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 Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

The meat-centric restaurant in the Strip District is helping to redefine Pittsburgh's dining expectations.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

From a hotel “Love Lockdown,” to a museum breakfast in bed, to a rooftop singles event - there's plenty to eat, drink at do in Pittsburgh on this weekend for love.
Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

The new space, called the East End Brewery Taproom, will offer lunch and dinner service, expanded hours and a place for customers to sit and enjoy a pint of beer from one of the brewery’s 12 taps.
See How Pittsburghers Used to Get Around

See How Pittsburghers Used to Get Around

This rare video gives you a passenger's perspective of street car trolley travel in the 1960s.
Steelers' DeAngelo Williams Scores as Daughters' Hair Stylist

Steelers' DeAngelo Williams Scores as Daughters' Hair Stylist

In a pair of TV ads, watch the Steelers' running back tackle styling the hair of his two adorable daughters.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

The meat-centric restaurant in the Strip District is helping to redefine Pittsburgh's dining expectations.
Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

In Lawrenceville, a love for letterpress leads to a business whose greeting cards reach audiences across the country.
Pittsburgh's Third Renaissance and Complaints from 2007

Pittsburgh's Third Renaissance and Complaints from 2007

This third Renaissance has allowed us to be spectators as Pittsburgh changed from a city suffering the damages wrought by the collapse of its steel industry to a vibrant, active place known for its academic, medical and technology sectors.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

From a hotel “Love Lockdown,” to a museum breakfast in bed, to a rooftop singles event - there's plenty to eat, drink at do in Pittsburgh on this weekend for love.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

City leaders considered many options for Pittsburgh's confluence including something that looked like it was designed by the Jetsons, or an absolutely bonkers, batpoop insane idea by the one and only Frank Lloyd Wright.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Wigle Whiskey Ripe for Expansion with Threadbare

Wigle Whiskey Ripe for Expansion with Threadbare

The Strip District distillers will launch a hard cider business this fall.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


Head to 'Quick and Shameless' For an Unpredictable (and Essential) Night of Pittsburgh Comedy

Head to 'Quick and Shameless' For an Unpredictable (and Essential) Night of Pittsburgh Comedy

The LGBTQ-friendly variety show offers one of the city's most unusual (and often unforgettable) lineups of comedic talent.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Denver's upset win over Carolina -- predicted by hardly anyone (including yours truly) -- should be interpreted as good news for Steelers' fans.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Let your heart do the talking with these fun sweaters from Rosewood Boutique.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

Our reviews of "Hail, Caesar!," "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "The Choice."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Love and Lace: Six Stand-Out Dresses

Love and Lace: Six Stand-Out Dresses

To coincide with the launch of our Spring 2016 Weddings magazine, we’ve created a Week of Wedded Bliss — seven stories to introduce you to the couples featured in our Real Pittsburgh Weddings. On day two, we fall head over heels in love with these six dresses.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Pillow Talk: Pittsburgh's Skyline Inspires New Design Line

Pillow Talk: Pittsburgh's Skyline Inspires New Design Line

Check out the new pillow collection from local interior designer Zach Mitchell. Plus, get the scoop on The Pittsburgh Christmas Carol Tour.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

The event is for high school students who are interested in criminal justice, law enforcement and forensic science.

Comments