Decks and Docks: What is Best for You?

Landscape Construction · Landscape Design

Adding a deck to your property is a great way to maximize your outdoor living space. If you live beside a body of water, you’ll probably want to a dock so you can moor your boat, jet ski, or other watercraft. Or, perhaps the deck or dock you already have is beginning to show its age and needs to be repaired or replaced. What kind of deck or dock should you build,  and which material should you choose? In this blog, we’ll run down the differences in these materials to help you make an informed choice for what’s best for you and your property.


Wood has been the chosen building material for both decks and docks for many years. People often prefer the classic look of well-maintained decks and docks. A wooden deck or dock that’s cared for has a life expectancy of about 20 years.

Things to remember if you are thinking about using wood in your build is that wood must be re-stained every couple of years and resealed every year or so. Eventually, wood will rot, warp, and accumulate some insect damage over the years. Wood is also subject to splintering as it dries, so that is a consideration if you or your kids and grandkids like to go barefoot in the summer.

You could use a hardwood instead of pressure treated lumber for your deck or dock. These woods are more resistant to rot, mold, and algae. Ipe wood, for example, is more durable and has a longer lifespan than softer woods like pine or cedar (50-75 years as opposed to 20 years).

However, these kinds of woods are more expensive and decks and docks made from these kinds of hardwoods must be cleaned and oiled regularly (ideally once a year) to keep their beautiful graining, or they will fade quickly and lose their color. Make sure to use oils that reduce slipperiness.


Composite decking materials are made up of a sustainable variety of recycled substances, usually a mix of natural and synthetic materials like wood fiber, plastics, and other additives such as fiberglass or polyethylene. Composite boards are made to look like wood, and are produced in standard timber widths and lengths. These boards are available a variety of colors and wood grain patterns.

These composite decking/dock materials are easy to maintain and do not ever need to be painted, sealed, or stained; just give them a power wash occasionally, and they will look like new. Composite boards will not splinter, rot, or be eaten by insects, and are good at withstanding stains. They are built to have UV resistance, so fading is diminished. A composite deck/dock will last about 50 years.

Composite deck materials are a bit pricier than wood, but as lumber prices have increased, the gap between the pricing of wood and composite is getting smaller.

Composite for Docks

If you are considering composite decking for your dock, you should check out composite boards made specifically for marine environments.

There are companies who manufacture composite planks especially for wet environments like docks and marinas, and whose materials can be used over and underwater without fear of damage from warping, rotting, or swelling. These boards offer virtually no water absorption and will not be damaged by insects. Boards stay cool on hot days and are slip resistant to add more safety around the water. (These boards would be great to use around a pool, too!)

These are our top materials from which to choose when building or repairing your deck or dock. Which one would work best for your property depends on your needs, installation environment, budget, and how much maintenance and upkeep would be necessary to keep your deck or dock in the best shape.

We’ve helped homeowners decide, design, and build decks and docks to make the most of their outdoor spaces for increased property value and enjoyment. We’d love to help you with what’s the right choice for your property and lifestyle. Please call us at 603.707.0630 or email us to get started.

Extending Your Time Outdoors

Landscape Construction · Landscape Lighting

Winter is gone, and spring is finally here. The days are getting warmer and longer, and you may find yourself wanting to spend more time outside. If you’re looking for a way to enhance your outdoor living space and add value to your property, you might want to consider adding a pavilion.

What Is a Pavilion?

A pavilion is an outdoor structure with a roof that is typically open on all sides and supported by columns or posts. They are customarily placed on top of existing patios or decks. Pavilions are designed to provide shade from the sun and offer protection from rain for the seating or patios and decks below them. They’re incredibly useful spaces and since they offer protection from weather, they are a great place for a fireplace or outdoor kitchen. Pavilions can be built in a wide range of designs, styles, and sizes.

Why Add a Pavilion?

Think of a pavilion as an extension of your home; it’s an extra outdoor room, which can be used for a variety of purposes depending on your lifestyle and preferences, such as:

  • Outdoor entertaining: A pavilion can provide a space for outdoor entertaining and hosting gatherings. It can be designed to house an outdoor kitchen, bar, grill, and pizza oven. Add tables and chairs to create an outdoor dining room.
  • Relaxation and recreation: A lounge area with comfortable furniture can offer a peaceful retreat for relaxation and recreation, such as reading a book, a space for meditation or practicing yoga, or playing games with family and friends. Pavilions make great spaces for outdoor pool, poker, or other gaming tables.
  • Protection from the elements: A pavilion offers shade and protection from the sun, wind, and rain, allowing you to enjoy the outdoor space even in less-than-ideal weather conditions. A pavilion can also be used as a protective roof over a hot tub or spa and makes a great place for a fireplace.
  • Aesthetic appeal: Pavilions can be designed to complement the architectural style of your home and add visual interest to the surrounding landscape. They can be situated to showcase beautiful views or landscaping features, as well as add privacy.
  • Increased property value: Building a pavilion can add value to your property, as it provides an additional living space and can enhance the overall appeal of the landscape.

Designing Your Pavilion

You’ll want your pavilion to tie in with your landscaping and add to your home’s overall aesthetic. There are many pavilion designs and styles from which to choose. Some common pavilion designs include:

  • Square or rectangular is the most common shape and features a shingled or metal roof and four or six posts.
  • A double tiered roof has become popular and adds nice visual interest to a patio or deck.
  • A hex bell roof pavilion is an elegant style, recalling the old bandstands on the town commons.
  • The open gabled look has exposed beams and high arches and has a log cabin look.
  • A rough-cut cedar style pavilion is similar to the open gabled look and is also reminiscent of a log cabin.

With a range of designs and styles available, pavilions can be customized to fit your specific needs and preferences and enhance your enjoyment of the outdoors, making them a versatile and functional addition to any property.

We have a full design and build team and would love to help you explore the benefits of adding a pavilion to your property. We’re here to help you create the right design for your landscape and lifestyle. Please call us at 603.707.0630 or email us to get started.

Childhood Fun in the Great Outdoors

Landscape Construction

The allure of a treehouse speaks to the child in all of us. Perhaps you had one in your yard growing up, or you coveted a friend or neighbor’s. It was likely made from plywood and timbers left over from a project, but in your mind, it was the best structure in the world. And maybe you had one of those play sets with two swings with plastic seats, and a metal slide that got really hot in the summer, but that never stopped you from playing on it all the time.

While those treehouses and basic play equipment still exist, the options for treehouses and other play structures have gotten more diverse and luxurious. If you want to add a bit of fun on your property for your kids, grandkids, or maybe even yourself, an upscale treehouse, play structure or both may be just what you are looking for.

Up in the Treetops

A basic treehouse is a platform built on a tree trunk, accessed by a ladder. After that, the rest is up to your imagination—treehouses can be as simple or as extravagant as you desire. Treehouses have always been a favorite place for children to escape, explore, and dream, and now many adults are finding treehouses to be the perfect location for private retreats, yoga studios, and even office spaces.

Treehouses can be one room structures built on a platform and have four walls and a ceiling. You can add a second room, a second story, or multiple entrances and ladders. Adding a porch or a balcony will give you more space and make it more decorative.

Plan Your Adventure or Retreat

There are plans available online for more elaborate treehouses intended to look like mini homes; there are even tree homes that can be designed to complement or even mimic your home’s design or aesthetic.

If you are building a treehouse for your children, you might want a design that’s made with a bit of whimsy, like a medieval castle built for a prince or princess, a fortress perfect for knights to storm and defend, or boats to sail on the seven seas or the mighty lakes.

If you are building a treehouse for an adult getaway space, consider a design that best suits your purpose. A yoga studio will need many windows to best capture light and the beauty of literally being in the middle of nature. A place to relax and unwind, like a “she shed”, may need to face away from the house, toward the lake or scenic view. If you plan to use this as extra office space, you may decide on fewer windows for fewer distractions and privacy. Or you may design your treehouse as an extension of your personal style or hobby; treehouses that look like a log cabin or a pagoda are popular.

Fitting It In

We’ve seen some treehouses that make use of more than one tree for support, so you can create a little “tree village” that is connected by gangplanks and rope walkways. Don’t worry if your trees are not mature enough to support a tree house or two; tree houses can also be built on poles; all that matters is that they are made to be structurally sound to keep your family safe.

Whatever the purpose or design you are going for with your treehouse, it’s best to check with your local authorities if you need any permits to build, especially if your tree house will have electricity or running water.

Play Sets

Today’s play sets have come a long way from the metal slide, and plastic swing sets many of us remember from our childhoods. Built from various materials, today’s play sets are fully customizable and can be designed to grow as your children do, and many are ADA-compliant as well. You can start with a basic set that’s perfect for toddlers and add on elements as they grow, making sure they keep interested and active.

Kitting out play sets doesn’t have to only include just swings; many are multiple levels and can consist of a playhouse or fort built on a second story, a slide, a climbing wall, ladders, and swings. Some may have platforms and balconies where kids can play lookout and monkey bars to make their way from one section to another. Some have picnic tables built in and can include activity and learning panels to create fun and educational memories.

Where the Play Happens

When deciding where to put your play set, keep a couple of things in mind:

  • Keep it close enough to the house where you can keep an eye on the kids while they are playing, but far enough away from the house to make sure they can play safely. You don’t want them falling off and into any walls, for example. (And a bit away from the house will give you a break from the sound as well.)
  • Make sure there’s enough room all around the play set for the kids to comfortably play. You want them to be able to run around and not be hindered by trees, fences, etc. This is especially true if your play set has swings.
  • Be mindful of your neighbors. You don’t want to put your play set close to your property line, as kids will be making a lot of noise while playing for hours on this play set.
  • If you are considering adding onto your play set in the future, going from a toddler set to older children, for example, make sure you have room for future equipment or structure expansion.
  • Make sure the area you have chosen for your play set is relatively flat. If not, make sure to have it flattened before it’s installed.
  • You might want to consider putting down a soft surface under the play set, like play mats or rubber mulch.

We love helping homeowners add treehouses as well as different kinds of play structures to their properties, and we’d love to collaborate with you to design the plans of your dreams. Please call us at 603.707.0630 or email us to get started.

Soaking Up Winter

Landscape Design

While winters can be rough in New England, there are ways to enjoy being outside while staying warm. One of the best ways to do this is to soak and relax in a hot tub or spa.

Installing a hot tub or spa is a great way to get more use out of your outdoor space, and with a little bit of planning, it can add both year-round usefulness and a beautiful point of interest into your landscape. Soaking in a hot tub or spa is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, as well as entertain guests and have enjoyable and memorable family time.

What’s the Difference?

While in the United States, we tend to use the terms “Spa” and “Hot Tub” interchangeably, they actually are different.

  • Spas are usually built-in structures that provide some type of water therapy treatment. Modern spas have molded seating and jets. Around the world, heated pools have been used as spas for generations.
  • Hot tubs are used mostly for fun and relaxation. They also have jets, bubblers, and their own heating and controls. They may have other extra features as well. Hot tubs are usually portable and can be placed on decks and in back yards.

Where Does it Go?

Adding a hot tub or spa to your property does require some planning. They can be built directly into a landscape or installed above ground, but either way you’ll likely want to position in a way that allows for privacy. You should consider placing it where you’ll also have a great view. The view could be out over your property, across a water feature, or offering a clear view of the open sky. Since you’ll also be using the hot tub or spa during the winter, place it where it’s out of the wind. You can locate your spa or hot tub under a pergola, on its own patio near an entry door, or incorporate into part of a deck.

Above ground hot tub and spa options are popular and more budget-friendly than built ins, although they can be designed in a way that makes them feel built it and incorporated into an outdoor space.

If you are thinking of putting your hot tub or spa directly on your deck, you’ll need to consider the weight of the unit, as well as the added water; your deck may need to be reinforced. One option you may consider is to cut your deck and recess the tub, so the top is level with the deck’s surface. This will give you a built-in look, and if you ever remove the tub, you just have to replace the deck boards.

There are various different sizes, shapes, and design options to best fit with your surrounding landscape, making it most functional and inviting within the outdoor space.

The hot tub or spa will need to be close to your house because you’ll want a short walking distance back to warmth when the weather is cold. It can also be surrounded with electric heat so that accessing it during the winter months becomes easier and more comfortable.

Your tub will need to be near a water source, for easy filling as well as near an electrical outlet for a source of power. You need to be able to drain the tub for regular cleaning as well, so make sure to consider where the drained water will go.

Fit a Tub to Your Space and Lifestyle

Hot tubs and spas come in a variety of shapes, like triangular to fit into corners, rectangular or oblong for large spaces, and round for smaller spaces. Hot tubs and spas can fit one or two people, or as many as six or eight; it all depends on your plans and the space you have available.

They can be customized to enhance the design of your outdoor space, or your desired experience. Since the interiors are molded, there is a variety of color options from which to choose: Whites and silvers invoke a feeling of tranquility; tans and beiges will give you a sandy, beachy feeling; and blues and turquoises will remind you of Caribbean waters.

LED lights can create a mood and are changeable, and audio speakers can add to the overall ambiance.

Adding a hot tub or spa will add another way to enjoy your outdoor spaces, and spend more time outside in the winter. We’ve helped many homeowners add both built-in spas and above ground hot tubs to their properties, and we’d love to help you add one to your own landscape. Please call us at 603.707.0630 or reach out over email to get started.

Falling in Love with Fire Features

Landscape Construction

Fall is arguably the most beautiful time of year in northern New England, and so it makes sense that many of us want to extend our time outside and enjoy the great weather, beautiful foliage, and cool nights that this season brings.

One way to add to the enjoyment of staying outdoors as the temperatures dip is to add a heating element to your outdoor spaces. You can add a decorative touch as well as a heating option by choosing a fireplace or fire pit. Both are wonderful additions to your outdoor areas and put out about the same amount of heat but have different things you should consider.

A Heated Focal Point

When you install a fireplace or fire pit on your property, it becomes a focal point of your landscape and a natural gathering spot that’s perfect for entertaining and socializing with family and friends. It’s a casual place to hang out and chat or unwind after a long day. It’s easy to sit around a fire and sip cocktails or roast marshmallows to make s’mores (or both!).

A fire element adds warm tones of light to your landscape and provides a good “wall” at the end of a patio or seating area, especially if you install a fireplace. A fire pit can help you create a new seating or conversation area if you want to break up a large expanse of lawn or use a previously unused/underused corner more efficiently. A more permanent fire element, like built-in fireplaces or fire pits, can increase your property value as well.


By matching or complementing existing masonry to your fireplace addition, you’ll extend your patio and entertainment space. You can opt for a wood-burning fireplace, or if you already have gas as a heating or cooking element in your house, it’s not difficult to have a gas line run outdoors for a fireplace. When installing an outdoor fireplace, just make sure to build one with a large enough chimney to be able to get a good draft for ventilation.


Sitting around a fire pit evokes almost the same feelings as gathering around a summer bonfire on the beach or a campfire in the woods. Usually circular or square in design, a fire pit allows people to gather around all sides. Fire pits can be portable or built into patios as a permanent fixture.

Fire pits have several options to fuel their fires. Wood is traditionally used in fire pits and provides a nice flame and heat. With open wood fire pits, wind is a consideration. When placed in a windy location, the smoke produced by traditional wood burning fire pits can shift onto you, your guests, or toward your house at times. Debris and dirt may be more visible, and you may need to drain rainwater from it often. With wood, you’ll need to have storage nearby to keep your wood dry.

Great Fire Pits

If you are warm to the idea of wood-burning fire pits, there are some smoke-free options. Two companies we recommend are:

  • Solo Stove: This portable firepit offers a great burn with almost no smoke. It’s designed to maximize airflow and has air vents placed in strategic areas. You may get a little smoke when lighting or putting out the fire, but that’s about it. The trick is to keep wood below the secondary air vent and not overfill it, then you’ll enjoy a great fire without being bothered by smoke.
    Their stainless-steel design fits well into any décor and allows for easy cleaning. They also offer a lifetime guarantee from any manufacturing defects. Solo Stove also makes a matching pizza oven.
  • Breeo fire pits are another company that offers smokeless, portable fire pits. Breeo’s pits come in several design, glass, and color options. You can even custom design your fire pit on their website, so it’s built to your own specifications. Breeo’s fire pits are smokeless due to raised air vents on the bottom of the pit, enabling oxygen to feed the fire regardless of ash build up. Their double-walled build allows hot air to enter from vents at the bottom and escape at holes in the rim at the top. This escaping air causes a secondary ignition of flames, burning off the rising smoke.

Breeo also offers accessories like fireside furniture and implements you can use to cook directly on the flames themselves. As with all fire pits and fireplaces, make sure to clean all debris, drippings, and food particles completely off before relighting the fire.

Other Fuels for Fire Pits

Propane and gas fire pits are other options for fueling fire pits if you don’t want to bother with wood. Both gas and propane fire pits have instant ignitions, so you don’t have to mess about getting a fire started. And both can be shut down instantly without waiting for flames to die down or embers to cool.

There are no sparks emitted from a gas or propane fireplace, so these types of fire pits can be a safer option. To avoid carbon monoxide build up, both gas and propane fire pits must be used in well-ventilated areas.

We’ve helped many homeowners add a fire and heating element to their landscapes and outdoor entertainment spaces, and we’d love to help you come up with ideas to incorporate a fireplace or fire pit into your property. Please call us at 603.707.0630 or email us to get started.