Ben Adam-Smith looks at why self build projects often eat into the budget set aside for landscaping. This is includes Ben's new home where initial plans have been put on hold!
What we wanted from the garden
Kay and I have lived in towns most of our adult life and so our new home will mark a big change for us.
When you live in a town the gardens are nothing much to shout about. Now we'll be maintaining half an acre.
Luckily, we do love gardening and are excited about starting with a blank canvas.
Our brief includes:
- An area to entertain guests
- A vegetable patch
- A children's play area
We also wanted some parts of the garden to be low maintenance (e.g. shrubs and wild flowers).
Our contract includes simple landscaping
Although we had to take out a few items (or reduce the specification in some instances) the contractor will still put in the driveway and patio, as well as all the fences. They will also level the site.
Then we're on our own!
Should we hire a garden designer?
Consultants generally bring a lot of value to the table . . . but you can get yourself carried away (planning consultants, quantity surveyors, building services engineers, project managers, lighting designers, interior designers, etc.).
There are two key reasons we hired a garden designer. One is that we got inspired. When checking out Colin Heal's zero carbon house we saw the garden . . . and it looked impressive.
Colin recommend Jackie Gough Garden Design and we got in touch.
Another reason we were keen to get a garden design was in case we could be implementing it with the rest of the contract – because the excavators are already on site – and therefore saving ourselves money.
The house is always the priority
Everybody wants an amazing garden . . . but it must come after the house is finished.
So if the budget runs away a little, it's normally the things at the end that suffer.
Although our contract sum hasn't shifted much since the value engineering stage there have been a couple of unexpected costs.
For example we opted to have a certain amount of spoil (taken from the patio and driveway) removed from site.
Build cost doesn't include soft furnishings!
It sounds a silly thing to say but you can't live comfortably in your house without furniture and curtains, etc.
This would never be part of the build cost, so it is possible it doesn't feature in your cost calculations at all (unless you're very thorough).
Again, we slipped up here.
And as you get towards the end of a self build you are definitely keen to stop large sums of money disappearing from your bank account! We will be taking a breather before continuing with our garden plans.
Find out more
Allan Corfield's blog on common self build mistakes (including poor budgeting!)