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So you have decided to do a landscape makeover, but unfortunately, your grandiose vision and your budget aren’t in the same solar system…welcome to the club! There is good news, so follow me here. You can fill a good portion of your wish list cheaper than you think by making a couple of key choices and doing the following:

First, get on the same page with your wife or significant other as to exactly what both of you want. Create a vision with your partner that you can confidently share with your designer/contractor without disagreeing in front of them. Second, take measurements of the space you are adding to or remodeling. Lay it out on graph paper and work on a comfortable scale. Usually, a 1/8 scale is preferable and simply means each inch on a ruler represents eight feet. Once you are finished, you will have a mathematically accurate drawing… or what a painter would call….a blank canvas. In landscape contracting, there are multiple forms of measurement to calculate a job’s cost. Lineal foot, square foot, unit (per tree/per plant, etc.), ton, yard…many as you can see. Third, if you are doing both hardscape and landscape design, layout your hardscape first, then you can work your soft-scape in gently and effectively around all these new things later. Fourth, after you have an idea of what hardscapes you want and where you want to see them in the yard, look up plants on the internet. This has been a superb resource to educate my clients on plants. Another great idea is to take your digital camera, drive around, and take pictures of what you like. You could go as far as drawing symbols on your plan where you would like to see certain plants. Designing is a lot of fun…try it sometime!

Now that you have several important steps out of the way, the next is to decide how much you want to invest in the project. Set a budget, but also decide the absolute maximum you are willing to invest. I find people have a tendency to underestimate how much things cost. You are now ready to find a contractor and set an appointment. You have no idea how much money you have just saved to this point…more in a minute. When your landscape contractor arrives, you are now perfectly prepared to show them your vision of things. If you are open to ideas, he/she can “piggy back” some of your thoughts, which eventually turn into one exciting vision. A good designer often makes your vision even better! The good part…because material costs can vary drastically, have your contractor recommend a variety of material options so you can compare costs from one to another. This can save thousands in certain cases. Have the contractor price out the job one way, then another if necessary, using a different materials list to see where you might save. Sometimes, this alone makes all the difference. Another thing…you are more likely to get discounts and lots of “favors” during the course of construction because the contractor you hired had less time vested in your project from start to finish…all because of your preparation!

Save even more by not doing the following: don’t come across as high maintenance or constantly change your mind during the course of construction. Nothing hurts a project more than constant addendums. This only increases frustrations and costs simultaneously. By following these simple steps, you are more likely to fill most of your wish list than not.

Feel free to visit my website at www.outsidelivingconcepts.com or e-mail me with questions at rchavens@cox.net. Good Luck!