Outdoor Fireplace, Your Very Own Outdoor Living Space

Big Sky, homes of Xcellence

Be prepared for those fresh-air nights that have the slightest chill and is showered by the stars in the sky with an outdoor fireplace! I know what your thinking, its the same thing as a fire-pit and i’m just confusing the words, but that’s not the case, I promise!An outdoor fireplace is exactly like what it sounds! Imagine you went inside and took your loved fireplace from the living room and placed it onto your stone or concrete patio in your backyard for some stare gazing! That’s what we are talking about! Outdoor fireplaces are structures that can be built on stone, brick or concrete patios and offer the same form of comfort, aesthetic beauty and functionality as indoor fireplaces!

Outdoor fireplaces often consist of a firebox as well as a chimney for strong functionality, and cannot generally be relocated once built. However the advantages of incorporating an outdoor fireplace to your backyard rather than a simple fire-pit really depend on the atmosphere you want to emphasize!

Let’s break down the varying ways in which outdoor fireplaces provide a unique atmosphere to a location, and why this may be an addition your looking for!

  • Fireplaces have the same luxury as fire-pits when it comes to the way in which you create the flame. Be it a wood burning or the use of gas, both materials are viable options that you can choose from! Wood may require a little more work, however results in the ever so satisfying crackle that can really help relax those who are partaking in the occasion.
  • Due to the layout of a fireplace, it is situated so that the heat and light emitted from the fireplace is directed in a specific direction. This means the fireplace becomes a central figure of your outdoor space, which is great due to the grand look it will have with the bricks and all!
  • Outdoor fireplaces offer intimate opportunities to fly thanks to the location in which it resides! Being parked under the stars on a calm night with your significant other, snuggled up on your outdoor furniture with the warmth of the fire flowing across your skin you can be sure that the atmosphere will be charged nothing but feelings of contentment and relaxation!
  • As an added measure of keeping that contentment while using the outdoor fireplace, the smoke from the fireplace is directed upward through the chimney, ensuring there is nothing burning your eyes or causing a coughing fit to ruin the night and intimate mood!
  • The outdoor fireplace is also something that can be easily maintained on days that have a little more averse weather conditions. Thanks to the fire being protected by the   firebox, wind and sprinkles of rain will have little affect on the fires intensity, proving to be a low maintenance event!

Outdoor living spaces cannot be complete without the warmth of a hearth to bring it all together. Consider installing an outdoor fireplace in your outdoor living spaces, and really amp up the possibilities that are available to you this spring!

Give us a call or send us a message at Xpand inc! We will work with you every step of the way to ensure that dream home of yours becomes a reality!

Pergolas, What are they? And Why you should invest in one this Spring!

Deck
This spring, why not bring some new excitement to your backyard with the help of the always loved pergola! But wait, what is a pergola you ask? It’s time to put the name to the face so to say!A pergola is an archway, or covered location generally located over or near a garden or park! Pergola’s consist of a framework that is often used as a shaded walkway or resting location. Basically, pergolas can be a form of backyard additives to already existing locations, or a central figure of it’s own! Can someone say outdoor living space?

The way a pergola can change the atmosphere of an area is quit astounding. They can really give the sense of size due to being a new section of the backyard, helping the entire backyard feel bigger and still have room for other activities or structures!

Since lists are fun and easy to read, lets break down some main reasons pergolas are a favorite for those warmer weather days!

  • As mentioned above, they can create a change in an atmosphere by defining a definite space. Be it an entertainment lounge, dining area, or outdoor kitchen. Pergolas give new possibilities and can even replace the desire for a deck or patio if you don’t sport one of those in the home, however having both is a great option!
  • Privacy is the next bonus from pergolas. With the addition of drapes for a walling mechanism, pergolas can give you privacy in your backyard despite being an initially open structure. Enjoy some backyard reading or relaxation without the worry of prying eyes!
  • Plant space! If your a green thumb or just can’t get enough plants around you, pergolas enhance the green vibe! Using the overhead of a pergola, you can hang more plants and create a floating atmosphere of flowers and the like! Not only that, but some plants will benefit from this structure because of the manner in which they grow! Plants like clematis, honeysuckle, ivy, wisteria, and grape vines!
  • Protection from the elements! Pergolas can give strong shaded locations that will keep the elements at bay and allow you to enjoy the summer day! Being from Minnesota we are most all susceptible to burning, so really pergolas can be life savers!
  • Combine to unwind! Pergolas are versatile, in that they can become building blocks or stepping stones to bigger or more prominent backyard structures! Pergolas could lead into verandas or gazebos, creating an eye-catching outdoor living area that will certainly raise your homes value along with its functionality and comfort!

The spring is coming in hot, or should we say wet with all this rain, and you should be ready for those spring renovations and additions! Keep pergolas and their versatile functionalities in mind, and then give us a call at Xpand! Let’s make that dream home together!

Backyard Dissonance

Formal Family Room View of backyard and lake

Tired of feeling so disconnected to your back yard? That disconnect between your home and the backyard can really set people uneasy, like a whole portion of their property is shifted to the side, only meant to be looked upon  and not immersed in.

The spring is coming and so are the opportunities to finally fix that backyard disconnect. Take the time this spring to come up with a pleasant home addition that takes advantage of that backyard space. Be it an all glass section added to the home, to help feel integrated into your backyard and nature, or a pathway that leads to a bar and seating area for relaxing.

Let’s spring forward with our homes design and appeal! We will break down some ideas for you to chew on and help you develop a stronger sense of what you do and don’t want!

Starting with and enclosed glass room:

  • A pentagonal shaped enclosed space featuring the most possible visual availability possible.
  • Windows taking the place of all walls and ceilings. Great for enjoying your surrounding environment, weather on a lake or in a backyard, while still keeping yourself in a regulated temperature room and away from those pesky mosquito’s!
  • An alternate use for this addition could be a green house! Naturally! Providing protection from outside critters, while still gaining the nutrients needed from the sun and the sky! Your plants will be in a well constructed environment and flourish before your eyes!
  • Add some form of pathway leading out further to your back yard. These can come in the form of bricks, rock slabs, gravel, you name it!
  • A nighttime paradise, exemplifying the spatial wonders of the stars in the sky! You can think of this room as a mini observatory during those cloudless nights that will provide you with a spectacle as-if on demand!

If your not feeling the whole glass room concept, lets break out of the box and think a little more about backyard additions that are more free winded!

  • Starting from a nice pathway leading from your back doors, let’s venture out to the bungalow you installed that features an assortment of social activities or relaxing options!
  • A bar with a couple of chic stools made from tree stumps or stone slabs! This can be a comfortable place to sit and chat with friends or family and lose the remainder of the day!
  • The covered ceiling of the bungalow allows for protection from direct sunlight while still allowing the fresh breeze to sift on through.
  • Maybe your more interested in something like an outdoor kitchen? Outdoor kitchens are becoming more and more popular, and for good reason! Being able to enjoy the fresh feeling of spring while cooking your favorite meal that doesn’t have to include BBQ is always a rewarding feeling!
  • Once your done cooking you can retreat a space that has some stereos installed and are accompanied by some outdoor/indoor furniture to relax and eat.

Be it an outdoor kitchen or glass room, the potential for your home to become more luxurious and enjoyable should not be passed by! Take advantage of the beautiful seasons lacking the frozen flakes of despair and find some consonance between your home and backyard desires!

Give us a call today at Xpand inc. and let’s start mapping out the necessary materials and planning to make your dream home become a reality! We work with you every step of the way and will provide the best possible satisfaction we can!

While your at it, check out our past articles on potential places for a new home! Bloomington and Prior Lake!

Who needs spring cleaning when you can spring build!

Burnsville siding and deck project

The snowy weather is waning and the spring is pushing through! So naturally, with the news season comes some new questions! What to build? A home? An extra garage? A deck, maybe patio? We say all of the above!

Take advantage of the beautiful weather to come by preparing some outdoor locations like decks, patios, porches and maybe a backyard bar! We at Xpand are only limited by your imagination!

When it comes to decks and porches, we guarantee that we are the best option in Minnesota. A little over 10 years ago we started out as specializing in decks and porches, and continue today to prove why that is. Be it one or two levels, we will ensure a structure that is enjoyable in the allowing seasons for social gatherings and places for mental recuperation! Most builders just see decks or porches as a way to make a quick buck and do standard work, but not us. We think the decks and porches are an extension of the home and should be noticeable as such, staying just as aesthetically pleasing as the rest of the home.

To develop a great looking deck/porch it is good to think of the structures as another form of room like you do with the interior of the home.  Fabrics, lighting, accessories and even artwork are all part of the design process for outdoor locations!

Deck & Porch ideas

  • A canopy deck or porch to beat the heat this summer and still enjoy the visual beauty that spring brings!
  • Set the tone with an enclosed porch that has similar style as the rest of the home and the necessary items like a coat rack, shoe storage, and a key tray! Always be sure to use indoor/outdoor pieces in this area for weather resistance purposes!
  • Luxury in the outdoor. Take the opportunity to really go all out when it comes to the decks and porches. Emphasize on the outdoor aesthetic by introducing different kinds of greenery to your porch or deck area with unique forms of holders, like teacups for example!
  • Install a large white wooden wall structure that can hold a garden on it. Wall gardens are picking up in trend for a good reason, they are simply gorgeous and introduce a unique aesthetic to the atmosphere.
  • Drapery. Long windswept pieces of drapery across the top portion of the deck or porch structure can introduce a lightness to the air and become reminiscent of a savanna get away!
  • Introduce colors that really emphasize the surrounding greenery, like white, blue and yellow.

Like mentioned before, the only limitation is your imagination! Decks and porches can be an essential part to a home feeling whole!

Aside from decks and porches, the spring can be a great opportunity for a addition project, be it an added garage stall or a garden shed even a home!

Give us a call today and let’s start working on those plans so your ready to embrace spring as soon as it arrives!  

What your driveway has in store for you come spring!

Still on the spring shtick, hoping it will arrive sooner rather than later. Spring is a beautiful time of the year! However spring can also be a bearer of bad news, due to the unfortunate effects of temperature change.

Underneath the banks of snow is the thing we used to call a driveway, made of either concrete or asphalt. These materials are affected by weather and depending on the damage, could become a serious problem for you and your vehicle!

So let’s say the snow is gone and the sun is shining, what should you inspect your driveway for and how should you treat it?

Concrete driveways

Concrete is a great looking driveway material, and has a low maintenance requirement. However, concrete is an expensive material as well, meaning if a problem occurs and is let go for a period of time, the endeavor of fixing it will grow in cost.

Cracked and crumbling concrete is no good. Water from the melting snow, or rain even can both seep below your driveway causing the ground to shift, which can lead the stress on the material and the aforementioned results.  Due to living in a climate that often drops below freezing point, this means we our more susceptible to the damage. If you see any pooling of water on the surface of your driveway, and that is left, there is a good chance of cracks occurring at that point as well.

When the weather is permitting, inspect your driveway carefully for cracks, holes or crumbling.  Be sure to check the expansion joints of your driveway as well, for this is often a location people miss and regret later on!

If your unsure of the situation of your driveway, call a professional! Generally, getting someone to just look at your driveway is free, along with the advice that follows!

If you happen across cracks, use some driveway sealing material like caulk. If you have parts of your concrete driveway that dips in, you can fix that as well with concrete re-surfacer! It is recommended to re-seal your driveway every 3 to 5 years to ensure its life span, as well as keep away damaging growths such as moss and lichen!

Asphalt

Asphalt driveways give a great smooth texture that makes your feel like your driving on a cloud. Asphalt is also durable, however, it does require regular maintenance and a watchful eye. If your asphalt develops a little crack and is let to sit, the whole driveway can fall apart after a while.

Just like concrete, asphalt is susceptible to damage from extreme temperatures and moisture. Weed encroachment, potholes, as well as cracks are a possible result. Just like concrete, make sure there are no dips in the surface that would allow water to pool. This will also result in cracks and problems!

The remedies for these issues are basically the same as concrete driveways. Fill any potholes and patch any cracks, while also filling in any dips in the surface! If you happen across weeds rising along the edges of your driveway, be sure to pull them and clean up the area with and edging tool or hoe. If there is a really invasive weed problem, consider installing rubber mulch edging around your driveway with a weed proof mat underneath. Asphalt is recommended to be re-sealed every one to three years, while also being aware of any moss and lichen to prevent them from entering between the seal-coating.

We are all excited for this gray sky to fade in wake of the shining sun, however we cant be dazzled by the light and forget to check our driveways condition!

If you have some need for a new driveway or questions, feel free to give us a call! We at Xpand are dedicated to achieving your dream home! Cracks free!

 

Spring sun, spring cleaning!

I know it’s a little early to be using the “spring cleaning” slogan, but on a day that is as bright as today and all the melting snow, it’s hard not to get ahead of myself!

Although there are many days left before truly reaching the first day of the spring season, it is always good to be proactive and prepare yourself for what needs to be done when it arrives! This means home maintenance for a smooth transition into the coming days. We don’t want to have some damage from the winter go unnoticed!

Let’s break down a quick list on things that should be checked out during the spring weather to ensure your homes integrity!

  • Gutters and all things downspouts- Remove any debris that has accumulated in the gutters and downspouts, while ensuring everything is connected properly. Often gutters can get moved and become unattached and pull away from the home. Use caulk or epoxy for any leaks.
  • Home siding- Pressure washers are not only fun, but useful! Go rent a pressure washer and get the mold and grime out of the nooks and crannies of your home! Check for any weathering or paint damage that may have occurred during the frigid weather.  If there is wood showing, or paint chipping, properly sand or remove at the site of damage and apply a primer and new coat of paint!
  • Exterior caulking- Go around your home and look for deteriorating caulk. Scrape away the bad caulk and reinforce the areas with a fresh caulking.
  • Windows, doors and thresholds oh my!- Check for any cracks and caulk issues and fix accordingly!
  • Screens- Window and doors screens are vulnerable little sections! Check to see if there are any holes that have occurred in the screens. If the hole is big as or bigger than a quarter, then bugs can get through, defeating the purpose of the screen. Either patch the holes or replace the screens, but don’t toss the old screens, rather save them for repairs next year! Be sure to tidy up any loose frames so there isn’t any flapping parts in the wind!
  • Drain waste and vent system- Flush out the drain waste and vent system to avoid any problems in that area!
  • Heat pump- Lubricate blower motor to ensure future efficiency
  • Foundation- The foundation is, as it sounds, important for the integrity of your home. Check your homes foundation for cracks and heaving or deterioration. Then search your walls and floors of the foundation concrete and masonry for the same problems. If you find large amounts of cracks or bricks losing their mortar, call a foundation professional. If the crack is large enough to fit a nickel, call immediately.
  • Roof- Look for fallen shingles or broken shingles, as well as surface flashing, eaves and soffits. Clean what you can and check flashings around all surface projections and sidewalls.
  • Decks and porches- Look over your decks and porches for any loose members of the structure and replace or repair as seen fit. Open decks and wood fences need to be treated every 4-6 years. If something looks off in terms of color of the stain, or some of the wood turns a dark grey, call a professional to treat the surface.

That’s all we have for your spring home maintenance tips today! I’m sure we will be in a winter warning again soon, but catching these problems when the weather allows could save you time and money in the long run!

Don’t forget to give us a call if you have any questions about your home and the possibilities of additions or some form of renovations! We are here to make your dream home after all!

Dreaming of the sun and shine

Back right side view of the house

Being cooped up all day because of dreary weather is no fun. Sadly, we have a little bit of time left before the weather will allow us to enjoy natures bounty again. The cold and chilly weather cannot, however, take away from us our imagination and day dreaming abilities of our home and the luxuries we will be able to enjoy when the sun once again dominates the sky!

While we are barricaded indoors, why don’t we plan out some ideas to implement during the spring and summer? Preparation probably never hurt anyone!

Decks, porches, patios and the like! Outdoor renovations that will make the winter seem like a bad nightmare are just around the corner! Here we will provide some easy and quick tips on some new deck designs and things of the sort!

Let’s start with the patio!

The backyard is often thought of as this wide open space that may or may not include some form of a garden. I think we should expand on this open space! If you don’t already have one incorporated, then we highly recommend adding a location for a patio!

A patio can come in all kinds of formats! The design is only limited by your imagination! If you want a patio that is focused on the “sunshine fun time” feel, then we need to incorporate large amounts of plant life and furniture that can work in sync with those plants! A nice white wood table, maybe with  some form of quartz or granite surface, along with some nicely formed wicker chairs would be a great start! To get the greenery in there, consider having a garden surround the patio area. The garden could line the perimeter of the patio area while staying out from underneath the location. There is also the option of having some form of flat ceiling incorporated in the patio’s structure and you could hang the plants from the ceiling to create an always lovable floating garden!

Want more of a rough patio design? Try the rugged rock pathway leading to a table that has a giant circular rock slab as the surface! Combine the table and pathway with some minimal wooden chairs that have some metal bars and you will be golden…or in this case stone-den!

Moving onto Porches!

Porches are a strong factor in the first visual understanding of a home! They can really add a unique flavor to the homes character, while providing a great location to relax in the breeze of the day.

Porches, just like patios, have a wide array of options to make it unique for every home! Porches and traditional styled elements go together hand in hand. Consider a porch design that struts a large space with multiple seating options, from couches to cushioned chairs. Make sure however, that the furniture featured in your porch is weather-resistant! Wicker chairs here are a great option for the resistance alone, but also because of that traditional feeling and the variety of colors they can be found in or painted to!

When seating in the porch you can add a table to enjoy a nice meal, be it breakfast or dinner. To compliment your meal, a nice citronella candle or two in the form of a torch or the like, will help keep those pesky insects off your menu! Adding some fans for those warmer days will also incorporate another layer of functionality and style!

Last but not the least impressive, decks!

We aren’t talking about the part of a ship, we are talking about that risen section that is outdoor of your home! Decks give great value to a homes landscape appreciation. Decks allow the backyard to be appreciated in a new manner!

whether during a sunset, sunrise or zenith, decks offer some great extra space for social activities to take place in the wide open world!

So how can we break away from the generic wooden deck and have a design that stands out? Well, as for the wood aspect, try a different kind of wood! No one has to have the same type of wood for decks, try asking about different wood variations that will match your home and it’s surroundings! Decks generally have some form of railing for safety, but this is where you can get creative as well! Instead of some wooden poles, consider some glass panes as a fall barrier, this will allow for a stronger appreciation of the scenery while still providing a safety mechanism! If your not too worried about the view, and you don’t care for the glass, maybe try some stone! Ask around for some custom stone railing options!

No matter the location, a deck, patio, or porch can be an immensely great addition to your home and add some great charm and functionality! If you caught this outdoor renovation bug, we conveniently have the skill and knowledge on all things home and renovation, including the outdoor kind!

Give us a call at Xpand today and let’s start mapping out your plans for those home renovations and remodels! When the tame weather approaches you will be ready!

 

Out with the old, in with the new!

Our homes age, just as fast as we do, however in their sense, the functionality and visual appeal begin to fade. This is when we often start to consider renovations of the home, to update and reinvigorate the home. We want to walk into a place that feels current and welcoming again, so lets get to that place.

Decades ago

When it comes to renovations we sometimes consider new rooms or stress over the decision of altering a rooms function. We don’t need to alter the primary function of the room, we just need to upgrade it!

  • Kitchen- Quit possible the center of the home and main social environment. When upgrading this room a coat of paint can go a long way. Identify the parts of the kitchen that need to be gutted for it’s lacking functionality or irreparable surface. Re-surface the cabinets and backsplash to something more modern and in the times, this will prevent the feeling of time warp when you walk into the home, and even bring an atmosphere of luxury into the air.
  • Bathroom-  You don’t need to relocate plumbing lines and change the entire layout of a bathroom to bring it into the 21st century. Consider the alteration of the surfaces available. Changing a few separate counter spaces into one whole surface space could really change the way the room feels. If your still feeling a bit boxed in, why not consider removing cabinet doors and just keep the drawers as the only move-able parts in the counter. This will help add a minimalized  energy to the space, which in turn will make the room feel less cluttered.
  • Fireplaces- We all know that home that is till rocking the cabin-esque stonewall fireplace. This isn’t a bad thing, but there are other options, if you want them. If your looking to replace your fireplace why not think about a modern twist on an old fashioned fireplace? A strong contender for such a thing would be wood-stove fireplace. The wood-stove fireplaces you find now are modernized in their functions and performance but still keep the timeless charm. If you want to add a little nifty section to the wood-stove, why not add a stashing area underneath it to hold some cut logs? This will keep the logs nice and dry and ready for those cold winter nights!

That’s all we have for today! We hope there are some thought provoking ideas that have struck a cord for you! Give us a call when you have those ideas conceptualized and let us help you build that dream home together!

Garage maintenance in the winter

With the cold of the wind and the frozen falling sculptures comes salted roads and slush in abundance. Often during the winter through the slipping and sliding we track the slush indoors, and the location that receives the worst treatment is the garage. So for this little snippet, we are going to give some tips for protecting your garage from the harsh season and prolong its life!

Initial inspection

  • Before anything else, we need to return the garage to it’s former clean, salt free glory. This will require some manual labor, but it will be well worth it in the end.
  • Sweep, mop and scrub the problem areas of the garage floor to ensure there are no salt stained locations that will cause problems for the health of your concrete flooring in the spring.

Protection from the weather

  • Once the floor is clean and returned to the point of acceptance, it’s time to anticipate and prevent the further damage. Inspect your garage and make any repairs now that may be needed involving the concrete. This may involves cracks, gaps, or chips.
  • Once the floor is whole again we need to implement defenses from further snow, slush and salt encounters. We can achieve this protection from a simple garage car mat which can contain the mess that is drudged in from the cold world outside.
  • Garage mats are easy to clean and store when the need for them is no more, and this will ensure the start of the next winter season is already accounted for, because this mat is easily reusable through the years!
  • If your concern is bigger than just the car and what it brings in, and you need more protection for a wider areas of the garage, consider different mats. There are mats that can be tailored to your garages dimensions  and cover a much larger surface area, preventing the concrete floor from interacting with the winter at all!
  • Finally, there is a sealant option  to really ensure the protection of your garage flooring. Siliconate penetrating sealer is applied with a acrylic sealer and simple to use. The result of this sealant is a glossy finish that will enhance the clean and orderly look of the garage!
  • The sealant is a strong physical barrier that will prevent things like salt and deicing from running through your garage floor and causing larger concrete issues for the spring.!

That’s all we have for today! If you have any questions or concerns about your home please don’t hesitate to give us a call! We at Xpand are here for the family and you! 

Garage workshop renovation ideas!

During the winter seasons, it is easier to get into hobbies that are at, or near the home. For some, this may be difficult based on the hobby or profession, due to the need for specific machines/tools. For example, if your a hobby ceramics artist, or even a full time ceramics artist, and looking to move your workshop out of a rented space and into the home, we have a solution for you! The garage!

The garage has so many possibilities to become a workshop, be it a mechanic shop or something else, there is always a way to alter your garage for what you need! Since the garage is generally an open space already, it’s easier to convert from one function to another.

What to consider for garage renovations

Renovation Format

Renovate your garage to add a second floor dedicated to your workshop! You can add onto your garage and incorporate some form of loft style that can allow for interaction with the garage floor while dwelling on the loft working away perfecting your craft! This format would also prevent the issue of car placement, by not displacing your vehicles to fit the necessary equipment of your trade. Another option is to have a new car garage built on the property to the perfect dimensions to fit the family vehicles so that you may convert the ground floor of the home attached garage, into your new workshop.

Necessities 

When converting your garage into a workshop you must take into consideration the needs of your new work space. Consider a layout that that will minimize health hazards and ensure safety as a priority. An example  for a ceramics workshop would be to ensure you have a ventilation system applied to the garage so that you may dispose of the hazardous materials floating in the air. It is also important to make sure there is a clear fire escape route that has minimal chance to be hindered in case of a fire. Safety precautions and protocol should be considered before any renovations or additions are acted upon.

Convenience

Moving your workshop to your home garage area will be a huge convenience especially during the seasons that might prevent you from leaving your home. Having the workshop at home will allow a more precise execution of time management, helping your days become more efficient in all manners. Altering your garage into a workshop also allows for change! The issues you had at your out of home workshop can be addressed in the process of developing your in-home workshop! A workshop at home will also mean there is no longer the possibility for community sharing issues, unless you choose to hold workshops in your new space. This alone is a great bonus because it means you will know where everything is at all times and things won’t fall apart mysteriously when your gone.

The pros of an in-home workshop easily outweigh the pros of a community or rented work space. Converting your home garage into a workshop will no doubt increase productivity and efficiency for most all forms of trades/hobbies.

Be sure to give us a call today and let’s talk about those garage renovation ideas and additions, to ensure a high quality job that will be more than sufficient for your workshop needs!