When landscaping firms such as Deck and Patio recommend planning an outdoor retreat before spring arrives, it isn’t self-serving. It is because, if left too late, it may not be possible for a client’s dream backyard to be completed for the year’s outdoor season.
“It’s best to begin in late winter,” says Deck and Patio owner Dave Stockwell. “Beginning early not only allows time to come up with a design plan that isn’t rushed, but it also provides sufficient time to check on local variances and secure permits. Many towns and villages on Long Island, for example, have different codes and requirements, and delays in approval are common.”
Other key parts of the design/bid process, says Dave, include pulling together those needed for every aspect of the project. Starting early ensures each team will be available at the right time to work in a way that doesn’t slow the job down.
Choosing the Right Designer/Builder
Choosing the right designer/builder is perhaps the most important decision you have to make when planning your outdoor retreat. Here are just a few of the questions you should consider:
— Will your design/build firm be using subcontractors and if so, are they licensed and insured? Who will be responsible for any repairs during the warranty?
— Will your design/builder obtain town codes and zoning information or will you be doing this? Some firms such as The Deck and Patio Company can introduce you to an expeditor to help in the permit process, if required.
— Take the time necessary to verify the references of your designer/builder and how many workers will be on the site at any given time. Will there be a supervisor there, for example.
— Review any contracts carefully before signing on. Ensure you have all the warranty information that was promised.
“In fact, there are so many important things to consider early in the process that we have created a booklet, “10 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Landscape Contractor,” says Dave.
“This brochure spells out in detail a variety of things to be considered before you begin. You can get a copy by stopping by our design center, or just call or email us for one.”
Even if there’s snow on the ground, a good design/build firm is able to see underneath it to plan an outdoor retreat. “We use surveys and Google Earth, etc. to plan any backyard refurbishment,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.
As we highlighted in last week’s blog, it is great if your designer/builder can show you through computer animation what your backyard upgrade will look like before you commit to the plan. Everything in this project, including the house (unseen here) patio, pool, waterfalls, outdoor kitchen and expanded pond were shown clearly in the animation — even the natural gas campfires.
These homeowners brought Deck and Patio on board early on when they were designing their home. This helped create a seamless integration of the landscape and nature with the home’s architecture — the architect even changed his design of the home’s turret in order ensure views from within would capture the various outdoor vistas. (Note: The town involved had strict setback requirements; we brought our 3-D animated landscaping plan to the town which aided in getting the permit granted quickly.)
This serenely beautiful vanishing edge pond belies the challenges (town codes/design planning) that were required to bring it all about. Being located on a bluff on a highly regulated area of Long Island’s north shore (Eaton’s Neck), there were lots of regulations regarding building near the cliff’s edge. Deck and Patio came up with a natural vanishing edge pond design instead of a pool which satisfied the code regulations. But it took early planning to not only get permits but to also create the pond’s complex natural biological filtration system that maintains the pond’s crystal clear water.
Planning glorious backyard water features takes time, especially if you want a man-made feature like this to appear as if Mother Nature designed it herself. This requires ordering and installing the perfect-sized rocks and boulders that urge the water to flow in natural spills into either a pond or pondless-reservoir.