Pool & Spa Outdoor Blog

Top 10 Outdoor Entertaining Essentials

Must-have Items for Entertaining Outdoors


1. Grill

You can’t have a backyard party without a barbecue grill. Today’s grill units come in a variety of sizes and offer built-in storage and prep space to minimize the hassle of trips indoors. Many also feature accessories such as rotisseries, warming plates, and side burners for diverse cooking methods.

Weber Summit Grill Center

For a list of leading grill manufacturers and resources, visit our Outdoor Kitchens & Grills Buyers’ Guide.


Photo courtesy of 2011 Weber-Stephen Products LLC. Used with Permission



2. Grilling Tools & Accessories

Every grill master needs to have a good set of grilling tools, especially when cooking for a large crowd. The three main grilling utensils: a spatula for flipping burgers and positioning food; a pair of tongs for gripping meats and vegetables; a fork for piercing and turning meats. Look for grilling tools with long handles to protect your hands from the heat.

Weber Grill Accessories
Photo courtesy of 2011 Weber-Stephen Products LLC. Used with Permission


Another important grilling tool to have on hand is an instant-read meat thermometer. This will take the guesswork out of cooking and ensure that meat, poultry, and other cooked foods have reached a safe internal temperature.

Digital Meat Thermometer
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com



3. Outdoor Dinnerware and Glassware

If you typically resort to disposable paper plates and red plastic cups for your outdoor affairs, consider investing in outdoor dinnerware and glassware made from hard plastics like melamine or acrylic. These worry-free options are durable, lightweight, and environmentally-friendly because they can be washed and reused. They also come in an array of vibrant summer colors and patterns just like your indoor tableware.  

Melamine Outdoor Dinnerware
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com

A large, self-serve beverage dispenser makes it easy to serve a big group of people and will also cut down on waste like empty water bottles and soda cans. Use it to serve homemade iced tea, lemonade, or a fruity summer drink.

340-ounce Beverage Dispenser
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com



4. Outdoor Serving Items

It’s important to serve food outdoors when entertaining in your backyard. This eliminates the hassle of running inside to grab additional food items and also keeps guests from having to make trips in and out of the house—often with dirty shoes or wet feet—to grab food or supplies. The type of outdoor serving items you’ll need will depend on the number of people you plan to entertain and the type of food you’ll be serving. 

 

An outdoor extension table is a great item to have when entertaining because it allows you to easily adjust the table size to your needs. Extend the table for additional seating during larger gatherings or fold down the leaf when space is limited.

Outdoor Extenstion Table
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com

A fold out bar can come in handy if you regularly entertain outdoors or host large parties. It offers both countertop space for serving food and/or beverages and storage space underneath for essentials like glassware, dishes, utensils, or other supplies you might want to have on hand.

Royal Tahiti Outdoor Folding Bar
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com

For smaller outdoor gatherings, a portable patio cart can keep supplies within reach. Stock it with dishes, utensils, ice, paper towels, condiments, and other necessities. When the party is over it can be used for easy clean-up: just load it up with dirty dishes and wheel it back inside.  


Outdoor Patio Cart
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com




5. Insect Control


When eating and entertaining outdoors it’s expected that a number of mosquitos and insects will be flying around. Keep bugs away from food by keeping it in covered storage containers or under mesh food tents. Umbrella drink covers will prevent insects and debris from getting in beverages and will also help guests keep track of their drinks.

Place citronella candles on outdoor dining tables to repel pests while guests enjoy their food. Set citronella tiki torches or mosquito lamps around seating and social areas for added protection at night. See more tips on bug protection.

Candles around Outdoor Patio
Photo courtesy of Gasper Landscape Design & Construction; Photography by Rob Cardillo




6. Backyard Shade Products


Make sure you have enough shade for your guests so that they don’t get uncomfortably hot and retreat indoors. Table and freestanding patio umbrellas offer relief from the burning sun while guests eat and socialize. Some patio umbrellas can be tilted and turned with the movement of the sun to provide optimal shade throughout the day.


Green Cantilever Outdoor Umbrelle

Photo courtesy of Overstock.com


You can also keep guests cool and comfortable with a pop-up canopy or tent. These come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit any outdoor entertaining space. A pop-up canopy or tent can also be used to keep food out of the sun and offers protection from an unexpected rain shower.

Outdoor Party Tent Canopy
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com



7. Music & Outdoor Stereo Systems


Music helps set the tone for any party, indoors or out. There are a variety of ways to add acoustics to your backyard get-together. Wireless docking stations for MP3 players and iPods can easily be set out on a table or by the pool. These systems are convenient for outdoor parties, but they are not weatherproof so be sure to look for models that include a splash-proof plastic covering to protect your iPod or MP3 player.

Wireless Music Dock for iPod or MP3 player


Another option is to hook up your indoor stereo system to outdoor speakers. Weather-resistant outdoor speakers can withstand the elements, such as sun, rain, and temperature changes and come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and designs. You can select from outdoor speakers that are mounted to a wall or pillar, freestanding speakers that can be placed around the yard, landscape speakers that are installed inground, and wireless speakers that are disguised as rocks, lights, or planters to blend with the surrounding scenery.


Outdoor Planter Speaker_OSD Audio
Photos courtesy of OSD Audio, Stereostone, Inc and Etón Corporation



8. Outdoor Seating

It’s important to provide ample seating for your party guests so that they are comfortable. While you could invest in additional outdoor furniture like patio chairs, loungers, and sofas, there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to add extra seating when entertaining outdoors.

Folding chairs, ottomans, and even beach chairs work well around the pool area or a fire pit. An outdoor storage bench or cooler can easily double as a seat when you place a cushion or a few pillows on top.

White Adirondack Beach Chair Montego Bay Deck Box
Photos courtesy of Overstock.com


A large blanket or outdoor rug spread out on the lawn offers a simple place for guests to relax and catch up; it can also designate a play/picnic area for the kids. And remember that a retaining wall easily provides a comfortable spot for guests to perch or set down their food and drink.

Outdoor Rug_Natural Terracotta Ashlar Pattern Retaining Wall
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com; Photo courtesy of Red River Hardscapes



9. Outdoor Lighting


A backyard party in the summer is sure to extend into the night, which makes lighting an essential outdoor entertaining element. Outdoor lighting not only keeps the backyard safe as sunlight withdraws, but also adds ambiance and makes an outdoor setting feel more cozy and inviting at night.

String lights add festive sparkle to a pergola, gazebo, or umbrella and help highlight dining/social areas for guests. Tiki torches and path lights can be placed around the patio or pool to help illuminate dark corners and designate walkways. Lanterns and candles are great for table tops and help create a more intimate atmosphere. Additionally, an outdoor fire pit provides both light and warmth to keep guests comfortable on cool summer nights. It also creates a prime gathering spot for conversation.

Pergola with String Lights

Photo courtesy of The Outdoor GreatRoom Company




10. Outdoor Games

Having a mix of outdoor games set up around the yard will keep everyone entertained throughout the day and ensure your guests have a good time at your party. There is a wide selection of outdoor games to choose from, but it’s important to pick ones that are suited for the various age groups of your guests. Lawn games like horseshoes, ladder ball, washers, and bag toss are easy to play and require little equipment and space. These games can also be played in teams, which is a great way for guests to mingle if they don’t know each other well.

Washer Toss Lawn Game Ladder Toss Lawn Game
Photos courtesy of Hayneedle.com


A variety of games and activities can also be played in the swimming pool. Get a group of people involved in some friendly competition with a volleyball or basketball net or keep things small with a floating Ping-Pong table or poker table.

If you’ll be spending Labor Day poolside, check out these fun pool games for kids.



Deck & Patio Lighting Ideas

By Debra Maurer


To get the most use out of your deck or patio, install outdoor lighting that is both welcoming and effective. Here are a few ideas:


Outdoor lighting pergola deck night Trex
• On covered patios, install recessed lighting with dimmer switches, a fan with lights, or a chandelier.

• Replace deck post finials with solar LED lamps; they provide a decorative accent during the day and light up the deck’s perimeter at night.

• Recessed deck lighting, set into the deck’s surface, also helps to create a border around the space. 

• Add outdoor lights under railings and benches to guide guests to cozy seating areas.

• Hang string lights around arbors, pergolas, and canopies for a fun and enchanted feeling. Some umbrellas even come with LED string lights on the spokes, illuminating the space beneath them. 

• Add a unique touch with planters that glow from within. Available in solar- and electric-powered, place several of these planters around your deck to serve two purposes in one.

• Standing patio lamps provide a “walk-in-the-park” kind of charm. These consist of a tall post with a weighted base and can have several globe or traditional lanterns at the top.

For a list of outdoor lighting companies and resources, visit our Outdoor Lighting Buyers' Guide. To find resources for deck products and materials, visit our Decks Buyers' Guide.

Photo courtesy of Trex Company

Alternative Pool Decking Options - Rubber Flooring, Composite Pavers

Rubber Flooring and Composite Pavers









Learn how alternative pool decking options such as rubber flooring and composite pavers can offer benefits to a pool area.


Rubber Flooring

Rubber Pool Deck FlooringWhen you think of rubber flooring you probably think of rubber mulch chips in the neighborhood playground or poured rubber bond. Rubber flooring is actually a great alternative option for pool decking. Like playground mulch, rubber flooring for pool decks is usually made out of recycled rubber tires, resulting in a product that is eco-friendly and responsibly manufactured. There are two common forms of rubber flooring: poured-in-place rubber bond and interlocking rubber tiles. Poured-in-place rubber flooring must be professionally installed, as opposed to interlocking rubber tiles which can easily be installed by the homeowner; however, poured-in-place rubber bond flooring is thought to be more durable and offers more customization because an array of colors can be mixed and matched to create a unique look.

Rubber flooring provides a permeable, porous, non-skid surface that doesn’t get too hot. It also drains quickly (drains are distributed in strategic areas) and is easy to maintain. Using rubber flooring for pool decking does not have to mean giving up on sophisticated design; there are numerous color options available, as well as patterns that mimic slate, stone, brick, and custom designs. The rubber can be installed over most solid  deck surfaces such as concrete, asphalt, or wood, with the option of extra cushioning added in areas of high impact. After installation, rubber flooring usually needs between 24 hours and four days to cure, based on the temperature and humidity.

One of the biggest pros of rubber flooring is it’s low maintenance. Rubber pool decking can easily be cleaned with a leaf blower or garden hose; mild soap and water may also be used. The rubber is known to be very durable, but in the case of damage, a professional installer can cut out the damaged area and pour new rubber bond.

Pool with Rubber Deck
Photos courtesy of No Fault Sport Group, LLC




Composite Pavers

Composite Paver Pool DeckComposite pavers are the up-and-coming alternative to concrete pavers for pool decking. Like concrete, composite pavers are slip-free and extremely durable. A major advantage is that they are approximately one-third of the weight of concrete, and the grid system makes them three times easier to install. They eliminate the frustration of manually setting and aligning heavy concrete pavers.

Like rubber flooring, composite pavers are eco-friendly because they are made from up to 95% recycled materials. Composite pavers are placed in the same compacted sand bases that are used for conventional concrete pavers, but the system allows for easy installation and unique custom designs. The pavers also come in various colors for endless design options, including herringbone, brick stack, pinwheel, and many other paver patterns.

While concrete and composite pavers are both slip-free and extremely durable, installation varies. When dealing with concrete, a base of processed gravel must be laid, after which the base and restraints are installed. Then a layer of bedding sand must be screened before the pavers can be laid, with careful effort put into ensuring that they are even. With composite pavers, installers use a grid system that works as a template for the pavers, which fit into the grid like puzzle pieces. Less base preparation is required, and laying even, neat lines of pavers is foolproof.

Composite pavers should be installed by professionals, but with the right installation guides they can be installed by knowledgeable DIYers. They should be installed over an even surface. The pavers require very little maintenance, aside for an occasional replenishment of joint sand.

Pool Deck_Composite Paver
Photos courtesy of Vast Enterprises, LLC





It is important to take into account the specifics of your pool and environment, and consult with pool experts in order to choose outdoor flooring that is right for you and will achieve your desired look.



View our Decks Buyers' Guide for a list manufacturers and suppliers of deck products and materials.


This guest post was written by Fay Friedman.



10 Benefits of a Swim Spa

By Debra Maurer

Swim spa Diamond Spas indoor pool fitness tile decorSwim spas are a combination of a hot tub and a swimming pool, which means—like most 2-for-1 items—they provide twice the bang for your buck. So what do these aquatic hybrids have to offer? Here are 10 benefits:

1. Compact size. Bigger than a hot tub, and smaller than a pool, swim spas are perfect for small yards.

2. Year-round swimming. By programming a set water temperature and keeping the cover on when not in use, you can use your swim spa hot tub all year long.

3. No flipturns necessary. Swim laps without interruption or reaching for the wall. 

4. Forget sharing a lane. No need to wait around for a lane to open up when you have your own private swim lane at home.

5. Challenge muscles. Water’s resistance makes for more challenging movements.

6. Low-impact. Thanks to water’s buoyancy, swimming is a low-impact activity with little risk of injury. 

7. Replaces your gym membership. Exercise using an underwater bike or treadmill, resistance bands, and rowing system—all in a swim spa. 

8. Smaller carbon footprint. Swim spas use much less water than a pool, meaning they require fewer chemicals and less energy to run, which also reduces your cost.

9. Unique options. Some manufacturers offer swim spas with deep water wells. This means the floor of the swim spa opens up to provide another 1 – 2 feet of depth, perfect for deep-water running.

10. Hydrotherapy. Enjoy the pulsating jets of a swim spa hot tub before or after your workout, or during a relaxing weekend.

Bonus: Did you know swim spas are great training tools for competitive swimmers? Learn how Michael Phelps used a swim spa to train for the London Olympics.

For a list of recommended swim spa manufacturers, visit our Swim Spas Buyers' Guide.

Photo courtesy of Diamond Spas; Photography by Cameron Neilson

How Michael Phelps Trained for the London Olympics

Swim Spas Played a Role in Phelps' Olympic Training







Master Spas MP Signature Model After winning six more medals (four gold and two silver) in the 2012 London Olympics, Michael Phelps has a total of 22 medals (18 gold, two silver, and two bronze), making him the most decorated Olympian of all time!

The historic moment occurred on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 when he won his 19th medal, surpassing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina for the title of most decorated. Phelps won the gold medal--along with teammates Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, and Ricky Berens--in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay less than an hour after placing second and winning silver in the 200m butterfly. No doubt this event will be remembered as one of the most celebrated moments of the 2012 London Olympics.

Phelps may be enjoying retirement now, at the age of 27, but how did he train for his final Olympic Games? Part of his training involved swimming against a current in a swim-in-place pool, also known as a swim spa.

Back in October, Master Spas’ CEO Bob Lauter, along with a group of Master Spas dealers, visited the Meadowbrook Aquatics Center in Baltimore, Md. There, they had a chance to observe Phelps training in the swim spa and understand its many benefits.

“[The underwater camera] is great for teaching because all the important stuff happens underwater—not on top,” said Bowman in footage from the event posted on Master Spas’ YouTube channel. “You can stay in one spot and see how the swimmer’s body reacts to different speeds without having to move around.”

Phelps also finds the underwater camera to be a major advantage: “I can look at stroke technique, how I’m catching the water, if my hips are late or if they’re early. I’m a visual learner so if I’m able to see what I’m doing wrong, I’m able to pick up on it and move on and make those small little corrections.” Both Phelps and Bowman can watch the recording at a slower speed to focus on Phelps’ movements and see how everything is connected. 

The adjustable current is another key component for training. “We’ll start out at a relatively slow speed so [the
swimmers] can have very good technique and don’t have to be stressed by the effort that they’re going to have to put in to keep up with the spa,” said Bowman. “And then I’ll gradually increase the speed as they go so they get more of a training effect.”

The Signature model used by Phelps features a wide range of speeds to accommodate swimmers at any fitness level; plus, users can do much more than swim laps in the swim spa. “You can do drills, kicking, pulling, and anything else we’d do in the regular pool right in the swim spa,” Bowman explained.

Michael Phelps Olympics training Swim Spa Master SpasYou Can Swim in a Michael Phelps Swim Spa Too!

One of Phelps’ major goals—aside from racking up medals—has been to promote the sport of swimming. Since access to a community pool might be limited or nonexistent for some people, Phelps believes a swim spa is an ideal solution. Not only does it provide the owner and his family with personal access to swimmable water, it also allows users to improve their abilities and adjust the speed as they work up to higher levels.

“Michael wants to bring more people into the sport,” says Lauter. “This is why swim spas appeal to him. A number of public pools are closing, making it harder for people to have access to water. This is the perfect alternative to a pool.” 


The Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas by Master Spas feature five residential models, retailing for $29,995 to $44,500, based on size and features. The smallest model, the MP Impact, features three molded hot tub seats with a total of 51 jets. The largest model is the MP Momentum, which includes a five-person hot tub that is sectioned off from the swim area by a clear divider. The model with the largest swim area is the MP Signature model, which is used by Phelps at Meadowbrook.


In addition to developing a swim spa that can be used by competitive swimmers, it was important for the Signature Series to suit a wide range of fitness levels, including moderate exercisers and those who are just getting into swimming. 

For one Master Spas customer, Miles McDonough of Bedford, Mass., swimming is an important way to stay in shape, namely because it’s a low-impact activity. “I’m a big skier and snowboarder, but I have bad knees so I can’t run,” he says. McDonough loves the advantage of having his own private swim spa right outside his back door. “I used to go to a public pool, but my eyes would get irritated because I had to wear my contacts. By swimming in place against a current at home, I don’t need to wear my contacts or worry about running into people.” 

McDonough keeps his swim spa running all year and uses it almost every day. “I’ll get in, soak for a bit, stretch for 20 – 30 minutes, then begin my swim. I also use the resistance bands to work out my arms,” he says. On the weekends, McDonough relaxes by taking full advantage of the therapy seats. In the winter, he’ll set it to 92 degrees F; come summer, he’ll lower it to accommodate the warm weather.

Photos courtesy of Master Spas, Inc.


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