Landscaping not only beautifies the exterior of your home but adds to its performance and value. Strategically placed trees can offer shade that reduces heating costs and properly formed drainage swales keep water away from the home's foundation. A well conceived landscaping plan can provide a place to entertain, relax and inspire. Be sure to make the right choice when it comes to landscaping services.

Call Before You Dig

Before an owner builder conducts any exterior tasks that involve digging, a phone call should be made to Call Before You Dig. The utility company will send out a specialist to locate where lines are run. There is nothing worse than hitting a gas line, power line or water line with a grader. In most areas, there is a specific phone number to call to cover all utilities. In Nevada, it is referred to as "Call Before You Dig", in Arizona, "Bluestake".

This is important. In some places, failure to notify the utility company before digging begins can result in a fine. This fine can be imposed whether or not anything is damaged.


The surveyor should be scheduled to mark the swales. Swales are lowered areas used for proper drainage away from and around the home. Using the site blueprints and laser levels, surveyors can determine what areas need to be dug and the exact depth. They will then mark where the swales should be and how they should flow. Because the marker used is typically blue, this process is sometimes referred to as " setting blue tops."

Final Grade and Landscaping Prep

Once the surveyor has established the blue tops, the landscaper can come in and begin the final grade and prep. Final grade is reached when the dirt is level with the established blue tops. It is required by most municipalities to pass final inspection. This is so the building inspector can verify that drainage flows away from the house and follows the approved drainage plan.

Flatwork Prep

Remember, before driveways and sidewalks are poured, pipes should be placed where necessary to facilitate drainage and the setting of drip systems.

Drip Systems

The landscaper will dig trenches and set drip sytem tubing to irrigate trees and shrubs. Be aware, these tubes will be inches from the surface. Get a drawing from the subcontractor showing where they are. Later on, if you wish to change your yard or make a repair, you can refer to the drawing.

Trees and Shrubs

The owner builder has a couple of options when it comes to purchasing the trees,shrubs and vegitation. The subcontractor can provide the plants or the owner builder can go to a nursery and purchase their favorite trees, plants, flowers, sod and decorative rock.

It is important that if the home is being built in a community with an HOA that all plant selections and landscape layout are approved. Some city and county jurisdictions also have restrictions on the types of vegitation that can be used in residential landscaping. Discuss this with the building department.


Selecting a Contractor

Treat landscaping as an important element of the construction process. Get a minimum of 3 bids. It is vital that any contractor that works on your project be licensed and insured.


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