Earlier this year I mentioned a few projects around my home that we’d be working on this summer. After months of negotiating (with my husband!) as to the scope of the various projects, we began lining up bids for the largest of the three projects on our list: a significant front and backyard remodel.
OK, so our Answers to the Big Three remodeling questions were:
Q) Why are we remodeling?
A) Lifestyle, with an eye to resale. We need more out of our space for the next three years. Since that’s not exactly long-term, it was important to be intentional with our remodel choices but refrain from any over-the-top additions.
Q) How do we use the current space and what would improve it based on how we use it?
A) This was a big one for us. We have a relatively small home but it sits on a great cul-de-sac with even better neighbors. With two young boys and our Boxers, (we’re a foster family for Boxer Luv Rescue) we needed somewhere they can expend all that energy but our yard was NOT conducive. We identified our biggest needs being room to run in the backyard and a place to comfortably sit in the front yard while keeping an eye on the boys when they play in the cul-de-sac. So, for the backyard we decided to add grass (I know, NOT green minded but I’ll explain that choice later). For the front yard, we elected to add a paver patio and a walkway from the side gate to driveway so moving garbage cans and other stuff in and out of the backyard would be easier. It was loose landscape rock before.
Q) What is a reasonable amount to spend on the project?
A) We had a good idea of what it costs to do the type or work we wanted. They key here is to get enough estimates and learn from each one. You can then get a baseline number of what the final cost should be, give or take a grand or two. But you need to keep the estimates apples-to-apples. That’s difficult to do because each vendor throws out ideas that add to the cost. Have them line item the ‘extras’ but for the purposes of comparison, keep the project scope the same from vendor to vendor. Then you can better determine a reasonable cost and better choose who you ultimately hire. After getting estimates and calling their references, we threw out our lowest bid and ended up going with one of the two highest. Again, this was after talking to their references and finding out how well the vendor did from start to finish on each job.
We ended adding a few things as we went but said no to several ideas that were very appealing but would have been overdoing it considering our original answers to Question 1. Also, I had to say no to artificial grass (though I really wanted this, for the sake of going green and the ease of maintenance) after talking to others who have used it. The two things that killed it for us was that it gets very hot under foot in the Phoenix sun and with multiple pets you have a harder time keeping the odor down in the height of summer. It was also considerably more expensive than the St. Augustine grass we’ve grown to love and would have seriously blown the budget.
Our final plan aligns closely with the original needs we laid out at the start of the project. We had to nix the artificial grass, gave thought to a stained concrete patio instead of pavers, entertained the thought of paving the entire walkway to the front door, decided to do the lighting on our own and wanted to replace all of our existing landscape rock with new (I hate the color) but refrained (at least at first) and there were plenty of other things along the way that we had to say no to. When all was said and done, went about $2,500 over budget for things unexpected (mostly to do with the capacity of our irrigation system, adding more landscape boulders and ultimately changing out the front landscape rock) but in the scope of things the plan worked out well.
Next time I’ll talk about the day-to-day execution of the project and what to watch for along the way. If you want the project to come out the way you envision/expect it, you have to be prepared to manage it closely. There are multiple points along the way that a project can go awry if you’re not paying attention.