Planning Your Spring Hardscaping Project

October 19, 2015

Hillsboro Patio & Water FeatureAs Portland’s winter rains settle in, it’s the perfect time to think about improvements for next year. This is especially true for those dreaming of outdoor living area renovations. Every year, we receive springtime calls for patio updates and other hardscaping projects. Unfortunately, by then we are already booked solid for the season! That’s why we’re encouraging you to plan ahead. Fall and winter are ideal seasons for getting your next big outdoor project started with careful planning. In this post we walk you through planning steps for outdoor hardscaping projects.

In general, planning a patio or outdoor living space area is like planning for a vacation. There are many steps one must complete before arriving at the airport for a dream getaway. Similarly, the more you plan, the more success you’ll have with a springtime hardscaping project, and the more likely you are to have the perfect staycation spot in place by next summer.

At Landscape East & West, we love turning your dreams into practical projects that fit your budget and Hillsboro landscaping needs. We ensure that all design plans are functional—you don’t want any last minute problems with drainage, for example. Our design teams look at the long-term perspective; we take into consideration any potential challenges a certain project entails. Topography, style, and privacy are additional considerations we must review, in addition to budget and functionality. Material durability also matters—woodworking, for instance, will require regular maintenance to maintain its initial look. During our initial scheduled call with clients, we go over many details to facilitate expert project planning. Our on-staff designers can help you realize your outdoor landscaping ideals.

Let’s look at some common hardscaping planning questions our clients ask our Portland-metro, Clackamas, and Hillsboro landscapers.

Landscape Contractor’s Top Questions for Hardscaping Projects

Hillsboro Patio Upper DeckQ: Why plan spring hardscaping projects in the winter?
A: Because hardscaping projects require plenty of time. Hardscaping projects take additional planning and preparation. These projects can be difficult to complete quickly, especially during spring or summer when Portland and Hillsboro landscape contractors are busy. In addition, winter soils are looser, and therefore easier to work. This can help save the homeowner money because the landscape contractor may not have to plan for as many hours of labor in order to complete the project, especially if it involves extensive digging.

Q: What is the importance of a long-term plan for hardscaping projects?

A: Planning is important because hardscaping projects are logistically complex. The wrong approach could bring a host of problems. For instance, our Portland and Hillsboro landscapers will tell you that drainage is a key consideration because our area gets plenty of rain in the winter and spring, and all that water has to go somewhere. Letting it run into your house or basement is simply not an option if you want to preserve your property value. Yet inexperienced landscapers may misplace hardscaping to direct water the wrong way. It’s important to think about the long-term in hardscaping projects because potential problems can be extremely serious (and costly) if left unchecked.

Hillsboro Landscapers Wooden Gate Design

Dawn Sorem Garden

A strong long-term plan should also consider maintenance requirements. Wood patios, decks, and fences will need biennial refinishing and staining to retain their new appearance. Cast iron railings will need rust removal and fresh paint. And even flagstone may require sealing now and then. Planning can allow you to select materials with manageable maintenance needs.

With Landscape East & West on your side, you’ll have the outdoor space of your dreams at the price you can afford. Our Northeast Portland hardscaping client Shannon had this to say about our work on her yard: “We were impressed with Landscape East & West’s professionalism, how they put together the proposal, and how they were able to work with the design we had and make tweaks that would work better for our needs.”

Q: What does the homeowner need to figure out before starting a hardscaping project?

A: There is no bare minimum, as our project managers are professionals who can start from scratch if needed. However, the more you envision your outdoor plan ahead of time, the more our designers will have to work with. We take time to listen and understand the homeowners’ vision and dream. Obviously the more the homeowner is willing to plan and research the details the easier it can be for us as we have an overall idea to work with. Of course, our design and construction team can craft any plan from scratch in order to make sure your wants and needs are addressed.

Hillsboro Landscapers Path Design

Here are a few items you can consider before contacting us:
What do you like? Look around at friends’ yards, garden magazines, and design websites such as Pinterest or Houzz. You can research ideas and layouts that suit your aspirations.
Which materials strike your fancy? Visiting a local stone yard can help you come up with ideas. Decking options can be eco-friendly (think classic cedar), sophisticated (think composite) or maintenance free (think PVC). Today’s hardscaping plans may also include gabions, wire structures filled with stones. Flagstone, such as bluestone or basalt, is visually striking but more expensive. It’s never to early to start gathering ideas about what materials you want to include in your project.
What is your budget? Once you start looking at materials, you’ll have a better idea what you can afford. In general, natural stone is more expensive because it must be mined. Bricks and concrete pavers can be less expensive, depending on how complex the design or material options you choose.
What are your goals for the space? Getting these in line will help you prioritize features. For instance, if your main target is to create a focal point for outdoor gatherings, a fire pit or fireplace may be a good element to include.
Whatever you dream up, we can make it happen. Our landscape contractors have built covered patios, grill islands, patios, decks, built-in seating, outdoor lighting systems, fire pits, fireplaces, and entire outdoor kitchens. From updating small backyards to preparing homes for hosting events, we have decades of experience in creating hardscaped spaces. The more you know about what you’re looking for, the better our landscaping can match your dreams to available materials and design choices.

Q: What special considerations are there for outdoor kitchens?

A: Consider utility location, protection from the wind, and privacy among other outdoor kitchen questions. You also want to consider power, gas hookups, lighting, and appliances or a sink. If you do plan to include a sink, recognize that the drain will need to be hooked up to your city utility line. Generally this is accessed through the home’s crawl space, so if you have no crawl space adding an outdoor kitchen will be more complicated.

Q: How can you achieve proper drainage for outdoor patios?

A: Our experts are experienced in this field. The first thing to consider is where the water will flow—what direction does the water run when it rains? Secondly, we evaluate the ability of the soil and landscaping to absorb water. Hardscapes may be constructed from permeable pavers that allow water to percolate through them. Additionally, drainage must be provided for walls or raised areas as well as other unique features. Problem drainage zones may be dealt with the installation of French drains or collection devices. Rain gardens and water-hungry plants may also be considered.

Beyond these basic questions, you’ll need to spend extra time thinking about your budget and proper drainage.

Hillsboro Outdoor Kitchen DesignThe budget. There are many things to consider in a budget. Different materials will have different price ranges, with poured concrete at the low end and bluestone or flagstone on the high end. Of course, big features such as outdoor kitchens must also be budgeted. You can get started by making a list of everything that you want in your new design. One column can include “must have” features, another column can be for “nice to have” elements, and the third column can contain “luxurious but unnecessary” items. This will help you and our team hammer out the details. Keep in mind that permits and fees may be required, so be sure to ask about this when you meet with a landscape contractor.

Any serious project takes time. A hardscaping project has several stages that must be planned and coordinated. From demolition to material reuse to maintenance down the road, there are many facets to address in hardscaping development. As such, anyone who says they can finish your hardscaping project in less than two weeks is bound to miss crucial details.

Getting Started with Landscape East & West. When serving clients, we invest time to figure out and record all the design details, while involving homeowners in the entire process. This means you’ll get exactly what you want in a hardscape. The more thought and research you put into early preparation, the more our design and construction team has to work with as they run with your conceptual ideas. We’ll work with our network of the Northwest’s top landscape designers to bring you a safe, practical, and environmentally-friendly design that our crews will build and install with the top-notch workmanship that Landscape East & West exemplifies. Call us today to get started.

Ray McCrackenRay McCracken is a Design & Sales Associate at Landscape East & West. His vast experience with hardscaping projects, from patios and paths to outdoor kitchen designs, is unmatched. Ray specializes in assisting our clients create the outdoor space of their dreams.