On behalf of everyone at Watkins Concrete Block Company, our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19). We are living in a confusing time where the escalation of concern for the safety of our community has resulted in unprecedented decisions. Currently, we are not experiencing any Coronavirus related interruptions in our production capacity or product availability. Our focus at Watkins remains to provide quality products and exceptional service while maintaining the safest and healthiest environment for our employees, customers and vendors.
Our team of employees is adjusting work practices and monitoring the implications of the projected spread of the virus. During this rapidly evolving situation, we are responding in accordance with recommendations by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and our State and local health departments. Some of that response includes constant cleaning of surfaces and requiring employees to stay home that display any sign of illness. We are also implementing social distancing protocols such as limiting group sizes, limiting or canceling in-person meetings, remotely working from home, and limiting access for employees, customers and vendors to specific areas of our facility.
We ask for your patience and understanding as we attempt to do our part to minimize the spread of Coronavirus. As conditions and concern seem to change rapidly, we will continue to communicate any adjustments to our business operations that may affect you. As long as we feel that we can minimize the spread and contribute to the containment of this disease, then we will remain open for business. Thank you. Good luck and please stay safe.
Watkins Concrete Block Company recently hosted a Nebraska/Iowa American Society of Interior Designers (NE/IA ASID) team meeting and CEU event. Watkins is an NE/IA ASID Industry Sponsor. The CEU was a Nebraska Masonry Alliance presentation: Masonry; Rediscover the Possibilities! The presentation was both educational and inspiring and offered a glimpse of some local designer projects. There were approximately three dozen designers in attendance, which allowed Watkins an opportunity to introduce their staff and show off their indoor and outdoor showrooms. The event increased Watkins visibility and branding with the opportunity to engage with ASID members.
There’s an old saying that “bigger is better.” Although that’s quite often not true at all, in the contemporary world of outdoor living design, large scale pavers certainly are one of the hottest trends.
This phenomenon has a lot to do with the continuing evolution of what’s known in design circles as “indoor/outdoor living.” In layman’s terms, this design concept refers to outdoor living designs that are a continuation of the interior environment. For the last several years, popularity has continued to increase for larger tiles and wider wooden planks for interior flooring. Continuing this trend outdoors was a natural progression in creating designs that flow more easily from one environment to the other. And as demand for larger pavers continued to grow, a multitude of style options began to emerge.
Popular Paver Face Textures
Natural stone textures have been popular for the last several years — and continue to be so, particularly in certain regions — however, there’s a rising trend towards smoother faced pavers that offer crisp, clean lines. With the rise in porcelain pavers, there has also been an increase in woodgrain-textured pavers. This is reflective of a rise in the popularity of interior wood look porcelain tile — one of the hottest trends in interior flooring. This style offers the look of natural wood without any of the stain or maintenance worries, which is particularly beneficial in an outdoor environment.
Trends In Plank-Style Pavers
You guessed it…with an increase in woodgrain pavers, the plank shape naturally followed suit. In addition to porcelain styles, plank-style concrete pavers are also trending. With woodgrain porcelain pavers, wider planks are more popular, as they more closely mimic wooden decking and also reflect interior flooring trends. However, both wide and narrow planks are trending in the concrete styles, both in textured and smooth-face plank pavers. Plank shapes are also available in the Belgard’s versatile Moduline Series™, which offers an array of colors that allow designers to have some fun with their paver designs.
Large Scale Paver Shapes
It’s definitely hip to be square, and the larger the better. This can be seen in both slab-style pavers and numerous porcelain paver lines. Belgard regularly sees orders for sizes up to 24″ x 24″, with custom orders of porcelain pavers in even larger squares. However, large rectangles are also quite popular, which is more reflective of the current trends in interior flooring.
There’s no denying the fact that eclectic style is all the rage. For several years now, interior designers have experimented with creative use of mixed materials to fashion unique and visually-interesting interior designs. By artfully using a mix of wood, metal, multiple fabric textures and seemingly mismatched accessories from multiple periods, each room presents a one-of-a-kind personality to reflect that of the homeowner.
Now that the concept of outdoor living has evolved to become an extension of the home, it’s no surprise that illustrious designers and contractors are utilizing this same design principle with outdoor living installations. Eclectic style can be evoked outdoors by using a mixed palette of wood, concrete hardscapes, natural stone, porcelain, metal, fabrics and other materials. Here are some examples of stunning outdoor living spaces for inspiration.
Designer Fire Pit Patio
This artful fire pit patio utilizes an array of materials in the design. The primary paver field consists of an ashlar pattern of Urbana® Stone concrete pavers. The chiseled texture and modular pattern offer a stark contrast to the inlaid walkway and raised level, which uses an offset running bond pattern of Noon plank-style porcelain pavers to create the look of wood but with the durability of a paver. The landscape walls, seat wall, columns and fire pit were constructed with Weston® Stone wall block and trimmed with bullnose coping. The seat wall and columns were accented with the random flagstone look of Mega-Arbel® pavers. Natural stone and wood were used to add additional texture and help the design flow into the wooded background.
Old World Oasis
This textural design evokes the feel of a bygone era. The linear pattern and rough-hewn texture of the Highland Stone® landscape columns and seat walls provide a visually interesting contrast to the random flagstone look of Mega-Arbel® pavers. A reclaimed wood arbor, large pottery urns and lush tropical gardens add natural elements to add dimension and soften the overall look of the design. Geometric patterned throw pillows add visual interest and reinforce the “outdoor room” concept…
MoistureShield® composite decking provides a durable multi-level dock that can withstand the harsh riverside environment. The natural wood look of the composite decking is enhanced by the use of real wood for the arbor, benches and Adirondack chairs. A Dublin Cobble® paver landing adds an elegant touch that coordinates well with the Diamond® Stone Cut fire pit. Container gardens and metallic string lights add finishing eclectic touches to the design.
This lovely poolscape incorporates multiple colors and textures of natural stone and manufactured stone hardscapes. The pool deck is paved with two different color blends and layout patterns of Urbana® Stone pavers, creating sweeping curves that mimic the shape of the pool. The uniform modular paver pattern of the primary paver field is offset by the curved inlaid border as well as the random shapes of natural stone used in the rock gardens and slide base. The linear patterns of the Marina™ Coping, Creekside Wall and Bristol™ fireplace add additional textures to enhance the eclectic feel of the design and coordinating colors that visually tie the design together.
Cozy Contemporary Nook
Concrete, porcelain, wood, metal and fabrics work together to add an eclectic feel to this contemporary patio design. The patio is constructed with Belgard porcelain pavers in a contemporary large-format linear design. The metal-trimmed wooden wall, sun shade canopy and simple concrete bench add additional linear elements to reinforce the contemporary feel. Randomly shaped accessories and string lights soften the lines to add eclectic touches and pops of color, including the 2019 Pantone Color of the Year (“living coral”).
Gourmet Outdoor Kitchen & Living Room
This eclectic outdoor kitchen and living room space incorporates multiple styles and patterns of concrete hardscapes as well as natural stone, wood and metal. An area of textured and stained poured concrete breaks up the Mega-Arbel® paver patio to create the look of a curved rug for the sitting area, which reinforces the “outdoor room” concept. Weston® Stone retaining wall blocks were used to build out the outdoor kitchen so that it flows seamlessly with the bordering retaining wall, raised rock garden, Bristol™ outdoor fireplace and built-in planters. Mega-Arbel accents on the bar and fireplace coordinate with the patio pavers and help tie the design together. A wooden arbor, granite countertop and water feature provide additional touches of natural elements to enhance the design.
Cut from Nature
Randomly shaped natural stone boulders act as focal points for this eclectic fire pit patio design. Tandem® Wall was used to build out the fire pit and landscape walls, which extend out from the boulders to create a design that looks like it was cut from nature. The wall blocks and pavers used offer the look of various natural stones to enhance this effect. Multiple shapes, sizes, colors and laying patterns add to the eclectic feel. The Tandem Wall elements use a modular ashlar pattern and offer the look of hand-chiseled stone. Mega-Arbel® pavers create the look of randomly laid flagstone. Urbana® Stone pavers create linear borders with a cut stone appearance.
Mother Nature can be cruel. If you have chosen Belgard for your hardscape projects, you’ve already taken measures to increase resistance against weathering and corrosion. Still, seasonal hardscape maintenance is encouraged to preserve the beauty and integrity of your installation. Here are a few Spring paver care tips.
Clean your pavers each Spring with a coarse-bristle “stable” broom and a routine maintenance paver cleaner to keep them looking like new.
Some weeds, if left unaddressed, can shift pavers apart over time. Be sure to periodically apply a granular weed preventative between joints as a part of your paver maintenance routine.
Be careful when cleaning your Belgard pavers with power washers as they can remove the paver finish and expose the aggregate on the paver’s surface.
Before applying any paver cleaning solution to your hardscape, test a small inconspicuous area first to be sure you get the desired results.
Be sure to read and follow the directions printed on container labels for cleaning solution use, application, precautions and first aid. Always rinse the solution off thoroughly after use.
For tough stains, use a specialized cleaner to treat the specific stain. Techniseal offers specialty cleaners for organic stains (moss, mildew, dead leaves, blood, wine); greasy stains (motor oil, barbecue, oily foods); rust (caused by steel, rusty objects or fertilizer); and paint, tar or rubber (including gum). Each of these products are specifically formulated to clean pavers and masonry and should not affect the color or tone of your hardscapes. However, it is always a good idea to test a small area area first.
The joints between paving stones are the most vulnerable areas of any installation. Keep these joints topped off with jointing sand to prevent the sand-bedding layer below from deteriorating, causing the pavers to shift.
Every three years, apply a sealer to keep your pavers looking their best. Depending upon your preference, sealer options can offer a natural matte finish, a color-boosted matte finish, a clear semi-gloss look, or a wet-look gloss finish. Sealers should not be applied more than once in three years. Too many applications will create a film on the surface which may discolor in sunlight. You can easily test whether your pavers are ready to resealed by dripping some water on your pavers. If the water initially beads, your pavers are still protected. If the water immediately soaks in, it’s probably time.
For older pavers that have suffered from weathering and neglect, bring back the original shade of pavers or give them new color with NuLook Tinted Sealant, which is a semi-transparent semi-gloss sealer designed to rejuvenate faded pavers. NuLook comes in four different shades to bring new life to pavers or create interesting designs.
Whether you’re lighting an existing outdoor living area or planning a new one, here are a few ideas on how to light up your space.
This lovely outdoor living room uses lighting techniques inspired by nature. The focal light emanating from the fire is enhanced by votive candles and low-voltage hardscape lighting that’s built into the walls of the outdoor fireplace. In the surrounding landscape, ambient in-ground lighting reflects throughout the picturesque waterfall. Uplights used for the shrubbery and trees add an ethereal glow.
Fire can be used in a number of creative ways. This outdoor living room uses a European style fireplace and fire bowls that are all operated off of gas and can be turned on remotely. For additional fire elements, tiki torches are placed around the backyard to add a festive design element that coordinates with the “fire” design scheme.
This design incorporates a variety of antique brass light fixtures, including attractive pathway lights in the planter beds and coordinating low-voltage hardscape lighting along each wall.
Columns lights will both dress up a wall and provide additional lighting, as illustrated with the seat wall pictured below. This design also includes hardscape and overhead lighting in the bar area that allows for increased visibility behind the bar, without overpowering the fire pit area.
Strategic use of pathway lights adds both character and an element of safety for a walkway or patio. The color of the light fixtures selected below incorporates complementary tones to those in the pavers, creating a cohesive design.
In the poolscape below, low-voltage hardscape lighting was installed in a pattern that complements the sweeping arches throughout the design. To improve the safety, lights are installed on all steps and elevation changes, in addition to the seat walls. All lights in the hardscaped areas face downward, with upward lights facing the trees. The combination creates a subdued and cozy atmosphere.
String lighting can be a festive way to add additional lighting and comes in a variety of styles to complement a wide range of design schemes. The outdoor pavilion below incorporates simple string lighting that creates a festive atmosphere without detracting from the richness of the rustic design elements. Additional lighting comes from pendants, sconces and hardscape lighting.
When planning a paver project, it’s important to know that not all pavers are equal. When comparing concrete pavers versus brick pavers, it’s particularly essential to understand the differences between the two, and the multiple benefits of choosing concrete pavers over traditional clay brick.
Paver Sizes & Shapes
Concrete pavers come in a tremendous variety of shapes and sizes –- from small 4″x8″ and 6″x6″ all that way up to 24” slabs, as well as irregular and plank shapes. Clay brick pavers typically only come in 4″x8″ sizes.
Paver Finishes & Styles
While brick pavers all have a similar face, concrete pavers are available in an endless array of finishes — including smooth finishes, natural stone textures, cobbled looks, antique tumbled looks and more. Most concrete paver finishes incorporate blends of colors, and many have unique faces created with specialized aggregates.
Clay brick pavers are typically only available in a limited number of shades or color blends. However, concrete pavers are available in a wide array of hues and color blends — including warm color tones, cool color tones, deep shades, and variegated color blends. This allows for greater design flexibility and the ability to create more coordinated outdoor designs. Unlike most brick pavers, some concrete pavers also have built-in protectants to help prevent the color from fading over time.
Consistent Paver Sizes
Concrete pavers are made in a highly controlled environment, allowing for more uniformed and consistent shapes and sizes within a particular style. This allows for more efficient installation. Brick pavers can often be warped as part of the firing process, which can make installation more challenging.
Coordinating Design Elements
Concrete pavers are often designed to specifically coordinate with adjacent vertical products — such as retaining walls, outdoor kitchen and fireplace kits and fire pit kits — in terms of style, texture and color. This makes it easier to plan coordinated outdoor living spaces. Although clay bricks can be used to construct vertical design elements, doing so is a longer, more complex masonry process.
Paver Design Flexibility
With brick pavers, designs are limited to running bond, herringbone and basket-weave paver laying patterns. However, with concrete pavers, the design options are endless. You can mix and match various shapes, sizes, finishes and colors to create unique outdoor living designs.
Clay is fairly unpredictable, and some clay bricks are prone to cracking in freeze/thaw environments. Belgard concrete pavers are manufactured to handle extreme weather conditions and come with a lifetime transferable warranty against cracking or breaking.
Just because the temperature has dropped doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the outdoors. There are a number of decorative ways to keep your outdoor spaces livable during the winter months that add both ambiance and warmth.
Fire pits are currently one of the top must-haves in outdoor living, and with good reason. They easily fit into any outdoor living design and provide a spot for groups of any age to gather and enjoy the outdoors. Whether roasting hot dogs or s’mores, sharing a bottle of wine, or just having a cup of hot cocoa, everyone loves sitting around the fire pit.
Outdoor fireplaces make a dramatic statement and become the focal point of your outdoor living design. Not only will it add physical warmth to your outdoor living space, it will become the favorite spot for enjoying a glass of wine or an intimate conversation. When designing your outdoor living space, remember that gas fireplaces can be placed just about anywhere, but a wood-burning version will likely need to be 10 or more feet from any structure.
Adding retractable solar shades to a porch will not only provide protection from the glaring sun in summer months, they can also help keep you warm in the winter by blocking the wind and helping to hold in any ambient warmth created by area heaters.
Comfy throws not only add a cozy look to your outdoor space, they provide that extra layer that some folks need to keep warm. Decorative outdoor bins can be a good place to store throws; however, you may want to choose an easy-to-carry basket that can be stored indoors when not in use, which will keep your throws free of unwanted critters.
The need to maintain real human connections in the digital age has greatly influenced the design elements of the outdoor living movement. A simple patio with weatherproof chairs and portable grill just won’t do the trick anymore. People want a comfortable spot to connect with family and friends that replicates, and in many cases exceeds, the comfort of their indoor gathering spots. With that in mind, here are some of the prevailing trends that can be expected to continue to gain popularity in the coming year.
Contemporary Outdoor Design
Current outdoor living spaces are definitely following the interior design trend toward the clean lines of contemporary design. People normally associate modular-shaped pavers with contemporary design, but that isn’t necessarily true. The textures and colors used can also sway a look towards a more contemporary feel. Although modular-shaped pavers are expected to continue to rise in popularity, expect to see an increase in smoother textures in various styles of pavers. The contemporary trend also leans towards monochromatic color schemes with pops of color.
Pantone Color of the Year
Each year, the Pantone® Color Institute declares an official Color of the Year, which influences many of the design trends. The company recently announced “Living Coral” as the 2019 Color of the Year. This color can be incorporated into outdoor living design in a number of ways. Some pavers have hues of coral incorporated into the color blend. There are also many paver styles with complementary colors that can work well in conjunction with Living Coral. Living Coral can also be used as an accent color for pillows, umbrellas and decorative accessories.
Entanglement with Nature
One of the hottest up-and-coming trends is to “entangle” hardscape installations with the surrounding landscape. This can be done in several ways. Pavers can be entangled with adjacent grass or gardens in a “fade away” effect. This effect is even more dramatic when used with plank-style pavers. Another, more formal application of this idea is to use porcelain pavers spaced out with strips of grass to create a checkerboard or stepping stone pattern.
Natural Textured Walls
More and more homeowners are requesting retaining and free standing walls that have natural stone textures. Trending styles include walls that offer the look of tumbled stone or chiseled stone. Homeowners are also increasingly drawn to wall installation patterns with clean, contemporary lines.
Gray and “Greige” Tones
From light gray to charcoal, gray tones continue to dominate current hardscape trends. However, an up-and-coming trend is starting to lean back toward warmer tones. This transitionary color phase is coined “greige”… a blending of grey and beige tones. Homeowners across the country are currently looking for these muted gray/tan color blends in hardscapes for their ability to work well with both warm and cool design palettes.
Blurring Transitions from Inside to Outside
One of the biggest trends in new home and remodeling is the blurring of the line between the indoor and outdoor. This involves much more than windows and patio doors. Fully folding walls and screens are being installed that allow spaces such as a family room to open and create a seamless transition into the outdoor space. Or, a standard kitchen can become an outdoor one in warmer months with the flip of a switch.
Linear and Large Format Pavers
The trend toward larger and more linear pavers continues to grow at a rapid pace. Not only are consumers looking for clean, modular textures, they are leaning toward plank-style pavers, and very large format slab pavers.
Formal Water Features
People love the soothing sound of running water, and the trend of incorporating formal water features into outdoor designs is growing at an exponential rate. With our busy lifestyles, however, consumers also want a water feature that is simple to take care of — adding beauty, ambiance and value to the outdoor living space without additional maintenance time and cost.
Outdoor Lighting Trends
The vast majority of time spent in most outdoor spaces is in the evening and on weekends. Because of this, outdoor living trends are moving towards well-designed built-in lighting systems. With today’s LED technology and smart phone apps, installing an automated lighting system has never been easier. However, this type of system is not very easy to retrofit after-the-fact and is more common in new construction. For existing outdoor living spaces, expect to see a continued increase in landscape lighting and durable string light options, like commercial grade Edison-style LED string lights.