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Expert Advice

Owner and CEO, Kyle Staffa, answers your top questions about outdoor living and design projects. With one eye on what’s trending, and the other on developing a project that will stand up to a lifetime of use by your loved ones, here’s a peek at what kinds of advice you’ll get when you visit the showroom  to plan your new project.

What Are Common Curb Appeal Projects Homeowners Frequently Plan?

  • We are seeing all sorts. There are very extensive projects like paver driveways with intricate inlays, and more basic decorative stone driveways with bluestone curbing. Not only focused on the front of the house, but updating your backyard landscaping helps increase value as well.

  • Curb appeal is the first impression your home gives off as people arrive at your property. Having strong curb appeal separates your home from the others in the neighborhood. Many homeowners, whether they are planning to move or stay long term, are looking for new ways to boost their curb appeal.

  • One of the biggest ideas homeowners are working on is dressing up the foundations of their homes using veneer stone or brick. This is a timeless look to give the home a 3-dimensional approach. 

  • Folks are also going for raised flower beds using the Unilock estate wall system. This draws the eye to a new focal point. These walls look exceptional when you add in the outdoor landscape lighting.


What New Outdoor Trends For Poolscaping Are Homeowners Raving About?

  • When we move from the front yard landscaping to the backyard poolscaping there are many things to consider. What type of pool coping should I use? What pavers should I use that won’t get hot?


  • These are just the two most common we hear when walking homeowners around our display. Unilock is the only paver manufacturer that produces a solar reflect hard scape product. This helps keep the summer heat from burning the bottom of your feet. Many of the pools we see now are salt water so we also try to recommend a dense product that will not allow the salt to eat away at the coping and patio.

For spring, what can homeowners expect to find when they begin yard maintenance?

What are some things they will want to address?


  • The New Jersey winter months can be brutal for our lawns, plants, and even the hardscape areas.  As March starts to approach people will see tulips and crocus flowers budding.  The lawn will not start to green until mid-Spring.  Homeowners will want to look at their planting beds to see which areas need new mulch or even replenish the stone areas. 

  • We should also look at the hardscape area, whether its a driveway or even the back patio, to see if it needs to be sealed, to have new sand in the joints, or other basic maintenance. 


How do you find the right balance of hardscaping and landscaping in a particular space?


  • A well-balanced hardscape and landscape area starts with concept and design. You must have ideas of what your needs and wants are. For example, if you host dinner parties it is possible to have the complete kitchen and bar area in the backyard.  This helps keep the home cleaner by eliminating foot traffic inside.

  • These large types of sitting areas many times are finished off with big beautiful flower gardens.  These gardens become homes to the local hummingbirds and other song birds creating a nice space for you and the neighborhood birds.


What is the main mistake people make in the fall that leads to poor landscaping/hardscaping conditions over the winter?


  • As the leaves start to fall, many people forget to winterize their lawns or outdoor living areas.  In the late fall, many ornamental types of grass should be cut back as they turn dormant. Lawns can be overseeded, soil aerated, and fertilized for the final time.

  • If the homeowner has an outdoor kitchen it should be closed up so no moisture gets into the grill.  If there is a sink or dishwasher then all the water and drain lines should be emptied so they do not freeze.


Driveways can be one of the first things you notice about a home, why is it important to upkeep? 


  • The driveway can be a true statement piece at your home. What many people don’t understand is all driveways require some sort of maintenance. Asphalt requires seal coating every other year to keep it looking fresh. In the northeast concrete must have an expansion joint to account for the freeze/thaw factor. There is one major disadvantage with concrete and that is cracking and spalding. 

  • Having an eye-popping paver driveway can be as little or as much maintenance as you choose. You can seal them as you would asphalt, or you can choose an inline sealed paver. Unilock is making a few different pavers that are already pre-sealed. This means it prevents staining from your tires, motor oil and other organic materials eliminating the need for yearly maintenance.


When is the best time to start

considering landscape projects?


  • Wintertime is the best time to start thinking about your landscape projects. First off, if you have to hire a contractor or a designer you will want to get on the schedule sooner rather than later.

  • Secondly, many of the hardscape products are in good supply in winter, but as spring approaches these manufacturers have a hard time keeping up with the seasonal demand.


Where should a home owner begin

when planning an outdoor space?


  • When homeowners are looking to plan their outdoor-living oasis, the first step is to imagine yourself enjoying the newest “room” of your home. Then, ask yourself some questions:

    • Would you want to spend hours outdoors cooking?

    • Or would you prefer to have space just to lounge?

    • Is a pool, or a water feature high on your list?

    • Will you need shade?  


  • Remember to think about what you need now, and what you see happening with the space for the future.

  • Once you have a solid list of needs, it’s time to begin design. Major issues can be averted by using a professional designer who will take a comprehensive look into the layout of property. They will help you avoid drainage, property line, and various other issues that could arise.


What are some more tips

for planning an outdoor space?

  • A great hardscape/landscape starts with an idea.  That idea is then drawn onto a landscape design which is transformed into the outdoor oasis you have dreamed about. We are seeing homeowners and contractors maximize the space they are designing by using different levels to break it up.  

  • For example, by creating an elevated patio, it feels like you are separated from the rest of the yard, hence making the area appear larger than it is.

  • A kitchen area or bar area can be at a separate elevation again, creating the separation between sitting area and the cooking area.

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