Angie's List: Landscaping

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The unusually warm temperatures may have you wanting to get a jump start on your landscaping. But before you do, Angie's List has some advice on what you should do to add value to your home.

Consumer experts say the green in your front yard could have a direct impact on the green in your home.

"A well-landscaped yard can add 7 percent to 14 percent to the value of your home," said Angie Hicks, Angie's List founder.

That could mean spending money on new shrubs or it could even mean making better use of the ones you already have.

"They would be well served to aggressively prune them back and see what they have. If it cleans out the canopy, or their space, they'll see that they don't need to do anything," said Rick Davis, landscaper.

That being said, landscapers say everyone can do a few simple things to improve the look of their homes:

  • Start with a yard cleanup: Remove overgrown plants, shrubs, and weeds. Tidy up garden/flower beds. Don't crowd your beds – give them time to grow. Keep your front walkway clear and uncluttered.
  • Take care of your lawn: A neatly mowed, edged and debris-free lawn increases your curb appeal. Keep grass at least 2 to 3 inches tall. This height helps keep the moisture in the grass and the weeds out.
  • Add mulch: Mulch prevents weed growth, conserves moisture, and helps maintain an even soil temperature. But it should be applied properly at the recommended thickness to be beneficial.
  • Pick the perfect plants: Don't shop for plants solely based on their appearance. Instead, select greenery that is hardy, adaptable to your area and will thrive in your soil conditions. Install drought tolerant plants so you don't have to water as much.
  • Plant a tree: Trees are a great investment. On average, they'll add 3 percent to 7 percent on the value of your home. Plus, planting trees on the east and west sides of your home can reduce air conditioning costs as much as 25 percent. However, trees need to be maintained – have them inspected annually and serviced as needed.

All of this can be done at a low cost, and even people with a limited budget have options.

"A good landscaper can help you work up a plan that can be done in phases; to be broken out over three years so that you're never over-extended on your budget," said Hicks.

Along with increasing your home's value, well-planned landscaping can also save on energy costs. Shade trees can save on air-conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter by blocking the cold wind from your home.

More from Angie's List:

Nearly 34 percent of polled Angie's List members say they are planning a landscaping and/or hardscaping project this year.

When you take a walk around your yard – are you happy with what you see? Basic landscaping is often overlooked. 

In addition, landscaping can help decrease heat buildup in the home by blocking and absorbing the sun's energy in the summer. In the winter, trees, fences; or other landscaping features can be used as windbreaks to shield a house from wind – saving you money in heating and cooling costs.

Common landscaping issues:

  • Plants and shrubs that are too big/over grown for the space they are in.
  • Plants not taken care of /poor planting choices.
  • Improperly applied mulch.
  • Drainage issues.

Angie's List Tips for hiring a Landscaping Contractor: A professional landscaper can help you understand what types of products will work best for your yard, when and where to plant, and is a resource to turn to if you have questions – regardless of whether you have a big landscaping project or small.

  • List your priorities: Determine whether you have a problem that needs correcting (overgrown shrubs) or if you want to make an addition to your existing landscape (fire pit). Once you have an idea, map out your property, indicating what you want. Identify long and short term goals.
  • Assess your skill level: Just because you like working in the yard on an occasional Saturday doesn't mean you'll want to put an entire flower bed into place. Hire a professional if you don't think you'll stick with the project through the season, or if it's a complicated project that will require tools and equipment you don't have.
  • Factor in maintenance: Putting in that water element might look great on paper, but keep in mind it will have maintenance attached to it as well.
  • Be realistic about your budget: You may not be able to afford it all this month or even this season - keep it simple with some pretty plants. Many landscapers may also help you devise a multi-year plan if your budget for this year doesn't all for all you want.
  • Check referrals and reviews. It is always advisable to check references or reviews before hiring a contractor for a job. Make sure the prospective landscaper has completed a project with a similar design to the one you envision.
  • Get permission. For many homeowners, including those living in housing communities, it may be necessary to receive permission prior to starting a new project. Many homeowner associations have strict guidelines on what residents can do to change their property. If those rules are violated, homeowners might find themselves embroiled in a lengthy dispute. To avoid potential conflicts, make sure your project is approved by the association board beforehand.
  • Be mindful of permits. Landscapers should be able to present various permits, depending upon the scope of the project. Steer clear of penalties and fines by checking with the local buildings department before starting a project, such as the construction of a patio with a fire pit. Large landscaping projects usually require a permit.