landscaping, it’s really going to happen!

It’s been over a month since we last wrote about our landscaping plans, but that ball has not stopped rolling.

After carefully reviewing the design, talking with neighbors and reading your awesome comments, we decided to make a few tweaks. Some plant choices and locations were changed but the biggest decision was to nix the patio area on the south side of the front yard. We realized that the entry stoop is large enough for 2-6 people to gather on and that we didn’t really need a second space. Plus, as soon-to-be parents we were nervous about having a hang-out space so close to the 36″ (+/-) drop from the top of the retaining wall down to the sidewalk. Finally, eliminating the patio (and associated grading and stonework) would save us a worthwhile chunk of change.

So our landscape architect Mark came up with the revised plan below [click to enlarge]. In lieu of a patio, we now have a simple path that connects the stoop to the existing sidewalk on the south side of the house. For the pavers, we’ll be using some of the smaller concrete pieces that we reclaimed from last year’s demo project.

With a finalized design in hand, we had two choices for moving forward: 1. buy the material and do the install ourselves or 2. hire it out. Since it never hurts to get bids, we contacted three different landscaping companies (that came recommended from Mark or other friends). To reduce costs, we limited our scope to the colored area you see below [click to enlarge]:

The side yard gates made a good demarkation line between Phase 1 and Phase 2. We still have some construction projects slated for the backyard so it will be a little while before we tackle that area. (Although I’m guessing a mobile toddler might dictate that schedule.)

Two of the three bids were similar in price (the third was just crazy), but all were more than we had optimistically hoped for. We thought about scaling back the scope or delaying the project yet again, but I think deep down we really just want it to be done. Done by someone else. So that’s what we’re going to do!

As fervent DIYers it makes us a little uneasy to hire someone to do the work (since labor is usually 50% of the overall costs), but we’re also really, really excited to hand this off to the pros. What would undoubtedly take us a couple of months of nights and weekends will take a professional crew 5-6 days(!) to complete. (Ok, sometimes I fantasize about sitting in a lounge chair with an umbrella drink while the work is being done, but the reality is that we’ll probably be plenty busy in the nursery or basement.)

Even though we won’t be getting our own hands dirty, we’ll be sure to document the whole process to share with you as it happens. This is a big milestone in our nearly 6 years of remodeling chezerbey and we can’t wait!


18 Responses to “landscaping, it’s really going to happen!”

  1. Elisa says:

    Ooo oo, this looks SO amazing! I think a big part of DIY is definitely knowing when you DON’T want to DIY, either because you need a break or you need it done to perfection. Although you guys just half installed your own bathroom and laid your own concrete.. so ENJOY the break and I can’t wait to see the results!

    • chezerbey says:

      Thanks Elisa, totally agree! Normally we wouldn’t be taking on 3 different projects simultaneously either. If the landscaping was the only thing this summer (and we weren’t having a baby!) we may have had more motivation. =)

  2. Paul says:

    This way you’ll see how it’s done, judge the value of hiring a contractor vs. DIY and go from there. Simplifying a garden design (or any design) is always a good idea -plants often spread out or grow taller than first imagined. The backyard looks less complex an undertaking, so maybe you’ll be able to get that done yourselves next year with more gardening experience under your belts.

    • chezerbey says:

      Yeah, the design takes into consideration “mature” sizes of all the plants which is certainly a value in itself! The backyard definitely seems more manageable since we’ll be preserving a large chunk of lawn, but we shall see!

  3. Heather says:

    I’m a hardcore gardener and I hate doing big installs . . . putting in that many plants you are smart to hire out. Congrats! It’s going to look great.

  4. Chris says:

    Super exciting – I think the plans alone are really cool-looking!

  5. Robin says:

    Another gardener here and that plan looks great! I love the mass plantings like that. They make a big statement in a little space. Hiring out the heavy work with all you have going on is such a good idea. I can’t wait to see the transformation!

    One note. I see you’re hoping to put groundcover between the stepping stones. Between our house and my parent’s house I have experience with almost every style of garden path (flagstone with moss/groundcover between the stones, flagstone with polymeric sand, stepping stones with gravel between the stones, and stepping stones with mulch between the stones). I by FAR prefer having polymeric sand for more defined paths or mulch for less permanent paths. Decorative stone and weed fabric are such a pain and are so hard to alter or remove in the future. It’s impossible to get all of the tree debris out of the stone so it eventually decomposes on top of the fabric and creates a haven for weeds. It only looks good for a few years. I learned that lesson fast. Now you couldn’t pay me to put stone or weed fabric in my landscape again. Our moss & flagstone path has taken a long time to get going and even now three years later it is weed city and sporadic groundcover. It is so hard to get the roots of the weeds out in the tight areas between the stones. I love the look but it is a constant battle. We’re going to keep it that way for now since it blends in with the lawn better but we’ll never again be creating a path like that.

    Your paths I think would work well with mulch since I’m assuming the beds on either side will have mulch. Mulch is easy you just top it off when it starts to decompose every other year or so. It’s a big benefit to your soil and helps the plants grow to be nice and healthy. Plus is you ever want to try a grouncover between the stones in the future you’ll have a good base to do so. I hope that helps!

    • chezerbey says:

      Thanks Robin! We’ll have to talk to our installers about the pavers and see what they recommend. (Our plan is to avoid weed fabric altogether.) We do have a pine tree in our neighbor’s yard that drops tons of needles all over the place so I’m not sure how clean we’ll be able to keep it.

  6. A GC says:

    ” Since it never hurts to get bids”
    Because it is not your time & money

    • chezerbey says:

      Hi “A GC”,

      We definitely were serious about hiring out the work prior to getting bids and had personal connections to all three companies we talked to. Since we weren’t familiar with how much a project liked his would cost, we wanted to protect ourselves by talking to three companies, all of whom were more than willing to put together estimates. As architects, we go through this experience all the time with potential clients. As long as no one is taking advantage of anyone, it’s a reasonable and professional practice.

  7. I think that you’re smart to hire out and it’s going to look freaking amazing. 🙂

    Normally my husband and I do everything but we’re recently hired someone to rebuild our porch. TBH, things haven’t gone as smoothly or easily as we were hoping, but it’ll be alright.

    • chezerbey says:

      It’s definitely frustrating to hire it out and then have to deal with “issues”. We’ve run across that even with the few things we’ve hired out in the past. For the landscaping, we went with an installer that came highly-recommended (even though they weren’t the lowest bid) and so far, so good!

  8. Hey Lauren- Did you already hire an installer? I’m not sure if you knew, but I have a preferred crew that I use to install all my landscape designs for my clients, and they do exactly the type same type of work. I guess we’ve never talked about this at the office! Let me know if you’re interested in getting another bid. In any case, good luck with the yard! -Erin

  9. Hey Lauren- Did you already hire an installer? I’m not sure if you knew, but I have a preferred crew that I use to install all my landscape designs for my clients, and they do exactly the type same type of work. I guess we’ve never talked about it at the office! Let me know if you’re interested in getting another bid. In any case, good luck with the yard! -Erin

    • chezerbey says:

      Hey Erin, no…didn’t know you had a crew. The yard is already done though…they finished on Friday and we’re super excited with how it turned out (blog post to come!).


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