Your New Projects for the New Year – Part 2

Last post we discussed several outdoor projects to consider taking on in 2014. Today we’re taking it one step further and laying out everything you need to think about during the planning phases. Right now while it’s cold outside is the perfect time to get everything in line so you can get started as soon as things warm up.

Outdoor Projects

Come Up with a Budget

Many of the choices you make will come back to the budget. Because it is a great influence of everything else, lots of thought needs to go into creating a budget.

  • How will you pay for the project? Do you have a fixed amount you absolutely can’t go over or is there some flexibility? Will you be paying for everything all at once or will you be making monthly payments? These questions need to be answered before you move forward with your project.
  • Use a spreadsheet to calculate and track the costs for the project. Include projected costs and actual costs to get an idea of how well you’re staying on budget. This will also help you see where funds can be shifted around so you don’t get in the red.
  • Increase what you think the cost will be by 20% so you can cover any contingencies. If you’ve ever taken on another outdoor project or done remodeling in your home you probably had sticker shock at the end of it. Lots of little things you forgot to budget for can creep in and there’s always the possibility of some unexpected problem that adds to the grand total.

Review Project Plans

Project plans provide details on how to construct the project and what will be needed during the build phase. Reviewing plans is the best way to accurately estimate costs, scope of work and the time it will take to complete a project.

  • Look carefully at the dimensions of the project and how easily it is to scale them down or expand them to fit your space.
  • What types of tools does the plan call for? Tools can be a hidden cost, especially if you’re a DIYer that’s still building up your collection.
  • If you were planning on doing the work yourself be honest with whether or not a project appears to be too complex. Having to hire professionals after you attempt to do a project on your own will significantly add to the cost.
  • Account for the hardware. Within the project plan you’ll get a good idea of all the materials involved, but don’t overlook the smaller stuff like nails and screws. On their own they aren’t expensive, but as a whole they can really add up.
  • You can find lots of plans online, but professionals can also show you plans and point out what everything means. If you are using a contractor or builder they may draw up a unique plan for you or go over several options. You can also get plans from your local decking supplier.

Location of the Project

Many outdoor projects, such as decks, are fixed in place once they’re built. Give yourself ample time to consider the location logistics.

  • Check for gas lines – Here in Texas we use a lot of gas, which is pumped into homes via underground lines. Hitting one during construction can be dangerous and even deadly. Even if you’re doing the project DIY, if you break ground you’re considered an excavator and by law you must contact utility operators before you begin. At least two days before digging you must call 811 and request for the utility operators to come out and mark where lines are located. In addition to gas they will flag cable lines, power lines and water lines.
  • Keep pathways clear – For safety purposes you need to have clear exits off your premise, even outdoors. If a project location blocks a pathway you’ll also have to rework your landscape layout, which can add to the overall cost.
  • Consider the current landscaping – Unless you’re willing to sacrifice your landscaping you’ll most likely want to work around things like trees, bountiful gardens and mature bushes. Another thing to think about is how removing landscape to make way for a project could affect your privacy.
  • See if it will obstruct views – A beautiful view adds real value to a home. The last thing you want to do is potentially devalue your property by unknowingly obstructing a nice view.

Budget, project plans and location – these are three things that need to be hammered out before you actually use your hammer. Have a project that you are planning out? Tell us about it on Timbertown Austin’s Facebook page!

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