The primary advantage of phasing a residential landscape project is to help alleviate the associated costs. It can also be used to better meet timelines and manage the construction process. Many homeowners look to complete landscape projects for parties, move-in dates, or to repair urgent problems. Depending on the type of work required, it’s possible that budget restrictions or time limitations prevent the full completion for those particular dates. But finishing a portion of the project is better than nothing at all, right?
Let's pretend that you’ve decided to spend $15,000 on a backyard patio design with plants, but only have $10,000 available for this year. You can either
A: scale back the design, use cheaper materials, and cut corners to finish the job under budget, or
B: abandon the landscape project completely.
Neither of these options are beneficial to your wants and needs. Phasing the project however, allows you to get exactly what you want. Even though your budget is $10,000 for this year, you know that the other $5,000 will be available next spring to complete the job the way you envisioned. However, never compromise your budget if a project pushes you past your comfort level financially. Always make wise financial decisions.
Phasing a landscape project is dividing the job into smaller parts that can be installed at separate times.
So how do you decide what tasks to complete first? How many phases should the work be divided into? Each landscape job typically starts with hardscape elements such as patios, retaining walls, or irrigation systems. Then move to softscape elements like the lawn, plants, and mulch. Splitting the project into hardscape and softscape is the easiest way to phase the work, but that might not make the most sense for your particular needs. The three most common ways to determine phasing are based on the season, geography, and usage of your project.
It's extremely common to divide landscape projects in the Fall and Spring. A portion can be installed during October or November while the rest is finished in April the next year. This scenario makes sense if there are seed, sod or plant elements in the design. Temperatures are often too cold in November for establishment and the availability of plants can be limited that late in the season. Delaying that portion of the project until after winter would actually yield the best results for the lawn and plants (Best Time to Install a Lawn). And because you aren't able to use the the space during winter, you really aren't losing much time. If you have the patience, waiting a season can be your best option even though it extends the duration of the project.
- Start the project in the fall (typically hardscape) and finish it in the spring.
Most large scale landscape projects effect both the front and backyard of a home. If you moved into a new home whose curb appeal needed major improvement, you’d most likely want to fix that right away. However, access into the yard is crucial when phasing a project by area. Installing a wall or plants in the front yard before installing a patio in the backyard is counter intuitive if it cuts off your only access point. You’ll end up spending more time and money repairing the landscape you just installed. Each project is unique and your designer will be the best resource to help make those construction decisions.
- Complete the backyard first while you still have access, then move to the front yard.
Let's pretend you have two independent projects you want done in your yard. Building a retaining wall to correct a steep slope and building a large patio to entertain guests. How do you decide which one to do first? Think EUL. Yes, another acronym that makes no sense.
E - Emergency. Is there flooding? Foundation issues? Erosion problems? Crumbling walls and patio? Safety concerns? These projects take precedent. Do them first since they are time sensitive. Symptoms of a Failing Retaining Wall
U - Used a lot. You use certain areas of your yard almost every single day. Other parts not so much. Identify what you use the most and what will benefit/add the most to your yard. Functionality goes a long way to enjoying your home. Do these next.
L - Looks nice. Maybe you have a garden bed that needs a makeover or a lawn that could use some TLC. Those are perfect landscape projects but not as essential to the use and value of your home. Do these last.
If you decide that a backyard patio is the most important element because you spend most of your time entertaining with guests, kids, and pets, then that should be the priority when phasing the job. Since there is no real urgency to fix the steep slope, waiting until later to complete that portion of the design makes the most sense. Understanding what is important to your home and lifestyle makes the decision of what to phase much easier.
- Complete the most important or most used element first. Put the finishing touches on later.
The monetary investment and time commitment for landscape projects can be overwhelming. As tempting as cutting corners can be to finish the job, the final result is usually disappointing compared to the original vision. Phasing a residential landscape project over the course of a season or two will deliver a quality product without breaking the bank. See an example of a phased landscape project.