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The Must-Have Feature for Every Australian Backyard and Garden

Making the most of your home means spending time outdoors too, so you want your backyard and garden to reflect your lifestyle.

There is one must-have feature that can help you create an outdoor space that is not only beautiful, but also functional, long-lasting and could even add value to your home.

The answer? Decorative concrete.

There are so many diverse ways to use concrete in any outdoor space, from the smallest courtyards and patios, to sprawling gardens and entertainer’s paradise backyards.

Let’s take a look at just some of the possibilities.

 

Assorted Custom Finishes

Homeowners are no longer restricted to a plain grey concrete slab. Concrete is now available in a wide variety of appealing finishes including exposed aggregate, coloured concrete and polished and honed concrete. Geostone’s decorative concrete range also features natural Australian stone, providing the natural materials and earthy tones that are so on trend in outdoor styling.

 

Garden Beds

Building and maintaining garden beds requires a lot of planning and hard work, so you want them to last. An article by Urban Agriculture co-founder Brian Barth discusses the many benefits of building garden beds with concrete, and he says no other material is as durable or suitable for the job as poured concrete. Concrete also absorbs the warmth of the sun, holding it in the soil overnight to aid plant growth. And the flexible nature of concrete allows you to create curved shapes and more artistic-styled vegetable gardens.

 

Patios and Alfresco Areas

The backyard barbecue is a much-loved Australian institution, making outdoor entertaining areas the key feature of backyards and gardens everywhere. Decorative concrete options such as coloured concrete and exposed aggregate concrete featuring natural stone help to create an attractive and inviting atmosphere for patios and alfresco areas. Various decorative concrete types can also be combined to create outdoor rooms and clearly defined spaces, from grand entertainment areas to the smallest patio designs.

 

Swimming Pools and Pool Surrounds

Decorative concrete is a popular choice for building swimming pools, swimming pool renovations and creating cool pool surrounds. Coloured concrete can be used to add a striking decorative border or pattern, while exposed and honed concrete offer slip-resistant properties. Other benefits include greater weed resistance, reduced mosquito breeding, and greater comfort underfoot.

 

Driveways, Footpaths and Pathways

There is something comforting about pulling into your own driveway at the end of a busy day. Using decorative concrete for driveways gives the entrance to your home a sense of individuality, and a differentiating look and texture to the rest of the street. Driveways and pathways can also be used to frame lawns and gardens.

 

Retaining Walls, Feature Walls, and Steps

Decorative concrete isn’t limited to ground coverage surfaces. It can also be used to build three-dimensional and functional structures, such as retaining walls and garden steps. Home improvement website Networx identifies the many benefits of decorative concrete retaining walls, including greater strength, durability, resistance, flexibility, ease of installation, low maintenance and affordability.

 

Garden Sheds, Garage and Shed Floors

Every serious outdoor area needs a shed, and every home needs a garage. Sheds and garages are best finished with a hardy and durable flooring surface that is both easy to clean and will last the test of time. Coloured concrete is becoming an increasingly popular option for sheds and garage floors, while honed and polished concrete can add another level of luxury to the garage space, ideal for showcasing a much-loved vehicle.

 

Decorative Features

There really are endless opportunities for using concrete in your outdoor space. As well as all of the above traditional purposes, concrete can be used to mould decorative and functional features for the outdoors including concrete fire pits, concrete seat walls, water features, or even an outdoor smoking room. With the wide range of decorative concrete colours, textures and finishes available from Geostone, you are only limited by your imagination.

 

For more information and inspiration on how to improve your backyard and garden with concrete, visit Geostone on Facebook or read more about decorative concrete.

A Solid Long-Term Investment

Decorative concrete provides a surface with long-term appeal, and we’re not just talking about the way it looks. As an investment, it could pay off handsomely down the track, thanks to its durability and value adding qualities.

A prime example of how decorative concrete can add value is the driveway. A great looking driveway is seen as a major street appeal enhancer, and this can raise home values accordingly. Given that a driveway is such an unmissable feature at the front of the home, it should be obvious that an investment in its visual appeal is a very smart one. Smarter still when you use the same material on an accompanying walkway, another prominent feature that can add lots of street appeal.

Trend towards decorative concrete floorsThe trend towards using decorative concrete in other parts of the house further reflects the demand of potential home buyers who want surfaces that combine practicality with visual appeal; concrete pool surrounds not only provide a seamless exterior flow, they’re skid and UV resistant. Honed internal floors in wet areas such as laundries and bathrooms are a big selling point as they might be considered to be safer surfaces in family homes thanks to their skid resistance.

One of concrete’s greatest strengths is just that – strength. It can be a hard-wearing, long-lasting feature when installed properly and, with an eye to the future, this is another of its benefits. A lower maintenance surface, and one that will stay low-maintenance for a long period of time, is attractive to all parties: home owners and home buyers. At the same time, a strong and durable surface – a driveway for example – that looks as though it won’t need repairing or replacing any time soon is yet another example of value-adding street appeal.

More and more of us, as homebuyers, are looking for something other than labour-intensive and time-consuming homes requiring a regular dose of maintenance. While there is still a market for properties that need doing up, a growing percentage of the population just want to move in and start living. Time spent on working on a home is time not spent doing the things we enjoy. Therefore, investing in home improvements, that fit that low-maintenance, easy lifestyle ethos, are good for you as an owner and, one day, as a potential vendor. Using something as durable and as strong as decorative concrete is a big step in that direction, simply because it can be applied in so many areas: driveways, walkways, patios, pool decks, external floors, and internal floors in both living areas and wet areas. That’s a whole lot of lower maintenance in one home!

Whether you intend to stay in your home for life, or whether you want to improve it with an eye to the market, decorative concrete appeals as a good long-term investment.  It can save time and money, and add value and downtime. As an investment, it’s hard to beat those sorts of dividends.

What Is Thermal Mass?

Basically, thermal mass refers to a material’s ability to absorb and store heat energy. The next question is: what does thermal mass have to do with decorative concrete, and specifically, a polished concrete floor?
Concrete has what is known as high thermal mass. Because it is a dense material, concrete can absorb and store a considerable amount of heat energy. (In comparison, lighter materials like timber can’t absorb and store as much heat. For this reason, timber is known as a material with low thermal mass.) While concrete stores heat energy during the warmer part of the day, it releases this energy when the temperature drops later on. This release can be an efficient way to keep a home warm year round, and polished concrete floors can play a large part in this.

A polished concrete floor, with its high thermal mass, can absorb, store and release heat over a wide area of the home. This should lead to lower heating bills and a more comfortable environment within the home because thermal mass can moderate temperatures, and average out day/night extremes (please ensure you do your research to compare the different products and their performance). But just putting down a polished concrete floor does not guarantee you’ll be able to take maximum advantage of thermal mass. Some key factors should be taken into consideration.

Polished concrete floors must be exposed to capture heat energyGood planning and design will help to make your polished concrete floor an energy efficient feature, as well as an aesthetically pleasing one. For example, when exploiting thermal mass as a source of passive heating during winter, it should have maximum exposure to sunlight. You’ll need the correct ratio of glazing to concrete to help achieve this. Conversely, minimum exposure to sunlight is required during summer to avoid overheating. With this in mind, shading becomes a very important part of the design process.

The orientation and layout of the floor is something else to keep in mind, as is insulation. Adequate insulation is needed to prevent released heat energy from being lost too quickly. Even floor coverings should be looked at. Polished concrete floors must be exposed to capture heat energy; rugs and carpet act as impediments to thermal mass in this regard.

Concrete has what is known as high thermal massThermal mass can also be used to cool a home during summer. It does this by drawing in and storing the heat in the air. As this energy is released later in the day, good ventilation is needed to stop the home from overheating; yet something else to consider. With all these things to think about – and they are worth thinking about for financial and environmental reasons – expert advice should be sought at the planning stages. The Australian government’s Your Home website is a good place to start, and will help to guide you in the right direction should you decide to use the thermal mass of a polished concrete floor as a way to passively heat, and cool, your home.

 

Images from Australian Government, Your Home

Can Concrete Really Be Beautiful?

The short answer is YES. Concrete really can be beautiful. The question of beauty could be a nagging one though, even if you’re sold on concrete’s other qualities, such as lower maintenance, durability and strength. Deep down however, you might see concrete as a big grey slab of functionality. Lots of functionality to be sure, but of little aesthetic value. If you’re thinking along those lines, it could be time to change your mind set and explore the world of decorative concrete.

Decorative concrete can be beautiful concrete in and of itself, but it can also enhance the rooms or outdoor areas where it is installed. The versatility of decorative concrete with its different colours, textures and finishes means it is able to be applied in many settings around the home, including:


The natural colours of Australia are captured in exposed aggregate concrete.Exposed aggregate concrete:
featuring the raw texture of Australian stone, exposed aggregate concrete can lend unique character to areas as diverse as driveways, pathways, pool surrounds and outdoor entertainment areas. The natural colours of Australia are captured in exposed aggregate concrete, with the additional benefit that its texture can help to create a skid resistant surface. These slip resistent qualities can make exposed aggregate a good-looking and safe choice for pool surrounds in particular.

 

Coloured concrete can enhance the area in which it is located.

Coloured concrete: there are now so many colours to choose from, that you can use this type of concrete to match many existing features around the property. By doing this, coloured concrete can enhance the area in which it is located. For example, coloured driveways and pathways can match the palette of a front garden, which should significantly add to a home’s street appeal. A qualified installer should seal coloured concrete at the pouring stage, and with regular resealing, the colours can stay vibrant for many years.

 


Polished concrete is becoming a popular choice as an interior flooring surface.Polished and honed concrete:  for a look of sheer luxury and indulgence, similar to marble, polished concrete is becoming a popular choice as an interior flooring surface. Meanwhile, honed concrete has had its top layer removed to reveal natural stone and a matt finish. In wet areas such as bathrooms, the laundry, and pool surrounds, honed concrete comes into its own. Its slip resistent properties help to make it a safer surface, but one that is also very eye-catching.
Decorative concrete might have changed the way we use concrete around our homes, but it should also  change the way we think about concrete. No longer should it be considered as just a functional surface. When you use decorative concrete, you can enjoy the benefits of its many practical qualities, with the added bonus of huge aesthetic appeal. Reconsider your opinion of concrete and take a new look at how decorative concrete can be used as an interior and exterior feature. You’ll probably be very pleasantly surprised by what you see.

 

Your Driveway Renovation Checklist

Renovating your driveway can have many benefits. A great driveway can add functionality, convenience, street appeal and, crucially, value to your home. But, like anything in life, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right. With that in mind, this short checklist will help you maximise the benefits of your driveway renovation.

 

Will It Be Easy to Maintain? – high maintenance can have little appeal, both to a homeowner, and to a potential home buyer. So choosing a low maintenance surface for your driveway renovation is very important. For example, a concrete driveway can be a low maintenance option, requiring basic cleaning and minimal need for repairs if installed properly. Not all surfaces can be as forgiving, so during the planning stages of your driveway renovation, do your research on how much maintenance might be required once the project is complete.

 

Make It a Driveway That Lasts – like the roof, a driveway is a very big, if not unmissable, part of the home. If something’s not right, it could be rather obvious. A driveway that is durable enough to stand the test of time and keep its good looks over the years will help to maintain street appeal and value. Plus, it should be even more appealing if it looks like it won’t need to be replaced in the near to medium term. As you choose the surface for your driveway renovation, check its ability to handle vehicle traffic and local conditions e.g. ask if the surface will be UV and weather resistant.

 

Does It Add Street Appeal? – Just because a driveway is low maintenance and highly durable, you shouldn’t have to compromise on its aesthetic value. A driveway should add street appeal to a home because of its sheer size. On the other side of the coin, anything less than attractive will probably detract from its surroundings. In this day of coloured concrete, or exposed aggregate, it is very easy to choose a surface, colour, texture or design that can enhance street appeal. As you plan your driveway renovation ask yourself: will my final choice add to that appeal?

 

It Has to Do the Job – your driveway renovation design might look good, but its functionality should also be a priority. Consider the size and number of vehicles that will use it and ensure your final design comfortably accommodates those vehicles.

 

Have You Chosen the Right Installer?  – Possibly the most important step of your driveway renovation checklist. Did you know that not all installers include sealing as standard when installing a concrete driveway? As sealing is such an important component when installing a concrete driveway, it might be a serious error of judgement to assume all installers did this.

 

This is just one example of why it is vitally important to choose the right installer, regardless of the surface you choose for your driveway renovation. A good way to find the best installer for your project is to check their credentials and look at previous examples of their work. Another good idea is to contact the company providing the surface materials for your driveway renovation; they might have a list of recommended installers or, at the very least, they can provide you with the questions that every good installer should be able to answer.

Driveways – Welcome to Your Home

Author: Peter Colquhoun

The Aussie driveway has become the forgotten outdoor living space of the home. Over the years, it needs to double as hand ball court, a car and dog washing bay and don’t forget its primary purpose of getting vehicles from the street into the garage and then you safely inside.

The decision to put down a new driveway will not only lift the appearance and value of your home but will also have benefits you may not have considered.

In terms of design, the driveway is generally the largest paved surface around the house. As such, it can be used to help distinguish your home from the rest of the street in subtle, sophisticated ways. This is done by simply varying the colour and texture of the concrete from the street giving the entrance to your home individuality. Driveways and entrance pathways should also be considered as frames around front lawns and gardens. Using exposed aggregates of natural stone in concrete will complement other natural surfaces.

Architects also talk about establishing a sense of arrival; pulling into a driveway completes a journey whether that simply be from the nearby shops or office or coming home after a long trip. Hearing and feeling the tyres rolling over a different surface from that of the road outside says “yep, we’re home!”

Recently I travelled to a suburb of Canberra and like all of our major cities flying in you see street after street of houses all with similar roofs and fences, perhaps a pool or satellite dish and all with concrete driveways. On this occasion, I was heading to a home that was doing a minor alteration to the front of their home and seeing what impact it would have.

Decorative concrete is versatile. I followed a couple of homeowners who had decided to go on the Geostone journey and lay a new driveway using a decorative stone aggregate. After meeting them at the local display centre, we discussed the type of look they wanted to achieve. I then had the privilege of going behind the scenes at the local concrete plant where the aggregates are mixed with the concrete. Witnessing the clockwork precision of the trucks pulling in and out keeping their mixes ‘hot’, time-tabled to the minute on their arrival to someone’s home was impressive.

Decorative concrete is a good driveway material. Back at the young couple’s home, the Geostone contractors had made sure that everything was in place; then the trucks arrived. Watching the pour was an orchestrated hive of activity. Concreters as artisans laying a canvas of concrete which would soon reveal the beautiful stone aggregates chosen only a few days earlier. In the space of an hour this average suburban bungalow was now the envy of the street. You will never see a more immediate transformation to the front of a home.

The thing to remember when dealing with concrete is that you have a large range to select from in order to get the finish to suit most styles of architecture and design. It can then be laid in many locations in Australia.

A Geostone driveway from Holcim is the result of a team of experts helping you every step of the way. From the selection of the concrete to programming the pour to revealing the finish then standing by their work. Each new driveway has its own unique quality because of the organic ingredients and aggregates used – that means the front of your home is designed to suit you & even reflect your personality.

Remember you only get one chance at a first impression. When it comes to welcoming people to your home that starts with your driveway.

Driveway Installation Tips

The ideal driveway provides unhindered access from the curb to your front door; it gives you somewhere to park your car and provides a clear walkway to your home. It is made of a strong and hard-wearing surface that is safe to walk, play and drive on. A beautiful driveway is a valuable chunk of real estate at the front of your home and is usually the first thing visitors notice as they approach. And if you are looking to sell your home, first impressions are everything. A functional well-dressed driveway has the capability to generate a unique impact on your home and on the eyes of potential buyers. A new decorative concrete installation is one way to add to your home’s curb appeal and potentially help your home sell faster. If you want your home to stand out from the rest of the street, it’s important to get the driveway right.

Driveway Types

When renovating, homeowners put a lot of thought into the landscaping, garden features and paint colours but all too often don’t give the driveway the attentive planning it deserves. It’s important to discuss options with contractors familiar with the materials used for the driveway you are considering. When choosing driveway materials, you should consider:

  • Is the gradient flat or sloping?
  • Is it a flood area where the driveway may be submerged for long periods?
  • Will the driveway be straight or curved?
  • What is the distance between the street and garage/carport?
  • How much digging is required to accommodate the new surface and sub-base?
  • Is the choice of paver or tile suitable for heavy traffic loads?

Your climate and locality are deciding factors in which type of driveway will serve you best for years to come. Labour costs are generally higher for sloping surfaces, hard to access areas and complex paver patterns. Choose professionals who have a proven history with your chosen driveway material, are licensed, are listed in business directories or have an informative website with testimonials, have a verifiable business address and can provide a warranty and free quotes.

Long Driveways

One way to make a long driveway look great is to install a gate or feature that introduces a higher quality material for the driveway section leading directly to the front of your home. For instance, a home that is situated quite a distance from the curb could have a long lead-in driveway of gravel or asphalt that is given a crowning finish as you enter the front yard of the main property which is a beautifully dressed mini cul-de-sac of exposed concrete aggregate.

Plan for Comfort

A space that comfortably accommodates your household’s cars acts as a good guide for how big your driveway should be. Be sure your driveway has enough space to manoeuvre your cars without the need to drive onto surrounding garden edges. Allowing too much space is just an unnecessary expense and it may make the front of the house look unbalanced. Are you going to be working on the cars in the driveway? Are you thinking of installing a basketball hoop for the kids later on? Think of how your driveway fits in with possible future renovations.

Decorative Concrete

Concrete driveways are popular due to their longevity, easy upkeep and affordability. There’s a huge range of decorative styles to choose from. Exposed aggregate driveways, in which the aesthetic qualities of natural stone are exposed, can transform a conventional driveway into an attention-grabbing feature at the front of your home.

Check with Council

You or your contractor will need to investigate what’s required in regard to driveway and footpath permits for your work areas and if the driveway materials you’ve chosen are allowed. Check that your planned driveway doesn’t fall short or exceed specified widths.

Driveway Maintenance

All driveways can be susceptible to stains from automobile fluids and the coloured oils from fallen leaves and seeds. It’s a good idea to remove oil, petrol, grease and other spills as soon as possible. One of the best attributes of a decorative concrete driveway is how little maintenance and routine care it will need over its lifetime. There are a range of acrylic sealers and epoxies that can be applied once every few years (as per your concrete manufacturer’s instructions) to help keep your driveway in peak condition for years to come.