Backyard Paradise: Open Floor Plan for the Great Outdoors

Backyard Paradise: Open Floor Plan for the Great Outdoors

This week, we’re in Charlotte, North Carolina, to create a beautiful outdoor area for our Backyard Paradise contest winners.

Courtney Claugus was selected as the lucky winner of our Backyard Paradise contest, so we’re giving her and her husband Adam’s backyard a makeover with help from our friends at Quikrete and Pavestone.

Read on to learn about some of the projects we tackled. 

Pavestone Avant XL paver patios in greystone
These large, gray linear pavers complement the Claugus’ contemporary home. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Build Two Paver Patios

Two is better than one! And in this, case, two paver patios offer more space for outdoor living! 

We designate one patio for seating and another for dining — like an open floor plan for the great outdoors.  

Crews from Quikrete, Pavestone and a local construction company build the dual patio setup. The first patio extends from the existing concrete patio, and the second is on the other side of the house. 

Worker uses compacter to compact paver base for a patio
Paver base provides a solid foundation and also raises the pavers to be even with the concrete patio. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

They first lay out the footprint for the patios, then add four inches of paver base to establish the foundation.

Level running over paver sand
Leveling the paver sand ensures an even patio surface. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

After compacting the paver base, they add one inch of paver sand, then use a level to make the surface even.

Worker laying Pavestone Avant XL pavers
Workers use a string to ensure the lines stay even throughout the length of the patio. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

The patios are built with Pavestone’s Avant XL pavers. These large, 16-by-16-inch patio stones have the look of large format plank pavers. The false joints on the gray pavers create clean lines, so they go well with Adam and Courtney’s contemporary-style home. To add some line variety, the crew rotated each paver to create crisscrossed lines.

Paver patio border edging
Smaller pavers create a border around the large pavers. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Once the large pavers are laid, the crew marks a line where the border will begin and cut it with a concrete saw. Then, they lay the smaller border pavers in a soldier course pattern. 

Brush pushing sand over paver patio
Just like grout color matters when laying tile, paver sand color makes a difference on a patio. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

The last step is filling the joints. We use a granite screening to complement the pavers as well as the house’s color. for fine. 

Stepping patio stones next to a concrete slab and flower border
These matching pavers create stepping stones to unite the two patios. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

After the patios are complete, we place a few pavers between them to create stepping stones, so the two are united.

Pavestone Rumblestone outdoor fireplace
The outdoor fireplace becomes the perfect focal point for this seating area. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Build Outdoor Fireplace

Every seating area needs a focal point, so we build an outdoor fireplace.

We use Pavestone’s Rumblestone Outdoor Fireplace Kit in Greystone. Before we assemble the fireplace, we lay eight inches of paver base, compacting it in layers, so we have a sturdy foundation.  

Building this fireplace is simple because the kit includes a set of color-coded drawings that detail which blocks go where on each step.

Rumblestone fireplace blocks with adhseive
The fireplace is held together just by the weight of the stones and some construction adhesive. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

We don’t need any mortar to build this fireplace because the blocks are held in place using Quikrete Advanced Polymer Construction Adhesive.

Wood mantel on a Pavestone Rumblestone outdoor fireplace
Pavestone representative Chris Claire found this wood mantel at his mother’s home. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Once the fireplace is built, we add a mantel using a recycled piece of wood. It softens up the hard edges of the stone and warms up the space.

Shade sail over paver patio and outdoor dining table
We install the shade sail hooks on the house slightly higher than the ones on the post so we can match the slope of the home’s roof. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Install Shade Sail

The paver patio for dining offers little shade, so we install a shade sail to make the area more comfortable.

First, we dig holes for our two 6-by-6 posts that will support the shade sail. We set wood posts in the ground using Quikrete Fast-Setting Concrete, then surround them with pavers to match the patio.

Brush staining cedar wood plank
This stain matches the existing outside columns. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

To match the posts to the house columns, we stain pieces of rough-sawn cedar and wrap them over the wood columns. Before we nail the wood over the posts, we add some spacers to keep the cedar planks from bowing. Wrapping these 6-by-6 posts not only makes them look larger, but it also hides the cracks that are inevitable with solid posts. 

Danny Lipford drills a wood beam for a shade sail
The top horizontal beam unites the two posts. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

To join the two columns, we build a horizontal box beam with longer pieces of 1-by-8-inch cedar on the ground before we lift it into place.

Next, we attach two hooks to the top of the posts for half of our shade sail, then attach another two to the side of the house for the other two corners of the shade sail.

Then, we install those hooks slightly higher to give the shade sail a slope and match the angle of the roof. 

Watch: Installing a Shade Sail 

Danny Lipford and Chelsea Lipford Wolf with Backyard Paradise winners Adam and Courtney Claugus and their dog Kendrick.
Danny Lipford and Chelsea Lipford Wolf with Backyard Paradise winners Adam and Courtney Claugus and their dog Kendrick. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Post-Production Thoughts

Courtney and Adam had a nice backyard, but they didn’t have much outdoor living space to enjoy it. With just a small covered concrete pad and a couple of chairs, their outdoor entertaining well was pretty limited.

Backyard with small concrete patio
Adam and Courtney had a big backyard but little room for entertaining. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Now they have not one but two great Pavestone patios that offer plenty of space for entertainment. One is just the right size for outdoor dining under the cover of the shade sail we added, and the other offers a massive space to relax with friends.

backyard with two paver patios and a shade sail
By adding two paver patios, we’ve more than doubled the outdoor entertaining space in this backyard. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

The Rumblestone fireplace adds a focal point with loads of character and is bound to be very popular on those chilly nights. Plus, the large format pavers complement the contemporary home’s color and character.

Special Thanks

Other Tips From This Episode

Products Featured in This Episode



Shade Sail


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Further Reading

Simplifying Summer Home Maintenance

Simplifying Summer Home Maintenance

Pressure washing a wood fence for summer home maintenance
A quick pressure wash will make your fence look brand new. (RoschetzkkylstockPhoto, Getty Images Pro)

Home maintenance is a year-round event, but some tasks just make more sense to do in the summer.

Our 4 Seasons of Homeownership Summer Checklist, which divides must-do tasks by the time of year, is a great way to stay on top of your home maintenance projects.

With help from our friends at The Home Depot, we’ve compiled this list of timely chores to keep your house clean and comfortable.

Listen to this special-edition Today’s Homeowner Podcast, and follow along below, to learn all about the top summer home maintenance projects!

Accumulair titanium mini pleat air conditioner filter
Changing the air conditioner filter makes your AC work better to keep you cooler. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

1. Change AC & Heating System Filters

Regularly changing your HVAC system’s filters is important because a dirty filter will slow down and strain your system. It should take about two to three minutes to take out your old filter and put in a new one.

Also, once your filter is out, go ahead and vacuum the cavity in case of dust build-up.

Shop vac vacuuming out an AC drain line during the home for home maintenance
Make sure to flush out the AC drain line to prevent damage. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

2. Flush Out AC Drain Line

Your AC drain line can get blocked with mold and mildew, causing its pan to overflow. Flush it with bleach twice during the summer, when it’s working at its hardest. 

Loose bottom rail on a step railing
Check your railings for any weak spots. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

3. Check for Loose Railings or Damage on Wooden Decks 

Changing weather can take a toll on your deck. Nails and screws can loosen during the temperature change and splinters can pop up once the heat rises.

Inspect and repair any damage to your deck so you can have some safe fun in the sun. Top it off with a coat of sealer to keep it protected all summer long.

Leaning fence resting on a tree
Fixing a leaning fence isn’t as complicated as it might appear to be. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

 4. Inspect Fencing & Gates for Damage

Look for rotting and damage and check your posts’ sturdiness. If any boards are warped, replace them with new ones.

Now is also a great time to pressure wash your fence and apply a fresh coat of stain.

Charcoal on fire on a grill
Keep your grill clean for a great-tasting barbecue. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

5. Clean & Inspect Outdoor Grill

Cleaning your grill will not take away any of your food’s flavor, but it will get rid of any nasty germs and fire hazards.

Whether you have a gas or charcoal grill, scrub away any drippings using aluminum foil and white vinegar.

Two rocking chairs on a brick paver patio
Regularly cleaning outdoor furniture extends its lifespan. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

6. Clean Outdoor Furniture

Regularly clean your outdoor furniture — especially if it’s wood.

Check for any loose parts or rot (if it’s wood). If you have cushions, be sure to wash them. In addition, if your cushions get wet from rain, be sure to hang them out to dry on a sunny day to avoid mold.

If you do this on a regular basis, it makes it a lot easier to keep everything clean.

A whitewashed brick fireplace
Your fireplace will be ready for winter if you have it inspected this summer. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

7. Have Chimney Inspected & Cleaned

Now’s a great time to have a professional inspect your fireplace and chimney because you aren’t using them during the summer. 

Plus, you’ll have more time for repairs if needed.

Paint peeling from wood siding
Scrape off peeling paint and put on a fresh coat for an exterior refresh. (mehampson, Getty Images)

8. Scrape Loose Paint from Siding & Trim

Boost your home’s curb appeal by freshening up siding. Scrape away any loose paint, sand if needed, then prime and paint on a fresh coat. 

If it’s an older paint, be sure to test it for lead as a precaution.

Row of windows in a sunroom
Clean your windows regularly so they sparkle. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

9. Clean Windows

Mix 1 teaspoon of baby shampoo to 1 gallon of water, or 1-1/2 cups of vinegar to 1 gallon of water, and wipe windows down with newspaper for a streak-free shine.

Involve family members and tag-team to speed things up! Have one person clean the windows inside while another cleans the outside. 

10. Pull Weeds & Add Mulch

Rake over brown mulch next to decorative grass
Mulch keeps moisture inside flower beds and inhibits weed growth. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Finally, summer blooms are burgeoning! Now is the perfect time to pull any weeds from garden beds and prevent further weed growth by adding 2 to 3 inches of mulch

Listen to this special-edition Today’s Homeowner Podcast for more summer home maintenance tips!

Further Reading

Quikrete Calculators: Get Concrete Answers and More

Quikrete Calculators: Get Concrete Answers and More

Quikrete’s calculators eliminate any guesswork when purchasing building materials for home projects. (Photo provided by Quikrete)

Concrete is a cornerstone element for any home project.

For many homes, it’s literally the foundation upon which they are built. Concrete is also a key ingredient of hardscape elements to enhance your backyard; it provides a solid entrance with driveways and walkways; and it securely sets posts for fences or mailboxes.  

Here’s how Quikrete’s calculators do the math for you and make home improvement projects easier.

For concrete slabs, big or small, Quikrete’s concrete calculator tells you the precise amount you’ll need.
For concrete slabs, big or small, Quikrete’s concrete calculator tells you the precise amount you’ll need.

Concrete Slabs

Whether you need a slab for a concrete driveway or shed foundation, Quikrete’s concrete calculator tells you how many bags of mix you’ll need to get the job done — eliminating any worry of being short a bag or buying too many. 

First, choose the desired product — popular options include Quikrete’s Concrete Mix (for larger slabs) and Fast-Setting Concrete Mix in the red bag (for smaller slabs). 

The calculator determines the amount you need for a 4-inch or 6-inch slab. Just enter your slab’s square footage and it will tell you how many 40-, 50-, 60- or 80-pound bags you’ll need. 

Don’t end up shorthanded when setting fence posts! Quikrete’s concrete calculator ensures you’ll have enough Fast-Setting Concrete Mix to get the job done.
Don’t end up shorthanded when setting fence posts! Quikrete’s concrete calculator ensures you’ll have enough Fast-Setting Concrete Mix to get the job done.

Posts and Mailboxes

Installing a mailbox or fence? Quikrete Fast-Setting Concrete Mix makes setting your posts fast and easy. 

Calculate how many bags you’ll need here. All you need to do is enter the depth of the hole. The calculator will generate the number of bags you need for various post and hole diameters. 

Use Quikrete’s concrete crack sealant calculator to ensure you’ll have enough sealant to fill every crack and gap. 
Use Quikrete’s concrete crack sealant calculator to ensure you’ll have enough sealant to fill every crack and gap. 

Cracked Concrete

Over time, cracks and crevices will creep up on your concrete. To maintain your concrete surface’s structural integrity and prevent additional damage, repair those cracks with a concrete crack sealant.

Use Quikrete Concrete Repair or Quikrete Advanced Polymer Concrete Crack Sealant for a flexible, elastic bond. 

Simply enter the approximate length of the crack you will be repairing in feet, and Quikrete’s Concrete Crack Sealant Calculator will tell you how many 10.1-ounce tubes you will need for your project.

When building a paver patio, don’t end up short on sand. Quikrete’s paver sand calculator tells you how many bags you’ll need to fill every square inch.
When building a paver patio, don’t end up short on sand. Quikrete’s paver sand calculator tells you how many bags you’ll need to fill every square inch.

Paver Patios

Laying a paver patio? Quikrete has a calculator to determine exactly how many bags of paver sand you’ll need.

Just enter the size of the area you need to cover in square feet. The calculator will tell you how many bags you will need to cover the area at a 1/8-inch, 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch 1/2-inch, 3/4-inch, 1-inch or 2-inch depth.

Once you have your pavers in place, you’ll need to secure them with some polymeric jointing sand. You guessed it — Quikrete also has a calculator for that.

Quikrete’s mortar mix calculator gives you the peace of mind to know you’ll have enough mortar to build a brick wall in one go.
Quikrete’s mortar mix calculator gives you the peace of mind to know you’ll have enough mortar to build a brick wall in one go.

Mortar Mix 

Mortar is the glue that holds bricks together. Whether you’re building a retaining wall or a privacy concrete block wall for your garden, you’ll need some.

And Quikrete has a mortar mix calculator to tell you how much you’ll need. Just enter the number of bricks or concrete blocks you plan to use for your project.

The calculator will tell you the number of 60-pound or 80-pound bags of Quikrete Mortar Mix you need to construct your project with a ⅜-inch mortar joint.

filling toy buckets with sand in a children's sandbox
Building a backyard playground for your child? Quikrete has a calculator to tell you how many bags of sand you’ll need to fill a sandbox. (pixelshot)

Other Material Calculators

Still have a question after you’ve calculated how much material you need? Quikrete has a live chat function on its calculator webpage, so you can talk one-on-one with an expert, ensuring your project will be completed to perfection.

Further Reading

Cornhole Game: How to Build the Board

Cornhole Game: How to Build the Board

Cornhole, a game that’s been around for centuries, is a popular pastime for tailgate entertainment or backyard fun. You just need a cornhole board and some bags — and a free afternoon with family or friends!

History of the Game

Many people believe a cabinet maker in Germany invented the cornhole game in the 14th century. 

As the story goes, Matthias Kuepermann found a group of boys throwing stones into groundhog holes for fun. Worried for their safety, he crafted the cornhole board, replacing groundhog holes with wooden boxes with round holes and stones with bags filled with dried corn.

Because of its simplicity, the game hasn’t evolved much. These days, the corn-filled bags are sometimes replaced with plastic and resin beads. But some die-hard cornhole enthusiasts insist on using real corn kernels.  

Players in the United States even compete at state and national levels. And now, there are efforts to make the cornhole game an Olympic sport

You can build a cornhole board for your backyard. The process is simple, but it might require a few specialty tools if you don’t already have them on hand!

Child grabbing a cornhole bag from the top of a cornhole board game in a backyard.
Whether you’re passing time in the backyard or competing for bragging rights, the cornhole game is a fun activity for all ages.

Building Your Own Cornhole Board


  • (2) 2-by-4-foot by ½-inch plywood
  • (4) 2-by-4 studs
  • (4) 3/8 by 4-inch carriage bolts
  • (8) 3/8-inch washers
  • (4) 3/8-inch nuts
  • (16) 3-inch wood screws
  • (24) 1-½-inch wood screws
  • Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue
  • Drill
  • 3/8-inch drill bit
  • 6-inch hole saw
  • Miter or circular saw
  • Carpenter square
  • Tape measure
  • Sander and/or sandpaper
  • Exterior paint or wood stain and spar varnish

Hands holding a pencil and a carpenter square on top of a piece of wood.
Use a carpenter square to get accurate angles for your cornhole game’s leg pieces.

Cut the Cornhole Board’s Wood Pieces

Using a carpenter or speed square, mark 25 degrees and cut along that angle. Then mark a straight line 12-and-1/4 inches from the angle’s long side. Repeat this three more times to create your boards’ legs.

For the frames, you’ll need four straight cuts at 21 inches and four straight cuts at 48 inches.

Edge of a piece of wood cut at 45 degree angles.
The 45-degree cuts on the leg pieces will make them easier to fold

Now back to your leg pieces. You need to cut them on the square side to make them easier to fold and unfold. Mark 1 inch in from each side and 1 inch down on each side. Connect those marks with a straight edge to draw a 45-degree angle on each corner. Cut the two triangles on each leg.

Assembling a wood rectangle.
Lay your cornhole game frame on a waist-high table for easy drilling.

Assemble the Frame

To mark the hole for the legs to attach to your frame, measure 1 and 3/4 inches from one side and 1 and 3/4 inches from the short end. Drill all the way through with a 3/8-inch drill bit. Then set aside.

Drilling in a a screw to a piece of wood clamped down on a table next to Titebond III Ultimate wood glue.
Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue will keep your frame in place and add some waterproofing to your cornhole game.

To lay out your frames, lay two 48-inch pieces parallel to one another and set the 21-inch pieces at the ends, between them. Apply a bead of wood glue rated for exterior use, like Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue, and attach the pieces together with 3-inch screws.

Apply more wood glue around the top of your new frame, and set the 2-by-4 sheet of plywood in place. Attach it with 1-and-1/2-inch screws through the plywood into the frame below.

To create the hole for the bean bags, mark 9 inches from one end, then measure and mark the center of the board near that 9-inch mark. 

Using a 6-inch hole saw, cut a hole with your mark at the center. A hole saw this large can be a little tricky, so take your time!

Flip the board over to attach the legs.

Drilling a leg onto the underside of a cornhole game board.
Folding legs will save storage space.

Attach the Legs

On the end of your board with the hole, set your legs in either corner with the longer part of the angle on top. Clamp the leg half an inch from the end and use the existing hole in the leg to drill a 3/8-inch hole through the frame. Then sand the ends of the legs to round the cut angles.

Next, slide a carriage bolt through the hole from the outside, then one washer, a wood leg, another washer and finally the nut. Hand tighten.

Repeat as necessary until both of your cornhole boards are assembled!

A stained cornhole board game with red and blue bags.
Stain your cornhole game for a finished look or customize it by painting it with your team colors.

Add the Finishing Touches

No matter which finish you choose for your boards, first sand them thoroughly

Start with 150- or 180-grit sandpaper. Once you’ve sanded all of the surfaces, step it up to a 220- or 300-grit sandpaper to create that smooth, slick surface that’s synonymous with cornhole boards!

Gloved hand applying stain to a cornhole game board.

Staining: In long, even strokes rub your wood stain with the grain of the wood. Follow with a clean rag to wipe up the excess stain. Once it has dried for a few hours, start applying a clear topcoat, like spar varnish, that is safe for outdoor use.

Let the coat completely dry before sanding with 220-grit sandpaper, wiping clean and applying another clear coat. Repeat for a third time.

Painting: If you’re choosing to paint your boards, select an exterior semi-gloss paint and make sure your design covers all the wood on the top so the surface will be appropriately slick. Several coats might be required.

Once your topcoat or paint is dry, you’re ready to start keeping score! 

To get your backyard ready for more summer fun, add some hanging string lights. Use planters or shepherd’s hooks to keep the good times going past sundown.

Further Reading

Expanding a Patio for Entertaining 

Expanding a Patio for Entertaining 

This week we’re helping a blended family expand their patio to better meet their needs. 

Eric and Corrina love spending time outdoors with their children, but their patio space just wasn’t enough to make their family feel together during “get-togethers”

Their grill is separated from the main seating area, and Corrina’s container plants make the limited patio space feel cluttered.

Pea gravel is an excellent alternative to pavers for expanding patio space.

Expand Patio with Pea Gravel

To double the size of this patio without using concrete or pavers, we use pea gravel. 

The existing patio is slanted downward away from the home for drainage, so with our pea gravel landing, we can make it almost level with the ground. The pea gravel will hold the drainage water well. Plus, the water will be moving slowly, so it will prevent any erosion.

This plastic edging will keep our pea gravel in place.

First, we lay plastic edging to frame our expanded patio area. This plastic edging is usually used with pavers, but we’re switching it up to work with our pea gravel. The smooth ridge will keep the pea gravel in place so it won’t spill out into the yard. 

We use a mallet to drive landscaping spikes into the edging to keep it in place. 

Once the edging is in place, we fill the space with Pavestone paver base and tamp it down.

We then sprinkle the pea gravel across the paver base so we can create a uniform surface. The pea gravel is part of the decorative feature of this patio, so we don’t want to rush it.  

Once we have an even spread of pea gravel, we tamp it down into the paver base.

This combination planter bench provides sitting space for people and plants!

Build Plant Shelf Bench

To create more seating and also more space for Corrina’s plants, we build a custom plant shelf bench.

The bench is constructed like a regular wood bench, but we add a shelf to the back for container plants.

Retractable screen doors neatly tuck away when not in use.

Install Retractable Screen Door

Our solution to Eric’s aversion to bugs is installing a retractable screen door from Wizard Screens on the French doors.

Retractable screen doors mount to the side of a door frame with a track at the top and bottom to guide the rolled screen. The screen door can be pulled out to allow fresh air into your home when needed, and then rolled back out of the way when not in use.

These screens keep mosquitoes away without obstructing the outside view.

Vertical wood slats add more privacy than lattice.

Replace Lattice

The jasmine growing around the lattice on the patio no longer needs the lattice for support, so we replace it with vertical wood slats to add more visual appeal and privacy. 

We also:

  • Cleaned existing patio tiles
  • Replaced the ceiling fan and light fixture
  • Diverted the downspouts away from the patio
  • Planted flowering plants near the house from Southern Patio

Now, there’s room for all on this expanded patio!

Post-Production Thoughts

Eric and Corrina’s backyard is beautifully accented with all kinds of plants. But they couldn’t fully enjoy it because their patio was cramped and cluttered, to the point that the grill had to be moved out into the yard. They rarely opened the french doors because it invited in the bugs, and everything was a little dated.

But now, we’ve doubled the size of their patio with a unique drainable surface. Plus, we maximized the space by relocating Corrina’s container plants to a new combination bench and plant shelf. More shelves on the wall display the smaller pots and the new vertical slat trellis provides privacy and support for Corrina’s jasmine vine. 

Plus, Eric and Corrina can enjoy their patio from the inside  “mosquito-free” thanks to their new retractable screen. 

Other Tips From This Episode

Products Featured in This Episode

Further Reading