Project Planning

You have thought about it and your want to make changes to the look and feel of your property. Now where to start!

Whether the project is in the front, back and or on the side of your property, the planning starts in basically the same place. What is the utility or aesthetic goal your are trying to achieve in the space? These could be replacing a worn driveway or step, emphasizing the presence of your home in the neighbourhood, making the backyard an extension of your indoor living space, or an upgrade to your present deck or patio. When you know the why, the how becomes much easier.

Now that you’re confident as to why you are taking on the your project, it’s time to review any issues that may need to be addressed in order to make things happen.
Issues can range from limitations within the planned improvement area to your proposed budget.

Bylaws & Site Restrictions

Limitations can also include: city by-law restrictions, grading and drainage issues, physical size of the space and existing obstacles within the space.

Some city by-laws within Ottawa can be general to the whole city and others are specific to certain neighbourhoods. By-laws can cover issues such as the width of driveways and walkways.

Another consideration is when a yard has a catch-basin positioned within it or if there are large grade variations. The flow of water is a major consideration in a landscape project. Catch-basins can’t be restricted or blocked as they are designed to evacuated excess surface water from your and surrounding properties into the city storm drain system. Sometimes retaining walls are required to level an area while maintaining good drainage.

Size & Scale

Sometimes a scale drawing or sketch of the entire area where the project will be placed can be helpful in identifying any concerns or limitations. if you wish, you can do this yourself by drawing the area out on graph paper and including any existing gardens, trees, window wells, and steps etc. Now draw in your projects anticipated dimensions. Draw in the furniture or elements you wish to place on completed hard surfaces. This can also be completed by a landscape contractor or designer as part of a quotation or for a fee depending upon the project.

Now that you have a picture of your project, are the planned dimensions large enough to accommodate what you plan to use the space for (BBQing, dining, entertaining)? Do any existing elements of your yard, such as gardens or decks, have to be moved? A large tree might be in the area or have roots encroaching into the planned area restricting excavation.

Design Concept

Design concept can be more difficult for some than others. Some people have a concept in their heads while others just want change but are unsure of what the final project is going to look like.

For this consideration, it is best to start with the look of your home.
-What are the basic colours of brick or siding?
-Do you want to blend, accent or contrast with existing colours?
-Do you want design to be linear with distinct angles or do you prefer organic curves?
-Do you want an ultra modern look or a more traditional or rustic feel to your project?

These may seem like simple questions but this is where you, as the home owner, need to focus most of your efforts. Depending on when you involve a landscape contractor, they can be helpful in pointing out pros and cons of your selections. Remember that the changes you are making to the look and feel of your home are a significant expense and are meant to last many years. Be sure you are planning for what you want!


Budget can be difficult. You may have a vision but can it be completed for the amount you have planned to spend? It’s best to start with the big picture. Do you plan to do your project all at once or in stages performed at a later date? Items that can significantly effect the budget are: professional designs, pools or hot-tubs, outdoor kitchens, water features, structures like a shed or pergola, landscape lighting, flower and tree planting. These items are best considered at the start of the process as they can add up quickly and cause you to go over budget.

It is best to give the contractor a budget range in order that the quotation can performed within realistic expectations. For a reputable contractor, your budget is not a way for them to figure out how much they can overcharge but rather sets a realistic point for both parties. Without having a budget, you may ask a contractor to quote a job that would cost $50000 when your budget is actually $20000. A good contractor can quickly surmise if the expected cost to complete your project is in a realistic range and assist in determining the proper scale and materials in order to achieve your desired outcome.

All of these issues will be factors when discussing your future project with a qualified contractor but should be considered when you first start planning your renovation.