Want to Beat the Heat? Just Add Water

Summertime in Pittsburgh can be rough. Consider adding an oasis to your backyard.



 

Incorporating water features into your living space serves many purposes. There’s the relaxation factor — the sound of water is calming and peaceful. There’s the fun factor — who wouldn’t enjoy a pool with a built-in basketball hoop or volleyball net and a cabana bar just a few feet away?

“A water feature is one of the elements I like to use to tie together all of my designs,” says Kevin Soergel, a certified aquascape contractor and owner of Soergel Landscapes, Aquascapes. “They’re all different designs, depending on topography, the style of their house and the likes and dislikes of the customer. Every one is a completely different work of art.”

Adding a water feature to your home is great for another reason, he says — you can enjoy it year after year.

 

Just Add Water
So you want that feel of a wooded oasis, but you live on property that doesn’t provide it naturally? No worries — one can be built.

When a client wants a stream in his or her backyard, Soergel says he creates it 99 percent of the time. A waterfall at one end splashes the water down a carved-out path, and piping recirculates the water flow. A pond — potentially outfitted with rocks, fish or lights — may sit at the lower end.

“One thing I’ve found . . . nothing brings so much instant gratification as a waterfall and stream,” Soergel says. “You plug it in, and all of a sudden there’s something there where there was nothing.”

It’s also eco-friendly, he notes. Some clients want a rainwater basin, which supports the waterfall during the hot and dry months.

“In other cases, I will store so much water that they can use it to irrigate the yard as well as support the water feature,” he says. “It’s sustainable landscape practice.”

Best for: Anyone, says Soergel. The scope depends on yard size and budget.

“We can build them hundreds of feet long, or 7 or 8 or 9 or 10 feet long,” Soergel says, noting a small stream would look silly next to a huge home while a long stream in a small yard can overpower. “Some of the customers I’ve built these for are building in single-level condos, and I’m able to build something that fits into a 10-by-20-foot courtyard.”

 

Ponds and Patios
Having a pond close to a deck is low-maintenance and aesthetically pleasing — often, it can be seen easily from the house. Soergel says he likes to add fish to all of his creations because they add to the atmosphere.

“The fish can be pets, really. They can be named; they can even be petted,” he says.

“Kids really love interacting with the fish. Parents like it. It’s therapeutic, it’s calming, it’s soothing. You can just sit down and watch the fish, and your stress melts away.”

Best for: Anyone, according to Soergel. “Everybody wants a pond — they just don’t know it,” he says. “Once they’ve gone over to one of their friend’s houses and sat by a pond, they realize they want one.”

 

Fun in the Sun
“People are spending more money on their backyard,” says Tony Policastro, president of the 40-year-old family-run Policastro Construction. “We like people to walk back there and be really impressed. We don’t want it to look like something everyone else has.”

People are getting more creative by adding extra features in and around the pool, Policastro says.

“We did one last year where they did a palm tree beach along the pool,” he says. “We had four palm trees set with sand a small area away from the swimming pool.”

The trees cannot tolerate winter cold, so they must be replaced each year. Still, including them was all about customer preference, Policastro says.

“Everybody has their own thoughts on what they’d like to do,” he says. “That one was pretty awesome. When the trees came in and we got it all together, it was something to see.”

Best for: A younger couple that enjoys receiving guests, Policastro says. The couple that owned this home had young children and lived in a residential development, so they often hosted neighborhood functions.

 


 

Pool Party
Pools can be equipped with seating and volleyball or basketball nets, which add to the quality of time spent in the water, Policastro says.

To accommodate clients who want to play water sports, Policastro says he designs pools with larger flat areas rather than gradual slopes.

“If you’re playing games in there [and] you’re the one [who’s] stuck on a ramp, you’re sliding the whole time,” he says.

He says seats can come with water jets resembling those typically found in a spa. Large steps at the pool’s entrance can serve as additional seating, which is especially useful during parties.

“I always try to get people to put seat panels in,” he says. “People who have never had a pool say they want a pool because they want to swim, but the reality is you don’t swim that much. The kids do, but the older people, they like to be in the water — they want to sit.”

Best for: Families with athletic children will enjoy the sporting features, and parents of those children will enjoy having somewhere to sit and “referee,” Policastro says.

 

Bells & Whistles
People looking for new ways to relax at home may choose spas with a few perks.

Randy Beals, owner of Paradise Pools and Spas, says the spa business has perked up in the last few years.

“It’s a family thing, not just like a motorcycle or ATV where just the husband has it,” he says. “You’re buying it therapeutically.”

Spas themselves haven’t changed all that much in the 30 years he’s been selling and installing them, but Beals says they now include such features as built-in TVs or stereos and laminar jets that shoot water like a fountain. The jets can be backlit with LED lights, providing a color show in your own backyard.

“They’ll turn red, yellow, blue [or] green very slowly instead of your basic white light,” he says. “That’s kind of pretty.”

Best for: First-time spa owners often want all the extras, Beals says. Some want to use their spa not only to relax but also to be entertained.

 


 

Stress-Free
Mike Papik, general manager of Alpine Pools’ location in Cranberry Township, says high-energy-efficient units and hydrotherapeutic massage features are among the most sought-after features in the spa industry today.

More jets in a hydro-therapeutic massage spa, however, means more energy is used to operate one.

“People are going middle of the road,” he says, and “30, 40, 50 jets for most units are the average” instead of the six or seven that older hot tubs typically included — or the 100 that the most elaborate modern spas feature.

Many units now include full-foam insulation to help with energy conservation, Papik notes. Hydrotherapeutic spas often have more than one style of jet, too, he says.

“It’s about the motion of the water,” he says. “How are we putting it on your back and on your legs? Is it twisting? Is it pulsating? Is it a Jetstream?”

Best for: “Hydrotherapeutic is [for] the person who is really the down-home devoted spa person,” Papik says. “They want to come home after a long day’s work, and they want to sit and relax and totally massage the back, the feet, the neck, the shoulder.”

Those clients also want direct-flow pumps, which permit each person to set the pace for the station in which he or she is sitting in the spa.

“That’s getting real, real popular,” Papik says. “Each person can . . . use a direct-flow force and use that pump for what they want for their jets.” 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in December

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in December

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
50+ Things That Will Make You Enjoy Winter in Pittsburgh

50+ Things That Will Make You Enjoy Winter in Pittsburgh

Love it or hate it, winter is upon us. Because some of us may think there's a lot not to like, we bring you 50+ things to eat, drink and do –– and some helpful tips –– that'll keep the blues at bay.
Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2016 Honorees

Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2016 Honorees

Pittsburgh Magazine presents the honorees from its inaugural Excellence in Nursing awards. Meet our judges' choices and learn what makes them remarkable in their field.
Choreographed Style: Winter Fashion with The Pittsburgh Ballet

Choreographed Style: Winter Fashion with The Pittsburgh Ballet

A regal ruggedness characterizes the season's menswear looks.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

The Mosaic Stairway: You've Never Seen Steps Like These

The Mosaic Stairway: You've Never Seen Steps Like These

When viewed from the foot of the South Side Slopes of Pittsburgh, the stairs ascending Josephine Street form a massive image that consists of more than 7,500 individual mosaic tiles.
Joe Manganiello Plays the Good Guy for Children’s Hospital

Joe Manganiello Plays the Good Guy for Children’s Hospital

The actor, director and Mt. Lebanon native is joining the board of trustees of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.
Pittsburgh Man Sets World Record By Lifting 1 Million Pounds

Pittsburgh Man Sets World Record By Lifting 1 Million Pounds

Matt Scoletti accomplishes the feat in just under nine hours.
Why Thanksgiving Comes Every Day for 3 Pittsburgh-Area Men

Why Thanksgiving Comes Every Day for 3 Pittsburgh-Area Men

They owe their lives to one man who lives on in each of them.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in December

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in December

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
50+ Things That Will Make You Enjoy Winter in Pittsburgh

50+ Things That Will Make You Enjoy Winter in Pittsburgh

Love it or hate it, winter is upon us. Because some of us may think there's a lot not to like, we bring you 50+ things to eat, drink and do –– and some helpful tips –– that'll keep the blues at bay.
Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2016 Honorees

Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2016 Honorees

Pittsburgh Magazine presents the honorees from its inaugural Excellence in Nursing awards. Meet our judges' choices and learn what makes them remarkable in their field.
Choreographed Style: Winter Fashion with The Pittsburgh Ballet

Choreographed Style: Winter Fashion with The Pittsburgh Ballet

A regal ruggedness characterizes the season's menswear looks.
Restaurant Review: B52 in Lawrenceville is a Levantine Lifter

Restaurant Review: B52 in Lawrenceville is a Levantine Lifter

Omar Abuhejleh taps deep into his roots at his vegan cafe that's focused on Levantine cuisine.
Why You Can't Beat The Weather in Pittsburgh in The Winter

Why You Can't Beat The Weather in Pittsburgh in The Winter

I’ve traveled a lot of miles, and I still stare in bewilderment at people who tell me they’ve moved to a place because “You can’t beat the weather.”
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


The Mosaic Stairway: You've Never Seen Steps Like These

The Mosaic Stairway: You've Never Seen Steps Like These

When viewed from the foot of the South Side Slopes of Pittsburgh, the stairs ascending Josephine Street form a massive image that consists of more than 7,500 individual mosaic tiles.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
The Café Carnegie Now Open in Oakland

The Café Carnegie Now Open in Oakland

Chefs Sonja Finn and Becca Hegarty helm the refurbished restaurant at the Carnegie Museums.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best of the Burgh: Pumpkin Patches in the Pittsburgh Area

Best of the Burgh: Pumpkin Patches in the Pittsburgh Area

We’ve compiled the best pumpkin patches for fall family fun.

Comments


Why Wait For Summer? Head to Kennywood's Holiday Lights

Why Wait For Summer? Head to Kennywood's Holiday Lights

The park's winter celebration is great for families and a fine choice for anyone who loves Christmas (and/or funnel cake).

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Big Ten-Champion Nittany Lions More Worthy Than Buckeyes

Big Ten-Champion Nittany Lions More Worthy Than Buckeyes

For some reason Ohio State is ranked No. 2 in the latest playoff rankings and Penn State is No. 7. That has to change if Penn State beats Wisconsin on Saturday night.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Locket Full of Joy

Locket Full of Joy

The handcrafted piece opens to hidden treasures.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Ten Upcoming Flicks Every Oscar-Watcher Should See

Ten Upcoming Flicks Every Oscar-Watcher Should See

PM film critic Sean Collier picks ten forthcoming flicks likely to rake in nominations for the 89th Academy Awards.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Thinking Small: Pittsburgh Weddings That Are Intimate Affairs

Thinking Small: Pittsburgh Weddings That Are Intimate Affairs

Bigger isn’t always better, at least when it comes to these couples’ wedding ceremonies.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Seasonal Shopping: CMOA Store Holiday House, J.Crew Mercantile Opens Doors

Seasonal Shopping: CMOA Store Holiday House, J.Crew Mercantile Opens Doors

The Carnegie Museum of Art is full of Christmas cheer — and great deals. Plus, get the scoop on The Block Northway’s latest retail offering.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Classic Christmas Tale Gets a Twist at Slippery Rock University

Classic Christmas Tale Gets a Twist at Slippery Rock University

An adapted version of “A Christmas Carol” will be presented during a seven-show run.

Comments