2021 Outdoor Living Trends Forecast

by Belgard©

Looking ahead into 2021, we see some new outdoor living trends emerging. Much of this movement has been influenced by the rapid cultural shifts in lifestyle caused by the pandemic. As more homeowners begin to think of their outdoor living spaces as an extension of their interior spaces (and not just a place to barbecue or watch the kids play), interior design trends continue to have a major impact on look and functionality. Here’s how Belgard predicts outdoor living to further evolve in 2021.

Large Scale Outdoor Living Projects are the New Norm

Over recent years, there has been a shift to creating outdoor areas with multiple rooms for family and friends to enjoy. This school of thought exploded in 2020 and will continue to expand moving forward. A recent HIRI survey confirms that outdoor areas have been the focus on much remodeling activity with strong growth in landscaping, decks and outdoor living rooms. Additionally, Thomas James Homes revealed that individuals are requesting multiple rooms within the outdoor space. Anticipating this increase in demand, Belgard began developing a new program in 2020 that will simplify design of cohesive multi-room outdoor spaces that coordinate with the specific architectural style of a home. Stay tuned for our big announcement in 2021!

The Shift from Entertaining to Daily Outdoor Living

With the increase in at-home living, more areas of the home are being regularly utilized than ever before. Nearly 4 in 5 homeowners report they were thinking about changes that could help them enjoy their homes more, with outdoor projects at the top of the wish list (35%). Outdoor spaces are no longer just a place to hang out during downtime. They have become a space of productivity as more people are working and learning remotely.

Fully Functional Microspaces

Microspaces are emerging as a dominant form of renovation in cities and neighborhoods where lot sizes are small. With more and more single-family homes lacking an abundant backyard, utilizing the space alongside a home or even on the front porches is becoming vital to the ability to add an outdoor living space. Homeowners are also beginning to annex sections of an outdoor living area to create microspaces for exercising and working from home (20% each).

Integrating Technology

Outdoor access to technology has become more vital than ever. It’s no longer just about piping in music or watching the big game. Technology integration is becoming necessary to carry out daily functions. This includes incorporating heating and lighting into an outdoor area, as well as WiFi and easily accessible electrical outlets to create a fully functional space that can support more activities throughout the year.

Neutral or Minimalistic Tones with Pops of Color

This prominent interior design trend began expanding into outdoor living design in recent years. In 2020, it became more important than ever to create a soothing outdoor space focused on recharging and relaxing with friends and family, or alone. Expressing balance through color will be vital in 2021 to keep the extended time at home from becoming overly monotonous. That’s why Belgard selected Marigold as the Color of the Year for 2021. This bright and energetic hue enlivens a space, injecting a playful and uplifting spirit into a monochromatic design scheme. And as great minds think alike, it came as no surprise to us when the international color experts at Pantone followed suit by selecting not one, but two colors of the year for 2021 (Ultimate Gray and Illuminating yellow) that mirror the Belgard school of thought.

Modular and Geometric Patterns

Clean and simple lines continue to grow in popularity for pavers and landscape walls. These simplistic patterns allow for an uncluttered aesthetic that puts emphasis on furniture or features in the space, while also fostering easier installation and maximization of space. The newly emerging trend is to incorporate geometric shapes to add a visually interesting accent or to create a retro look.

University of Nebraska at Kearney Projects

Kearney Crete & Block has supplied product for a multitude of projects on campus at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK). Such projects include the new STEM building, an early childhood education center at University Village, a fountain located in the middle of campus, and pillars for the entryway into the campus.

Kearney Ready Mixed also supplied concrete for these projects.

Fall Outdoor Living and Lighting

by Belgard®

Fall is one of the best times of the year for outdoor living…the colors, the dancing leaves, and the unmistakable woodsy scent that wafts through the air as neighbors begin lighting fireplaces, fire pits and leaf piles. And let’s not forget backyard tailgating and watching football in the outdoor living room! Some don’t really think of fall as an outdoor living season, but more of a time to batten down the hatches and prepare for winter. However, the following tips can help you extend your outdoor living season and continue to get enjoyment from your outdoor spaces, even into winter.

Lighting Tips for Better Outdoor Living

One of the best aspects of fall outdoor living is the ambiance of a properly lit outdoor living space. We’re not talking harsh overhead lights. We’re talking about gently bathing the space with a soft, warm glow. To create this type of welcoming atmosphere, you need low-voltage lighting that comes from multiple light sources. That’s why Belgard has partnered with Tru-Scapes to create outdoor lighting solutions that can be incorporated directly into hardscaped surfaces. The delicate radiance of Tru-Scapes paver lights and garden wall accent lights softens the look of hardscaped spaces to add both character and functionality. And the best part, there’s a Bluetooth transformer that allows you to control the lights with your phone!

For better outdoor living, also sprinkle some of these lighting ideas here and there:

  • Shatterproof Edison string lights can add a festive quality to your lighting design. There are also solar-powered options. Just make sure that everything is weatherproof and rated for outdoor use.
  • Like hardscape lights, landscape lights not only add an elegant touch but also improve the safety of your outdoor space, especially along walkways. Garden accent lights add an ethereal quality, particularly when used to “uplight” trees.
  • Candles add a rustic touch, but be sure to keep safety in mind when using real candles. Flameless LED candles are a safer alternative, and you can buy them in convenient multi-pack quantities operated by a single remote or a timer.
  • Well-placed pendant lights add functionality to an outdoor kitchen or bar, without destroying the ambiance. They also reinforce the “outdoor room” concept.
  • Whether a fire bowl, fire pit or some other fire feature, there’s nothing like the warm glow of a real fire to enhance the ambiance of an outdoor space.

Decorating for the Season

One of the fun aspects of decorating an outdoor living space is that you can be a little bolder than you might be with the typically more neutral pallet of an indoor space. But it’s time to put away the bright summer colors and bring in some warmer hues. If your outdoor throw pillows are still in good shape, don’t throw them out! Just use new pillow covers. Both Amazon and Etsy have a lot of options that are inexpensive enough to adjust your design theme seasonally — and maybe even add some “team colors” to the repertoire for those backyard tailgate gatherings. You can also enhance the fall look by sprinkling in seasonal flowers, gourds and rustic design elements like lanterns, wicker, or aged wood and metals.

Keeping it Cozy

To get more enjoyment from your outdoor living spaces during the autumn months, both you and your guests will need a way to stay cozy and warm, particularly during those chillier moments in the evening or early morning. A fire pit, fireplace or fire table will not only offer a warm gathering spot, it adds a visual focal point to your space. For additional comfort — and to add to the cozy aesthetic — drape soft throw blankets on seat walls or the arms of furniture pieces. You may also want to purchase outdoor floor or tabletop heaters to add ambient heat throughout your entire outdoor living space. Adding retractable solar shades to a porch or pergola not only provides protection from the glaring sun in summer months, it can also help keep you warm in the winter by blocking the wind and helping to hold in any ambient warmth created by space heaters.

Maintenance Considerations

Autumn is also a good time to do a little maintenance on your outdoor living spaces to keep them beautiful and functional. If you have a pool, you may want to consider covering the pool to keep out leaves that will change the pH of the water and clog filters. However, a covered pool is not as attractive. So if you choose to keep it uncovered for the aesthetics, be sure to ramp up your weekly maintenance to adjust for the extra debris. You can also add some floating pool lights to add to evening ambiance.

Top 5 things you need to know about weatherproofing concrete (and other masonry surfaces) for winter


1. Don’t wait until winter to winterize.
The ideal time to prepare and protect your driveways, sidewalks, parking lots and other masonry surfaces from the effects of winter is late summer to early fall. That’s because Saltguard, Saltguard VOC, Saltguard WB, our penetrating water and salt barriers, need to be applied during warm and dry conditions with ample time to cure.

2. Weatherproofing concrete and masonry surfaces saves money in the long-term!
A little weatherproofing today is much more cost-effective than repairing damaged, unprotected concrete in just a few years. Left untreated, water and salt can penetrate in to concrete and lead to costly damage such as rust, spalling, buckling and other serious problems.

3. Vertical surfaces need weather protection too.
Saltguard and Saltguard WB work wonders for driveways, bridges, sidewalks, streets, parking lots and other horizontal surfaces, but they also are commonly (and effectively) used to protect the sides of parking garages, brick walls and vertical block surfaces. Water, ice and all the contaminants that are carried with them in the winter can splash up on vertical surfaces too.

4. Surfaces need to be cleaned prior to being protected with Saltguard or Saltguard WB.
We recommend using Cleaner/Degreaser to remove general grime, and Oil & Grease Stain Remover for more deeply-set stains. This will maximize the performance of Saltguard and Saltguard WB. Here’s a quick how-to video for using Oil & Grease Stain Remover.

5. Here’s an easy trick to find out whether a surface has already been protected with a water repellent.
Just pour a little water out of a small container onto the surface. If the water beads up and puddles on the surface, it’s already been treated at some point. If it wets out and soaks into the surface, you’ve got an excellent candidate for Saltguard or Saltguard WB on your hands.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Kearney Crete and Block & Ready Mixed Concrete are Open for Business.  We have implemented social distancing protocols to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Starting today, we are asking all customers to call ahead to place their pickup orders, giving us advanced notice so we can have the material ready for you.  Please pull into the loading area between the two buildings.  A staff member will meet you at your vehicle when you arrive.

Our showroom and main door on the south side are temporarily closed. If you need samples or brochures, please call ahead and we will make sure we have what you need when you arrive.  If you’d like to talk to a staff member, their phone numbers and email addresses are below.

If you do stop in, please follow the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing.

  • No handshaking
  • Maintain a six-foot buffer
  • Avoid areas designated areas for employee access only.  Those include the ready mix plant, block plant, warehouses, breakroom and the upstairs sales office.

We ask for your patience and understanding as we attempt to do our part to minimize the spread of Coronavirus. As conditions and concern seem to change rapidly, we will continue to communicate any adjustments to our business operations that may affect you. As long as we feel that we can minimize the spread and contribute to the containment of this disease, then we will remain open for business. Thank you.

Scott Frauen, 308-698-1160 scottf@kearneycreteandblock.com  Sales
Jerry Stithem, 308-698-1151 jerrys@kearneycreteandblock.com Sales
Erold Jackson 308-698-1155 eroldj@kearneycreteandblock.com  Block Delivery Dispatch
Dawna Ourada 308-698-1165 dawnao@kearneycreteandblock.com Inside Sales & Safety
Kathryn Arrants 308-698-1159 kathryna@kearneycreteandblock.com  Inside Sales
Mike Haws 308-698-1156 michaelh@kearneycreteandblock.com Ready Mix Dispatch
Terri Holtzen 308-698-1153 terrih@kearneycreteandblock.com General Manager

We appreciate your business and will do all we can to make this as easy and safe for you as possible.  Hopefully this will only last a short while!

Terri Holtzen │General Manager

New Early Childhood Development Center at UNK

Kearney Crete & Block provided concrete and masonry product at the new LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Development Center at UNK. The $7.8 million building is scheduled to open in September. The new building was designed specifically to meet children’s educational and developmental needs while providing top-notch training for future educators and promoting collaboration among UNK’s academic departments. The modern facility is just south of the Village Flats and will be 19,900 square feet, and has enough room to serve up to 176 children from infants to age 6. The Early Childhood Education Center will feature an outdoor playground area where Kearney Crete and Block provided unique Denim Klaycoat blue brick. Hausmann is the general contractor and Masonry Unlimited is the mason.

Chadron Students Tour Kearney Block Plant

Jeremy Brayton brought his masonry class from the Pine Ridge Job Corps to Kearney so they could tour the Kearney Crete and Block plant. The students have already had experience laying block and brick in their class and were interested in how the block was made, what our QC program was and what we see for jobs in the masonry field.

SkillsUSA Nebraska Leadership & Skill Conference

Approximately 1,600 students competed at the SkillsUSA Nebraska Championships on Friday at the Heartland Events Center – Fonner Park complex. High School students competed in more than 140 areas of career and technical education including a masonry division that was helped in part by Kearney Crete & Block and Christensen Concrete Products Company. The competition also included architecture and construction, audio/video technology, health science, public safety, hospitality and tourism, leadership, manufacturing, information technology, and transportation.

This is the third year that the SkillsUSA competition has been held in Grand Island and it has continued to grow every year. “For a lot of these kids, this becomes their basketball court or football field. This is their opportunity to showcase what they can do with their skills. Unlike other areas, they are showcasing skills that are going to create a great career for them when they get done with school,” said Tony Glenn of SkillsUSA.

Spring Paver Maintenance Tips

by Belgard®

Mother Nature can be cruel. If you have chosen Belgard for your hardscape projects, you’ve already taken measures to increase resistance against weathering and corrosion. Still, seasonal hardscape maintenance is encouraged to preserve the beauty and integrity of your installation. Here are a few Spring paver care tips.

General maintenance

  • Clean your pavers each Spring with a coarse-bristle “stable” broom and a routine maintenance paver cleaner to keep them looking like new.
  • Some weeds, if left unaddressed, can shift pavers apart over time. Be sure to periodically apply a granular weed preventative between joints as a part of your paver maintenance routine.
  • Be careful when cleaning your Belgard pavers with power washers as they can remove the paver finish and expose the aggregate on the paver’s surface.


  • Before applying any paver cleaning solution to your hardscape, test a small inconspicuous area first to be sure you get the desired results.
  • Be sure to read and follow the directions printed on container labels for cleaning solution use, application, precautions and first aid. Always rinse the solution off thoroughly after use.
  • For tough stains, use a specialized cleaner to treat the specific stain. Techniseal offers specialty cleaners for organic stains (moss, mildew, dead leaves, blood, wine); greasy stains (motor oil, barbecue, oily foods); rust (caused by steel, rusty objects or fertilizer); and paint, tar or rubber (including gum). Each of these products are specifically formulated to clean pavers and masonry and should not affect the color or tone of your hardscapes. However, it is always a good idea to test a small area area first.


  • The joints between paving stones are the most vulnerable areas of any installation. Keep these joints topped off with jointing sand to prevent the sand-bedding layer below from deteriorating, causing the pavers to shift.
  • Every three years, apply a sealer to keep your pavers looking their best. Depending upon your preference, sealer options can offer a natural matte finish, a color-boosted matte finish, a clear semi-gloss look, or a wet-look gloss finish. Sealers should not be applied more than once in three years. Too many applications will create a film on the surface which may discolor in sunlight. You can easily test whether your pavers are ready to resealed by dripping some water on your pavers. If the water initially beads, your pavers are still protected. If the water immediately soaks in, it’s probably time.
  • For older pavers that have suffered from weathering and neglect, bring back the original shade of pavers or give them new color with NuLook Tinted Sealant, which is a semi-transparent semi-gloss sealer designed to rejuvenate faded pavers. NuLook comes in four different shades to bring new life to pavers or create interesting designs.

Hardscape Lighting Ideas

by Belgard®

Whether you’re lighting an existing outdoor living area or planning a new one, here are a few ideas on how to light up your space.

This lovely outdoor living room uses lighting techniques inspired by nature. The focal light emanating from the fire is enhanced by votive candles and low-voltage hardscape lighting that’s built into the walls of the outdoor fireplace. In the surrounding landscape, ambient in-ground lighting reflects throughout the picturesque waterfall. Uplights used for the shrubbery and trees add an ethereal glow.

Fire can be used in a number of creative ways. This outdoor living room uses a European style fireplace and fire bowls that are all operated off of gas and can be turned on remotely. For additional fire elements, tiki torches are placed around the backyard to add a festive design element that coordinates with the “fire” design scheme.

This design incorporates a variety of antique brass light fixtures, including attractive pathway lights in the planter beds and coordinating low-voltage hardscape lighting along each wall.

Columns lights will both dress up a wall and provide additional lighting, as illustrated with the seat wall pictured below. This design also includes hardscape and overhead lighting in the bar area that allows for increased visibility behind the bar, without overpowering the fire pit area.

Strategic use of pathway lights adds both character and an element of safety for a walkway or patio. The color of the light fixtures selected below incorporates complementary tones to those in the pavers, creating a cohesive design.

In the poolscape below, low-voltage hardscape lighting was installed in a pattern that complements the sweeping arches throughout the design. To improve the safety, lights are installed on all steps and elevation changes, in addition to the seat walls. All lights in the hardscaped areas face downward, with upward lights facing the trees. The combination creates a subdued and cozy atmosphere.

String lighting can be a festive way to add additional lighting and comes in a variety of styles to complement a wide range of design schemes. The outdoor pavilion below incorporates simple string lighting that creates a festive atmosphere without detracting from the richness of the rustic design elements. Additional lighting comes from pendants, sconces and hardscape lighting.