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Duo bring DIY stone skills to Austin

Dean Marsico and Derek Stearns tape episodes of 'Indoors Out' in Austin, Georgetown.

Pierre Bertrand
Derek Stearns wears a camera on his arm to capture a stone patio project that he and co-host Dean Marsico, right, recorded in Georgetown last month for the DIY Network show 'Indoors Out.'

Check your thermometers: Spring is coming, and the mercury is rising. Time to get out and start on that long-overdue home-improvement project you've been putting off. But will it look the way you want it to?

Television personalities and stonemasons Dean Marsico and Derek Stearns of "Indoors Out," a do-it-yourself outdoor living program on DIY Network, have been in and out of Austin these past couple of weeks to offer their expertise and help people make sensible and affordable decisions regarding outdoor projects, including pizza ovens, stone patios and outdoor hearths.

The duo's beginnings in stone masonry are humble. The two cousins started working together as children in Boston, mixing cement and hauling stones from the back of pickups and dump trucks with Stearns' father. In 2000, after brief stints as actors, the two decided to rebuild the family's stonemasonry business, working out of an old Jeep with nothing but a shovel and a couple of trowels. They did odd jobs throughout New England, working old contacts so as to keep busy and slowly expand. Then the two decided to film a project and send their tape to various networks. The tape was rough, but in 2004, it got the two cousins their first TV show on DIY Network, "Rock Solid." Now, seven years later, they do 26 episodes of "Indoors Out" a year, zigzagging across the country to show people how to cut stones, how to join them together and which products are best for their home projects.

Marsico and Stearns spent much of February filming in Austin. The Austin projects include an outdoor stone patio with an accompanying fireplace near Bee Cave, a limestone and cedar breezeway with a built-in grilling station in Georgetown and an outdoor living room and fire pit with an extended roof featuring Oklahoma fossil stone off Scofield Ridge Parkway in North Austin. Austinites will have to wait until April 5 to see the Austin episodes. The shows will be broadcast at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on DIY.

For the stonemasons, the Austin projects mean working primarily with native white limestone because of its prevalence in Texas and the region's climate. (Limestone doesn't fare well in wet and cold climates, making it better suited for outdoor projects here.)

Every house is different, however, and the materials found for one house's project might not be suitable for another. But if you're ready to go build, or you're looking longingly at your construction tools, or you simply want to think about how to refurbish your yard, Marsico and Stearns have a couple of tips.

This spring, avoid half-planning. Make sure you keep hold of the big picture and be true to your own needs. Bring stone samples home. You might be convinced a certain stone will blend harmoniously with your yard only to be disappointed later.

"Really map everything out," Stearns said. "Don't fall in love with a product if its not going to fulfill the function of the room."

Next, do your research. Go to a local stone distributor and ask questions. Start small, and don't be afraid to break up a project over multiple seasons; you might not be able to finish everything in one go.

Lastly, always have appropriately sized stones for your project, whether it be a wall, steps or a patio, don't pair stones that are too mismatched. Keep the stones' size to the same ratio, take pride in your work and take your time.

The most important thing, Marsico and Stearns stress, is making sure that you really know what you want, and how you would like your project to look when completed. There is no use in rushing.

"We meet so many people today that say, 'oh, you are doing so well,' but it all started with a lot of hard work and an idea," Stearns said.