5 tips for keeping a landscaping project on time, on budget

Fresh landscaping can add a personal touch to a new home or spice up a backyard where you’ll have happy get-togethers.

But if you’re just in the planning phase, a DIY landscaping project might be the way to go this year.

Pandemic-induced supply chain hiccups for materials like wood and increased demand from homeowners over the past year mean landscape professionals are booked for months or even a year, says Kathy Valentine, president of Michigan-based horticulture company The Plant Professionals.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Hey, if I’m going to work from my laptop on my patio, the patio must look a lot nicer than it is,’ says Valentine.

A DIY project can mean more work for you, but it can also cost less and give your patio a new look. Here are five tips to help you get the most out of your landscaping project.

1. Decide what you want, plan what you have

Free inspiration is easy to find, says Valentine. Friends’ and neighbors’ homes, as well as sites like Pinterest, offer endless ideas for backyard makeovers.

But recognize the differences between inspiration and the yard you’re working with, she says. You’ll spend a lot more money modifying your garden to accommodate a new feature than choosing a feature that works with your garden.

Valentine also recommends considering long-term life plans when starting your project. Will this fireplace get in the way of a future swing?

2. Start small and build over time

Rather than bundling landscaping with construction work, more homeowners are requesting designs but then doing the work themselves or hiring a professional as time and budget allow, says Phil Shearon, president by Phoenix-area Shearon Design Collective.

Shearon’s company design service costs an average of $1,500, and once you have a professionally planned job site, you can execute it yourself.

Shearon recommends starting with a core feature you’re passionate about and building it over time.

Alternatively, start with a smaller project like a flower bed or garden to satisfy your short-term goals and save for big expenses, says Samantha Gorelick, New York-based home gardener and certified financial planner at Brunch & Budget. .

3. Reuse, exchange and sell

Before you throw away existing hardscape pieces you don’t like, see if you can reuse them or sell them, says Valentine.

Can you turn the stones surrounding your flower bed into a walkway? Would these extra two-by-fours from an old fence work as a border around a raised garden?

Alternatively, try trading something you have with a neighbor in exchange for their extras, she says. Or rely on each other’s expertise rather than hiring a professional.

When you’re looking at a project in a new home, you may find old, broken slabs or other slightly weathered materials that you can resell, she says.

4. Find small things that make a big difference

Start with new plants if you want to spruce things up with little expense and effort. Evergreens — which vary by region — rather than perennials or annuals will keep maintenance costs low because they don’t need to be replaced often, Shearon says.

But Gorelick says flowering perennials can inspire the post-winter dopamine kick we crave in the spring.

“When the winter drags on and the first little bulbs appear in the spring, it’s a treat,” she says. “So it’s something you can plant in the fall to do ‘future you’ in the spring.”

Landscape lighting can make a big difference in a yard, often for a few hundred dollars, Shearon says. Path lights can line a walkway, while up lights that shine on tall plants and trees can change the mood at night.

“You see some of these amazing homes on Instagram and things like that – it’s always lighting,” he says.

5. Save on finance costs

If you need to borrow for your project, compare financing options to find the one with the lowest interest rate.

Home equity financing is generally the cheapest way to borrow, says Gorelick. Home equity loans and lines of credit have rates around 4% or 5% and long repayment terms, which helps keep monthly payments low.

But if you’ve recently purchased a home, you may need to opt for an equity-free option, she says.

A landscaping loan, which is an unsecured personal loan that you use for landscaping projects, can be as small as $1,000 or as large as $100,000. Rates are usually between 6% and 36%, and the rate you receive is based on your creditworthiness and finances.

If a contractor offers you financing, Gorelick recommends comparing that offer with personal loan offers, as you may pre-qualify for a lower rate.

She says she wouldn’t generally recommend credit cards for large purchases because of their high interest rates. But if your card offers rewards for home improvement or hardware purchases, you could earn money on things like plants and mulch.

“If you’re going to put it on your card and you’re able to pay it back, then, yeah, get the points,” she says. “I would only use it if you want to get points and not have to pay interest.”

This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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