YOU ARE GOING TO THINK I’M CRAZY…
Start with the end in mind. What I mean by that is you should stop fixating on the swimming pool and start focusing on the living environment and the lifestyle you want to enjoy when you are using your pool. Most people start the process by calling several pool companies and start getting bids- makes sense right? After all, you want a pool right? …Wrong!
What you really want is a well planned space for your family to relax, have fun and de-stress in. That space has a pool, but the pool is only one aspect of that space. There are several other important considerations that go into planning your backyard resort. The factors that need to be evaluated can only be considered after you have taken the time to consider ALL of the activities you plan to enjoy. This process, when done correctly, may even help you discover some activities you might enjoy that you never thought of- like sitting beside a beautiful outdoor fireplace in your gorgeous new outdoor living space, or the realization that you want a detached spa so you can enjoy it all year long.
LET ME BACK UP FOR A SECOND AND EXPLAIN
If you are in the process of planning a swimming pool, by now you realize that you are about to spend a lot of money. I want to make sure that you maximize the value of every dollar you invest in your backyard and I want you to avoid the catastrophes I have witnessed when the project is started without the true end in mind. By true end I mean the time you are going to spend by the pool when you are not in the pool. Believe it or not, if you are like most people, you are going to spend a lot more time beside the pool than you are going to spend in the pool.
For starters, I can’t tell you how many projects I am called into right after the pool and patio have already been installed. You call the landscaper in to plant the bushes and roll out the sod right? Once again…..wrong! I have seen many unhappy homeowners with discombobulated furniture layouts that make no sense at all. Why? Well that’s easy, those clients did not start with the end in mind and never gave any thought to the furniture until the pool and patio were done. It was only then that they realized that the lounge chairs did not fit on the sunny side of the patio and there isn’t enough room for the dinning table they picked. They also had now idea about the new “Chat set’s” that are available and now that’s over blocking the logical entry to the pool area because there is no other place for it. I have also seen work re-done because the client realized that they wanted music or a BBQ after the patio was installed, which meant that the patio had to be disturbed to run conduits or gas lines, etc.
OK, YOU SAY DON’T START WITH THE SWIMMING POOL…SO WHERE SHOULD I START?
This will probably come as a shock to you, but after years of working with clients just like you, I have finally figured out the magic question. Tell me about the furniture you want to have near your swimming pool, and I mean specifically the type and quantity of each. This will start to unlock the code of the activities you might enjoy near the pool.
So, what am I saying? Before you go pool shopping you need to go furniture shopping- yes, furniture shopping. If you haven’t been shopping for outdoor furniture lately you are in for a big surprise- a good surprise. Outdoor furniture has come a long way. Beyond the typical lounge chair and dining table you will find an abundance of innovative furniture, from comfortable cocktail table sets to hi-top bar tables to sectional sofas and so much more. Cocktail tables are available with built in fire pits or ice buckets to keep your drinks cold.
Once we understand the type of outdoor rooms you want to create we can then start to analyze which room should go where. The furniture in a space defines the use of that space, so you do not want that aspect of your living space to be an afterthought. This is what I mean by “start with the end in mind”.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The single smartest decision you can make is to plan your project with an individual or firm who has the skill set, expertise and resources to plan your entire project from start to finish. This includes drafting a complete Landscape Plan that thoroughly analyzes the space, the physical characteristics of your land, the sun patterns and the activities you are planning. The planning process should involve a thorough client interview and needs assessment to make sure that all features you are or may be interested are included in the plan. For clients who want to phase the project, this planning can pay huge dividends by providing the infrastructure components such as conduits, footings, available space, etc. for future phases which will save thousands if the finished work has to be disturbed at a later date.
It is also a very good idea to make sure that you have a very good understanding of the costs for the entire project before you commit to part of the project. Again, experience has shown me that several people call and contract with a pool company first and then realize that the the other components such as patio, fence, landscaping, lighting sprinklers, etc. end up costing as much if not more than the pool itself. There are several reputable pool companies, but there are several who are just interested in “getting that pool sold”. I believe a client needs to visualize and evaluate the entire picture before committing to any part of the project.
Here is the bottom line: generally speaking, I don’t think that any one contractor is trying to steer a client in the wrong direction. What I am saying is that very few firms have the capability, experience and track record of putting the entire project together. You absolutely must have an overall vision of the components and needs in order to make sure that every initiative by every contractor is done in accordance with that goal and is done at the appropriate time in the construction process so that all the other trades can do their work efficiently.
Practical examples of this include the coordination of trenching activities and the identification of all the utilities required for the project. When this is done correctly not only do you save money, but you also avoid the risk of damaging previously installed infrastructure by not having to excavate around utilities that were installed a short time ago.
WHAT’S A HOMEOWNER TO DO?
The planning, designing, bidding, construction and maintenance of a backyard resort is a heavy undertaking. Many clients tackle this enormous task themselves with little or no experience and essentially learn “on the job”- ultimately paying the price in the long run by either doing things incorrectly and having to re-do to project, or by simply living with a result that could have been better if planning and experience was involved in the project from the start.
Clients usually think they are going to save money by doing this project alone and “GC” it themselves, but there is a better way. Start with a discussion that leads to a plan that reflects the research you have done and the needs you have identified. Hire a qualified firm that can provide a complete proposal and coordinate all of the work involved as well as a team of competent contractors who have a track record of doing projects just like yours.
WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING IT’S AS EASY AS 1 2 3!
Firms that routinely install the complete environment as opposed to individual subcontractors who supply only the parts should have a defined process in place that ensures the finished project will be exactly what you envisioned and more. To create the backyard of your dreams, you need to make sure you have one person that you are working with that has the master vision and is the person who is responsible to make sure that all the trades are properly coordinated.