Hint: once you come up with the idea, it’s never too early to contact a contractor
When we decide to move forward on a major upgrade to our Hardscape, we can’t get started quickly enough. Dreams of lounging by the new pool or grilling in the outdoor kitchen are so close to becoming real that we can almost feel the warm sun and taste the juicy steaks. But soon the reality sets in: renovations take time.
There are a few basic steps in any Hardscaping project. Each one of these stages can last as little as a day to as long as half a year or more. The size and scope of the project determines the length of time of each stage:
- Permits, if required
- Scheduling and Project Start
- Finishing Touches
- Idea: 6 months to a year
Even the idea stage can be a long process. Landscape designers and general contractors want their customers to be confident in their decisions. Most professionals will encourage their clients to spend a few months doing research by gathering ideas and photos online. The point of this long preparation is to avoid Buyer’s Remorse, which often occurs after making hasty choices. Once a customer is solid in their idea, then the design stage can begin.
Design: 1-6 months, depending on the season and project scope
Construction season is usually from Spring until late Fall. Contractors may be less available to do design work during those months. Landscape designers often have to be on-site during the installation of their designs, making them unavailable to work on drafts for new customers. Designers must spend many hours in your outdoor space in order to make notes of different features and to measure accurately. During this stage, contractors will also try to predict what design challenges may exist with your property in order to address them in the plan.
Financing: 1 day to several weeks
Big projects have big price tags. You’ll want time to evaluate your best options. Financing a project can be done either through the contractor’s bank or your own bank. Many homeowners choose a home equity line of credit to finance home upgrades. Some use savings. Unless the cash is sitting there waiting, financing will probably take longer than you expect.
Permits: 1 week to a few months
Ah, bureaucracy. They make Bureaus to drive us crazy. Some townships are more efficient than others, but you can depend on permitting to take longer than it should. Building codes are in place to protect people and in general, they work. Small projects may not need a permit. If you live in an area with a Homeowner’s Association, count on adding several more days for its separate permits to be issued.
Scheduling and Project Start: a month to 6 months from finalization of design
The scheduling of your renovation can happen in the ideas and design stage. The bigger the project, the more advance time it will need. A pool installation can begin in the summer before the pool is completed, as winter weather renders the project dead for several months. If you want to be swimming by June, you have to start planning in the fall of the previous year. Smaller projects don’t need that much lead time, but good contractors get booked quickly. Many contractors won’t place you on their schedule without a deposit, which is why this stage is listed after financing.
Specialty products can take months to be delivered, especially if they are coming from overseas. Good contractors can usually predict with a certain amount of accuracy how long it will take to get new tiles, lighting fixtures, pavers, veneers and other supplies. They’ll be sure to keep you informed of any lengthy lead times to minimize any potential impact on your project timeline.
Weather may delay breaking ground on your project, too. Even indoor projects can be affected by rain. Hope for the best weather, but expect the worst.
Delivery and Installation: 1 week to several months
While a small patio or walkway can likely be knocked out in a week (weather permitting) an outdoor kitchen or pool installation is much more involved. It will require electricians and plumbers to put in lighting and appliances, as well as excavators and plaster companies to prep the pool. It may seem like a cost savings if the homeowner orders appliances or works directly with other tradesmen involved on their project, but this often isn’t the case. An experienced contractor can coordinate and facilitate all aspects of the project to ensure everything stays on schedule. Of course, it’s impossible to predict the weather or delays in shipping schedules but you’ll still be ahead of the game by relying on the contractor to coordinate the project.
Finish: 1 day to a week or two
Even after a professional’s inspection and approval of the project, there could still be some items on the punch list to complete. Do your own thorough inspection of all aspects of the project. Ensure everything is working as expected and there are no minor product or workmanship issues. The sooner you can point these out to your contractor, the better. Most contractors will respond quickly to any problems with a recent project.
Enjoying the dream
This isn’t a stage as much as a way of life. Now that your project is done, a whole new lifestyle is in store for you. While your project progresses, try keeping your eyes on the prize. Once you are sitting by that pool and eating that steak all that stress will roll away.