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Summer . . . All Year Round

By Joe Weuste, Summerset Gardens

The landscape contractor used sawn and thermaled bluestone steppers to create a more formal set of steps leading up to the back door and newly constructed deck. The railings on the back steps were constructed with mahogany and designed to match the new deck railings. All of the steps were constructed on 42-inch deep concrete footings. The spa-side patio contains a fire pit with a gas log lighter. A mahogany table insert was designed and built to set into the fire pit. The patio was constructed of grey Tennessee Sandstone, wet laid on a 6-inch thick, steel re-enforced concrete sub-deck. Careful attention was given to the design of the expansion joints and the color choice of the mortared joints. All the patios were sealed with a breathable stone sealer. Several Bose speakers surround this patio and spa, one of several separate music zones. Photos courtesy of Joe Weuste, Summerset Gardens

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The contractor installed a Fogco fog/mist system. The air pump and water feed were located behind the spa and waterfalls by the swimming pool equipment pad. As with the outdoor lighting, swimming pool and waterfalls, the homeowner can control the fog system via an iPhone or iPad.

Besides the pool, the contractor built other water elements as well, such as a small fishpond and waterfall that runs alongside the spa patio, fire pit and the back side of the spa. They constructed the pond using stones found on site. Because of the small space left for this project, the contractor designed several custom bog areas that have become the filtration system, planted with various water plants. The pond is self-sustainable.

Set in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, this Summerset Gardens project integrated water features, retaining walls and beautiful hardscape into a flawless backyard. The homeowners put serious thought into what they were looking for. The basic concept was to create a series of outdoor rooms and entertainment areas. Summerset Gardens is owned and operated by Joe Weuste, and is located in Warwick, New York.

The basic concept was to create a series of outdoor rooms and entertainment areas. After meeting with the homeowners several times and visiting several of the contractor's previous projects, the homeowners gave the go-ahead and the design process began. Toward this end, the contractor generated drawings, 3d renderings and a scale model of the proposed project.

The plans included the following amenities: A free-form swimming pool with several seating areas, large cascading waterfalls, a dive rock and steps, a separate spa and waterfalls, a koi pond, a patio with a fire pit, a patio with an outdoor kitchen and bar, a new deck and a waterproofed room below the deck with a fireplace and television, a play area fenced off from the rest of the yard, a sound system throughout the property, a fog/mist system around the pool, spa and waterfalls, an outdoor lighting system zoned and dimmable, landscaping, fencing, and due to the steep grade, several stone retaining walls.

The design phase took several months, and included engineering plans for the retaining walls. The home's septic system had to re-located to make room for the newly proposed swimming pool. The construction itself took seven months to complete and employed four to 20 workers on the jobsite at any given time. The subcontractor list included electricians, plumbers, tree service professionals, irrigation experts, carpenters, and a gunite company.

The natural stone steppers are bluestone from Pennsylvania. They run along side the waterfalls and pools, terminating at the spa and koi pond. All the stone path, steps and boulder crevices were augmented with alpine perennials. The contractor supplemented these plantings with some low-growing annuals during the first season after the job was completed.

Over time, the hardscaping will be dramatically softened as the combination of perennials and shrubbery matures. Hydrangea, Deutzia, Dogwood, Azalea, Liriope, Iris, Pieris, Holly, Daylily are some of the plants that make up the plant palette.

Summerset did all the remaining work, including the excavation, forming, drainage, re-locating of the septic system, the swimming pool, spa, waterfalls, all masonry work, the fog system, plantings, the fencing, the fireplace and the lighting system.

Project's Hardscape

Several hundred yards of concrete were used on this project along with gravel, yards of #5 and #6 re-bar, several truck loads of boulders and more than 200 yards of Connecticut Fieldstone. The contractor used grey Tennessee Flagstone for all of the patios, with the exception of the room under the deck for which the company chose bluestone. They used the Tennessee Flagstone for the coping of the retaining walls, to limit the amount of different materials. Natural stone slabs were used for most of the steps, along with two more formal sawn bluestone sets of steps, which lead to the house and deck. The contractor chose IPE wood for the decking, while Mahogany was used for all of the handrails, trim work and the ceiling under the deck.

This set of natural stone steppers lead down to the pool, waterfalls, and lighting-equipment area, and are completely hidden from the living areas. One of the waterfalls was located nearby the equipment area to completely drown out the equipment noise. The contractor used a segmental block wall system in this area, as it is not a visible zone and using such as system helped lower some costs. A 300-amp electric sub-panel was installed to power this project. Water and gas lines were run to the area. The equipment area houses several Jandy gas pool heaters, three pool and spa filters, several waterfall pumps, electronic auto-fill levelers, power for the pond, 14 zoned and dimmable lighting transformers, several separately zoned floodlights and emergency lighting, and the fog/mist system air pump.

The contractor constructed the spa to be run separate from the pool and to run year round. The boulders were local to the area, some were found onsite and some trucked in from various construction sites. Many of the boulders were carved and notched so that they could be set on the bond beam and look as though the spa was built around them. Two to four demo saws were going at any given time for several weeks to prepare the boulders for the pool, waterfalls and spa areas. The spa itself was carefully contoured to provide an assortment of seating. A small waterfall spills into the spa. For added effect the contractor added a fog/mist system and Bose sound system that surrounds the 10-person spa. Adjacent to the spa, the contractor constructed a koi pond.

Unique Lighting product was chosen for much of the lighting fixtures and transformers, while the remaining fixtures are Kichler, Hadco and Integral.

The ''privacy plantings'' consist of hemlock, spruce and holly. As Weuste stated, ''I tend to use a lot of hydrangeas and perennials on my jobs with careful attention to color and texture. It is highly important to make sure that there is always something blooming during the season from spring to fall.'' Some of the other plants used on this project include azalea, astilbe, liriope, thyme, sedum, brunnera, hosta, fern, pieris, rhododendron, butterfly bush, iris, mazus, nepeta, boxwood, juniper, daylily, phlox, pennisetum, dogwood, veronica and ajuga.

The contractor used Connecticut Fieldstone for the walls, and were complemented with matching colored mortar joints.

The swimming pool coping was designed and constructed to blend seamlessly into the rest of the pool patio. Careful planning, additional forming and steel reinforcing of the swimming pool shell were required to achieve this effect. Custom skimmer lids were machined onsite with the same stone used for the patio to ensure a visual match with the completed pool deck.

Challenges Faced

According to Weuste, ''Some of the biggest challenges and obstacles on this job were the township restrictions on tree removal, impervious coverage limits and height restrictions on the retaining wall designs.''
In addition to these restrictions, the contractor had to relocate the septic system to make room for the swimming pool. To this end, they installed several large seepage pits for the drainage system. Because of the septic system placement, the contractor's access in and out of the site was very limited. Most of all, the contractor had the daunting task of designing and implementing the client's large and detailed wish list into a moderately-sized property. And in the end, it was a stunning success.

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June 18, 2019, 9:00 pm PDT

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