Friday, December 30, 2011

How to Select a Shade Sail

A shade sail is a sheath of cloth used to shade large areas and is visually similar to the sail of a boat. A durable, slightly flexible fabric is stretched over the exposed area and held taunt by several anchors on nearby walls, buildings or poles. The result is shade from the sun, UV rays (99%!), bird droppings, and precipitation.

A shade sail is an ideal addition to gathering spaces, such as large patios, decks, pool areas, and playgrounds. They are also frequently used on docks and boat slips to shield boats from harsh weather. Sun sails are also popular with commercial spaces. Not only do they make seated areas more comfortable for patrons, but they can also draw attention to a space and attract clientele.

Shade sails are popular because they inexpensive (between $200 and $400!) and attractive, making them a great alternative to construction. If the exposed area is simply too large for a patio umbrella or awning, a shade sail is a very cost-effective alternative. These devices are fairly easy to set up and take down, and while they are typically used as a permanent fixture, a patio sail can also be implemented seasonally.

Shade sails come in many shapes, sizes and colors, and can be layered to cover unusually shaped areas and create an interesting architectural affect. If you are considering buying a patio shade sail we recommend you use the following criteria for selecting the perfect sail for your particular needs.

Size – Define the area you would like to be shaded and take appropriate measurements. Keep in mind the height at which the sail will be suspended, the direction of the sun and how sunshine will fall. (You should install a shade sail at a 20 degree angle to allow for water run off.) Is the space especially large? No problem. There are shade sails as large as 70 square feet!

Shape – The vast majority of sun sails are available in triangle, square or rectangular shapes because corners allow the sheath to be pulled taunt. Decide which shape will best suit the area. If your space is unique and difficult to define, there are custom patio shade sails as well.

Color – Shade sails come in a wide array of colors. Choose a color that complements the space. Bright colors are great for a vibrant space or playgrounds. White and beige evoke a modern, elegant aesthetic.

Brand – There are number of well-respected patio sail brands, including Coolaroo and SunSetter. These brands are the sun sail experts with an adept understanding of the fabric and engineering that goes into manufacturing quality patio shade sails. Whichever brand you use, ensure it uses premium, seamless, water-resistant fabric with lock stitching (commercial grade being the best of the best). Make sure corners are reinforced and that the shade sail is backed with a long-term warranty. There are a number of knock-off sails out there, but within a year’s time, you will see why they were so inexpensive. The sail will become worn and collect dirt much faster than a premium quality sail.

About the Author: Derrick Riley is a Managing Partner at Patio Products USA, a subsidiary of Neighbors Marketing specializing in outdoor patio products for home or commercial use. As one of North America's largest distributors of outdoor entertaining products, Patio Products USA delivers a wide selection of patio fire pits, patio heaters and patio furniture covers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Creating the Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen

In recent years, the outdoor kitchen trend has been on the rise. Outdoor kitchen appliances have never been so affordable and easy to install, and many families are taking advantage of these new, convenient options to create the ultimate outdoor kitchen space. These kitchens make social gatherings more vibrant and entertaining. Even better... they will likely increase the value of your home.

If you are considering adding an outdoor kitchen to your home, here are a few tips to get you started on your project.

It All Starts with the Grill

At the center of any outdoor kitchen is the grill. Which type of grill you select will depend on your kitchen layout. If you plan on building a kitchen, complete with counters for food prep, look for a high quality built-in grill. These grills typically come in natural gas or liquid propane varieties and may feature accessories such as rotisseries and warming trays. If you want the look of a built-in, but aren't exactly looking to build, consider a prefab island like the American Outdoor Grill Stack Stone 60" Pre-Fab Grill Island which will create the look of a built-in grill - no construction necessary. If you would like your grill to be portable, there are a number of high quality barbecue islands on wheels. Whichever grill style you select, be sure to procure a properly sized BBQ grill cover to keep it in tip-top shape when not in use.

Keep Things Cool

A small outdoor refrigerator is a great addition to any outdoor kitchen. It will keep raw meat fresh, veggies crisp and drinks ice cold. Choose between a built in refrigerator or a refrigerator cart, which literally wheels around the yard like an airplane drink cart and can double as a bar. If your budget is super tight, you could even place a small, inexpensive refrigerator in a discrete place. If you are feeling artistic, paint the fridge a bright color... or simply cover it was a colorful tablecloth and it can double as a table when you aren’t grilling.

Stocking the Bar

A bar is a very fun addition to your outdoor kitchen space. Whether keeping sodas on hand for the kids, mixing margaritas for a sunny afternoon, or concocting adult beverages late night, the bar will keep the fun going. Many outdoor kitchens are also including wine racks and liquor cabinets, but if you are looking for something less formal, there are a number of attractive, portable bars available in a wide variety of designs, from traditional to funky.

Patio Furniture Will Make or Break the Space

There is no point in creating an outdoor dining space, if is uncomfortable to use. Your guests will need a comfortable place to lounge and trust me, cheap plastic seats just won’t cut it. Instead, invest in a quality outdoor dining table and chairs. Budget permitting, I recommend also splurging on a set of outdoor sofas or love seats complete with water resistant cushions. This will really make all the difference. After making that investment, be sure to select the right patio furniture covers to keep seats clean and protect the furniture from the elements. If you plan on using the space in the evening and at night, think about including an attractive outdoor fire pit. This will give the space warmth and charm, while also serving as a focal point for the gathering.

About the Author: Derrick Riley is a Managing Partner at Patio Products USA, a subsidiary of Neighbors Marketing specializing in patio products and accessories for the home and commercial use. Patio Products USA is one North America’s largest distributors of products to improve outdoor entertaining, including a wide selection of patio furniture covers, patio fire pits and garden patio heaters.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Favorite Fire Pits for the Holiday Season

Fire pits and chimineas are welcome additions to most outdoor spaces, infusing the area with style, charm and warmth. A fire pit can easily transform a backyard or patio from a dull, inhospitable space to the social center of your home. Since the fire pit will likely become the focal point of your patio, you will want to pick out a piece that fits your aesthetic and personality. Look for a piece of functional art that fits properly in the space allotted and stays within your budget. The good news is, you can obtain a beautiful, high quality piece for an amazingly low price. The following are five outdoor patio fire pits and chimineas that our team are particularly excited about this holiday season.

1. Fleur de Lis Fire Pit

The Fleur de Lis fire pit by Fire Pit Art is a favorite because it proudly showcases the French symbol that often signifies perfection, light, and life. This high quality, hand crafted fire pit is also one of the most unique fire pits on the market. Each one is individually signed by the designer, Rick Wittrig, and is made from thick carbon steel.

2. Full Moon Party Fire Doom

The Full Moon Party Fire Doom is another favorite because it is affordable, unique and durable. This top of the line patio fire pit was designed in the USA and created with the finest materials possible, including powder-coated steel. The design is so exquisite. If you are looking for a fire pit that will turn heads and keep visitors talking, this is unquestionably the choice for you.

3. Azteca Gas Fire Pit

If you prefer a gas powered fire pit for your patio, the Azteca fire pit is a great option. The Azteca fire pit has the same textured look as clay, but the FirEx composition makes it more durable. Another plus is that the flame can be adjusted from 20,000 to 32,000 btu depending on your needs.

4. Grape Style Chiminea Outdoor Fireplace

Chimineas are very similar to fire pits in the fact that they add physical and design warmth to your outdoor space, however chimineas often have a more rustic look. The Grape Style Chiminea is the most popular outdoor fireplace because it is affordable, well made and functional. We love the Grape Style Chiminea for its detailed grape leaf design and cast iron grill insert.

5. Tidal Fire Pit

If you are going for a more modern look in your backyard or patio, you will love the tidal fire pit. Each tidal fire pit is made from one quarter inch carbon steel, the heaviest gauge metal used in any fire pit. Similar to the Fleur de Lis Fire Pit, it is also hand crafted by Rick Wittrig for his Fire Pit Art brand. The 1-1/2 rain drain in the bottom of the tidal fire pit is another highly functional feature that we appreciate.

Adding a fire pit to your outdoor space allows your family and friends to come together in a relaxed setting, making better use of your backyard or patio even in the chillier months of the year. Don’t be surprised if they keep coming back to enjoy the cozy and relaxed ambiance created by the warm glow of a new fire pit.

About the Author: Derrick Riley is a Managing Partner at Patio Products USA, a subsidiary of Neighbors Marketing specializing in patio products and accessories for the home and commercial use. Patio Products USA is one North America’s largest distributors of products to improve outdoor entertaining, including a wide selection of outdoor patio furniture covers, patio fire pits, and garden patio heaters.