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Turning a modest backyard into a spacious retreat

06 patio
Even with limited space, this project brought together several different elements to satisfy the homeowner’s needs.

By Aaron Lauritsen

When a client in northwestern Calgary approached GLI Landscaping to overhaul an existing residential landscape, hopes were high. Even though backyard space was very limited, plans called for an elaborate renovation, including a deck with masonry work, raised patio, lighting, plantings, irrigation system and a hot tub area. The walkout project also presented accessibility issues and sloping problems, adding to the challenge. The end result, however, was a high-end, surprisingly spacious yard with all the amenities the homeowner wanted.

Consultation, costing and design

The majority of GLI’s work comes from existing clients with whom the company has worked in the past on residential or commercial properties, as well as from various independent builders, community developers and referrals. In addition, new leads are aggressively pursued to broaden the client base, often by way of GLI’s website, marketing campaigns, professional trade affiliations, networking with product distributors and consumer home show participation.

In this case, once the lead was generated, an estimator followed up by booking an onsite consultation to understand and identify the prospective client’s intent and offer recommendations and suggestions for the project. A cost proposal was then prepared based on the site consultation.

After the project’s budget was established, GLI proceeded to the design phase, a process that can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the particular project. In this case, a designer worked with the client to create a plan that fell within established budget parameters and was mindful of existing architectural community controls or restrictions on right aways.

Once the design was approved, a contract for the work was issued, deposits were taken, proper permits were obtained and the project was booked for construction, complete with a work timeline, which was established at roughly four to six weeks. (The entire process—from initial consultation to proposal to design and completion—took 14 months.)

Finalizing the details

This particular project was a renovation, which had an existing landscape installed three years prior to our construction. The homeowners weren’t happy with the initial installation and found the existing landscape didn’t meet their needs, wasn’t compatible with family use and didn’t complement the estate home on the property.

01 demo of existing landscape
The project began with the complete demolition of the existing landscape and irrigation system, except for a few existing shrubs that were later replanted.

The backyard had a steep, difficult-to-maintain slope on three sides of the property, which eliminated a great deal of the yard’s usable space. Additionally, the property lacked design, functionality and good workmanship in the items that were installed in the original renovation. The homeowners had to contend with a failing retaining wall, poor plant selection and an irrigation system that wasn’t able to reach all plantings or turf areas. In addition to addressing these shortcomings, the homeowners also expressed a desire to create a usable patio area for entertaining, with a hot tub component and larger deck to exploit the green space on which the house is situated.

07 back yard
The client wanted to keep maintenance to a minimum, so special consideration was taken when selecting plants and constructing the hardscape.

To satisfy these requests, incorporate the new items and use the property to its fullest potential, a new retaining wall was proposed. This would not only address the grading issues, it would also raise the new patio area, resulting in a layering of the site that would help the yard appear larger. The client also wanted to create a generally low-maintenance installation, which warranted special consideration during plant selection and hardscape construction. Cedar screening and a high-efficiency automated irrigation system was also added to the plans.

The project began with the complete demolition of the existing landscape and irrigation system. The only pre-existing items incorporated into the new design were some of the existing shrubs (which were going to be replanted only if they survived the transplanting process). The installation included, among other items:

  • a 0.6-m (2-ft) retaining wall to correct the grade;
  • 111 m2 (1,200 sf) of paving stone installation, with risers on both sides of the house;
  • a new raised vinyl deck with soffit, pot lighting and masonry pillars;
  • a stucco storage shed with a barn-style door;
  • an automated irrigation system;
  • a 12-volt lighting system with transformer;
  • various electrical receptacles throughout the yard;
  • planting of prairie-hardy trees and shrubs;
  • numerous mulched planting beds; and
  • fencing and cedar screening.
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