Now that we are moving slowly out of the great recession, the sounds and sights of new construction are very welcome! Are you contemplating new construction this spring?
One of the most significant and eye-catching details of your new home is the landscaping. After all the hard work is complete, this will be the first vision anyone will see of your new home. Let's take that landscaping budget and make it the very best it can be! The American Society of Landscape Architects suggests that 5-10% of a home's value should be spent towards landscaping. Smart Money Magazine says ' Spending 5 percent of the total value of your home on landscaping, and doing it wisely, you can add 15 percent or more to the value of your home.' For new construction, there are many ways to stretch those budget dollars as far as they will go. Here are a few ways:
The Golden Rules of the Landscaping Budget:
1. Know What You Want: What do you ultimately want your new landscaping to showcase? How will you use your outdoor spaces as your family grows? Do you frequently entertain? All of these questions you ask during the design of the INSIDE of your home should also be asked when considering the OUTSIDE of your home. Write these goals and desires down. Collect pictures of spaces you have seen, or plants, elements you like. This information will also be helpful in the next planning phase. If you have not visited the website www.HOUZZ.com , this is a great place to get ideas for indoor, as well as, outdoor projects. At this time, the budget for the project should be discussed. A well thought out budget will help the design professional not only create your project correctly but will also steer them towards the right materials to choose and how to phase the project.
2. Hire a Professional and Have a Plan: Many homeowners skip this step, at their peril. Just as the http://www.asla.org/ISGWeb.aspx?loadURL=firfin architectural plans are needed to tell the builder how to build the house, the landscape plan does the same for the outdoor spaces. One of the biggest mistakes a homeowner can make is to not hire a professional at this point. This is where a Landscape Architect can help the design of the outdoor spaces meld with the architecture. They also ensure that the design meets the goals and the needs of the family. L.A's are educated in the creation of outdoor spaces. They are taught how these areas function, how they are used by people, and how they can be properly created in the right size, scale and with the right materials. You can check ASLA's 'Firm Finder' website to find a Landscape Architect in your area:
Once the plan is prepared, the Landscape Architect can guide you into the most cost-effective ways to achieve the goals of the space. Maybe a material for a patio can be changed to accommodate the budget? Maybe a wall can be built during a later phase of the project? This is the type of knowledge that the L.A. can advise the customer and help them save money during the project.
You can read more on how hiring a landscape architect can save you time and money here:
3. Prioritize: What elements of the landscape are most important to you and your family? Which elements will you get the most enjoyment and use? Is it the patio and entertaining space out back? Is it the large planting beds in the front foundation of the house? Is it the grading of the sloped back yard? These priorities will help you decide where the bulk of the landscaping budget should be spent and when. The plan also comes into play here, in that it will help you phase your project over time. Maybe the front foundation landscaping is done initially, and then the rest can be done in later phases. Write these priorities down.
4. Get the Most Value: After viewing your priority list, have your design professional review it with you to see where there could be a cost savings. Maybe a change in material can allow you to have the bulk of the elements of the space and still fall within your budget? Also review the return in investment. A new patio with outdoor fireplace tends to have a high return value in outdoor construction. Some elements can improve the home value for resale, or also improve curb appeal for a prospective buyer in the future. Some outdoor elements that have a high investment return are:
- Outdoor Kitchens: A returning hot item this year! Outdoor kitchens, depending on the amenities, have an average return on investment averaged (by different sources) to be about 80% - 120%.
- Outdoor Fireplace or Firepit: This feature also extends the use of homeowners outdoor space and falls into the same category and investment value as the outdoor kitchen.
- Deck: According to Remodeling Magazine's 2010-11 Cost. vs. Value Report, a deck of any kind is one of the best investments a homeowner can make.
- Patio: Many homeowners are continuing to extend their homes into the outdoors through the installation of new patios. This too, has a sizeable return on investment. Yahoo Finance states: "the sizable return on decks and the comparable minimal investment required for a patio suggest homeowners are standing on solid ground when paving out a place to put the grill or fire pit.'
5. Substitute: Here is where the rubber meets the road of 'reality.' There are many ways to substitute less expensive elements or materials to achieve what you are envisioning for your property. Here are a few ways:
- Materials: You may want a large patio, but the difference in cost between poured concrete and cut bluestone is sizeable. Maybe stamped concrete or concrete pavers are the right choice as a mid-level cost material? As a consumer, you will need to decide which material is right for you and your needs. Material Choice is another area where your design professional can assist you.
- Project Size and Scope: Do you really need a 20 x 30' patio when you only entertain once a year? Take a look at the reality of the way you will use a space before making a final decision on size and scope. Again, your master plan should take these things into consideration for you.
- Outdoor Elements: Maybe you want an outdoor fireplace, but in reality, a firepit will do? There is also a sizeable difference in price between the two. Do you say you want a pond with a waterfall on your property, but really only need a recirculating fountain? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself, all with great implications on your landscaping budget.
- Plant Material: Plant material cost is based on the scarcity of the type of plant, growth rate, and the size. If you are willing to wait for plant growth, you may want to consider adjusting the size of plant material installed. You also may want to exchange more expensive specialty plant material, with something a little less expensive. Some Japanese Maples can be very costly, where maybe a 15 gallon Dogwood or Redbud (much less expensive) would suffice?
6. Buy in Bulk: You may want to consider purchasing materials needed for the landscaping in bulk from a local supplier and have them delivered to the job site. Many mulch yards will give you below retail pricing, based on the quantity you are purchasing. This could be used for purchasing mulch, topsoil, soil conditioner, etc.
5. Use Sweat Equity: This is one tactic I frequently suggest. Once a plan is prepared, the homeowner has the option of doing some, or all of the landscaping themselves. Some homeowners have the energy and know how to install plant materials, spread mulch, etc themselves to realize a cost savings. Think about how much time, energy and know how you have to do some of the landscaping yourself through sweat equity.
All of these tactics will assist you in getting the most bang for your buck in the landscaping of your new home!
About the Author:
Lori Hawkins, RLA, ASLA has been a registered landscape architect and active in the landscape design/build industry for over 30 years. Her service area includes Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem, Chapel Hill and the Raleigh NC metro areas. For additional inspiring project pictures, design ideas, or great garden gifts, take a look at these websites:
GARDEN ART AND GIFTS: WWW.TriadGarden.com
DESIGN WORK PORTFOLIO: WWW.HawkinsLA.com