing and installing perched beaches. Below are just a few pictures from some of the projects we’ve completed.

We’d love to help you create a beach that truly enhances your lakefront home. Reach out or give us a call at 603.707.0630.

If you’re interested in learning more about how a perched beach may improve your home’s value, contact our friends at Lake Life Realty, who will be happy to provide more information about what they have seen in their experiences around the lake.

Popular Design & Landscape Trends

Landscape Design

TAKING IT OUTSIDE

Warm weather has finally arrived in the Lakes Region and many of us are looking forward to spending more time outdoors.

While outside, you may realize your outdoor space needs refreshing, or even a complete renovation. Whether you have an established space that needs updating or you’re starting from scratch, there are many things you can do to make outdoor spaces comfortable, functional, and welcoming.

A MATTER OF SPACE

The first step is to consider what you want to do with the space—what do you want to use the outdoor space for? What will happen the most out there?

Outdoor spaces are often used as places of refuge, where people go to read and relax, and become one with nature; they can be great exercise spots or peaceful meditation gardens. One of the most common uses for outdoor areas is a play space for the whole family. There are many customizable play-sets available at differing price points, depending on age and interest levels. Larger areas could accommodate putting greens, bocce courts, or small disc golf courses.

Once you determine how you would like to use the space. With a little planning, you can make your deck, patio, or backyard an extension of your home. If you already have a deck, you can enlarge it on the same plane, or add levels. Adding on to a patio will give you more space to work with. A backyard redesign or upgrade will give you the most opportunities to create a space that will suit your needs.

Some people use outdoor spaces as an extension of their living room, and furnish it with rugs, décor, and comfortable furniture. Others use this space as an outdoor kitchen or entertaining area. Grilling areas can be expanded to include preparation, storage, and counter space, as well as dining. Larger cooking areas may even include pizza ovens or a bar and lounge area.

BUILT FEATURES

A popular and useful structure for any outdoor space is a pergola, pavilion, or gazebo. What once started as garden follies are now available in many configurations, materials, and price points. These structures offer additional opportunity to incorporate beautiful landscaping and plantings to increase natural beauty and add visual interest to your landscape.

In conjunction with garden structures, a fire pit is a great addition to any patio or back yard, perfect for relaxing at night, and making s’mores.

Another great addition to an outdoor space is the inclusion of a water feature. Some ideas include a fountain or koi pond; a pool, either above ground or built in; or a hot tub or spa.

Plantings play a big part in making your space the most inviting. We can work with you to develop a plan that will not only look good in your available space and accommodate your specific needs, but that will also make the most sense with our climate and growing season in the Lakes Region.

HOME BENEFITS

Thoughtfully designed outdoor areas can give you years of enjoyment, as well as increase the value of your home. Many people see an increase in their property values, as a return on investment for upgrades made to outdoor spaces. For more information about what a good outdoor space can do for the value of your home, contact our associates at Lake Life Realty.

WE CAN HELP

There are as many options as there are ideas for creating or refreshing outdoor living spaces. We have created some beautiful and functional outdoor spaces and would love to help with your plans. We’ll work closely with you to design a plan that best fits your space, design aesthetic, and budget. We’re excited to see what you have in mind. Contact us today!