Turn an Outdoor Space into a Back Yard Oasis in 5 Steps

Creating an outdoor “destination” in your back yard not only adds more available living space and enjoyment of the outdoors, it can potentially add more value to your home. If you’ve got the vision, we can help you bring it to life. Here’s a handy five-part checklist to kick-start your planning:

1) Identify the Space

  • Location: where is the best place to situate your outdoor oasis? A new terrace or deck, perhaps through new French doors from the dining room? Or set towards the back of the yard as more of a nature retreat, surrounded by existing trees or a nearby stream? Does your rooftop have potential, converted for the purpose?
  • Use: when do you plan to use it most? Weekends, or throughout the week? Day and night, or primarily evenings? Summers only? Year-round?
  • Purpose: How do you plan to use it? Getaway for quiet reading? Family dinner nights? Entertaining friends? Small outdoor cottage for art or guests? All of the above?

2) Create Structural Definition

Just like a large front door helps to define the entry and first impression of your home, structural elements help define your outdoor space, while creating a sense of security and comfort. Examples include:

  • Overhead wooden trellis structure (with or without a clear or roofed cover)
  • Deck (consider including planter boxes or stepped tiers for definition)
  • Pre-fabricated wrought iron pergola

3) Address the Issues

  • What is the underlying surface? Grass requires excavation, preparation, and some sort of underlayment or foundation layer before you can install outdoor pavers, or build a deck (no one wants weeds growing up through a deck, or soil settling a section of your patio or deck). If you’re already starting from a cement slab or pavers, verify that the surface is level. If the space will not be covered (or only partially covered), is drainage adequate? Are gutters necessary? Where does rainwater go during a storm?
  • Based on its location and use times, how much “weather mitigation” will your space need? What is the sun, heat, and wind like during peak use times? Would retractable sun shading or an extra wall for wind protection add to your comfort? Will you want the space permanently covered for use in rainy weather, and if so, with clear plastic for light, or a more permanent roof for full shade and longevity? What about mosquitos and flies, will you want sliding screens or permanent screenwalls?
  • How much privacy / enclosure do you want the space to have? Do you need to mitigate any environmental factors including traffic sounds, or unattractive views? Options include a semi-enclosed space (latticework or tall plantings), an optionally enclosed space (sliding walls, retractable shades, outdoor curtains), or a fully enclosed space (a fence or wall).
  • Will you need to bring in any utilities, such as electrical outlets and underground wiring, a gas line for a hot tub or barbecue, or source of water for an outdoor sink?

4) Light it Up

  • Structural lighting: under a deck railing, at the edge of paved stairs, wall sconces, etc.
  • Uplights: soft reflected light from behind an outdoor couch or chair, at the base of a large potted tree, etc.
  • Strings of small patio lights (or even smaller white holiday lights)
  • Hanging fixtures: eclectic “chandeliers”, round paper “Chinese” fixtures, or vintage metal lanterns
  • Lamps (for that extra cozy “living room” feel)
  • Candles (always a must)

5) Furnish it for Comfort

  • Outdoor food preparation: options can include a fireplace with a rotisserie, an outdoor brick or stone pizza oven, or a full scale kitchen set up.
  • Seating options: benches, chairs, floor cushions—if the space will not be used during the winter, think about what materials your furnishings are made of (Durable resin? Wood? Metal? Restored vintage?) and how / where these items will be protected and stored.
  • Function-specific options: dining, coffee, or end tables; storage benches (with a seating cushion on top); toy boxes.
  • Soft furnishings: bench and chair cushions, pillows, throw blankets, rugs, gauzy curtains or woven grass screens.
  • Rugs: woven grass mats, woven recycled plastic rugs, fabric rugs for more enclosed spaces, or astroturf.
  • Water sounds: plug-in electric water feature ranging from a small table top fountain, wall sconce, or converted ceramic pot, to a larger dramatic sculpture, or adjacent pond (this can be an entire project in itself).
  • Live plants: free standing pots, hanging plants, or a wall of mounted pots
  • Décor: art, statuary, candles, wind chimes, hummingbird feeders, etc.

If this is the year to transform your vision into an “outdoor oasis,” let us know if we can help. We’ve transformed plenty of porches, built countless outdoor decks, and know just how to turn your ideas into reality.

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Hottest Kitchen Remodeling Trends for 2017

Because kitchen remodels are one of our favorite projects, we love keeping on top of the latest trends.

Richard has been eager to share some first-hand observations about what’s hot in kitchen remodeling these days—from appliance colors, drawers, and inventive backsplashes, to lighting technology that adds a whole new dimension to kitchen design.
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Come to the Other (Skydell) Side…

When you think of Skydell, we hope you already think “best kitchen / bath / basement / porch / remodel / home addition / deck builder in the known universe.” 🙂

However, many of you aren’t aware that there’s a whole other side to Skydell…

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Five Tasks to Prepare your Home for Winter

Now that summer is winding down, it’s time to get your home ready for winter. We’ve gathered together a list of what we believe are the 5 most important things to do before the snow starts falling.

If you can squeeze in one task each weekend between now and Halloween, you’ll be putting your feet up by the fireplace long before your neighbors! 🙂


Step 1: Check your heating sources

We’re all guilty of ignoring our furnaces—until they break. If it’s been a few years (or longer), hire a professional for a basic furnace maintenance check. If nothing else, make sure you clean or replace the filters, and check your home’s air ducts and vents to ensure open circulation.

Planning to use your fireplace or woodstove this winter? Hire a professional chimneysweep to inspect and clean your chimney. Remember, hot fires using well-seasoned wood produce less creosote, which keeps your chimney cleaner, longer!


Step 2: Store your outdoor furniture

Get a warm sudsy bucket of water, a sturdy rag, and wipe down any dirt, dust, pollen or cobwebs from your outdoor tables, chairs, and barbecue.

Send the cushions to a dry cleaner if they got stained over the summer.

Oil your barbecue grill’s moving parts, clean the cooking surface, and give it a rub of oil too.

Once everything is dry, cover each piece with a tarp or made-to-fit covers, which you can find at most larger hardware and home supply stores.

plastic-feetRaise furniture legs off the ground to help water from reaching the feet, which can rust or rot wooden legs. Look for plastic spiked carpet protector feet (shown at right)—place them spike-side-up underneath each foot of your outdoor tables and chairs to lift them off the ground and provide maximum air circulation—especially important for teak and other furnishings.

Where possible, bring everything under a covered area, or up against the house under the eaves to provide added weather protection.


Step 3: Wrap your pipes

Pipes that are located in unheated areas of your home can burst during severe weather, causing water leaks and damage. Because unheated areas are often seldom visited, the leaks and damage can go undiscovered for a while, causing an even bigger problem. Depending on what type of pipes you have in your home, consider purchasing and wrapping these areas with pipe insulation materials.

CLICK HERE for more great info about protecting your pipes during winter.


Step 4: Clear Away Leaves and Branches

Keeping your gutters and roof clean and clear can prevent all sorts of damage to your home—from the gradual build-up of ice dams that can rot your home’s eaves, to more severe damage to gutters and roofs from branches that fall under the weight of a heavy snow.

Need a good gutter cleaning company and/or tree trimming service? Give us a call for a referral!

Step 5: A Few Little Things

You’ve made so much progress with the first four steps, now you’re ready to reward yourself with these remaining small and super-easy tasks:

  • Change all the batteries of your smoke detectors (and any other alarm systems in your home).
  • Check all the windows of your home (basement and attic included) to make sure one hasn’t been left open from the summer.
  • Heaters run more often in the winter; set your thermostat on a timer to save a little money during those times that no one is home.
  • Consider purchasing door draft stoppers for those doorways that always have cold air coming from underneath.
  • If your home has a ceiling fan, reverse the blades to run clockwise: this will help bring warm air from the ceiling back down to the rest of the room.
  • Last but not least, reward yourself with a cup of crock pot hot cocoa! 🙂


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Remodeling and Your Home Value

cvv-logoRemodeling Magazine recently released their 2016 Cost vs. Value Report, containing the latest data on how much real estate experts estimate a home’s resale value will increase according to the 30 most popular home remodeling / improvement projects.

Cost Value Natl Averages 2Listed below are a sampling of those projects, organized from the top by those that will provide your home with the most resale value, to projects that recoup the least in terms of resale:

  • Fiberglass attic insulation – 116.9%
  • Manufactured exterior stone veneer – 92.9%
  • Garage door replacement – 91.5%
  • Entry door replacement (steel or fiberglass) – 91.1% or 82.3%
  • Kitchen remodel (moderate or major) – 83.1% or 64.9%
  • Siding replacement (engineered or vinyl) – 78.6% or 73.2%
  • New deck (wood or composite) – 75% or 64.4%
  • Roofing replacement – 71.7%
  • Basement remodel – 70.4%
  • Adding a second story – 69.3%
  • Family room addition – 67.9%
  • Bathroom remodel – 65.7%

Given that real estate professionals’ views on the value of remodeling are often tied to the status of the local real estate market, many of these percentages have gone up since last year, thanks to the stronger housing market in most major U.S. regions: through October 2015, prices for existing homes were up 5.9% from the year earlier, and that’s on top of a 5.7% gain in 2014, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The prognosis is clear: 2016 is a great year for getting that long-dreamed-of kitchen, basement, or home improvement job done. The increased value on your home will go a long way to offset, if not cover, the entire expense.

Best of all, you know someone with the knowledge and expertise to get the work done correctly. Skydell has spent the past 28 years helping people do nearly every one of the projects listed above.

Give us a call and let’s help improve your home’s function, character, and value today!

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Three Bathroom Remodels in a Basking Ridge Home

Before After
So you want to turn this (on left), into this? (on right). We can help!

Skydell loved helping this Basking Ridge family update three bathrooms in their home—a first floor powder room, a second floor hallway bathroom, and a major expansion and remodel to their Master Bathroom.

We began by providing initial floor plan concepts, followed by detailed computerized renderings of each space:

Floorplan Basking Ridge bathroom remodel

Bathroom remodel contractor rendering basking ridge

This allowed our client not only to visualize the layout, flow, and feel of each bathroom before construction took place… it also enabled them to begin identifying their preferred look for cabinets, finishes and color tones.

Basking ridge bathroom remodel contractor rendering

Master Bathroom:

A small existing bathroom was combined with an underutilized dressing area and an extra closet…

best bathroom remodeling contractor bridgeport nj

…and then transformed into an elegant and spacious master bathroom retreat, complete with dual sinks, a walk-in shower, a large soaking tub, and abundant cabinet storage space (photos below):

Bathroom remodeling contractor bridgeport basking ridge 16Best basking ridge contractor bathrooms bridgeport 15 sm

Second Floor Hallway Bathroom:

An outdated bathroom on the second floor was given new life with all new furnishings and finishes.

Hallway bathroom remodel basking ridge B4best bathroom remodeling contractor basking ridge njHallway Bathroom Remodeling Contractor Basking Ridge NJ sm

First Floor Powder Room / Bathroom:

Last but not least, the main floor bathroom / powder room was updated and improved:

Bathroom Remodeling Contractor Basking Ridge NJ sm


The end result? Very happy clients and significantly improved home value!

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Skydell Honored With Big50 Award


Richard Skydell, founder and owner of Skydell Contracting, has been selected by REMODELING magazine as one of the REMODELING Big50 companies—in recognition of his “exceptionally high standards for professionalism and integrity through exemplary business practices, craftsmanship, and impact in their community or the industry at large.”

Each year since 1986, The Big50 award has become increasingly rigorous, involving a lengthy evaluation and interview process by REMODELING editors, columnists, industry leaders, and other remodeling companies. Says REMODELING magazine, “Big50 remodelers (represent) companies that have taken the lead in raising industry standards and demonstrate proven practices that serve as examples to other remodelers.” In addition to an award ceremony at the Remodeling Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, on May 7, 2015, the 2015 Big50 winners are featured in the May issue of REMODELING magazine, with longer profiles of the winners posted on the REMODELING website. “We were extremely honored to receive this distinction,” said Richard Skydell. “The award recognizes excellence and leadership, and we are privileged to be named to this select group of remodelers.”

Visit Skydell.com’s main website >
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Major Insurance Restoration of an Older Somerville Home

This gallery contains 8 photos.

While a Somerville, New Jersey family was away on vacation, their large two-story home became flooded with water for over a week due to a leaky upstairs toilet. The water damage itself was extensive, but the situation grew even more complicated when the water removal company stirred … Continue reading

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Radiant Floor Heating – Energy Efficient and Affordable!

cat radiant heat floor 2Planning to remodel your bathroom in the near future? Consider installing radiant floor heating. Not only is it a toasty treat for your feet (and pets), it can be more cost effective, energy efficient, and offer more benefits than other forms of heating:

Following are a few of the benefits of radiant floor heat:

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Beautiful Bridgewater Kitchen and Bath Remodel

This gallery contains 11 photos.

This homeowner hired Skydell to remodel two areas of their home: their kitchen, and their main bathroom. In the kitchen, their goal was to freshen up the look of the entire space—from walls, lighting and floors, to new cabinets and granite flooring. … Continue reading

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