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Landscaping and exterior renovation project: a checklist of the steps to follow

Last modified: 2021-03-22 | Approximate reading time 21 mins

Léa Plourde-Archer

One of the main advantages of owning a home with a backyard is that you can create an exterior environment that fulfills your needs. The front yard greets us when we come home and is the last thing we see when we leave, whereas the backyard is a space meant for relaxing and having fun. 

With this checklist, we will be covering a wide variety of subjects related to landscaping and exterior renovations. Therefore, whether you've got a large-scale or a smaller project, you will find useful information to help you go through the steps and make the process easier by helping you determine your priorities. 

Aménagement paysager cour arrière_backyard landscaping

BEFORE YOU START THE PROJECT

To help make sure that the project will be carried out efficiently and that it won't take too much time, it's important to be well prepared. Take the time to determine your needs, calculate your budget and find the contractor(s) with whom you will collaborate. 

Before the first shovel hits the ground, you should at least have a general plan (ideally, a detailed plan) of the steps to follow and of the progression of the project. Lastly, you should find out about any municipal rules that are currently in effect. Some rules and bylaws may affect your project and the choices you will make in terms of layout, materials and budget. We will cover this particular subject in another paragraph. 

THE KEYWORDS OF EXTERIOR RENOVATIONS AND LANDSCAPING

Beauty

For many people, landscaping is synonymous with improving the look of outdoor space. This represents adding flowers, trees, trimming hedges, installing stone walls, fountains, a pool and other types of elements and structures aiming to create a nice layout. 

Customized

Everyone's needs vary according to their preferences in terms of hobbies and relaxation. Some people dream of an outdoor kitchen where they can prepare meals worthy of the greatest feasts. while others will prefer to use this same space to install a basin with fish. Every backyard can become a reflection of the tastes and preferences of the homeowner. This process simply requires the time and means necessary to achieve such results. 

Durable

The materials that are used to build the structures outside the home should be durable, as they are exposed to varying weather conditions. Indeed, if the deck has to be refurbished every week, these efforts cannot be devoted to other projects. Therefore, it is always best to take into account the quality level of the materials that are chosen for the elements that are a part of the landscape design and the exterior renovation projects. 

HOW TO DETERMINE YOUR NEEDS

Are you having a hard time determining your needs in terms of landscaping? Do not hesitate to get in touch with landscaping experts, as well as landscape architects. Before you meet with them, you can create a list that contains the things you want (while consulting the other occupants of the home of course), as well as things you don't like. Look at home decor magazines, check out our blog and look at the backyards of your close ones and neighbours. 

This will help you find a few ideas. Following this step, experts will be there to help you identify your choices by educating you about the characteristics of each element, such as the costs, the pros and cons. 

Cour arrière aménagement paysager_backyard landscaping floweres

QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN PLANNING A LANDSCAPING PROJECT

Sometimes, we know we want to launch a renovation project, we don't know where to start. This is why we have prepared a few questions you could ask yourself to help guide your thought process: 

What are you planning on doing with the back/front yard? 

For the front yard: will you be adding a parking lot? Would you like to add plants, a porch, some columns? 

For a backyard: are you thinking about installing a pool? Will you be creating a garden? What about storage? 

What do you dislike about the current layout? 

It will be important to determine what you dislike to be able to correct this issue during the renovation project! If you are carrying out transformations and in the end, you are not satisfied, you will have to launch other projects in the upcoming months. 

What is the exact size of the yard? 

Even though for some types of projects, this can seem like useless information, it's always better to have clear and precise data. Having this information at hand will help things go forward more quickly. For example, one of the contractors may need this information when choosing materials and tools and you will be able to provide them with the numbers instead of having them wait a few days. 

What are the characteristics of the yard? 

When transforming a yard, it is important to know the land and its characteristics. For example, it will probably be very useful if your yard is sloped if some parts of the yards are difficult to work with since the base layer is made of stone or if the groundwater table is saturated. Of course, the advice and opinion of an expert will be essential in this situation.

Will I want to install a new pool? Or replace the one that is already there? 

With summer heat waves becoming more common and health restrictions that are leading people to stay home, residential pools are especially popular. Once you've measured the pros and cons associated with having a pool, take the time to think about your budget, the size of the pool and its location. 

If you already have a pool which needs to be repaired or replaced, why not take advantage of this situation to launch this project? 

Cloture aménagement paysager_fence landscaping

Will I have to devote more time and money to yard maintenance? 

Transforming your backyard into a small paradise and your front yard into a flowery garden is undeniably great but you still have to be realistic and remember that the maintenance of these new setups will not be done automatically. 

Either you will have to do it yourself (or ask for help from your close ones) or hire an expert. These are costs that will have to be added to your annual budget. This could influence certain choices, namely in terms of plants or when deciding if you are going to install a basin or a pool. 

When choosing flowers and plants: what is the type of climate where I live and what amount of sunlight does the backyard receive? 

The expert with whom you will collaborate is your best ally when choosing the types of plants and flowers that are in the landscape. However, we still advise that you gather some information. For example, you can take a few notes about the characteristics of the plant hardiness zones where the flora is being seeded:

  • The geographic zone 
  • The amount of shade and sunshine
  • The insects and the type of fauna in the area

Jardinage_person gardening

Will the layout be safe for kids? 

Every year, we see stories published in newspapers about drownings and accidents where children have been injured or have died due to a lack of safety precautions in a backyard. 

The most common issue is a pool that is too easily accessible for toddlers and older children. It is important to install a good fence, locks and safety devices. Fences should be more than 4 feet (1.2 meters) high. 

Even for people who don't have kids, these precautions are recommended as an accident can happen so quickly! Sometimes, guests bring their kids over, or small neighbours are tempted by the pool and able to jump into the water. 

Other than the pool, here are a few tips to make a backyard safer: 

  • Installing a fence around the yard
  • Choosing materials that are robust and easy to maintain (ex: guardrails around decks and balconies)
  • Having enough storage around the BBQ so the tools are not to easy to reach

Will it be necessary to excavate the yard?

Some projects require an excavation project before the other steps can be launched. For example, when installing an inground pool, paving a driveway, installing a septic tank, when building a concrete slab and for other landscaping projects. Don't forget to work with experts, as if there is one task that cannot be improvised, it has to be excavating! 

Plate bandes jardin_garden flowers

Will you want to add a garden?

When you are creating the plan for your landscaping project (with the help of a pro), don't forget to determine whether you'd like to have a garden. This is the best moment to launch this process, or at the very least, to choose the space that will be devoted to this project. You can select the best spot to grow fruits and veggies (or flowers) in terms of sunshine, exposure to water and so on. 

Will plumbing and electrical installations have to be updated? 

For some projects like installing a pool, a spa or a shed, you may have to hire plumbing and/or electricity specialists. Your landscaping contractor could be there to give you names, or you can use our service to find certified contractors.

Will you be looking to install storage? 

We often forget to include storage outside the home. However, it's both useful and important! You will have to find a spot to store tools and materials that are mostly used outside the home. For example: 

Ce rangement peut être adapté à vos besoins et à la quantité d'espace disponible. Par exemple, vous pourriez installer un espace sous la terrasse, ou construire un cabanon personnalisé. Enfin, si vous manquez de place, vous pouvez aussi trouver un espace dans le garage ou dans le sous-sol. Idéalement, ces objets seront faciles d'accès.

  • A lawnmower;
  • A pressure washer;
  • Pots of paint;
  • Pool accessories;
  • Furniture that has to be stored in the winter.

Lastly, the question of the budget

We will cover this subject in another paragraph further down in the article.

Gazon aménagement paysager_grass landscaping

WORKING WITH A LANDSCAPING CONTRACTOR

Depending on the nature of the work you will be carrying out, you will have to work with at least one contractor. If the project is quite important, you will probably have to hire more than one. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the types of contractors that will work on exterior renovation projects:

  • Landscaping and maintenance specialists;
  • Landscape architects;
  • Electricians;
  • Plumbers;
  • Deck and patio contractors;
  • Pool/spa/Bassin contractors;
  • Excavation specialists;
  • Driveway paving experts;
  • Fence specialists;
  • Exterior painters.
  • And so on (the list is not complete). 

So, where do we start? If you have a specific idea of the project you want to carry out and know that it can be done by one expert, don't ask yourself too many questions. It's better to contact the expert directly. 

However, if you want a more in-depth transformation of the yard, you will have to consult a landscaping specialist or a landscape architect to create a specific plan for the project. Next, you should decide whether the contractor will take on the full management of the project or if you prefer to hire each expert yourself.

One important thing to remember: you must always have written contracts with your contractors. Would you like to know why? Check out our article Renovation Project: 3 Reasons to Sign an Official Contract

Aménagement paysager style désert_desert style landscaping

ALL ABOUT THE BUDGET

A landscaping project could cost around $500 but the budget may easily reach tens of thousands of dollars if you are carrying out a large-scale transformation. Therefore, it's hard for us to give you any precise numbers in this article. However, we want to reiterate how important it is that you take the time to calculate your budget before you start the project. 

This will allow you to select materials, projects and contractors while avoiding any surprises. Above all, you must not run out of financial resources along the way and cause the work to be delayed as you save up again. 

Therefore, you must determine the amount available in your budget. Next, to know how much you will pay for your project, you'll have to talk to contractors. 

We have a few useful tools that will help you get a general idea of the costs for exterior renovation projects: 

THE PLANS FOR YOUR LANDSCAPING PROJECT

Who should you get in touch with for your landscaping project? Typically, this type of plan will be created by a landscaping specialist or an architect. Other types of contractors will also offer this service, but those are the two main ones we recommend to target experts who have enough experience with this type of service. 

Aménagement cour avant maison_front yard landscaping

THE PERMITS AND MUNICIPAL BYLAWS THAT COULD AFFECT YOUR LANDSCAPING PROJECT

This is the last aspect to take into consideration before we start talking about the structures and materials that are a part of landscaping and exterior renovations. Indeed, if you don't take the time to consult municipal by-laws that are currently in effect in your area, you could have a hard time getting permits. 

Worst of all, if you don't have the right permits to carry out your project, you may be exposed to fines. Here are a few elements of an exterior renovation project that could be subject to municipal bylaws and the building code (beware, these are only examples): 

  • The pool;
  • The fence;
  • The trees;
  • The hedges;
  • The paint colours (if you live in a protected area);
  • The staircases;
  • Rooftop terraces;
  • The balconies.

Get in touch with your municipal authorities to learn more and to start working on getting the permits you will need to carry out the work. 

Entretien aménagement paysager_landscaping maintenance

THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF LANDSCAPING PROJECTS

In the upcoming paragraphs, we will look at the different elements that are a part of an outdoor layout. 

You will also find links to detailed articles for each subject. 

EXTERIOR STRUCTURES

One of the best ways to take advantage of exterior spaces is to install a structure where we can relax, share meals and meet up with friends. These structures can take the form of balconies, decks or terraces. 

There is a wide variety of materials that you can choose from according to your budget, your taste and your maintenance capacities. Here are a few examples of materials that are often used to build patios and balconies: 

  • Fibreglass;
  • Wood;
  • Metal;
  • Composite.

Each of these materials has its pros and cons. Therefore, it's interesting to look at their characteristics and the price before making a choice. 

You will find a lot of useful information in the following articles to help you determine how to choose the type of structure you will build, the materials, and the layout tips. 

Decks, and terraces

Aménagement paysager sur balcon_landscaping on balcony

Balconies

Sheds

We've already talked about exterior storage outside the home and the role it plays in providing easy access to your tools and materials. If you have enough space available in your backyard, why not install a shed? Oftentimes, this is one of the best options to store your things in one place. 

Here are some articles we've published about sheds. You'll find information that will help you make a choice: 

Gazebos and Pergolas

Gazebos and pergolas are not only meant for English courtyards with sophisticated layouts. Instead, these structures can be practical when looking to create a space that allows us to be outdoors while being somewhat protected. 

Over the past few years, we've also witnessed the growing popularity of pergolas in small urban backyards. With this type of structure, you can install a canvas that protects the surface from the sun and can be removed if you want the rays to hit you. 

We can also create beautiful installations with vines, flowers and climbing plants that go up the sides of the pergola or the gazebo.

We've prepared a special guide that you can check out: 

Carport

The carport is a structure that is usually installed on the side of the house but self-supporting carports also exist. If you're thinking of installing a carport in your backyard, check out this article:

Cuisine extérieure cour arrière_outdoor kitchen backyard

BBQ and outdoor kitchen 

Cooking outdoors is one of the most popular outdoor activities, which is why BBQs are so common. Some people even decide to install a fully functional kitchen outside their home, so they can make meal prepping even more efficient and enjoyable. 

There are several aspects to take into account when deciding whether or not you want to install a BBQ or build an outdoor kitchen. Here are a few things to remember: 

Outdoor staircases

Outdoor staircases can have 3 steps or can go on for several floors. Once again, there exists a wide variety of materials, types of structures and staircase shapes. 

If you wish to add a new staircase or renovate the one you already have, here are a few useful articles: 

Columns

Columns add a beautiful architectural element around the house. Although they can play a structural role, this is increasingly rare. Most of the time, they are now added to create a visual impact. 

Even though exterior columns are often associated with a more classical style, they are also often integrated into modern architecture. 

Here is an article that talks about exterior columns and that mostly focuses on maintenance: 

Cloture et plate bande jardin_garden and fence flowers

FENCES, GATES AND RETAINING WALLS

Fences and gates play several roles: 

  • Delimit the property;
  • Make the yard safer;
  • Offer more intimacy.

Moreover, these structures are meant to organize the layout of the yard, creating several zones that are well defined. 

We've also put retaining walls in this category as they can be used to delineate a property. 

These three types of structures also have an esthetical effect that can be very interesting when it comes to creating a cohesive look in a backyard or front yard. 

In the following articles, you will learn more about the materials for fences, gates and retaining walls: 

Fences

Gates

Retaining walls

Mur peinture extérieure et plantes_exterior wall painting

EXTERIOR PAINT

Outdoor surfaces are exposed to weather and experience more wear and tear than interior surfaces. Therefore, it is important to choose the right paint product, as well as the right tools and application techniques. 

If in the past, you've already used indoor paint for an outdoor surface (for example, a balcony), chances are that you've never repeated this mistake. Indeed, this type of product is not adapted for outdoor conditions. In just a few months, the paint will start peeling and the surface will have to be repaired. 

Does your exterior renovation project imply paint? Here are a few articles to check out for all the most important advice: 

Piscine cour arrière maison_pool in backyard

POOLS, SPAS AND BASINS

When we plan to live in a home in the long or medium term, we often think about the elements that could have a positive impact on our quality of life as well as that of our closes ones. In this type of list, we often notice that installing a pool or a spa is one of the main priorities. In the summer, having a pool is a great asset for homeowners, whereas a spa can be used over several months throughout the year for relaxing moments. 

However, this is not a project that should be taken lightly. We have to think about several aspects such as maintenance, annual costs, installation complexity, safety and the amount of space available in the backyard. 
When it comes to water basins and fountains, these can be very beautiful but if they aren't well built, they can become repulsive and even dangerous. 

Therefore, you must always hire experts to install these types of structures, whether its a pool or a basin.

In the following articles, you will find a ton of information about basins, types of pools, electrical installations and so on. 

Pools and spas

Table extérieur cour arrière_exterior table backyard

ELECTRICITY, PLUMBING, FRENCH DRAINS AND SEPTIC TANKS

We often forget that in a yard, there can be electrical wires and plumbing systems. When we carry out landscaping projects, contractors may discover things when digging out the yard, or they will have to be careful in some places. 

Moreover, if you're getting a pool or a spa installed, it will probably be necessary to carry out modifications within the exterior plumbing system. The same goes for electricity which will be used to power the lights in the pool, the backyard and any other tool that requires being connected to an electrical system. 

Lastly, other parts of the plumbing and/or water disposal system are also located outside the home, namely the septic tank and the french drain. You could take advantage of the exterior renovation project you are launching to restore these elements, as needed. 

Here is a list of articles that cover different aspects related to exterior plumbing and water evacuation (for articles about pools and spas, see above): 

Outdoor electrical projects

Here are some exterior renovation projects for which you may want to hire an electrician: 

  • Lighting 
  • Spa and pool
  • Wiring
  • Outdoor kitchen
  • Exterior electrical box

This list is not exhaustive. Here are two useful articles about electricity in outdoor projects: 

French drain

Pavé uni cour avant maison_paver stone front yard

DRIVEWAY PAVING, PAVER STONES AND OTHER OUTDOOR GROUND SURFACES

Among other things, paving is used to create a parking spot that is usually found at the front or on the side of the house. Most parking lots are made of asphalt or gravel. For the rest of the yard, we often use stamped concrete or paver stones to create defined sections where it's easier to circulate, whether this is close to the pool, in the alleys of a garden or around children's play structures. 

To help you make decisions about these types of surfaces, here are our articles about this subject: 

Paver stones:

Asphalt :

Pavage asphalte entrée_paving driveway

GARDENS, TREES, PLANS AND LANDSCAPING

What better way to beautify a house than to surround it with trees, beautiful plants, and lush green grass?

It is not necessary to turn into a gardener to be able to enjoy the benefits associated with greenery. A landscaping specialist can help you design and maintain the trees, shrubs, flowers, and plants that will be on your property.

When it comes to gardens, these often take a lot of effort but in return, you get a lot of satisfaction, in addition to having pretty flowers and fruits and vegetables that grow right in your backyard. This is a very interesting prospect!

Étapes de jardinage_gardening steps

Gardens

Gazon aménagement paysager tourbe_grass landscaping

Grass and its alternatives

Long a staple in backyards and front yards, especially in suburban areas, grass has tended to evolve in recent years. Maintaining it requires a lot of effort and in the past, it was not uncommon to have to adopt a rather intense chemical regimen to maintain its bright green colour. Now the options are diversifying.

When choosing the type of flowerbed you want to install in your front and/or back yard, you can consult our articles on this subject. This will give you a better idea of ​​the different options available on the market:

Arbre cour arrière maison_tree backyard

Trees and shrubs

To create a healthy environment around a home, it is practically mandatory to include trees and some shrubs. Of course, this is not possible in all yards, but if you have the possibility, it is highly recommended.

Do you already have trees that could benefit from a little bit of maintenance to restore their energy? Take this opportunity to look into it!

Here are a few articles about trees and shrubs:

EXCAVATION DURING AN EXTERIOR RENOVATION PROJECT

For major landscaping work, as well as other types of projects taking place in a yard, it may be necessary to launch an excavation process. This can involve significant costs, but this step is often necessary to ensure good results, especially when paving a driveway, or when we want to correct the sloping of a lot. 

Here is an article that will help you better understand how excavation works: 

A FEW MORE LANDSCAPING TIPS

Lastly, we have gathered other articles about landscaping and exterior renovations that we believe could be useful for you: 
These articles share layout ideas and maintenance tips that should not be missed. We will update this guide to add any content that may be relevant. Here's hoping that it has been useful for you! 

Outils pour jardinage_tools for gardening

THE IDEAL TOOLBOX FOR A LANDSCAPING PROJECT

Whether or not you've decided to hire a contractor or to do certain things yourself, you should have a few basic tools to be able to carry out repairs and/or to help out during the project:

  • A drill;
  • Pliers;
  • An oscillating saw;
  • A multi-head screwdriver;
  • A hammer with a short handle;
  • An adjustable wrench;
  • A siphon;
  • A box of finishing nails;
  • A tape measure;
  • A weeder;
  • Gardening scissors;
  • Set of shovels;
  • Pair of secateurs;
  • Rakes;
  • Hand saw;
  • Garden hoe;
  • Wheelbarrow;
  • Leaf blower;
  • Fork.

THE CHECKLIST TO USE FOR YOUR LANDSCAPING PROJECT

Click here to download the PDF version of the checklist

 

TO DO

NOTES 

WORKING WITH AN EXPERT?

DONE

PLANNING

Determine your needs

 

 

 

Determine your budget

 

 

 

PLANNED DATE FOR THE WORK

 

 

ELEMENTS

MATERIAL CHOSEN/BOUGHT

CONTRACTOR CHOSEN 

DONE

Structures 

 

Decks, patios, balconies

 

 

 

Pergolas, gazebos 

 

 

 

Sheds and other storage 

 

 

 

Sunroom, porch

 

 

 

Cooking and preparing meals 

BBQ or outdoor kitchen

 

 

 

Outdoor staircases

 

Stoop, stairs, staircase structure

 

 

 

Fences, gates, retainment walls

 

 

 

 

Exterior paint

 

 

 

 

 

Water (pool, spas, basins) 

 

 

 

 

Electricity

 

 

 

 

Plumbing 

 

 

 

 

Paver stone, paving, stamped concrete 

 

 

 

 

Gardens and flowerbeds

 

 

 

 

Excavation 

 

 

 

 

Get quotes for your exterior renovation or landscaping project

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