Angie's List: Home Landscaping

When you take a walk around your yard, are you happy with what you see? Basic landscaping is often overlooked. A well-designed landscape can add to your home's value. That's just the beginning.

The right landscaping not only can improve your home's looks, it can help cut costs. Sure, it will cost you a few bucks up front. If spent the right way, that investment will bloom beautifully.

Besides improving your home's aesthetics, landscaping can help decrease heat buildup in the home by blocking and absorbing the sun's energy in the summer.

In the winter, trees, fences; or other landscaping features can be used as windbreaks to shield a house from wind - saving you money in heating and cooling costs.

Angie Hicks, Angie's List, explains how much value it can add to your house, "A well-landscaped yard can add 7 percent to 14 percent to the value of your home. In addition, what many consumers overlook is that landscaping can add protection and shade to your house which will improve your energy efficiency."

Start with a yard cleanup, by removing overgrown plants, shrubs, and weeds. Then tidy up garden or flower beds. Don't crowd your beds, give them time to grow. Also keep your front walkway clear and uncluttered.

Rick Davis, Davis Family Lawn Care, gives some advice for most important things to take care of, "I think they should start with aggressively pruning back their shrub before they spend a lot of money. They would be well served to aggressively prune them back and see what they have. If it cleans out the canopy, or their space, they'll see that they don't need to do anything or they might go to the hardware store or call us to come in and plant some things."

Angie explains how to find a landscaper that fits within your budget, "If you are working on a limited budget for your landscaping project you can still work with a landscaper. A good landscaper can help you work up a plan that can be done in phases; to be broken out over three years so that never over-extended on your budget."

Some things you can do yourself. A neatly mowed, edged and debris-free lawn increases your curb appeal. Keep grass at least 2 to 3 inches tall. This height helps keep the moisture in the grass and the weeds out.

You can also add mulch, Mulch prevents weed growth, conserves moisture, and helps maintain an even soil temperature.

Don't shop for plants solely based on their appearance. Instead, select greenery that is hardy, adaptable to your area and will thrive in your soil conditions. Install drought tolerant plants so you don't have to water as much.

Rick Davis explains other tips he gives clients, "A lot of homeowners don't have the time to water and to plant annual flower and my recommendations on those is planting roses - they are not quite drought resistant, but they handle dry weather fairly good and they give you some color. You can get them in a variety of colors. You have the look of maintaining, doing watering without actually having to do it."

Trees are a great investment. On average, they'll add 3 percent to 7 percent on the value of your home.

Additional Tips:

Common landscaping issues:
• Plants and shrubs that are too big/over grown for the space they are in.
• Plants not taken care of /poor planting choices.
• Improperly applied mulch.
• Drainage issues.

A home's landscape can lose its appeal - especially if maintenance has been ignored. Renovate it with these tips.
• Start with a yard cleanup: Remove overgrown plants, shrubs, and weeds. Tidy up garden/flower beds. Don't crowd your beds - give them time to grow. Keep your front walkway clear and uncluttered.
• Take care of your lawn: A neatly mowed, edged and debris-free lawn increases your curb appeal. Keep grass at least 2 to 3 inches tall. This height helps keep the moisture in the grass and the weeds out.
• Add mulch: Mulch prevents weed growth, conserves moisture, and helps maintain an even soil temperature. But it should be applied properly at the recommended thickness to be beneficial.
• Pick the perfect plants: Don't shop for plants solely based on their appearance. Instead, select greenery that is hardy, adaptable to your area and will thrive in your soil conditions. Install drought tolerant plants so you don't have to water as much.
• Plant a tree: Trees are a great investment. On average, they'll add 3 percent to 7 percent on the value of your home. Plus, planting trees on the east and west sides of your home can reduce air conditioning costs as much as 25 percent. However, trees need to be maintained - have them inspected annually and serviced as needed.

Angie's List Tips for hiring a Landscaping Contractor: A professional landscaper can help you understand what types of products will work best for your yard, when and where to plant, and is a resource to turn to if you have questions - regardless of whether you have a big landscaping project or small.
• List your priorities: Determine whether you have a problem that needs correcting (overgrown shrubs) or if you want to make an addition to your existing landscape (fire pit). Once you have an idea, map out your property, indicating what you want. Identify long and short term goals.
Assess your skill level: Just because you like working in the yard on an occasional Saturday doesn't mean you'll • want to put an entire flower bed into place. Hire a professional if you don't think you'll stick with the project through the season, or if it's a complicated project that will require tools and equipment you don't have.
• Be realistic about your budget: You may not be able to afford it all this month or even this season - keep it simple with some pretty plants. Many landscapers may also help you devise a multi-year plan if your budget for this year doesn't all for all you want.
• Check referrals and reviews. It is always advisable to check references or reviews before hiring a contractor for a job. Make sure the prospective landscaper has completed a project with a similar design to the one you envision.
• Get permission. For many homeowners, including those living in housing communities, it may be necessary to receive permission prior to starting a new project. Many homeowner associations have strict guidelines on what residents can do to change their property. If those rules are violated, homeowners might find themselves embroiled in a lengthy dispute. To avoid potential conflicts, make sure your project is approved by the association board beforehand.
• Be mindful of permits. Landscapers should be able to present various permits, depending upon the scope of the project. Steer clear of penalties and fines by checking with the local buildings department before starting a project, such as the construction of a patio with a fire pit. Large landscaping projects usually require a permit.
• Factor in maintenance: Putting in that water element might look great on paper, but keep in mind it will have maintenance attached to it as well.


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