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A Deadline Set in Stone
By Tracy Dickinson | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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This Altoona couple redesigned their backyard living space in a matter of days.

Experienced shoppers rarely come home with only what they intended to buy. After all, there are always sale items and those surprising must-have finds. Just ask Jarl and LaVon Martinson of Altoona.

Early this past summer, the couple went shopping for a new set of outdoor furniture. After making the rounds of several area stores, they stopped at DECKed OUT Side in Urbandale. By the time they left, they were the proud owners of two sets of furniture and had made arrangements for an addition to their patio.

“Gaylon is quite a salesman,” LaVon laughs, referring to Gaylon Peterson, DECKed OUT Side manager. “Jarl and I had talked about adding an outdoor fireplace at some point, but we weren’t really planning to do it this year. Then we saw what Gaylon had to offer.”

While browsing the DECKed OUT Side showroom, they noticed the fireplace display and asked Peterson a few questions.

“We have several standard designs,” Peterson explains, “and the Martinsons found one and chose a stone that complemented the patio pavers they had in mind as well as their home’s exterior. Then we worked with the fireplace manufacturer to customize the design to Jarl’s ideas.”

After discussing the possibilities, “Jarl said, ‘Why not do it now?’” LaVon says. “So we did!”

There was just one catch: The deadline was set in stone.

“Jarl knew I wanted everything done by Labor Day weekend because we were having family in town,” explains LaVon. “What he didn’t know was that I had a surprise birthday party planned for him. So I told Gaylon and Joe Morton from Frontline Lawn and Landscape it absolutely had to be done on time.”

Two weeks before the deadline, crews arrived to start the patio extension. But the foundation for the new fireplace wasn’t poured until the following Monday, just before LaVon left town on business for several days.

“I wasn’t going to be back until Thursday afternoon,” she says, “and the deadline was Friday. So all I could do was trust Gaylon and hope he was right.” What the two companies accomplished was nothing short of amazing.

Late Tuesday morning the Frontline crew was finishing the prep work when Peterson arrived with the fireplace. The two teams worked through one of the hottest days of the summer, when the temperature topped 100 degrees, and had the fireplace and surrounding stonework set by 3:00 that afternoon. This involved moving eight separate pieces, some weighing as much as 4,000 pounds.

Peterson says, “At our hottest and perhaps lowest moment in the afternoon dealing with the heat, a car pulled up and two ladies jumped out. They handed me enough Popsicles for both crews. They were like Popsicle angels. Only in Iowa.”

The landscapers continued working through the rest of that miserably hot week, assuring the Martinsons they’d be done at least two minutes before the party began.

“If you saw the project when we started to set the fireplace that Tuesday morning, you wouldn’t think it could be done. But Frontline knows what they’re doing, and with the prebuilt fireplace, it’s an amazing process,” Peterson says.

The couple’s four-year-old home already had a brick patio with gas fire pit. Jarl and LaVon had designed an extension to the patio, adding a second seating area and a low stone wall with a wood-burning fireplace. The Martinsons also wanted the option to bring out a large television for football parties without having to leave the TV outside all the time.

Peterson and the Kentucky-based fireplace manufacturer customized the “mantel” with weatherproofed power lines run through the fireplace system and into the ground to allow the screen to sit there when needed.

When LaVon returned from her business trip, all that remained was some basic cleanup and finish work on the patio pavers. And a few last-minute party details.

LaVon says, “Jarl was completely surprised at the party and all the family and friends who drove so many miles to be a part of it.”

And thanks to that earlier shopping trip and a team of professionals who know how to stick to a deadline, there was plenty of outdoor seating for everyone.


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