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Five Unique Landscaping Projects Your Clients Will Be Asking For Next Year

Posted by: Samuel Hirshfield on October 28, 2014

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With the popularity of DIY television programming, many homeowners want their backyards and exterior spaces to be transformed into unique, usable spaces. The problem is, not everyone is a “do-it-yourself-er.” This is why it is important that you brace yourself and your crew for unique backyard requests in the upcoming year. Don’t be surprised when someone comes to you with an idea for a giant chessboard or Jenga table.

We’ve ranked these projects from most common to most obscure, but these are certainly not all of the creative or unique backyard ideas out there. 

Outdoor Living Room – People want to use the most space on their property they can. An outdoor living room is a perfect way to do that. Usually these consist of a grouping of outdoor furniture arranged like a living room. Typically you will find a couch, a few chairs, chaise lounge and in many cases coffee and end tables. In order to give it a true living room feel, provide a smooth floor surface, perhaps concrete pavers or decking. This is important to “block off” the space and create a true divide from the rest of the outdoor property. Use a Brush Cutter or Mini Skid Steer to clear and level your area before pouring concrete, laying pavers or laying deck boards to ensure the area is clear and level.

To provide more of an intimate setting, consider adding some sort of covering or shelter. A Pergola offers some relief from direct sun but still keeps an open feel - inviting the natural surroundings into the outdoor living space. Otherwise, experiment with a gazebo-like structure or a covered awning.

A Natural Landscape – Depending on the region and area, some homeowners like to keep their outdoor spaces natural, but still functional. In these instances, it is important to provide your clients with a space to entertain, lounge, or even prepare food, all while keeping an “untouched” look and feel. Bring in large logs and boulders to provide seating.  Some of these logs or stumps could also serve as end tables. Give your homeowners a fantastic centerpiece by using rocks to create a fire-pit. Avoid kits or pre-fabricated fire-pits in this case. Use mortar or cement to adhere the rocks together so they don’t shift over time. Use moss or ivy to trim out mulch-covered pathways to give the illusion of nature trails running through the property.

Treehouse – Another trend that is growing in popularity is the “grown-up treehouse.” Pete Nelson and his showTreehouse Masters have put treehouses back into popularity. These satellite mini-homes require enough space for adults to stand up, prepare a meal, shower and even entertain. Therefore, it goes without saying that there needs to be enough space on the property to accommodate this new structure without the treehouse dominating the tree line or property.

Different types of trees can support different amounts of weight; when possible, stick to using hardwood trees like oak, hickory, walnut or cherry, at least for the main supporting tree. Softer wood types, such as pine, spruce, poplar or cedar may be used for smaller structures or as secondary supporting trees. It is important to distribute the weight of the treehouse by using Treehouse Attachment Bolts (TABs). Use aerial equipment to fasten these bolts into the stronger, more central trees as they will support the TABs over longer durations of time. Though TABs will not bend or warp, the wood fibers in some trees may weaken and allow the TABs to droop.

Another important note is the placement of the treehouse as it relates to accessibility. Lay paths strategically, considering the trees that are now supporting this massive structure need to remain healthy. This includes the roots as well. Heavy foot traffic over time will compact the soil or wear on the roots so that it cannot receive water or valuable nutrients in the way that it should to remain healthy. Keep in mind that a tree’s roots may extend 2-3 times further than its branches, depending on the height or type of tree.

Outdoor Movie Screen – Give your clients the ability to watch their favorite movie, television show or sporting event from their own backyard. Be prepared to get this type of request frequently. To make this type of project a success, here are some ideas:

A comfortable seating area is necessary. Consider implementing some of the same ideas addressed above when creating an outdoor living space. Give your clients space to sit, lie down and even “cuddle up” as they watch movies. Like an indoor movie experience, give them a spot to sit their snacks or drinks by providing some table surfaces.

The picture will look droopy if the screen is droopy, so keep it taught. Use two vertical support posts or even trees as the struts to support the screen. If horizontal struts can be used, implement those; otherwise, sew in some PVC supports onto the screen itself. Vinyl or canvas is a great outdoor option due to its weather resistance.

Keep in mind that electricity will be required to run the projector and speakers. Providing outdoor electric receptacles is ideal. Use a trencher to bury the lines and incorporate watertight plugs in strategically placed areas for the project and speakers. Hang some outdoor speakers in trees to provide a full surround sound experience.

Often found at restaurants or beer gardens, outdoor Chess and Checkerboards give an interactive spin on a classic mental game. Create giant chessboards using paver tiles in two different colors or dyed concrete. If each square is a square foot, you will need 64 square feet; if each is two square feet, you will need to clear an area of 256 square feet. There are 32 of each colored square on the board. Make sure the space is mostly level, but with a slight grade for drainage.

Once you have given your clients a unique space in the form of a giant chessboard, also give them space to play some of the backyard classics like badminton, volleyball, bocce ball and whiffle ball. Choose lush, soft grass and mark off a space approximately 22 feet by 20 feet. For convenience, plant some recessed post holders made out of 6-inch lead pipe cut off at ground level to house net supports.

As any good contractor does, make sure to test out these games (to find any issues) before unveiling to your clients.

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