Tips for building your dream outdoor living space

1) Ask questions

When you look at the green space you want to transform ask “what do I want from this space” — to entertain, relax, let kids and pets play freely, grow fruit or vegetables, or host cozy gatherings…a green space can do many things, but it helps to prioritize. What’s the primary use and what’s a “nice to have”?

2) Talk to friends, neighbors, and the pros

Ask friends or neighbors about outdoor spaces you admire. Talk about the process, how their plans evolved as they built. Don’t be afraid to ask about what they’d do differently. Then talk to the National Remodeling Industry Association in your area for do’s and don’ts. Remember, building an outdoor greenspace is just like renovating a space in your house —it should include planning and might require town permits.

3) Create an idea board

Outdoor living spaces come in all shapes and sizes. Before you finalize your plans, it helps to know exactly what you want — not just how the space will be used, but what style you want. Think English country garden vs modern minimalist. Do some research online and save images of green spaces you like. Social media is a great place to brainstorm and create a Pinterest board.

4) Set a budget

Finalizing your budget will keep your project on track. The last two years have seen prices go up. So, when you talk to friends or neighbors about recent projects ask them about their final cost. You’ll find the estimate and the final total may vairy based on how the project evolved during the build. Remember a change in the original design or a problem uncovered means a change in price. Allow a 15% to 20% buffer (over and above your budget) just in case of hick-ups. And don’t be tempted to use a lowball price as it will probably involve cutting corners or worse.

5) Work with a professional

You’ve got your vision and a rough budget, now you can talk to a professional landscape contractor.

Here are some questions you’ll want to ask before hiring:

• Have they completed a project like yours—size and budget?

• References— can you talk to previous clients or suppliers?

• How long have they been in business?

• Discuss contract details, including: payment schedule; proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation payments; a start date and projected completion date. Good contracts insure no misunderstandings.

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Victor Juri
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