Remodeling With Grass
A good landscaping plan should be made simultaneously with the house plan because landscaping can determine the design of the structure.
By Larry Parrish, Parrish Construction, Cabinets & Landscaping
Remodel with grass? No, this is not about a new version of straw-bale construction, or using mood-altering drugs while building. I’m talking about the ultimate in “green building”—incorporating landscape design into your plans, whether while remodeling your home or building a new one. Good landscape design can expand living space, create a sanctuary, and lift the spirit.
According to realtors, three things determine the value of a house—location, location, and location. Landscaping is an important aspect of any location. For a graphic illustration of this point, find an attractive home, either in your neighborhood or in a magazine photograph. Now imagine that same house sitting on asphalt in the middle of a parking lot. See what I mean?
Since landscaping is usually done at the end of a construction project, many people wait until then to begin planning it. By then, they are out of money and energy, and the landscaping goes on the “back burner”, sometimes for years (or decades). Since mature landscaping takes years to develop, each year lost is important. The people who bought my previous house are enjoying large trees that I experienced only as twigs, because for ten years I delayed planting: I was always going to plant “next year.” Can any of you relate to this?
Even if you can’t afford your ultimate landscape plan now, incorporate a master plan as part of your initial design. Good landscaping may determine the design of the structure—in order to protect existing trees, take advantage of views and shading, screen noise and neighbors, or create niches for ponds or waterfalls. Many design/build contractors incorporate landscape architects as part of the design team, or you can put your own team together by hiring a landscape architect at the same time as the architect, in order to coordinate the designs.
Include a landscaping line-item in your overall budget to insure that the money will be available when you need it. An allocation of only three to five percent for landscaping of project cost can improve a project immensely. The design typically costs less than one percent. You can include this cost as part of the overall financing or mortgage. After all, the landscaping should last as long as the house and appreciate in value.
A landscaping plan should:
§ Create lovely scenery as the plants grow. A twig-tree won’t become marvelous for years, but with proper under-planting the area can still be attractive. The plan should consider all phases of the plant life, so that views are maintained and features of the home accented.
§ Address damage mitigation to protect existing plants during construction. Many plants, and topsoil, can be reserved on-site, and reused. Good planning can prevent damage to plants, grass, and existing sprinkler lines during excavation, or damage to trees from cutting roots or compromising aeration with piles of excavation spoils.
§ Provide conduits for piping or wiring under sidewalks and driveways to accommodate sprinkler system pipes, lighting, or telephone and television wiring.
§ Planning for drainage of water, including surface runoff, gutters, and downspouts, is important. It must be coordinated with landscaping features to avoid damming water near the house, where it can enter basements and crawlspaces, or damage foundations.
If you don’t enjoy yard work, quality landscaping design can create low-maintenance yards. Weed barriers and mulches can minimize weeding, sprinkler systems automate the watering, and xeriscape designs can minimize or eliminate watering altogether. Perennials will provide color year after year, and slow-growing or dwarf plants will minimize annual pruning.
Some of the most exciting remodeling projects I’ve seen have included ponds, water features, and waterfalls. Rubber pond liners contain the water, and pumps provide the circulation. Water plants and fish add life and interest in a perfect symbiotic relationship. Moving water adds visual excitement, and its sound has power to calm the savage beast.
Whether you decide to incorporate landscaping into your building program, or wait awhile, at least plant the trees. That way you will be able to enjoy the shade, and brag about your foresight.