Thinking about adding to or redesigning your landscape this summer? Any construction project can be overwhelming at first, but as with anything else, taking things step by step is key. So we put together a quick outline to help you get a handle on things ahead of time.
1. Figure Out Your Endgame.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s more to this step than saying “I’d like a new patio.” Ask yourself: how long are you planning on staying in your current home? Are you going to sell in the next 5, 10, 15 years? Do you want to add to the resell value of your home?
Long-term thinking will help you and your landscape contractor get an idea on what’s right for your property. Why invest thousands of dollars in an outdoor space you won’t have in five years? This line of thinking will also help determine which products you use, and ultimately, how much you spend.
Another key step is figuring out exactly what you want. A patio is one thing, but what about retaining and seating walls, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, plantings, pergolas? The possibilities are endless. Start by figuring out what you want to do with this space. Do you want to entertain guests, host a specific event, or just have a small, quiet getaway in your backyard?
Maybe you are planning to sell your home. Did you know landscaping can increase a home’s value by nearly 20%? Popular items include trees, outdoor living spaces, and lighting.
2. Get a Visual.
Literally. You can flip through magazines and brochures or scour the internet for photos and diagrams. Websites like Pinterest and Houzz are great tools for this. Think about the style and feel you want for your landscape, and bring a photo that exemplifies that to your contractor. You may even want to save a picture to two of what you don’t like. This is also a great time to research products. If you haven’t picked a contractor by this point, try looking for contractors that specialize in installing one of the products you’re considering. Some product websites might even have a list of licensed or preferred contractors.
3. Think Realistically About your Budget.
Setting up a preliminary budget will save you money and a headache later. If you’ve got dreams bigger than your bank account, you might want to put together a timeline. Splitting your project into phases can make the overall costs more manageable. Start by assessing your needs versus your wants. Sure, a new patio would be nice, but is it worth it if you have drainage issues that could ruin it? If you need to parse out your project, start by building a good foundation – literally.
4. Choose a Contractor.
If you’ve gotten this far and still haven’t picked a person for the job, now is the time! It might seem obvious to start with a search engine like Google or Yahoo, but don’t be afraid to go the old reliable route: word-of-mouth recommendations. Ask your neighbors and friends who they’ve used. If you see something you like, ask who built it. During your search, make sure to weigh all of your sources. Word-of-mouth and referrals are an excellent resource, since they usually come from sources you already trust, like neighbors or family. You might even stop by your local chamber of commerce. Online review sites like Google+, Angie’s List, and Yelp! can also be helpful. And finally, checking a contractor’s website can be a great resource too – portfolios of past work and testimonials can give you insight into the quality of their work.
Finally, nothing is a good substitute for a phone call or better, a face-to-face meeting with a contractor. It can be well worth the money to pay for a consultation or meeting with a professional – though most landscapers do this part for free. They’ll know the ins and outs of what needs to get done and will have useful insights on how much to budget and what you can do with your space.
5. Get Technical.
Walking the space you want to develop with your contractor is extremely important, especially if you have a challenging landscape (i.e., a steep slope, or drainage issues). Getting obstacles like shale ledges or slipping grades identified and dealt with beforehand will save you time and money in the long run.
6. Get Started!
Here are some resources to help you get started!