Home kitchens are a nice touch alongside your pool

While swimming pools are the bread and butter of Ultimate Pools, they are just the start of the services that us and our partners can provide. We’ve recently gotten into home kitchens, complete with the help of Jeff Thayer from Well Done Building Projects. An outdoor home kitchen, complete with a grill, sink, seating area and entertainment, makes your pool a great place for a “Staycation.” Therefore, Thayer has joined us to talk about the elements and the essence of home kitchens.

The last decade has seen a huge rise in the popularity of these kitchens, as homeowners are increasingly looking to add value to their home instead of buying a new one. While swimming pools are part of this process, a home kitchen increases property value and home enjoyment that much more.

“It started right around the time of the recession,” Thayer said. “Instead of spending 200 (thousand) on a new home, why not spend 30, 40, 50 to make your current home a better home? The last few years have seen people investing in their home and updating their home.”

According to Thayer, new homes are starting to adjust to the home kitchen trend. Many houses that are being built come with provisions for outdoor kitchens and similar additions, making the job easier. That job can be done either with a detached kitchen with a gazebo roof or with a kitchen that is attached to the house. Pool houses are also a popular request. When paired with a swimming pool, it creates an outdoor paradise that homeowners don’t want to leave.

Thayer works with our customers to draw up the ideal plans and with decorators to provide the best look.


Elements of home kitchens

Gazebo roof and detached walls: Just because the home kitchen is outdoors doesn’t mean it’s completely open to the elements. Gazebo roofs protect your kitchen, porch, and seating area from the elements, be it hot sun or rain and wind. The detached walls also provide a bit of a separation from the main house. The roofs have a stained cedar column foundation with wood colors that match the house.

As for the walls, those are variable to the customer’s needs. Some want their kitchen completely enclosed; others want it completely open. The usual design is for 2-3 detached walls — made of cinder block or brick — with some open space.

Grill: You can’t have an outdoor kitchen without having anything to cook on, so let’s start with a grill. According to Thayer, the default grill is 36 inches, but larger sizes are available for an increased fee. Larger grills can go five to six feet long. Most customers request a sideburner, which is good for boiling crawfish or making sides to go along with the main course.

Most grills come with affixed storage areas for utensils and sinks for after-dinner cleaning. Some homeowners also request an area for a mini-refrigerator or freezer. All of these elements are typically stainless steel, making them resistant to elements and easy to clean. The stainless steel grill is built into a greater kitchen area that is made primarily of cinder, brick or cultured stone. These stones are picked to match the house so the kitchen and home are an external match.

Porch: One of the fundamental elements of home kitchens are a porch. These porches are constructed with a variety of veneer stones, tile or travertine and provide a surface for your seating area. Having a nice walking area, and an area for tables and seating, is essential.

Seating areas/perks

Whether you want a classic kitchen table or a living-room environment, seating areas are important. These areas, also known outdoor living areas, create a home outside the home that’s visible from your house. That provides an attractive area for you to relax and unwind in.

These areas are also where homeowners can get creative with their home kitchens. Here are some popular perks.

Televisions: Roughly 50 percent of customers want a television outside in their home kitchen, so the kitchens are designed it to incorporate such a thing.

“We go through the TV companies on stuff like that, because it’s an entirely separate industry,” he said. “We’ll work with DirecTV or the cable companies when it comes to that.”

Either way, home kitchens can turn into home entertainment centers. You can watch the game, grab a beer from the outdoor fridge and ice from an icemaker. It’s not a bad way to live.

Fire pits and fireplaces: These add to the vacation feel that is essential to a home kitchen. You can sit around a fire pit and cook s’mores or cuddle around the fire as if you’re at a ski lodge. Fireplaces can be built into the benchwalls of the outdoor pavilion to create a classy ambience.

Light fixtures: Wiring lights around your home kitchen not only allows you the ability to work outside at night, but also allows you to change the vibe. If you’re looking for romance or to party, light up your outdoor pavilion in style.

* Linked and embedded photos courtesy of Jeff Thayer and Amanda Oldham at Well Done Building Projects

Keep mosquitoes at bay with MistAway

With their buzzing and biting — and the aftermath of those bites — mosquitoes are extremely annoying. What’s also annoying is having to pack canisters of bug spray for a simple walk out to your swimming pool. This is especially true this time of the year, as the seasons start to change but the mugginess remains.

There is a solution to the mosquito problem that doesn’t involve bathing in Deep Woods OFF! though. MistAway Systems in Houston has come up with several mosquito-killing systems that kill mosquitoes in and around your yard for good.

pool spa rocks woodlands

Killing mosquitoes for good

The problem with mosquitoes is that they never seem to go away. No matter how much bug spray you put on or how many bug zappers you position around the yard, they keep coming. What MistAway does is kill off a mosquito’s reproductive capabilities, eventually snuffing out their existence for good. So how does this work?

Before we get into what MistAway does, it’s important for you to know how mosquitoes become a problem in the first place. While living in the humid climate of Southeast Texas doesn’t help, there are things you can do to lessen the mosquito breeding area.

1. Soak up puddles and pools of standing water: Standing water is a prime breeding spot for mosquitoes, and having a couple of puddles in your backyard or around your house will cause a mosquito frenzy. Considering that mosquitoes can reproduce by the tens of thousands, do your best to identify places where water pools (perhaps areas where hoses drip) and keep them dry with sand and mulch.

2. Don’t overwater your plants: Plants make your yard and the area around your pool look great, but they can also be great breeding places for mosquitoes. Think spring break in Cancun and you get a good idea of how the combination of how moisture and dirt can trigger the mosquito population. So be a bit conservative with your watering and be sure to also make sure that you don’t leave standing water in any pots. While you’re at it, also make sure you drain your watering can completely. Any excess water is a bad thing.

Systemically killing mosquitoes

There are two types of systems that we install from MistAway — one with a 55-gallon drum and the Gen III. The drum can be purchased with an agitator that mixes up the chemicals, while the Gen III mixes a batch every time the chemicals are spread. Both systems send out a dosage of chemicals through small tubing to nozzles situated throughout the yard. Those nozzles spray repellent into the air, which is consumed by the mosquitoes that are encircling the pool.

Mosquitoes are not able to fly very far, about 100 feet or so, so they won’t be able to get where they need to go to reproduce (especially if you get rid of the breeding areas in your yard mentioned above). Slowly but surely, the mosquito population will dwindle down to zero. It takes about a month or so for all of the local mosquitoes to come to your pool, get infected with the repellent, and meet their demise. It’s pretty nice once they meet their demise, though. Spray at dusk and dawn for maximum exposure and effectiveness and get nozzles with a check valve to prevent dripping. The spray also helps kill off annoying bugs and spiders, too.

The chemicals of MistAway

So what chemicals does MistAway use to kill mosquitoes? Riptide is the primary one. It is a water-based solution that mixes with botanical pyrethrum to provide a solution that incapacitates and kills mosquitoes. Pyrethrum is an extract from a white daisy that creates a poison that kills all sorts of flying pests. In layman’s terms, Riptide is the Advil and pyrethrum is the ibuprofen within the Advil that cures everything.

Riptide isn’t the only insecticide one can place in the MistAway. Spectrum is another option you can choose. The Spectrum repellents are a purely chemical version of insect killer if you prefer to go that route.

Adjustable actuators help regulate your water flow

There are few things more calming than sitting back in your pool and watching water trickle peacefully from your waterfall into the pool below. But sometimes that trickle isn’t going to quite fit the mood. That’s where getting adjustable actuators comes into play.

remastered pool waterfall rocks

Adjustable actuators are a multi-faceted tool

An adjustable actuator allows the user to control their water flow experience through a valve that can be adjusted via smart systems. The actuator we use is the IntelliValve from Pentair. The IntelliValve fits on any equipment pad and is compatible with smart systems such as IntelliFlo. But what is the difference between an adjustable actuator and a regular actuator?

A typical valve actuator has two main modes: On and off. Either you have the water on a previously determined setting or turn it off completely with very little variation. You can make a 180-degree change, a 90-degree change, or none at all. It’s a standard valve with very little variation between modes. Adjustable actuators give the use more power over the amount of water that is being used and allows you to alter the type of flow. Unleash the flow to 100 percent of its capability or dial it down to 25 or 40 percent at your discretion. There are a lot more possibilities with an adjustable actuator.

An adjustable actuator allows you to distribute water flow to multiple places. If you want your waterfall to flow at 80 percent capacity, then direct the remaining 20 percent into the pool. And getting multiple adjustable actuators to pair with your water features provides even more options. Program your weeping wall to 30 percent, have your bubblers gushing at 80 percent and your waterfall going at 55 percent. The possibilities are endless, with each actuator contributing to your pool’s vibe.

The smart capability of the actuator allows it to work in concert with lighting, as well. Pair attractive lighting to balancing your water features to make your pool a fun place to unwind after work.

Water features will accentuate your Ultimate Pools pool

As you can see from the pictures on this website, an Ultimate Pools pool is more than a body of water to swim in. Our pools are not only meant to be a lush backyard oasis, but also eye-catching conversation starters. A great way to get your neighbors and friends talking is by adding some water features to your pool.

While waterfalls are the feature most identified with swimming pools, there are many other ways to go in that department. Below is a breakdown of some of the most popular water features available with Ultimate Pools pools. Even if you don’t want water features right away, be sure to plan for them during the installation process. As detailed in this article, it’s less expensive to get the necessary drainage at the beginning than down the road.

waterfall feature 2

The main types of water features

Waterfalls: Waterfalls are the most common water feature that we deal with and are often a default addition to any new swimming pool. Think about it: What’s more relaxing than watching a steady stream of water cascade down from a set of rocks? We set up the waterfall construction by building a pad while we’re in the process of shooting gunite that juts out away from the pool. That pad allows us to build dramatic rock features for the water to flow over.

While moss rock is the traditional base for a waterfall, they can also be constructed with granite, patio stone, and other rocks for a fee.

Weeping walls: A weeping wall is a bit different than a waterfall, as the water trickles out of the rocks and down into the pool. Therefore, you don’t need to have a pad built in upon installation.

The type of rocks used for weeping walls vary. We usually use moss rock because it’s the most abundant and affordable rock, but we’ve installed weeping walls with all sorts of rock. We’ve had customers use granite pieces and even have had customers specially order rock from North Dakota. If you’re willing to track it down and pay for it, it’ll be installed!

Sheer descents: Instead of the weeping or unevenly falling water, a sheer descent triggers a solid, thin sheet of water. The sheer descent mechanism is a plastic molded piece that is built into a wall or stone that will create the single, unbroken sheer of water. Sheer descents can be paired with colored lights to add a glitzy vibe.

Other great options

Sconces: A sconce is a statue or a heading that sends out one small stream of water. Check out the lions in this picture of an older pool we built. People use a variety of decorative sconces like this interesting elephant one. We work with Pentair to supply our sconces, which can be adhered to the wall and are weather-resistant.

Mini-jets: If you want to shoot single streams of water without a decorative sconce, then get some mini-jets. You can set up the jets, which are also known as pea shooters, from the side of the pool or the deck to add a bit of flair.

Luminaires: Luminaires mix light with water streams, as LED lights combine with the stream to provide a color explosion. You can affix luminaires to pea shooters along the deck or to underwater streams to add pizzazz. Mix the light with water and air to provide a colorful, geyser effect in your swimming pool.

Decks: The process and what to consider

A few weeks ago, we talked about having a couple of posts on decking. Well, after a detour to deal with heat and algae, we’re back and ready to talk about decks. Just in case you missed it, be sure to check out the article on the suppliers we work with. Join us on this adventure after that.

Just like anything else, there are many type of decks to consider. Once you decide on the size and placement of your deck, you have to figure out what kind of deck you want.

bench and stuff

Basic types of decks

Brush concrete: A lot of decks have a concrete base, and there are multiple concrete options. The default option is brushed concrete, which is simply brushing concrete with a specialized broom after it’s poured to create a smooth surface. Brushed concrete is cost-effective.

Exposed aggregate: This is next on the price scale. Also known as pea gravel, exposed aggregate is a concrete surface that exposes elements such as granite and rocks for a classy look. Exposed aggregate is cooler on the feet than brushed concrete. It can be tougher to walk on, but troweling the surface will smooth it out to make it easy on the feet and the eyes.

Salt finish: This is brushed concrete with a twist. As the concrete is drying, rock salt is poured onto the concrete and troweled. After the troweling, the surface is washed. The water from that washing dissolves the salt, leaving an earthy surface that’s similar to exposed aggregate. Add color to this finish at extra cost.

Spray deck: A spray deck is a way to limit the heat soaking in your deck. Once you’ve laid your concrete, “spray” it with an acrylic surface. Not only does it add color and prevent heat even when topped with a sealer, it doesn’t whittle or crack with foot traffic.

More specialized decks

Stained concrete: This is a versatile deck design where concrete is distressed and can be cut into different designs and patterns for an eye-catching look. The pieces of a stained concrete deck can be cut into different shapes and stained various colors.

Stamped concrete: This is a good option for artsy types. This type of concrete allows for different colors, patterns, and even well-placed cracks in the surface. You can use powder for coloring effects and stencils for designs that will add pizzazz to your deck once it dries. It can mimic flagstone and wood to bring out the artistic nature of your deck even more.

Pavers: While concrete is the default deck surface, pavers are also an attractive option. There are two main pavers that we work with — cement pavers and stone pavers, which are also known as travertine. Unlike concrete, pavers are made of interlocking parts that have flexibility. Instead of cracking, pavers have a base that can move, expand and contract as needed. This makes them durable and resistant to the elements.

Tile and flagstone: This is another fun option, as you can put ceramic or stone tile on top of the laid concrete for a sturdy attractive look, or add flagstone on top of the concrete surface. There’s a weather barrier applied between the concrete and the tile/stone that serves two purposes. It prevents moisture from seeping up to the surface from the concrete and it prevents the tile from being cracked by tension below the surface.


Putting a sealer on your deck provides a protective, colorful layer, making it resistant to the elements. But it’s something that is typically recommended by the deck construction company and is usually restricted to spray decks and stamped concrete decks. Applying a sealer increases the amount of heat the deck exudes, making it hot to walk on when exposed to sun or hot weather. If this is something you can live with, a sealer can be a worthwhile addition. Sealers bring out the life of stones and also enhance the color of the deck. You can also add a sand/silicone dust mixture to limit slippage on the sealed surface in wet conditions.