How to plan an upgrade for your outdoor living space

Maybe you’re planning on building a new home next year, or the landscape and patio area in your back yard needs updating.

You probably have an idea of what you like based on something you saw in magazine, at the neighbors’ house or maybe you visited the latest home and garden show. But do you really have a plan? Have you really thought about what it takes to create that awesome vision that you’ve been dreaming of?

There are some things to consider: goals, budget, order of operations, do it yourself vs. hiring it out, etc. It’s never too early to start planning to ensure that things go as smooth as possible.

Consider Goals/Needs
Decide what your goals or needs are. If you’re building a brand new home, then chances are, you’re starting from the ground up. You’ll need to consider things like landscaping, hardscaping, lawn installation, lawn irrigation and landscape lighting. In most cases, it’s much easier to build “new.”

If you’re renovating an existing space, sometimes things get a little complicated. Maybe the new patio is going to be much larger than the old one so you need to consider what kind of available space you have to work within, and how to work with existing obstructions such as landscaping, hardscaping or irrigation lines.

Set a Realistic Budget
A good rule of thumb is to spend about 20% of the home value on your outdoor space. This includes the patio area, landscaping, hardscaping, irrigation and outdoor lighting. Be sure to have the funds available to accomplish your goals. The last thing you want to do is skimp on an important part of the project because you ran of money due to bad planning or unforeseen circumstances.

Sometimes a project can be done in phases for financial or other reasons. Be sure to get things done in the proper order. For example, it would be very difficult to excavate for your new patio if two months before you had those large trees and shrubs installed right where the footer and base belong for the new paver stones and sitting wall. That would be counterproductive and usually increases the cost because of the extra labor that is needed.

Choose a Contractor Wisely
Most people like to deal with one contractor for all phases of the project. There are many trades and skills needed to create an outdoor living space. Be sure that the firm you choose has the right guys for the job. Many companies claim to be good at everything, but are they really? If you are interviewing contractors or taking bids, make sure that they have the right certification, experience and insurance to take on all aspects of your project. Also, ask them if they mind if you bring on another contractor that might specialize in a certain field or if you can do some of the work yourself to save a little money.

Take the time to think over what you’re trying to accomplish, so the small things don’t get overlooked and you have a clear vision of what you want. It’s always a good idea to put your plan on paper (most cities even require it for permits) so that everyone that is involved in the project knows what the end result should be. Then it’s time get to work and start building!

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