Residential Hardscape Case Study: A Georgia Backyard Makeover

In any landscape, sooner or later there comes a time when,’s just time. Time to rip it all out and start over. Whether it’s your grandmother’s half-dead crepe myrtle, the driveway with the lush crop of crabgrass pushing up through the cracks, or that redwood deck that looked so hip in 1988, you kind of just know by looking at it that “the time” has come.

This was the state of things for Mr. and Mrs. Collins’ backyard last year about this time. The following case study chronicles the transformation of said backyard from shabby to spectacular through a full-scale residential hardscape project.

Residential design build project: before photo (drone footage)

Before: A Shabby Situation

The Collins agreed that the overall appearance of their backyard just wasn’t working for them anymore. The concrete around their pool was looking pretty shabby. Their deck was a run-down, oddly-shaped monstrosity that took up a lot of room without being terribly useable. And the existing backyard features just didn’t support them in living the kind of outdoor lifestyle they envisioned.

So, they called T. Lake for help.

After assessing their property, we sat down with them and took inventory of their needs and desires:

  • Improving the overall appearance was a top priority. The entire yard and pool area looked old and dated, and were ready for a major aesthetic upgrade.
  • They wanted a better, more functional space for outdoor living and entertaining, including living area and fully-equipped outdoor kitchen.
  • And, the new design should integrate seamlessly with the home and grounds.

In the end, the Collins decided that it just made sense to do a full-scale backyard makeover, complete with “the works”: deck replacement; pool deck overhaul; fully equipped outdoor kitchen; living area with fire pit, custom fireplace, and outdoor TV; and landscape lighting throughout.

Proper Pool Planning Pays Off: How We Cut Project Cost by 20% without Sacrificing Quality or Appearance

The biggest thing we had to consider was whether or not to tear out and rebuild the existing pool deck. The alternative was to overlay pavers onto the existing pool patio to give it the aesthetic refresh it so desperately needed without incurring the expense of full-scale pool demolition and construction.

Because our crews had never attempted an overlay before, we had to consider all the pros and cons. After conducting thorough research into materials and proper procedure, the joint decision was made to go ahead with the overlay.

Residential hardscape contractor portfolio- fire pit

The overlay required a thinner paver than what is usually used for paving work. This narrowed down choices, but there were still plenty of good options to choose from. We went with concrete pavers to provide the durability we were looking for while still achieving the look of classic brick and stone. The Collins chose Holland Stone pavers from Belgard (a good Georgia paver company) for the perimeter. For the interior, they selected Belgard’s Lafitt 3 Piece Modular pavers for their natural flagstone appearance.

To complete the pool overlay, we also had to solve the issue of how to adhere pool coping around edge of pool. We needed something strong enough to withstand leaping off, without the pavers coming loose. It took some trial and error, but in the end we found a product that was strong enough and would last.

We estimate that between materials and labor, overlaying the deck saved the Collins close to $20K on the project—about 20% of project cost.


A Project Packed With “Firsts” —And So Much More

As it turns out, the overlay wasn’t the only “T Lake first” on this job. Several other new-to-us elements of this project included:

  • Installing a full outdoor kitchen with all the works, including all outdoor appliances: grill, side burner, working outdoor sink with hot & cold water, outdoor fridge, and ice maker
  • The use of premade concrete kitchen cabinets. Like the pool overlay, these allowed us to adhere the stone veneer of the clients’ choice at a fraction of the cost of building cabinets from scratch.
  • Building a custom fireplace. We’ve installed many an outdoor fireplace kit, but this is first we’ve built from the ground up with block and stone veneer. While it was a little more costly than a kit, it allowed us to accommodate the massive 75” outdoor TV that is now the focal point of the Collins’ outdoor living space.

Georgia Residential Hardscape Contractor portfolio - custom fireplace

In addition, we:

  • Replaced the deck. The old composite monstrosity that once dominated the Collins’ backyard is a thing of the past. At approximately 20’x25’, we built a smaller, yet more functional version in its place. Rather than re-building with composite, the Collins chose to use lumber, which saved them an additional $9-10K on the project. We used #1 grade lumber with a semi-transparent stain that compliments the siding on the house.
  • Installed a fire pit. Located just down from the deck next to the existing hot tub, this provides an intimate space for conversation and relaxation. We changed the color of the stone in this and another area of the pool deck for contrast and decorative effect.
  • Built a 20’ X 40’ outdoor structure to shelter the fireplace/kitchen area, using large cedar timbers for the posts and beams, and tongue and groove pine for the ceiling.
  • Installed landscape lighting throughout. Correctly installed landscape lighting not only improves the safety and functionality of a property, it can also greatly enhance its nighttime aesthetic. For this property, we installed uplighting to existing palm trees, path lights around the walk in the backyard, step lights in the deck, and lighting under the bar top to improve ambiance as well as visibility for evening entertaining.

An Integrated Solution

In addition to ensuring that each element of the project was completed to highest quality and design standards, our design team also had to consider the overall appearance and how the elements would all come together into a harmonious whole. This included integrating it with the existing home in a way that made sense both aesthetically and practically.

Design build contractor GA portfolio photo - outdoor structure

The back side of the home contains a set of French doors, a window, and a single door, all of which needed to be worked into the design in a way that made sense. We ended up stretching out the deck to encompass both doors. Also, we oriented and built the outdoor structure so that its roofline extended naturally from the home’s existing gable. Warm brown and gray-brown tones were selected throughout, complementing the warm color of the home.

On the other side of the deck from the structure sits the existing hot tub. We set the new lumber deck several inches lower than the old one and eliminated a piece of railing, so that the Collins and guests can now step directly off the deck into the hot tub instead of having to step down and around. This arrangement will also facilitate conversation between hot tub users and people on the deck.

The Transformation: Realization Of A Dream

Our landscape design team worked closely with the Collins through the winter months to finalize materials choices and details of design for this residential hardscape project. Once the weather started to warm up in the spring of 2019, our construction crew began to turn their dream into a reality. By the end of the summer, their new backyard was ready for guests!

Residential hardscape company portfolio photo - outdoor kitchen and custom fireplace

A football coach, Mr. Collins is thrilled with the lifestyle his new backyard is enabling. With college games playing on his giant TV in place over the fireplace and grill at hand, he is looking forward to the most enjoyable football season ever. And both Mr. and Mrs. Collins have expressed delight at the transformation that took place to their pool and backyard.

At approximately 4,000 sq. ft. with about 3,500 sq. ft. of paved area, this is one of the larger residential design-build projects in T.Lake history. But despite the number of “firsts” we needed to navigate, the project went smoothly with results we are proud to share. This has been truly a dream project for all involved!  


Topics: Portfolio, Landscape Construction, Landscape Architecture, Landscape Design