residential-retaining-wall-olathe-ks

Do You Need a Retaining Wall?

Do You Need a Retaining Wall?

How do you know when it’s time to invest in larger landscaping projects? The prospect of building something bigger than a garden or seeding your lawn is one that can cause stress. There are budgets to consider, finding the right company to do the work, and considerations about how long you might stay in your current home. residential-retaining-wall-olathe-ks

A retaining wall is one of those larger projects that can take time to plan and execute. But it’s also a project that offers both practical and aesthetic advantages. Not only can you prevent serious issues like improper drainage and soil erosion with a retaining wall; you can also add a beautiful, unique architectural element to your outdoor space. 

If you’ve ever wondered if you might need a retaining wall, keep reading. We’re sharing a few things to consider before you start planning the project.  

Consider Your Yard’s Slope

If your home sits on land that isn’t level, a retaining wall might be necessary to create a flat surface. This will allow you to install additional landscaping features like a fireplace or a patio, or to plant a garden. 

Installing a retaining wall can also help prevent soil erosion, which can happen when water runs through sloped soil and causes the soil to move from one area to another. This runoff can be detrimental to your home’s foundation and is actually one of the primary reasons retaining walls are necessary. 

Track Your Water Drainage

Because improper drainage and soil erosion can lead to detrimental–and expensive–foundation damage, understanding the drainage in your yard and around your home is imperative. Knowing where water will pool can help you understand where adjustments should be made. Similarly, knowing how water runs after it rains can help you pinpoint soil erosion. All of this will help you plan how to mitigate the issues that might cause damage at some point.

Once you understand how your space operates without a retaining wall, you can talk with a landscape architect to determine where to place a retaining wall as well as what kind of wall you want. 

Consider How You Use Your Space

If your outdoor space is large enough to accommodate different activities, installing a retaining wall might be a great way to add a pleasing visual element to the space while also organizing it for those activities. 

Let’s say, for example, that you are an avid gardener and want to start composting. But you’re not crazy about the idea of looking at a compost pile every day. You could design a space that includes a shorter retaining wall that will block the unsightly–but highly beneficial–compost pile from your everyday view. 

Or you might want to separate an outdoor patio from your pool, or the pool from your children’s play area. There are countless reasons why a retaining wall might be the perfect addition to your outdoor space.

Going It Alone–or Without Help

Depending on the height and placement of your retaining wall, you may be able to do the project on your own. While that’s an option, we think it’s best to work with a professional landscaping company. We’ve built retaining walls for clients throughout the Olathe and Johnson County area, and would love to work with you on your next project. 

Questions You Should Always Ask Your Landscape Architect

landscape architect

Questions You Should Always Ask Your Landscape Architect

The idea of hiring a professional landscape architect to turn your outdoor space into the space you’ve always wanted can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What questions should you ask? What research should you do prior to calling different companies?

Don’t worry—we’re going to break it down for you.

First Things First: Plan

We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again: before you hire a professional to make improvements to your lawn and landscape, you should be thinking about what changes you’d like to make. Do you want a retaining wall? New outdoor lighting? A water or fire element? Are you ready to expand by adding a gazebo or an outdoor kitchen? Or are you looking just for landscaping?

When you have an idea of what you might want, the next step is to determine—roughly, not down to the exact penny—you budget. This will help you understand how much you can get with the money you have available, but it will also help the professional you choose know how to prioritize your budget.

Once you’re clear about what you want and how much you’ll pay for it, think about a few other things. Like how much of your own maintenance you are comfortable doing, and how often you want the company you hire to perform services. Having a few parameters around what you expect, and what you feel comfortable with, will help when you start having conversations with different providers.

Now It’s Time to Talk

Here are a few considerations as you take the leap from thinking about hiring a professional to interviewing candidates:

Tip 1: Contact more than one landscape architect. Like all other services, it’s important to compare your options so you can start to get a feel for how different providers work. Ask for referrals from family and friends you know and trust; they’ll point you in the right direction, and that’s a great start. You can also check with your local chamber of commerce. Church and civic organizations can also provide valuable insight into a company’s involvement in the community.

Tip 2: Come prepared. It’s not a test—but it’s a good idea to come with a few prepared questions, especially when those questions are really important to you. For example, if you’re on a strict budget, you want to be sure to remember to discuss that. Or if you want an outdoor kitchen, you want to be sure the potential landscape architect has experience in that area. Coming prepared means you’ll be able to ask everything you need to know.

Tip 3: Don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions. Your prepared list of questions is a good start. But don’t be afraid to let the conversation expand so you can learn as much as possible about a potential service provider. Ask open-ended questions. For example, ask “tell me about an outdoor kitchen you recently worked on, including a challenge you faced and how you found solutions,” rather than simply asking, “do you do outdoor kitchens?”

Ask About the Entire Team

Chances are you won’t meet everyone at a company that makes their work for you possible. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask how things work behind the scenes. It’s important to ask about communication preferences. For example: “if I have an issue, how should I get in touch with you?” or “If I reach out, how long should I expect to wait for a return call and will it be you who calls back, or someone on your administrative team?”.

We’re always available to chat about your projects—and we share information about our business, our community, and our staff on our Facebook page. We think it’s important to do this, so you can get to know us. If you’d like to learn even more or you’re ready to get started on a new project, we’d love to work with you. Please reach out if we can offer options or assistance.

The Difference Between Stamped Concrete and Stained Concrete

stamped concrete olathe

Have you ever taken a good look at the foundation of your outdoor living space? The ground under your feet on your patio or deck isn’t just your lawn—it’s a foundation built of material like wood, stone, or concrete.

Concrete foundations offer particular advantages. They can last longer than wood and they withstand weather well. And, because concrete is poured, it can be designed in a way that enhances the overall aesthetic of your space.

But concrete isn’t a one-size-fits-all decision. It can be colored (stained) or stamped to create a look you love. Keep reading to learn a few of the differences between stained and stamped concrete.

What Is Stamped Concrete?

Stamped concrete is concrete that is poured and patterned to create an entirely different look. Stamping concrete allows you to emulate the look of brick, stone, slate, tile—and countless other options. It’s common to stamp concrete for patios, decks, sidewalks, and driveways.

The process of stamping concrete is akin to using a cookie cutter to make shaped cookies in that the concrete is stamped in a way that markings are left in/on the concrete so that as it dries, the markings and indentations become permanent. This is how a landscaping company can turn a smooth slab of concrete into a surface that looks like brick, for example; rather than creating the surface brick by brick, one pour is stamped to look like brick.

What Is Stained Concrete?

Stained concrete is concrete that has been tinted to another color. Think of it as wood stain but for concrete—it can be opaque or translucent, shiny or matte, monotone or ombre. Staining concrete can turn a space from industrial-looking to sleek or homey, depending on the colors and finishes selected.

The Advantages of Stamped Concrete

Adding stamped concrete to your outdoor space increases your design options. No longer are you limited to a plain foundation slab; now you can build something that looks like natural stone but has the durability of concrete.

One advantage of opting for stamped concrete is budget. Because stamped concrete can last longer and is easier to maintain than natural elements, it requires less money as it ages. And, unlike wood, it doesn’t need to be replaced as often. Another advantage is maintenance. Stamped concrete can require less upkeep than stone or other natural elements.

The Advantages of Stained Concrete

More and more people are opting for stained concrete because it can combine the best of both worlds: economical durability and creative license. The colors concrete can be stained are limitless, which means design options are plentiful. And, depending on how much work and detail you want your space to have, a stained concrete foundation can be a work of art in and of itself.

No matter which option you find most interesting, it’s always a good idea to discuss your plans, budget, and timeline with an experienced landscaper. We’re here and eager to help when you’re ready.

Olathe and Johnson County Outdoor Kitchen Top 5

5 Must-Haves for Your Outdoor Kitchen

Olathe and Johnson County Outdoor Kitchen Top 5

When temperatures rise and you want to keep your home as cool as possible, cooking in your outdoor kitchen is the best solution. Which elements make an outdoor kitchen the best it can be? That’s simple: a grill, a fireplace, a patio, shade, and ample seating.

Outdoor Kitchen Must-Have #1: The Grill

Let’s face it: when we think of cooking outdoors, we think of grilling. Whether it’s a quiet family night or a bigger gathering, having the right grill means easy but delicious burgers, steaks, seafood, and veggies. You can even make dessert on the grill! Fruits like peaches and pineapple are easy to grill and mouthwatering on their own or when paired with ice cream. And if you want to try something new and fun, you can even make a unique salad on the grill! Hint: there’s watermelon in it!

Key factors to consider when choosing an outdoor grill include the energy source (natural gas, electric, or propane), location, ventilation, and budget. If you dream of a built-in grill under a stone awning, for example, you’ll need a proper ventilation system. And think about the food you love to grill and what flavors you want. Charcoal can be messy but gives food a flavor unlike any other.

Outdoor Kitchen Must-Have #2: The Fireplace

What’s an outdoor party without s’mores? OK, it’s true—there are more benefits to a fireplace than just sweet treats. Depending on how you use your outdoor space, those benefits might include warmth for cool evening gatherings, a design focal point, or simply the ambiance of a roaring fire on a summer evening.

Key factors to consider when planning an outdoor kitchen fireplace include budget, material, design aesthetic, and layout. Like a built-in grill, having proper ventilation is important. Knowing if a fireplace will impede traffic or block a view matters, too. A skilled landscape architect will help you determine the best place in your backyard to put a fireplace. They can also help you decide if a custom-built fireplace is best or if opting for a pre-built package is a smart solution.

Outdoor Kitchen Must-Have #3: The Patio

An outdoor kitchen is an extension of your indoor living space, so it makes sense that you’d consider some of the same factors when planning. Perhaps one of the most important considerations is how you’ll use the space, and there’s a high likelihood that gathering with others, whether that’s family or family and friends, will be high on the list. Having the proper space for others to sit and stand is important—and that’s where a patio comes in.

Key factors to consider when planning an outdoor kitchen patio include budget, space, materials, and the intended use of the space. The placement of a patio can create the layout of your outdoor space. When planned properly, it helps designate areas: lounge chairs and bench seating for casual gatherings, a table and chairs for sit-down events, and space to move in between are important.

Outdoor Kitchen Must-Have #4: a Pergola and/or Shade

Because most people migrate outdoors when the weather starts to warm, it makes sense that planning for added sun protection is an important part of your outdoor kitchen plans. Adding a pergola can not only create the illusion of a room outdoors, but it can offer shade and much-needed relief from direct sunlight and extreme heat.

Key factors to consider when choosing a pergola or shade option for your outdoor kitchen include design aesthetic, space, and budget. Like so many other elements of your outdoor kitchen, you have countless options of materials and design. Working with your landscape expert can help make those decisions easier.

Outdoor Kitchen Must-Have #5: Seating

Outdoor kitchen seating is all about comfort and function. Planning lots of meals eaten outdoors? You need a table and chairs. Envision many a night spent around the fireplace, sharing stories and laughter? You need individual chairs and benches to accommodate additional people. Truth is, most outdoor spaces need both types of seating.

Key factors to consider when choosing your outdoor furniture start with function: how will you use the space? Then you can consider budget, design, and space planning.

Ready to explore the idea of building your dream outdoor kitchen? If so, we’d love to share our expertise with you. Contact us to learn more.

Olathe landscape architects

What Is a Landscape Architect?

Olathe landscape architects

Have you ever asked the question: what is a landscape architect? Are you curious how a landscape architect is different from a landscaper? If so, you’re not alone. These are important questions to ask, especially when you decide to trust someone with your home.

The technical answer to the first question is this: landscape architects analyze, plan, and design environments that are both natural and man-made. They design areas that help define and improve communities.

Landscape Architects Build the Spaces We Live In

Sure, the terms “landscape architect” and “landscaper” are sometimes used interchangeably. And it’s true that sometimes the functions of each overlap. Here at Huston Contracting, for example, we offer both landscaping and landscape architect services.

These jobs aren’t the same, though each relies on the other in various ways. A landscape architect plans spaces, not unlike how an architect plans buildings. Think about taking your expansive backyard and building an outdoor kitchen, for example. Or consider a community playground or a garden. The landscape architect does what’s necessary to build those spaces. A landscaper tends those spaces once they exist. They work together to make the spaces the best they can be.

Being a Landscape Architect Requires Continued Education and Licensing

Becoming a landscape architect requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. But it’s not unusual for landscape architects to hold master’s degrees. Additionally, they must maintain a license from their state. In Kansas, licenses are renewed biennially, and the state requires 30 professional development hours as a condition of renewal.

In Communities Big and Small, Landscape Architects Shape Our Spaces

Landscape architects can work in any environment. College campuses, gardens and arboretums, historic preservation sites, monuments, hospitals and prisons, and urban design are a few examples. It’s likely that whenever a space is planned, a landscape architect is involved.

Many architects opt to specialize in residential landscaping. This means they plan and build everything from retaining walls to outdoor kitchens to backyard waterfalls. The continuing education required of landscape architects means they are aware of new technologies and environmental concerns. It also means they understand our evolving lives and how we use spaces both as individuals and as a community.

Choosing to work with a landscape architect company means working with a team that understands every aspect of making your space the best it can be.  We know how to maintain the space you already have. And we can also can help you build the space you’ve always wanted.

Learn more about our team here and know that we are always happy to talk with you about your current and future projects.

How to Choose the Right Type of Patio For Your Hardscape Project This Spring

How to Choose the Right Type of Patio For Your Landscape/Home Project This Spring

Hardscape: it’s a word you might not know, but you’ve certainly seen it in landscaping. Simply put, hardscapes are the solid, hard elements of your landscape design that remain the same for years. Unlike trees, grasses, and flowers that can change with the season and your preferences, hardscapes are often static. They are the foundation—or the base and/or structures—that determine the design, organization, and look of your space.

Elements like patios, walkways, outdoor kitchens, water features, retaining walls, decks, and driveways are hardscapes. Once completed, they don’t change unless major projects require they do so, or if major repair is necessary. Of those various hardscape elements, patios are one of the most popular.

Why invest in a hardscape project or new patio?

Design aesthetics aside, there are practical reasons to include a patio in your landscape plan. The obvious is the creation of additional outdoor living space. By turning part of a grassy or barren area into a patio, you can extend your living area. This creates room for relaxing, entertaining, cooking, and a myriad of other outdoor activities.

Practically, patios also make financial sense. Patios are typically less expensive to install than decks. Patios also usually require less maintenance. The drawback might be that installing a patio may not increase the resale value of your home as much as a deck might.

 What are my hardscape options?

The best landscapers in Olathe will tell you that you have countless options in patios. One of the first choices to make is whether you want your patio to be ground level or raised. Like retaining walls, raised patios can help with uneven slopes on your property. They can also create a more dramatic, unique look that can enhance your overall landscape design.

Your choice of materials for a patio, whether ground level or raised, are different than that of decks. Decks are usually built from wood, composite, or plastic. Patios can also be built from wood, though it’s a choice that requires more maintenance and frequent replacement when compared to materials like stamped concrete, pavers, stone and flagstone, gravel, or tile.

How to Choose the Right Patio Material

The first step is to talk to your landscape designer. We can help you determine the best use of your space and the perfect material for our personal design preferences. We’ll also help you determine the best options for climate concerns. And we’ll talk about your willingness/ability to maintain and repair your hardscape.

It’s also important to think about how you want your patio to look. Concrete is a popular option but offers little design appeal, as it can be bland. Stamped concrete can fix that by offering more design options. The downside is that it also requires more upkeep. Gravel is the most popular patio option and is affordable. Stone and flagstone are elegant and beautiful, but also expensive.

Ready to design the patio of your dreams? Check out our previous projects and call to discuss how we can help you turn those dreams into a reality.

 

Three Ways Professional Landscaping Brings Value to Your Fall Landscaping Projects

Can you feel it? Yes, the air is still hot here in KC, but there’s a tinge of Fall in all these high temperatures. Maybe it’s the back-to-school shopping or the Halloween and pumpkin displays already popping up at local stores. Or maybe it’s because Starbucks is bringing back the much-discussed pumpkin latte earlier than ever this year. Whatever it is, there’s no escaping that Summer is waning and Fall is ready to return to Kansas City.

Before that happens, give some thought to what you can do now and as the temperatures start to chill out to bring the most value to your landscape and your home. In fact, think about how much value the right professional landscaping can add to your home!

Professional Landscaping Increases Home Values

Let’s talk about curb appeal. It’s a buzzword for real estate pros and it’s important for every homeowner to understand. Simply put, curb appeal is how appealing your property is to the average viewer. Think about when you take a walk or a drive: you look at neighborhoods, don’t you? And you look at the houses in those neighborhoods. You can’t see inside, but you can tell something about the property from the curb and what you see makes an impression.

That first impression—that curb appeal—can mean more money in your pocket when it comes time to sell, if planned and executed right.

How Professional Landscaping Can Make You Money

How much value can positive curb appeal put in your pocket? This article says well-landscaped homes sell for 5.5 percent to 12.7 percent more than non-landscaped homes. If your home is worth $300,000, that means quality landscaping can add between $16,500 and $38,100 to the value of your home.

Let’s be clear, though: simply cutting your grass or planting a few flowers won’t make for stunning curb appeal. It takes planning, vision, and commitment to turn a hum-drum lawn to an oh-wow display—and all of that takes time and professional help.

Expert Help Means Added Value

Most buyers want stunning curb appeal. They want sophisticated layouts and mature trees and plants. It’s been proven that large, deciduous, evergreen and annual, colorful plants increase a home’s resale value. Working with a professional landscaping company can not only save you time; it can also ensure that your space is planned in the best possible way.

Now is the perfect time to reassess your landscaping plan with an eye to curb appeal and resale value, and we have great ideas to bring Fall flair to your lawn and garden. Reach out to learn more!

 

Take Back Control of Your Yard with Hired Landscapers

4 Advantages to Hiring Professional Landscapers

Sure, there are reasons to DIY your lawn and landscape this summer. But if you look a little deeper, you might realize that hiring landscapers will save you time, money, and frustration.

1) Pro Landscapers Save You Time

It’s a romantic notion that taking the time to work on your yard yourself will save you wheelbarrows of cash, but think about the real economics of this scenario for a second—and then do the math.

The truth is, your time is valuable. Even if you don’t have to take time off of work to get everything done, whatever time you spend tending to your yard takes away time you could be spending doing other things. Some of those things might make you more money. Some of those things might bring you more joy—and if there’s anything we all know for sure, it’s that we cannot put a price on time. There’s no substitute for time spent laughing and making memories with family and friends.

2) Right Products for Your Lawn, Guaranteed

Have you walked into a home improvement store lately and looked at the rows and rows of lawn care products on the shelves? Do you know which ones will work for your lawn? Consulting with professional landscapers to take care of your outdoor space isn’t that different from consulting a pharmacist when you need medication. Chemicals and products interact in ways only trained professionals know. It’s vital to the health and look of your lawn to use the best, most appropriate products. Doing so saves you money. It also ensures that your yard will be gorgeous and healthy, even if you haven’t studied the intricacies of grasses, plants, and landscaping.

3) Maintenance Done the Right Way

Believe it or not, there’s a method to what we do. There are right times to plant, to cut, to mulch….you get the idea. There are also right ways to tend a tree, manicure a lawn, or edge a border wall. And those times and procedures vary from yard to yard, depending on a set of circumstances that are unique to your space. So learning exactly what you need to do and when those things need to be done can be a full-time job.

Sure, you could spend time searching online, watching videos, asking for help from your handy friend at work, or checking out a stack of books at the library to learn how to maintain your yard the right way. Or you could call us and let us do what we do best, so you can have the best looking lawn possible with zero hassle.

4) Ensure Your Yard Boasts a Professional Look and Design

Admit it: there are some yards you drive by and have to slow down to look at because they’re just so beautiful. Chances are, those eye-catching designs were done by a professional that the homeowner trusted to design and maintain the right way. We can do the same for you!

Rearrange Your Spring Flower Beds with the Help of a Landscape Architect Designer

Spring is the perfect time to reassess your flower beds—and working with a landscape architect designer can help you make the most of your space, no matter the size.

Quiz Time

Your designer will likely ask you lots of questions before planning. They’ll ask about the light—do your beds fall in full or partial sun, or shade? How much moisture do your beds get (depending on where your beds are in relation to downspouts and runoff, the answer might be different than for the rest of your space)? They’ll ask about which flowers or plants have done well in the past and which ones struggled. They’ll also ask what you’d most like to see in those beds, with details like which colors you love: do you want a monochromatic look, a wildflower look, or a curated look with carefully coordinated shades of various colors?

Plan First

spring flower beds olathe landscape architects

Start with paper and pencil: draw a rough replica in the shape of your available beds, then indicate which flowers you’d like to plant where. Consider size (good rule: tallest in the back, mid-size in the center, shorter plants in the front if the bed will be viewed head-on. If you’ll be looking at your completed bed from multiple angles, start in the center and think in circles: tallest plants in the bullseye, mid-size in the next ring, shortest plants in the most outer ring).

Follow Directions

If you’re going it alone, be sure to read the instructions on seed packets and/or pot stickers and follow those directions when it comes to planting depth and space, feeding, and watering guidelines. You can also check your local extension office for seasonal and planting information.

Better yet, reach out to a landscape architect designer to make the most of your unique space. Working with a pro makes the process easier and opens a world of knowledge that comes only with time and experience.

Spring and Summer Native Plants for Your Olathe Landscape

Be honest…have you spent more than a little bit of our snowy winter thinking about the glorious garden you want to grow come Spring? How about new ideas for your lawn? Or maybe you’re daydreaming a way to incorporate a few new WOW! elements this year?

Some of us might still be chipping ice from our sidewalks, but now is actually a great time to think about your warm weather landscaping plans. And even if you didn’t find the time or inclination to plant last Fall, planning for Spring and Summer is still an achievable goal. This is especially true if you want to include native Kansas plants in your Olathe landscape design.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Native Plants

You’ve heard the saying “bloom where you’re planted,” right? Thing is, not all plants bloom equally. But native plants have an advantage because they’re uniquely suited to the soil and conditions in our area.

By definition, native plants are those that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved. They’re part of the ecosystem and play an integral role in providing food for insects and small animals. Studies actually show that without native plants, some species of insects and animals might cease to exist.

Native Plants Bring the Birds to Your Yard

Another bonus: birdwatching! Planting native plants can actually draw birds to your yard—and you can choose different plants to attract the bird(s) of your choice! Use the handy tool here—just enter your zip code and scroll through which native Kansas plants attract the bird (or birds) you’re hoping to attract.

Native Plants Help the Planet

Not only are native plants naturally beautiful, but they are ecological workhorses, too. When a plant is native to an area, it requires less intervention to flourish: you water less and use less fertilizer. You also have more time to just sit back and enjoy being in your outdoor space, because native plants require less maintenance.

Curious about which native plants to include in your space? Get in touch and ask us. We’d love to help you create a lawn and landscape tailored just for you.