Renovating your landscape and home exterior is a team effort. As the client, there’s a lot you can do to make a renovation run smoothly, for yourself and your contractor.
Identify your goals and priorities. Take time to define the look, feel, and function you hope to achieve, and stay focused on these goals, from the start of design to the end of renovation.
Keeping an eye on the big picture and letting your priorities guide decision-making keeps you flexible and receptive to advice from the pros you’ve partnered with, which is key to a successful project outcome.
Set your budget. Budget can adjust over the lifespan of a project, but it’s crucial to start the design process with at least a rough target in mind. Your design and build partners can advise you on how to remain on budget, and help you to decide if adjusting a budget is a good choice to achieve your goals.
Remember to allocate a cushion to account for unexpected expenses.
You may also want to consider financing. Exterior renovations increase property values and curb appeal, and can make for a cost-effective investment for many homeowners. (You can learn more about financing Yardzen designs through SoFi here.)
After Design, Before Contract
Pro Match with Yardzen. “Pro Matching” is Yardzen’s term for the process of connecting you with a vetted landscape contractor to install your design.
Pro Matching is included with ever package, and saves you the time and hassle of trying to secure a contractor on your own.
To find the right pro for your project, Yardzen takes a close look at your design, considering its scale, complexity, and particular features, and balances those factors against the strengths and availability of pros in your region to find the one who is the absolute best fit.
You can initiate Pro Matching as soon as you receive your revised designs – just let us know when you’re ready to get started and we’ll get to work connecting you.
Get started with the build team. When you use Yardzen’s complementary Pro Matching service to connect with a contractor, you’ll also get the ongoing support of Yardzen’s Build Team. Consider the Build Team a resource to support you throughout the entire installation process.
Need to make some adjustments to your design? Yardzen is happy to lend a second opinion to help you confirm changes you develop with your contractor. Need to adjust your plan drawings? Tell us the changes to make and we’ll quickly provide you with new plan drawings capturing your updated design. Need a second set of eyes on your cost estimate? The Build Team will happily review any bid you receive to make sure you feel secure before moving forward with your contractor.
For these or any other issues that may come up during the installation process, simply contact the Build Team and they’ll assist you right away.
Choose your materials. Look at samples of paving styles and materials, paint, and other building materials and confirm your choices. Confirming specific items helps contractors make accurate estimates.
Make last-mile adjustments. Once you connect with a contractor, work with them to decide on any final design adjustments to get everything ready to install. You may tweak details to better fit the site, or swap in new materials to hit budget targets.
Take your time to get all the details set. Confirming changes before work begins avoids the hassle and expense of mid-construction change orders, which benefits both you and your contractor.
Plan for permits. Work with your contractor to identify any permitting that may be necessary, and set a plan to handle the permitting process in a timely manner. Make sure it’s clear to everyone who is responsible for dealing with the permitting process.
Align on a work plan. Confirm the installation plan, timing, and costs of your project with your contractor.
Each contractor may include less or more specificity in their contracts – this is fine, just make sure you and your contractor have a shared understanding of how the project will unfold. Being an active and informed client who understands the details of their project will lead to a better outcome.
Schedule work. Once you sign your contract, set a date for your renovation to begin.
Many factors affect scheduling, including contractor availability and seasonality. We recommend starting your design project well in advance of the date when you’d like your renovation to be complete. This leaves room for any delays that may arise.
Establish communication. Make sure your contractor has an easy and consistent way to get a hold of you throughout the entire project.
Prepare your yard. Remove leaf litter and other debris to provide a clean starting point for your contractor. Relocate any large items or clutter that may get in the crew’s way.
If you have pets, be sure to clean up after them throughout the installation – for many contractors, pet mess is a pet peeve.
Provide clear access. Clear a broad, safe path from the street to the work zone. If heavy equipment is needed, work with your contractor to establish proper equipment access. If you are replacing windows, provide clear paths to the interior side of each window.
Protect valuables. Remove valuable or fragile items from your yard to avoid damaging them. If you are working on your home (roofing, siding, windows), it can be wise to take hanging items off the wall to avoid them falling.
Clear your driveway. Make your driveway available for accepting material deliveries, staging, or other work-related tasks. If you’re replacing roofing, your driveway will likely need to accommodate a dumpster to dispose of removed roof material.
Provide utility access. Make sure your contractor can find electrical, HVAC, and plumbing controls, and provide them with suitable electrical outlets in the work zone.
Plan for parking. Provide a convenient place for the contractor’s crew to park, minimizing impact to your neighbors. Don’t forget to plan for your own parking, too.
Designate crew spaces and family spaces. Provide a restroom exclusively for the workers – this could be a portable unit in a convenient but discreet outdoor location, or an indoor restroom. If using an indoor restroom, choose one near an exterior door with a clear path that can tolerate some dirt.
Some clients allow crews to use other indoor spaces like the kitchen. This is your prerogative, and not required. Talk with your contractor to establish boundaries in the house before work begins.
Adapt to less space. Parts of your yard or home may be unavailable during renovation. Plan ahead so you can comfortably adapt to these limitations.
Set limits for kids and pets. Keep kids and pets out of the work zone. Dogs should remain comfortably separated from workers – nobody wins if the dog is left to bark all day in a pen next to the work zone.
If climate and availability allow, it can be advisable to schedule work during the school year when kids are not home as often.
Be a good neighbor. Give your neighbors plenty of advance notice about forthcoming work, and do what you can to mitigate noise, debris and crowding on the street that may impact them. Gifting a bottle of wine before work begins is a nice touch.
Be available. Projects are most successful when clients are around to quickly answer contractor questions. Be an engaged and collaborative partner with your contractor. If change orders do arise, handle them quickly to keep things moving forward efficiently.
Be patient. Renovations can be noisy and messy, sometimes for weeks.
You’ll also have people all over your property, and will experience less privacy than you are used to.
Do your best to take disturbances in stride – remember, they won’t last forever!
Be flexible. Rarely are designs installed exactly as a designer envisions. That’s ok! Stay focused on your goals and maintain respectful, consistent dialogue with your contractor. Together, you’ll be able to figure out solutions to all the tricky situations that inevitably pop up.
Show gratitude. Be proactive with payment – a simple “Let me know when you need a check” is always appreciated.
Be generous to the crew by sharing positive remarks, cold drinks, or an occasional box of donuts. Small gestures of thanks contribute to a happier and more productive work environment.