How to Renovate a Backyard | Autumn Leaf
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How to Renovate a Backyard

Backyards are extensions of the home where we relax and entertain guests. They are where our children play and our pets roam free - which is why it's so important they complement our lifestyles. New or updated patios, cooking areas, fire pits and lush plants make yards the places to go on beautiful days, but only if they’re designed around how the space will be used.

Because landscaping is usually a large and invasive project that affects just about everything in a yard, we put together these guidelines to help you understand the process. By following these steps, you can avoid the common missteps that could keep you from enjoying your yard.

Plan your project before you begin.

No matter the size of the project, planning first will save you time and money. Even if you’re just updating a patio, you have to plan for the landscaping, sprinkler repair and lawn repair that it requires. These general questions should be addressed:

  • Which plantings will be removed and which will be repurposed in the new design?
  • Are there any trees which need attention?
  • How much does the grade need to be changed?
  • What water conditions need attention?

Design the renovation for your home.

A renovation should complement the home’s style. E.g., for a traditional red brick colonial home, pink pavers should be avoided. For a house with a red brick veneer, materials that contrast the brick are generally good choices. Cultured stone veneers are very popular as a contrast for red clay brick.

Design for your life plan.

How your family will live in the space and for how long should help plan the renovation accordingly. Hardscapes are a permanent structures that should work for the duration. Living landscape elements should be designed for how they'll grow and evolve.

Design a patio sized to how you’ll furnish and use it.

Patios take up a lot of space and are responsible for more than half of the cost of a renovation. An annual summer pool party may benefit from an over-sized patio, but a properly sized patio might allow the entire space to be better enjoyed by your family all year long. The golden rule is: plan your patio for how you will use it. Will it be used for dining? How big will the dining table be? Will this space be used for viewing, cooking or lounging? Choosing the size of the patio based on how you will furnish and use it will make the whole space more enjoyable.

Choose non-invasive plants.

On Long Island, Bamboo is the most popular invasive plant. Its branches lend themselves to shielding a space from neighbors, but their tendency to quickly spread to surrounding areas leads to removal costs. Some towns, like Huntington, NY, have made it unlawful to plant Bamboo.

Make sure you'll plant trees far enough away from the house.

A young pink weeping cherry that’s planted to fit just the right distance from the house when planted will, in about 3 years, grow to be too close to the house. The tree would have to be removed because its roots can invade the foundation or pipes and its branches can damage gutters and siding.

Calculate the renovation’s maintenance schedule.

The maintenance level on a newly renovated back yard is probably going to be more than what was needed for the existing yard. Whether you do it yourself or hire a pro, maintenance will be required to protect your new investment. How much resources you’ll need to dedicate to maintaining your new yard should be considered when choosing the elements in your renovation. Consider:

  • New plants need hand watering
  • Nicely edged beds need to edged every few weeks
  • Pruning will be necessary next season
  • Mulch should be applied every year
  • Perennials need to be cut back every fall and divided once they become too big for the area.

Plan to renovate before installing a new fence.

Too often, we arrive at a sites with a new fence that was just installed weeks before. Machines and materials for the renovation have to come in and out of the site through a small three foot opening. Depending on the size of the work and the schedule for renovating, a fence may need to be taken apart or need new parts. We recommend that a fence installation be delayed unless it’s more than a year before the scheduled renovation or the renovation is small. Still, a section will often have to be removed for machine access.

Hire a professional to design your space and plan your construction.

A good designer will design a space that works for you, your timeline and your budget. Following the construction sequence will save you a lot of time and headache and you’ll end you up with a successful and beautiful backyard that you will enjoy indefinitely and for less cost. You can do tasks from the plan with which you’re comfortable and hire for the rest.

Install in the right order.

Renovating a landscape is exciting, so this this one can be hard. But installing in the right order will help you avoid pay for work twice, especially for small projects. For example, if you need sprinklers and know you will be planting, the sprinklers should be installed after. For full renovations, we recommend installing in the following order:

  • swimming pools and hardscaping
  • plantings
  • lighting and sprinklers
  • sod & mulch
  • fences

These are guidelines we use when designing and planning residential back yards. They make creating an oasis at your home - a place that entertains, offers beauty and lasts - just that much easier. Landscape renovations are an investment - and the key to success is qualified planning. This allows you to not have to do things twice and conserve your resources to further advancing your project.

Thanks for reading! Please check out our services and check out more of our landscape ideas. Feel free to contact us with any questions at (631) 424-5544.

~Lenny
Autumn Leaf Landscape

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