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Landscaping Tips from a General Contractor – Forbes Home


Finding the balance between function and beauty is a result of excellent landscaping. But does landscape expertise have to break the bank? Not with little information, it doesn’t. Here’s what our contractor had to say about things he sees in the field every day, including thoughts on saving time and money.

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Q: What kind of landscaping offers the highest resale value?

A: To answer this question, think in terms of return on investment (ROI). For every $100 spent on build a new deck, the resale value increases by about $80. Newly installed in-ground patios have an average ROI close to or above 100%. Compared to the average bathroom remodeling which has an ROI of around 50%, decks and patios are great for increasing resale value.

Rebuilding an existing deck or patio can yield even higher returns. However, housing markets are picky. Talk to one real estate agent or market expert before investing money hoping for a return.

Less expensive but effective options include well-organized softscaping. Planting trees, shrubs and plants will make your yard look better and can add dollars to your home’s price.

Q: What is the biggest landscaping mistake(s) you see people make?

A: Disrupting drainage and planting too close to the house are not the most common mistakes, but they are the most expensive when they go wrong.

Many people love gardening. Shrubs and flowers add beauty to a yard. They can also cause a lot of damage if planted carelessly. Concrete foundations are considered the strongest part of a house. However, this strength can be compromised to failure if roots from a nearby shrub invade. Water leaks and cracked brickwork can be the result and are expensive to repair.

The worst situation I have encountered was a homeowner who, seeking to create a flat site for perennials, leveled the soil slope that kept rainwater away from the foundation. Within a few years, the lack of drainage and an invasive root system had degraded that part of the foundation to the point where it was dangerous.

Planting near the foundation is usually not a big problem. Just be sure that the roots of whatever you are planting are not overly aggressive and that excess water has a place to go and a way to get there.

Q: Have you ever worked in interior landscaping and how does that stack up with a home remodel?

A: While I have never been the one to decide which plant goes where, I have been responsible for framing spaces designed to accommodate indoor water features and plant areas. Creating an interior landscape is often a team effort, including the homeowner qualified interior designer and a builder.

Having said that, a architect will need to know any plans for interior landscaping, especially if water is involved. Get them involved early to save time and money.

Q: What are a few landscaping tips and tricks that anyone could do to increase their curb appeal?

A: Anyone can tell you that spending a fortune to hire a designer and landscaper to completely overhaul your yard will increase curb appeal. Here are some cheaper ideas that can work just as well:

  • Keep your garden mowed and weeded
  • Trim grass edges at walkways
  • Keep your bushes and hedges trimmed
  • Plants in the ground and flower containers are easy and effective
  • Install low-voltage or solar-powered hallway lighting
  • Pressure wash walkways and retaining walls from time to time
  • Freshly mulch areas by adding new mulch directly on top of the old

These things not only increase the appeal of the brakes; they can also increase resale value. It also gives potential buyers a sense that if the exterior is well maintained, it is likely that the interior maintenance is up to date as well.

Q: What are a few must-have landscaping tools that homeowners must have?

A: Just the basics are all you need to keep yours the scenery looks good. A decent lawnmower and weed trimmer goes a long way to making gardening enjoyable instead of feeling like a chore. A pole trimmer for tree trimming and shears for shrub trimming are necessities. Other than that, a few garden hand tools and a shovel or two are really all you need. Everything else in the shed is mostly for convenience.

Most importantly, you need a lawn chair so you can relax and enjoy the benefits of your hard work.

Q: In your opinion, what is the most commonly overlooked landscaping task?

A: The most commonly overlooked task may be lawn aeration. It takes effort to achieve, but it’s worth it. Spending half a day once a year aerating your lawn dramatically increases its health. It can save money on unnecessary fertilizer by making the grass greener naturally. It also saves water by allowing it to penetrate – instead of draining out of – compacted soil. A lawn aerator can be rented from your local home improvement store for about the price of a bag of grass seed.

Q: How can people save more money on landscaping?

A: Careful garden maintenance is the best thing you can do for save money on landscaping. Odds are, what’s already in your yard will continue to look good as long as it’s kept clean, trimmed and maintained. Money spent on good tools that make gardening enjoyable, rather than on expensive, exotic plants, will make it much more likely that the maintenance will be done and that it will look great.

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