Categories
Snow Removal

Residential Snow Removal Service – Understanding The Key Points

Snow Removal Series

Residential Snow Removal 

Understanding The Key Points of Service  

 

By Forever Green Landscape Construction & Design – Bergen County NJ

Why Residential Snow Removal?

Anyone who has lived in New Jersey for any relative point of time has come to know the severity that a New Jersey winter can bring. New Jersey nor’easters are famous for high winds, ice, and crippling amounts of snowfall. For obvious reasons commercial properties require professional snow service to remove and clean their snow. 

 

But why residential snow removal? There are a number of different reasons why homeowners aren’t able to clean their own snow. Some people have physical limitations along with health issues that prevent them from engaging in laborious work like snow removal. Others yet may be landlords to properties that occupy tenants where they have an obligation to clean the snow. Others yet have an obligation to help elderly family members that live alone are unable to help them

It’s common to find casual help or a friendly neighbor who will help clean the snow on smaller storms. Unfortunately the good samaritan who helps out in a 6” snow storm or the neighborhood handyman who clean up for a few bucks quickly find themselves in over their head when a heavy snowfall hits.

Many of these people begin calling and scrambling to fill the void of the snow removal help they no longer have. Worse yet, is that the same heavy snow storms leave them snowbound which is a potentially dangerous situation. 

Depending on Others

The Liability of Snow Removal as a Safety Issue

Heavy snow falls can greatly burden emergency services entry into a home such as Fire response and EMS. Equally a person who has to get out to see a doctor finds themselves snowbound with no quantifiable time of when the snow can be expected to be cleaned. This is a problem for anyone but exceptionally concerning for landlords who have a legal obligation to keep their properties safe.

 A landlord may find themselves with liability concerns due to any medical emergency suffered by a tenant who was prohibited from leaving their residence where the property was made inaccessible due to uncleaned snow and ice. 

 

The best practice in mitigating all these scenarios is to contract a reliable residential snow removal service who can provide services on a routine and regular basis. Proper snow removal service such as ours, are dialed into the weather and have their ear to the ground on weather conditions, thus preparing in advance before the snow even begins to fall.

Failure To Winterize a Snow Blower

It is common for the average homeowner to forget to winterize their snow blowers and test them in advance of an upcoming storm. Gasoline left in a snow blower from the previous season will almost always ensure a non-workable snow blower the first snowfall of the year. A proper snow service begins to look and prepare its equipment months in advance of the first snow fall. 

Many people often take to the streets at the culmination of a snow event only to find the heavy snow almost impossible to move and or their snow removal equipment ineffective against the massive accumulation. 

 

The proper practice, as carried out by an experienced snow removal service, is to clean the snowfall in succession through the storm making sure the property is never incapacitated. Whereby most homeowners are still snow bound by storms end, customers on a regular snow removal route are typically able to get in and out of the property with minimal effort. While others are digging out we are rounding in our final visits to tidy up the small accumulation left behind and apply ice melters where and when applicable.

Buyer Beware

Buyer beware. An attractive price to plow a driveway is a significant difference from a properly written and constructed snow removal contract. Many inexperienced companies jump into the snow removal business believing they will make their money in attractive prices and large volume and completely fail to identify what services will be rendered, when services will be needed, and how much the customer can expect to pay for the service rendered absent surprise pricing. These companies almost always bail on their customers given the first heavy snowfall. A proper snow contract should be comprised of a gradient increase in snow storm accumulation amounts as well as pricing for contingency operations such as loader service, ice breaking and pricing on applications of ice melter along with  what conditions under which services will be rendered.  

24-7 Customer Access

Finally, one of the more important aspects of snow removal is real time access to your service. No customer wants to guess or feel abandoned during a storm. It is our policy to provide our customers with our cell phone information and answer text messages inquiries on updates should a customer feel the need to have an estimated time of service. Companies who send customers to voicemail during a storm are creating bigger problems by leaving customers to worry, concern and sometimes panic over a snow removal event. 

Don’t get snow bound this winter! If you have a need for residential snow removal, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Categories
Pavers, Stone & Masonry

Porcelain Pavers -vs- Concrete Brick Pavers

Brick Paver Series

Porcelain Tile Versus Traditional Pavers – Which is Better? 

 

 

By Forever Green Landscape Construction & Design – Bergen County NJ

Porcelain Pavers - The Social Media Craze...

Like everyone else, we are witnessing an onslaught of exterior porcelain pavers ads on social media attempting to brand porcelain pavers as the next and final go-to product for walkways, patios, pool decks and even driveways. Many of our customers want to know: What is the low-down on porcelain tile? Is porcelain tile a better choice over traditional interlocking brick pavers as a hardscape feature in a landscape design? 

We have a degree of experience with installing porcelain tile both interior and exterior. We have exponential experience installing interlocking brick pavers. Porcelain tile is an excellent product for the interior of a home. It makes for beautiful floors and walls and there are an array of patterns that can provide a multitude of different looks. Porcelain tile on the exterior of a home is a different story and a bit more complicated. Below is our expert analysis on Porcelain Pavers versus traditional concrete brick interlocking pavers. 

Ananlysis on Porcelain Pavers

"Porcelain Pavers Are Manufactured for Exterior Use"

Porcelain Pavers- NJ Procelain Paver Contractor- Bergen, Essex,Hudson, Union, Morris, Passaic County

First off, many distributors are trying to portray and thus sell their porcelain tile as being specifically engineered for exterior use thus utilizing the term “porcelain pavers” versus “porcelain tile”. We find this claim completely absent credibility. It would sound believable until you realize that a large majority of these large-size porcelain pavers are imported. Like many other products a large majority are imported from China. In that respect, is it reasonable or even realistic to believe that Chinese porcelain tile manufactures engineered porcelain tile with American patios and driveways in mind? Or is it more likely and thus more believable to understand that porcelain tile is being purchased in bulk and being marketed and sold where applicable as “porcelain pavers” to compete in the brick paver market? 

Porcelain Pavers- NJ Procelain Paver Contractor- Bergen, Essex,Hudson, Union, Morris, Passaic County

In addition to China, porcelain tile is being imported from all over the world to include Turkey and Italy just to name a few countries. 

 There is no credible evidence to date that we have seen to suggest that anyone is manufacturing porcelain tile specifically for exterior use. That’s not to say it can’t be used outside and in exterior applications. The reality is that thicker porcelain tiles 3/4″ plus began to be used outside in exterior applications as a matter of happenstance versus being “engineered” for exterior applications. 

Porcelain Pavers- NJ Procelain Paver Contractor- Bergen, Essex,Hudson, Union, Morris, Passaic County

Distribution & Supply of Porcelain Pavers

The second issue we found with porcelain tile is in the distribution and availability in stock. Because this product is largely imported versus manufactured here, we find yet another disparity to contend with. When products are imported, they are purchased in bulk and sold until the product runs out. There is no guarantee of continuity of the product as they are not manufactured lines of product versus being purchased imports. Thus if you begin with a certain porcelain tile on one project, you may not be able to find that same stone in continuity for another project on the same home six months to a year later. It becomes a bit of a gamble. 

Additionally, in cases where the distributor is a middle-man to an importer, the distributor has no real way of knowing the extensive and critical information on the availability of their supply line other than what is being warehoused at any given time. That is a lot of uncertainty to deal with for the New Jersey landscape industry which maintains a very small window of time to complete a years worth of exterior home-improvement projects. 

What happens if one should one have to effectuate a repair? This becomes very difficult absent a brand name and a definitive and predictable supply line. 

Brick Paver Supply and Distribution

NJ Landscape Show_Cambridge Pavers_Belgard Pavers_Uniock Pavers_CST Pavers_ Keystone PaversPorcelain Pavers- NJ Procelain Paver Contractor- Bergen, Essex,Hudson, Union, Morris, Passaic County

Interlocking brick paver manufacturers are far more local to the industry than their porcelain paver counterparts who are more closely associated to the import-export industry of foreign made products. 

We have routinely seen the paver manufacturers at local trade shows to include the annual NJ Landscape show at the Meadowlands convention center. Any serious product line questions can be answered by the manufactures right then and there. The locality based factor of the interlocking brick paver industry adds quite a bit more transparency to their operations, supply lines and stock as well as predictable continuity to of their product lines. If you begin a driveway in one paver, chances are you can match that paver in color and context if not with the same exact paver (your choice) in a follow-up project the following year and quite possibly several years later. Yes at some point paver lines are discontinued but this time period is completely more stable than our experiences with porcelain tile. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cambridge Pavers Patio Installation Forever GReen Landscape Constrcution & Design - Cranford,NJ

Durability

PorcelainIn terms of durability, porcelain tiles are “for the most part” durable. We have seen and experienced a few issues, as common to all tile. Porcelain tiles are exponentially more prone to chipping than brick pavers. In some cases we have seen flaws in the durability of a porcelain tile finish. We have personally experienced (and caused) a failure in the finish of a porcelain tile from a high-pressure power wash application. Granted the pressure was very high and the same pressure perhaps could have caused a failure in a brick paver but none-the-less it is a vulnerability to be aware of.

Porcelain definitely requires a degree of delicacy in handling above brick pavers via its tendency to easily chip. Once placed however, we find porcelain has significant durability. However, we believe the jury is still out on a lot of the claims made on its lifetime durability since it its a new product to the exterior hardscape market. It’s one thing to promote the durability of porcelain as a paver laid at a hotel pool deck in Naples Florida. What happens to porcelain after the salt trucks lay down the third application of road salt following a typical New Jersey January nor’easter? It is really unknown at this point and the manufactures claims have to be taken with a grain of salt. 

Brick Pavers The durability of brick pavers at this point is a known quantity. Brick pavers are extremely durable and handling of them is exponentially less delicate. 

Brick pavers, once placed, are extremely durable. They have proven to be able to stand up to the New Jersey winters, road salt and heavy traffic. 

The brick paver durability limitation comes its ability to withstand facial degradation over the course of time. Early generation pavers have endured significant degradation with both loss of color and degradation of face. The facial integrity of many early generations of pavers wore away exposing the aggregate of small stones, making the appearance look less colorful and less appealing when first installed. This is something promised to be remedied by porcelain ( That remains to be seen). 

However new generations of pavers seems to have addressed this issue and show promise that pavers will have a more complete and sustained look over the course of their installation. 

Style & Design

NJ Landscape Show_Cambridge Pavers_Belgard Pavers_Uniock Pavers_CST Pavers_ Keystone PaversPorcelain Pavers- NJ Procelain Paver Contractor- Bergen, Essex,Hudson, Union, Morris, Passaic County

Porcelain: This is undoubtedly the strongest attribute. Coming from the tile industry, the possibilities of style and design are endless. 

Porcelain also provides a great opportunity to get back to a more natural and traditional mortar based look. Many porcelain patterns also closely resemble natural stone  which is truly a timeless look.  

Brick Pavers: This is an area where pavers will have a hard time competing. While the look and style of brick pavers have greatly improved and continue to improve, brick paver design is constrained by the manufacturing process. Until that changes porcelain will maintain a significant advantage in the category of design and style. 

Porcelain Placement & Installation

Blue Stone Porcelain Paver Walkway/Patio_Glen Ridge, NJ 07028 Essex County,NJ Porcelain Pavers_Contractor Install

Porcelain: The point and purpose of the term porcelain “paver” is to associate its use as a dry-laid product one and the same as a concrete brick paver. Tiles after-all are synonymous with mortar and the expectation of using tile is that they will be mortared into place. However this would severely limit their application in the NJ hardscape industry to companies who have good masonry skillsets. Thus porcelain pavers are offered as a true dry-laid product… but are they? 

There is nothing that prohibits porcelain from sitting atop a dry bed of stone dust leveling base apart from any other stone. However, the issue we found is in the containment system. 

Our custom masonry based containment systems we used for pavers ( Belgian block and bullnose pavers) do not match up well with porcelain. Porcelain having a more refined look badly clashes with these masonry products. As a result we feel the true and proper placement of porcelain is a mortar based application where the edges of the porcelain are the finished border and the porcelain is held in place by mortar. 

However this equally calls into question and limits where and how porcelain should be used. Using a mortar based system defeats the purpose of a paver as a dry-laid system to resist upheaval forces over a large surface area. 

Porcelain does boast a platform system where the tiles can be installed on top of a hard plastic elevation system. While this may be realistic for a Raddison hotel rooftop, it is a not feasible nor practical reality for a New Jersey residential application. 

Brick Pavers Placement & Installation

Elevated Patio_Composite Vinyl Railings_Circle Kit_Cambridge Pavers_Nutley, NJ 07028

Brick Pavers: Brick pavers have proven that they can be laid practically anywhere. Brick paver manufacturers provide a plastic containment system to hold the pavers in place in a true dry-laid application. While we were never a fan of the plastic containment system and never use it, the system does exist and can be utilized. 

,There is no need to lay brick pavers in mortar. Quite frankly, it would be a waste of time. It is a true dry-laid system that enjoys the benefits of resisting cracking and upheaval associated to mortar based systems. 

Brick pavers match very well with traditional masonry containment systems ( Belgian block, bullnose pavers and brick) where porcelain tile does not. 

While we are fully capable of wet-laying a masonry product in a mortar bed, many landscape design companies are not. This inequality in skills-sets may force poor outcomes with the installation of porcelain as a dry-laid product. Although similar skill-sets are required to lay brick pavers, companies can still choose to utilize a plastic border. No such border exists for Porcelain. Leaving any dry-laid product “uncontained” ensures it will separate and come apart. 

Findings

Porcelain: Porcelain shows a lot of promise as an exterior hardscape product. However the jury is still out on how this product will fair over time and what vulnerabilities, if any, will surface. 

Recommended Application: Wet- laid mortar based 

Recommended Usage Areas: Ideal for patios and light traffic walkways and small square footage surface areas. 

Non-Reccomended Usage: Driveways and large surface area projects. 

Best Attribute: Style & Design 

Worst Attribute: Unknowns concerning long term use as a hardscape product/ no compatible containment systems 

Brick Pavers: Brick pavers are a locally produced and distributed known quantity that has provided a predictable working knowledge of what can be expected of them over time and how they can be utilized.

Recommended Application: Dry Laid. 

Recommended Usage: Driveways, Heavy Traffic Walkways, Large Square Footage Surface Areas, Small Square Footage Surface Areas.

Non-Recommended Usage: None

Best Attribute: Versatility in usage areas and predictability as a known quantity

Worst Attribute: Style and design limitations, potential for degradation of product’s look and  texture. 

Categories
Composite & Wood Decks

NJ Building & Zoning Permits

Building & Zoning Permits Series

Do I Need a Permit to Install a Fence in NJ?

Understanding the difference between a building permit and a zoning permit, what it means to your project and how to obtain one….

 

By Forever Green Landscape Construction & Design – Bergen County NJ

Fences & Permits in NJ

We are often asked by customers; “Do I need a building permit to put up a fence in NJ?”. The answer is no for a building permit.The installation of a fence does not require a building permit under the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code. However a fence installation will almost always fall under your town’s zoning laws thus requiring a “zoning permit”

6' Solid Privacy Grey Lyndhurst,NJ 07071
6' Solid Privacy Fence Secaucus,NJ 07094

What is the difference between a building permit and a zoning permit?

A building permit incorporates the relationship between the contractor and the state of New Jersey as administered by each individual municipal construction code office. A building permit represents parameters under which a structure must be constructed. If a contractor fails to construct a structure by specifications listed in the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code, they will fail inspection. Only those structures that are constructed to proper specification will pass inspection. 

In most cases homeowners can pull their own building permit even if they are utilizing a registered or licensed contractor. They simply become responsible for the inspection and finished product in lieu of the contractor. 

A zoning permit however, has to do with the relationship between the town and the homeowner. In the case of a zoning permit the town decides what the homeowner can and cannot build, construct or install in relations to established zoning laws.

6' Wood fence Board on Board Maywood, Nj 07607
6' Solid Privacy White Vinyl Fence w Landscaping_Contractor Install_ East Rutherford, NJ 07073

 It is always best and recommended that homeowners pull their own zoning permits. Towns who decide unfavorably and or unreasonably against common home improvement projects such as fencing are forced to explain their findings to the tax payer. Our contracts are written upon the premise that the homeowner has satisfactorily obtained zoning approval for their respective project.

 Some zoning permit denials are reasonable and sensible and fall into the towns legitimate interest to prohibit. No one wants to see a neighbor with a 6’ solid privacy fence on their front lawn leaving their house to look like a fortress disrupting the look and feel of the block and neighborhood. That’s fair.

6' Solid Privacy Khaki North Arlington, NJ 07031

There is a legitimate purpose to zoning laws. However, we have seen many zoning permit denials that aren’t sensible and don’t seem to support any rational goal or interest of the town. This is particularly true where a side of homeowners yard abuts a busy street. Absent a solid privacy fence the yard is a fishbowl to onlooking traffic and severely lacks privacy where one would expect it. Despite this fact, some town zoning laws indicate that a solid privacy fence can only begin at the rear of the house thus any deviation would require a variance. IN a case like that the homeowners side yard, which realistically serves as their backyard is devoid of privacy via a bad read or application of zoning law.There are many interpretations of that and each scenario is contingent upon each individual municipal construction office and whether or not they have a favorable or unfavorable read to the zoning law. 

- Installed by Forever Green Landsape Construction & Design

How do I fill out a zoning permit?

An application for zoning permit is usually a very easy lift. It typically requires knowing the block and lot number of the house which can be found on a tax statement along with a copy of the property survey. Most towns will typically ask the applicant to mark where on the survey their project is being proposed. 

In the case of a fence install you can mark out the fence using a solid line while utilizing squares for the corners. It is beneficial to indicate key measurements on the survey such as the distance from a structure, like a garage, or the distance from the neighbor’s property line. You will also want to differentiate on the survey the different heights of fence ( if there are any) and where the heights begin and end. This is important as it directly correlates to the zoning law.

While not required it is also helpful to bring in pictures of the areas along with pictures of the materials being proposed to be installed.  It is a great idea to “superimpose” a sketch-up of the work over the picture to illustrate your proposed project leaving no doubts to the zoning official, the parameters of the project you are seeking approval for.

Failure to apply for a zoning permit may give grounds to the zoning official to request the structures removal. This could lead to unnecessary court appearances and potential litigation.

6' Solid Privacy White Vinyl Fence w Landscaping_Contractor Install_ Kearny,NJ 07032
4' Scalloped Picket Clifton, NJ 07013

What if my zoning permit gets denied?

As with any legal matter there is always an appellate review process. Homeowners should always ask beforehand what the appellate process is and where it can be found. If you are denied for valid reasons you can seek a variance, which is a concerted effort to gain a consensus between people who would be affected by the abatement of the zoning law and yourself, along with the town who would overhear the matter. There is no guarantee the variance will be granted but in many cases it is worth the effort.

Scalloped Picket_Clifton, NJ 07011

Typical Legal Recourse

Defective on Face – a facial argument means that the law as written is improper or even unconstitutional as it seeks to regulate or restrict an action that is legally unsupported or legally defective. 

As Applied – an “as applied” argument indicates that the law on its face is valid but it is being misapplied for a number of different reasons. Perhaps the property doesn’t qualify to the property stated in the law or the restrictions do not apply to the type of fence but rather only to masonry walls. In a case like that the law would be improper, unconstitutional or defective “as applied”.

Categories
Garage Repair Renovation & Remodeling

Garage Repair and Renovation

Garage Repairs & Renovation Series

Garage Repair & Renovation 

Understanding Why Garages Fail and How They Can Be Repaired 

 

By Forever Green Landscape Construction & Design – Bergen County NJ

Why garages sink, collapse and leak water

Many New Jersey detached garages were built prior to the standard use of cinder blocks. These garages have experienced significant degradation of their sill plates which have been been eaten away by termites. The contact of the wooden sill plate to the ground allowed for a buildup of water and saturation which was absorbed into the wooden sill plates. Termites fully capitalize on wet wood and wood sill plates are no exception. 

Rather than cinder blocks, early New Jersey garages were constructed by using treated wood as “sill plates” which served as the contact point between the poured concrete and the framing upon which the garage sits. As a result of the wooden sill plates close proximity to the ground they come into constant contact with water leaving them continuously saturated.

Saturated wood sill plates in close proximity to the ground make up the ideal scenario for termites which are sub-terrainian wood-boring insects that feed on the chemical makeup of wood cellulose for survival. This is one of the reasons why we refrain from the use of wood as an exterior building material and in most cases suggest patios versus decks. (Read our article on Decks -vs- Patios)

Signs of Termite Damage

  • The visualization of termites which are spec- like white or translucent (semi clear) insects which resemble oval dots
  • The sagging or sinking of wood frame support members
  • The evidence of tunneling or channeling inside wood
  • The papering or easy punch through or compromise of wood
  • Evidence of exterior mud tunnels which resemble mud veins extending from the ground to the wooden structure (not always visible).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Forever GReen Landscape Constrcution & Design - Demolition Photo

How to check for termite damage

  • Using a flat-head screw driver, stab at the suspected areas and or any main wood support structures  in close proximity to the ground or wood which is expected to harbor termites
  • Start with the wood sill plates and work up and around to contacting wood supports within 6-12” of the wood sill plates.
  • For areas not within reach, cut an arms length piece of 1/2” copper tubing sharpened to a point, using it in the same fashion as a flat- head screw driver
  • Call Us to evaluate your garage for termite damage. 

Forever Green Landscape Construction & Design – Before Photo 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In our experience, it is quite common for New Jersey garages to have experienced significant degradation of their wood sill plates caused by termite damage. 

The degradation of garage sill plates via termites results in devastating damage to the garage structure.

In advanced cases this will result in the garage roof leaking, sagging of the supporting walls and potential collapse of the garage itself. 

Sadly, many NJ detached garages are all but unusable to the homeowner as these garages are often infiltrated the same by rain, mildew and inescapable dampness via the compromise of their structural integrity. 

How To Eradicate Termites

  • The first step in eradicating termites is the removal of termite infested wood. In the case of a New Jersey garage this is typically the sill plates. However removing one set of wood sill plates for another is, in many cases, simply providing fresh wood for a termite colony to feed on. The proper solution is the repair and reconstruction of the garage to eliminate the use of sill plates in close proximity to the ground, in favor of the elevation of the wood frame to rest on top of cinder block.

  • The second part of termite eradication is contacting a licensed exterminator who has experience in the eradication of termite colonies.

  • Lastly, call a tree company to grind down any stumps which have not been fully grounded below grade.

Can My Garage Be Repaired?

In most cases these New Jersey garages can be repaired. While new sill plates can be swapped out for the old ones, this is not a viable repair as often times the termites have made it into the 2×4 wood framing and will re-colonize the new sill plates. Equally new wood sill plates in close proximity to the ground (despite being pressure treated)are subject to the same saturation and termite conditions as the old wood sill plates.

Our comprehensive garage repair consists of cutting out the damaged sill plates, cutting away the 2×4 walls, bracing the remaining structure of the garage, installing a double course level of cinder block, reframing the section of wall while re-attaching the frame to the new sill plates. In many cases we also recommend pouring a new concrete floor. The new concrete will help seal the blocks against further water infiltration.  The end result of this repair is a dry, usable and secure garage and well worth the cost.

New Jersey Garage Repair -Verona, NJ Essex County 07044_New Jersey Garage Repair and Renovation Contractor
New Jersey Garage Repair -Verona, NJ Essex County 07044_New Jersey Garage Repair and Renovation Contractor
New Jersey Garage Repair -Verona, NJ Essex County 07044_New Jersey Garage Repair and Renovation Contractor

Does the cost of garage repair outweigh the construction of a new one?

While the new construction of a garage is always an option, constructing a new garage in New Jersey requires drawings, building permits, zoning permits and in many cases may require new concrete footings to be poured. In repairing the existing garage customers can avoid the cost of drawings, permits and the installation of new concrete footings. Additionally the current sorting costs of lumber weigh heavily on justifying the salvage of an older garage.

Categories
Composite & Wood Decks

Deck Versus Patios

Composite Deck and Interlocking Paver Patio Series

Decks -vs-Patios

Understanding the Pros and Cons 

 

By Forever Green Landscape Construction & Design – Bergen County NJ

Backgrounds of Decks Versus Patios in the New Jersey Landscape Design Industry

We are often asked by customers what is the best hardscape option for outside living, a deck or a patio? This is a very fair question and one which deserves an answer of substantive value and insight. Unlike a lot of home improvement bloggers, our pro and con analysis is derived from thirty years of hands on experience in construction of both decks and patios as a NJ home improvement contractor.

Composite Deck_ Paramus,NJ 07652
Keystone Roman Cobble Paver Patio_Belgian Block_Nutley, NJ 07028 Contractor Install

Depending on your generation, you may have grown up with wood decks as the go to outdoor living feature. Successive generations would have had more familiarity with patios. For that New Jersey generation, ( 1980’s and below), wood decks were a significant improvement over the limited choices in patios which were mainly flagstone, concrete and early version paving stones.

Additionally whether one chose a deck or a patio was equally contingent upon the perspective from two completely different trades – a mason or a carpenter. It is probably fair to say a degree of a deck’s popularity was equally attributed to the fact that a deck was more easily installed by a common handy man or a family friend where a patio required either a concrete pour via a concrete truck delivery or a natural stone, laid into mortar making such a project a lot more unfeasible for the casual handyman. In those days landscape companies had little to do with either trade and the installation of decks or patios other than making referrals to their customers.

Composite Porch Deck_ North Arlington, NJ 07031
Weathered_decks

As a result of the continuous weathering of pressure treated wood, despite the use of waterproof sealers and stains, the Trex company developed a new plastic decking system that was suppose to finally eliminate the problem of degradation and continuous maintenance of pressure treated wood decking. 

The Trex company was plagued by the first generation of its plastic decking alternative which creaked under foot traffic and badly warped in the New Jersey sun. 

Composite Deck - Installed by Forever Green Landsape Construction & Design

The Advent of Composite Decking

Needless to say the 1st generation Trex decking did not fair well or last long. We can certainly remember customers specifically stating how they didn’t want “Trex” and recounting the issues of warping and creaking they observed with a 1st generation Trex deck of a friend or family member who had it installed. Composite decking would soon come to replace plastic decking and the market would see a number of other manufactures emerge alongside Trex selling a much improved upon concept of future decking material, Timbertech and Fiberon to name a few.

On the flip side, the New Jersey concrete-brick paver industry emerged in the late 1980’s which was a drastic improvement from the old green and yellow Channel & Rickel style throwback paving stones which were laid on sand over dirt! Hard to imagine but true. ( We have happily demolished many of them!) The New Jersey concrete brick paver industry made a huge breakthrough in providing specifications along with their product on how their paving stones should be laid and installed thus rectifying the fundamental problems of previous paving stones ( as unsightly as they were).  As typically recommended, the suggested specifications for concrete brick pavers installation are: (1-2” leveling  base on top of 7 inch gravel drainage base). Absent a proper drainage base, one does not have a patio. They simply have a replication of a historically problematic patio from years prior where water has no place to go except to move and dislodge the paver. 

The first generation octagon concrete-brick paver was impressive for its time but like its Trex counterpart it had its share of growing pains which included complete color loss. However successive generations of concrete-brick pavers would make drastic improvements and eliminate the color loss problem. 

Another unintended consequence of the dry laid brick paver industry was the net result it had on each respective trade. Being that pavers were dry laid and the installation process was absent any working knowledge of mortar or concrete, it opened the door to landscapers as the new generation of installers.  Landscape companies quickly took over the brick paver industry via their continuous access to their maintenance  accounts. Landscapers pushed out masons as an exclusive trade for patio and walkway installation and the industry of landscape construction was born. 

Carpenters, as a deck-building trade were equally relegated into irrelevance as landscape construction companies continued to expand and dominate the exterior home.  Yard makeover project and outdoor living experience replaced the single entity structure ( deck or a patio) concept. A deck builder lost relevance to a landscape construction company who can install a patio, erect a fence, install a landscape design, install landscape lighting, pour concrete walkways, construct and repair brick stairs…and build a deck! All of which are worked out with a customer and completed under one design plan.

Today, New Jersey homeowners have a wide array of paver styles and designs to choose from and a wealth of high quality manufactures ( Cambridge Paving Stones, Uni-lock, Techo-Bloc, Keystone ( formerly CST) Nicolock). 

Driveway_Paver Patio_Belgian Block_Contractor Install Cranford, NJ 07006, 07016,07031
Elevated Patio_Composite Vinyl Railings_Circle Kit_Cambridge Pavers_Nutley, NJ 07028
CST Paver Patio_Bullnose Coping_Landscape Design_Clifton,NJ 0701 Contractor Install
So which is better? A deck or a patio?

Below is an objective analysis on each category of consideration and Forever Green Landscape Construction and Design’s expert findings based on thirty plus years of experience working in the New Jersey landscape and construction industry as a NJ Home Improvement Contractor: 

Cost:  A small wood deck in most cases typically stands as the cheapest option for an outside living space structure. However, the soaring costs of lumber now become a factor which must be accounted for. Composite decking, being an engineered material, is substantially more expensive than wood. The cost of a full composite deck along with the vinyl railing systems are comparable to the installation of a patio and in some cases an elevated patio.   

Maintenance: A wood deck must be maintained. Flat lying lumber directly exposed to the elements must be continuously treated with stains and water sealers to protect from degradation. Flat-lying lumber suffers the worse degradation despite the stains, sealers and treatments and ultimately will succumb to the elements if not by aesthetics alone.

Composite requires no maintenance other than cleaning areas soiled by trees and the elements. Composite will not succumb to the elements.

Patios constructed from masonry materials to include pavers, stone and concrete require no maintenance in the form of treating against degradation but can require occasional maintenance against weeds which can find their way into the joints of pavers. An application of an annual weedkiller typically solves this problem for patios. Concrete and mortar laid patios are subject to stress fractures and have the potential to crack ( hence the basis behind dry laid pavers which are not subject to stress fractures and cannot crack). 

Degradation: Wood decks despite the best efforts and use of pressure treated lumber will eventually degrade to the point of replacement. Wood decks are also subject to wood-boring insects such as termites and carpenter ants. These factors become exponentially more probable the closer the deck is to the ground. Additionally there is substantial risk for the same wood-boring insects to infest the sill plates and framing where the deck attaches to the house.

While the composite decking itself does not degrade, composite decks are still constructed upon wood subframes subject to the same degradation. Patios constructed of masonry materials do not suffer degradation from the elements and are completely impervious to insects of any kind.  

Animals and Rodents: This is an unfortunate reality for any backyard in New Jersey where many customers find small animals and rodents taking up opportunistic shelter wherever possible. Most often this is the underside of a deck where there is little or any human traffic. The higher the deck is off the ground (4’+) the less likely it is to be used as shelter. The nature of patio construction prohibits voids which can be used as shelter. A properly constructed patio which includes an 8” gravel base does not allow for any burrowing underneath even for the most persistent of animals and rodents. 

Expansion: Decks are typically built to the size of the dimensional lumber subframe.  To expand a deck requires a new set of permits and plans which equally include new footings. In that respect, it is unfeasible to expand a deck and in some cases easier to build a new one. Patios can easily be expanded. Additional structures can be added in and around patios where the same can’t be done with decks.  

Forever Green's Official Findings on Decks -V -Patios

The design options for a deck are extremely limited and the potential for wood boring insects on decks in close proximity to the ground is a significant snd unavoidable risk. It is our practice and policy to strongly dissuade our customers from the use of wood as a finished product building material in exterior applications with the exception of stained and sealed heavy timbers used as supports section in a structure such as a pergola or arbor.

Decks are no exception. We find the popularity and affinity for decks are based on earlier generations of landscape design that afforded limited design choices. Given the choices of materials, impervious nature of masonry based materials to the New Jersey elements and New Jersey winters, impervious nature to insects and rodents in addition to proper water run-off and drainage management, a masonry based concrete brick paver or natural stone patio is an exponentially better option than a deck.