The cost of landscaping always seems to shock homeowners. Somehow people relate the cost of landscaping to the cost of gardening and are surprised to find out that decks and wood cost more than plants … not to mention the labour involved to install them. In speaking to several industry professionals, the average backyard renovation starts at about $20,000, with some projects crossing the million-dollar mark. With such a huge range, how do you know how much your outdoor renovations should cost and how much should you really be investing in your home?
For the last 15 plus years I have been on television helping people create stunning backyards. Patios, decks, barbecues … you name it, I have shown people how to have them. Even now, I describe myself as a landscaper and not a gardener. I go into a backyard and look at how the space can be used for outdoor living instead of where the plants go. I was able to launch an amazing career creating backyard escapes for homeowners with swimming pools, fireplaces and outdoor kitchens. And all of that recently changed …
I blame the zombie TV shows and movies. Every night I went to bed thinking about what I would do if everything fell apart. Funny how many people have an escape strategy for the end of the world!
I love to help homeowners get the backyards of their dreams, but sometimes the news isn’t always what they want to hear.
The following letter is a perfect example of a homeowner who wants something in her backyard and wants to change the rules in order to accommodate her vision.
“Dear Carson. Please help. My land is almost pure gravel. My idea is to put down eight to 10 inches of sawdust, and then topsoil. Do you think that will work until I can build up everything with compost?”
There is nothing quite like travelling south in the middle of our Canadian winters for a little R&R. This year, I was lucky enough to do just that. I got to spend a week in an amazing new resort that was landscaped like a tropical park with big palms, beautiful fountains and even some flamingos walking around.
I definitely got recharged and found a little inspiration at the same time.
We can have spots in our backyards that can look just like this balmy resort by using some strategic design ideas.
Want a tropical inspired backyard? Here is how you can do it …
Dave has a flowerbed on a slope at the back of his home. With a two-tiered deck on one side and a hill on the other, this flowerbed is tricky to weed and care for. There is also a small Juliette balcony overlooking this weed-filled space. Dave would like to either level the garden or find some way to gain access to the side of the home where the composters are.
The existing slope is severe enough that levelling it with a series of retaining walls and gardens is going to be very costly. With the ample outdoor living space already at the back of the home, does Dave need more? To add another wrinkle, Dave’s septic tank is under this garden, which is probably why all the plants are doing well, but makes it very difficult for retaining walls or major landscaping.
Charlotte has a hill that nothing grows on and she would like to look out of the back of her home and see something green instead of the loose gravel berm that separates her house from the forest behind. She would like something low-maintenance, that doesn’t require a lot of watering or mowing.
Adding plant material to a slope is always tough because it takes awhile for the plants to develop a root system that will anchor them in place. Trees and shrubs take even longer, often uprooting with a heavy rain or wind. Another issue that Charlotte will have to think about is the wildlife in the forest, specifically deer.
Krista and Grant have the classic backyard with the driveway down the side and a large garage as the focal point in their backyard.
On a positive note, they have a very large space measuring 196’ x 43’which their children have happily taken advantage of for years.
Now the kids have outgrown their outdoor activities and its time for mom and dad to make the yard meet their needs.
The challenge when parents leave the backyard to the kids is in understanding how to use it once the children have moved on.
The backyard hasn’t been an area for the adults up until this point. It’s almost like discovering another room in a house that you didn’t know you had and trying to decide how to best use it.
Krista and Grant want to link the garage to the newly built deck with stairs and better accessibility. They want to create a space for entertaining and incorporate plants and vegetables to make the area feel more welcoming.
My first winner of the backyard design solution from the Fall Ideal Home Show is Joanne from Bedford. Joanne has a common problem of being one of the lower homes in her neighbourhood. All of the water from everyone’s yard runs into her space and then down to the one neighbour below her. Just to make the situation a little worse, when the homes were constructed, the builder decided to fill in an existing stream with soil and a series of ineffective berms (mounds of soil and grass) in an attempt to reroute the rainwater.
Joanne wants to dry out the back of her yard, remove a row of cedars and add a vegetable garden to the space.
The popularity of the patio makes a lot of sense.
Canadians want low-maintenance, and there are few things that require less effort than stone. A properly installed patio with a good base and jointing sand can easily last 25 years. That’s one important reason to make sure you pick a stone that you will love the entire time you have the space. It also justifies the costs. Patios rank as one of the highest expenses for outdoor renovations, but if you average the cost over the lifespan and the increased home-value of up to 12% (Century21, Canada); patios are a smart investment.
Useable space in the backyard is always top priority in every one of my designs.
This may offend a few of the gardeners out there, but if you don’t have a spot to sit outside with family and friends and enjoy the roses, then those blooms are a wasted opportunity!
When it comes to creating useable space, most homeowners go with either wood or stone.
If you’re thinking about adding a wood deck, here are a few points you need to know.