5 Tips for Hardscaping Your Backyard
The grounds around your home make the first impression on guests and passersby. Updating your landscaping can significantly improve your home’s value. If you want to spruce up your surroundings, consider taking on projects that bring you satisfaction and a new space while keeping your budget in range.
Consider projects like retaining walls and prepping the yard for a lawn, pergolas and outdoor fireplaces. What will make your dreams come true? An English garden? A backyard environment fit for grilling, friends and entertainment? Hardy grass to withstand the stress created by your pets?
Whether you’re hardscaping the lot of your brand new home or recreating the grounds of an existing residence, careful planning helps you achieve your desired oasis. Before heading to the hardware store, consider these tips for making your work go smoothly:
Before selecting stones and planning pathways, visit public and private gardens to get ideas — and keep these in a folder to use when you source materials or start to envision your space. Take pictures of landscaping that you admire. Make note of any special features, such as fountains, benches and brick-laying patterns that catch your eye. Head to the library or bookstore to find additional inspiration, or search the Internet for appealing concepts.
Check out open houses for new homes, drive through established neighborhoods known for elegance, and check with local nurseries and home improvement stores for information. Take note of the plants you will eventually want to plant, but focus on the structure that will support your vision — the hardscaping.
Make a Plan
Start with a rough drawing of your outside space and mark spots for large items, such as stone structures, trees, barbecues, sheds and any water elements or features. Note any areas that need water, electricity or gas to come and go. Then indicate where your stoneware and wood projects will be placed.
Flat surfaces, such as patios and sidewalks, walls and planters should be noted first, along with your choice of material for each item. Mark areas for vegetation, and note any special needs for watering and drainage.
Use a Theme
Although you don’t have to stick to strict rules, and plans can vary, having a style in mind will help you create synergy between your indoor and outdoor living areas. If you have a deck or patio, make sure to take those materials into consideration before moving forward. Many outdoor structures are made of composite decking (which is recycled plastic) because it’s more durable than traditional wood. If this describes your patio or deck, you may have to take the color and sheen of the decking into consideration as you plan your project.
Is your style shabby-chic? Consider fishponds and partial fence installation as part of your landscaping. Is your style more formal? Look at granite and marble tiles. You can mix a few styles, but be careful to retain your home’s character and pair the inside structure with the outside structure.
Itemize and Budget
Make a list of all the to-do items within your plan. Then list the supplies and tools needed for each job. Carefully consider the pros and cons of each labor-intensive procedure. Make an itemized budget of each job, and compare the costs of DIY versus hiring help.
For example, if you plan to install a French drain, drainage ditches must be dug. You can dig them with your own shovels, which is inexpensive — but exhausting and time-consuming. Since a backhoe can work well in small yards, renting equipment to unearth the pathways for pipes and sprinkler systems might be a better plan. Renting is cost efficient, and it allows you to complete your projects on time without wasted energy. Do some research to determine the cost of reserving equipment. Often, renting is cheaper than hiring a contractor.
Consult With the Pros
Should you take on each task alone or team with pros? The answer depends on your skills, the complexity of your design, the soil on your property, the slant of the lot, and your budget for time and money.
Scan the items listed on your plan and identify those jobs that you can do yourself and those that are best accomplished by pros. You’ll need to hire a professional to install gas lines if these are a part of your plan. An electrician should be consulted for installing the lights in your pool, and heavy labor is best shared. Even if you choose to do things yourself, a consult with a specialist can give you valuable insights.
After you have a plan in place, you can start ordering supplies and preparing for your work sessions. You can look forward to the days that you will enjoy entertaining in your new surroundings, and don’t be surprised if your guests come to you for ideas with their landscaping projects!
Megan Wild is a residential construction expert who enjoys flipping old homes. When she’s not scouring her neighborhood for her next project, you can find her tweeting home inspiration at @Megan_Wild.