Plan now for summer projects

November 10, 2009

By David Hayes

A recent client of Darwin Webb Landscape Architects transformed this Sammamish backyard into a resort style outdoor living space. Darwin Webb Landscape Architects

A recent client of Darwin Webb Landscape Architects transformed this Sammamish backyard into a resort style outdoor living space. Darwin Webb Landscape Architects

Picture this — the extended family has gathered for a big get-together. The sun is shining; the kids are out of school for summer. Everyone’s having a grand time in the new outdoor living space and the accompanying landscaping is drawing rave reviews.

However, the above scenario could remain just a dream if the process to bring it to fruition isn’t started now.

Architect Dar Webb, of Darwin Webb Landscape Architects, said some homeowners wait too long before upgrading their house’s appeal and value with an outdoor project.

“If someone calls me in early April to have something ready by June 1 in time for summer, unless it’s something very simple, it’s too late,” Webb said. “Winter is a good time to start, more often than not, to have something usable by summer.”The lengthy process from planning to execution necessitates starting now, Webb said.

The first step is defining the space’s concept. Whether just improving the landscaping or adding an entire outdoor living room, the design phase can last anywhere from four weeks to four months, Webb said.

A common mistake homeowners make, he said, is not having an overall concept in mind before beginning. If a space is constructed piecemeal, the homeowner can end up ripping up costly mistakes.

“But with a well thought out master plan, it can be implemented over time,” Webb said.

The added benefit being it can be implemented as the homeowner can afford to add on, he added.

After establishing a budget — outdoor architectural projects can range anywhere from the basic at $10,000 to the elaborate at $100,000 — Webb recommends seeking professional help in both the design and contracting phases.

Research early on in the process, by recommendation or reputation, a good contractor. Webb suggests bringing in a contractor as early as possible into the design phase, so everybody on board shares the same vision.

Depending upon how big the project is, construction can begin before winter hits or can be put on hold until spring. Either way, Webb said to always allow plenty of time for the permitting process.

“Sometimes, you’re just working with a city permit,” he said. “Other times, the jurisdiction can be the county, if you live in unincorporated King County. And there can be wetland or waterfront issues.”

Finally, Webb said to be flexible about the schedule.

“We’ve all heard horror stories of projects coming in way over budget or late,” he said. “Or, as the project goes along, the design can evolve. Something comes up that wasn’t previously considered before. If the homeowner is flexible, the additions can be beneficial to the project.”

Starting now gives enough buffer space to imagine, design and then execute an ideal outdoor dream space, rather than being left with a nightmare.

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