pool-landscaping-melbourne

FAQ

Can you redesign my garden or backyard?

Absolutely, we can. We have design teams that can help redesign your garden. Here are a few garden inspirations to inspire your redesign:

  • Edible Gardens: If you have land attached to your home, wouldn’t it be great to be eating off it? Why not consider an edible garden that can grow herbs and vegetables for your kitchen.
  • Drought Resistant Gardens: If you live in a drought area, we can design a garden that will adapt to those conditions- requiring little water. Drought resistant gardens can be colourful too. Colourful grasses and low water flowering plants can add lots of colour to your garden.
  • Sloped Gardens: If you have a sloped garden, it can be hard to design a garden around it. But, what about split level decks and naturally tiered plant to highlight and make the most of your sloped lot.
  • Kid-friendly Gardens: It is hard to impress children, unless you have a rocking garden oasis for them. Add sand boxes, their own vegetable plot or blackboards on your fence to allow them creative rein in your garden. With a decked garden in addition to swing sets (a treehouse, if they are lucky), your garden can oscillate for kid friendly to adult chic in no time.
  • Low maintenance Gardens: If you are looking for a low maintenance garden design, why not consider tiling or concrete on majority of your lot, while also incorporating green around the edges. This opens up your garden and provides lots of room for versatility.

These are only a few ideas for your garden, but there are tons of other designs we can offer. Give us a call and let us know your needs- we can build a garden oasis for you.

Currently I just had a brand new house built, but don’t have a garden. How much do you estimate?

We absolutely offer these kinds of services, but before we give you an estimate there are a few things we need to ask you:

  • Did you have a soil test done? While most home builders conduct a soil test and provide you with the results before construction, some do not. If you have the results of your soil test, it will be easier for us to determine what kind of plants we can recommend for your garden. If not, you would have to arrange for a soil test.
  • What do you want to do? You’ve got a house and a generous garden space, but do you have a vision for it? Depending on whether you want a low maintenance flower garden, a self-sustaining edible garden, a deck or one of numerous design options, cost will vary.
  • What about materials? Various kinds of wood, recycled materials and tropical plants cost more to put in than others. The materials we use will also determine the cost of your garden. Also, if you want irrigation put in for your garden, that will cost more.
  • What about labor? If you want a garden that is professionally designed. That will add to your garden costs. This would be in addition to the labor cost that will already apply to your garden installation.

Remember that each garden is unique and has to be priced differently- keeping in mind what you want in a garden and how you want it done. Once you have all these questions answered, call us for a quote and we will be happy to help.

What’s the difference between a landscaper and a landscape architect?

Very often, many homeowners are looking to hire professionals to design and maintain their gardens but are confused with who to pick. Should we go with a landscaper or a landscape architect? With the word ‘landscape’ appearing in both titles, it is obvious that they both work with the same part of the garden- to make it look good. But, that being said, their roles in this goal are quite different and unique. Here’s what makes them so different:

  • Landscape Architect: In the larger picture, it is the landscape architect is the one who looks at the big picture and decides on a plan for your garden space. The aim of the landscape architect is to decide on using individual elements and objects in your garden to make it a cohesive whole. These individuals/teams may or may not have horticultural plant experience. If you are one who wants horticultural elements in your garden, make sure to get someone with horticultural experience.
  • A landscaper essentially executes a landscape architect’s plans. They lay the plants and other objects meant for your garden. Their expertise lies in the proper installation of the objects- like pavers and garden tiles. In addition, they are also experienced with planting and maintaining plants.

Now that you know the difference between the two professionals, it will get that much easier to determine who to hire. If you already have a plan in mind, get a landscaper to execute it, but if you need a plan for your space, it may be a landscape architect you need.

How much does it cost for regular garden maintenance?

Hiring professionals for regular garden maintenance can have several benefits. Over time, it could save you a lot of time for other things other than garden maintenance. It will also keep your garden looking healthy. A professionally maintained garden will also last longer and will keep it looking like the day it was first laid. We have a team to provide just such dedicated services- for you and your garden. But, there are a number of things that can determine how much you pay for regular garden maintenance:

  • The size and characteristics (sloped vs. flat) will play an ever important role in determining how much you pay. The larger your garden, the more maintenance will cost.
  • The more complex your garden design, the more maintenance it needs. If your garden has professional landscaping features, water elements or pavers that need maintenance, your cost will be higher than if you had just grass in your garden.
  • There are other things a garden maintenance crew can do that can add to your price as well, such as if you need seasonal care for flowers or raking the garden in the fall.
  • The time of year you engage professional services and the kind of services you need will also determine cost. If you hire teams early in the season when schedules are fairly open, you are likely to get a better deal.

Knowing what you want done in your garden can go a long way towards determining a reasonable price for your garden maintenance. Determine what you will need and how much you would want to spend on regular garden maintenance. Then, give us a call and ask us for a quote.

I need someone to maintain my garden once a fortnight, is that a service you provide?

We do provide those services. Every home owner knows that regular garden maintenance can go a long way to keeping your garden looking great and avoid large fixes like overgrown weeds and crabgrass. In addition, regular maintenance keeps your garden looking healthy in the long run as well. But, determining a regular garden maintenance schedule depends on a few factors. Here are some of them:

  • The size of your garden plays a huge role in determining how often you need to maintain your garden and how much you pay for it. The larger your garden, the more you have to pay and the more issues are likely to arise.
  • The type of garden you have can determine how often you need to schedule your garden maintenance services. The basic design of your garden-how complex the design is- can also determine how often your garden needs to be maintained.
  • Garden maintenance also changes with the season. You may find that you need garden maintenance more often in the summers while fall and spring require a different kind of garden maintenance.
  • Lastly, if you have a budget for garden maintenance, that will play a vital role in determining how often garden maintenance can take place in your garden.

We have a dedicated and experienced garden maintenance team, ready to be at your service. We can make suggestions on the type of maintenance your garden is going to need and its frequency. But, you do need to have a basic idea of what you need as part of your regular garden maintenance before you meet with us and determine a regular garden maintenance schedule.

What Are The Best Questions To Ask A Landscape Architect?

A landscape architect is involved in designing and planning the construction of all of the outdoor features that are involved with the area to be landscaped. This can involve structures including pools, fences and any external buildings. It would normally include design drawings, construction plans and planting procedures that covers and documents all parts of the project.

There are many questions you might want to ask your landscape architect and here are some that you can use to start your list.

What qualifications do you have?

This is important because the landscape architect will be making all of the plans that may have to be lodged with your council.

Do you have references works that we can look at?

The best way to judge how a designed is turned into reality is by seeing it in person, this may not always be possible but photographs can work nearly as well.

What sort of designs and plant types do you have experience working with?

It is important that the landscape architect that you use has experience in the style that you want to use. Most experienced landscape architects have worked with natives, exotics and everything in between.

Will you give a detailed written quotation?

There is no substitute for a detailed quotation because it protects both parties. If the completed job is not as quoted then you can simply show where it has not been done as per the quote. If you asked for modifications or additions then it is simple to see the difference between the quote and the final bill for the changes or added items.

I am after a landscaping quote with a design, how much is that going to cost?

We can design your landscaping to suit your needs and our consultant can organize a quotation and a basic sketch design when they visit you onsite. This service details the basic design criteria and we include this as a free service to our customers.

If you need a more in depth design then a member of our specialist design team will need to be brought in and this will incur a fee. The cost of the service varies by the size and complexity of the job undertaken. A rough guide on the price range you would be looking at is from $200 for a less involved design to $2,000 for a large involved design that has a lot of specialist requirements.

The design can be used as the basis for work undertaken by any landscapers and the accuracy and quality are guaranteed. If you decide to use our services to complete the landscaping work then we will not charge for the design work undertaken. This represents a great way to get the best price on a professionally designed and landscaped area on your property.

We have extensive experience creating the integrated design that can turn a backyard into an exciting outdoor entertainment area. Our professional design service helps you to turn your vision into a reality. Our design team has the education, experience and equipment to produce a detailed design quickly and efficiently. You can contact us today to get your design and quotation underway.

What payment options do you provide for your landscaping quotes?

When you receive you quotation we also include details of payment options so that you can pay for your landscaping services using the most convenient payment option to you.

We have the ability to accept all major cards so that we can quickly and easily complete the transaction using a debit card or a credit card. If there are any fees or charges then they will be detailed before we make the transaction so that you have all of the pertinent information.

With the advent of modern internet banking services then it can be a quick and simple process to transfer the amount from your account to our account instantly. This process usually does not attract any fees and charges from your bank and is safe and secure. We give you the details of our BSB number, account number and account name and you simply need to input the details and the amount into your internet bank transfer screen.

When you are paying your account we also accept cheques. This means that if you have a cheque account you can simply write us a cheque and leave with someone if you are not in attendance when the job is being completed. Please ensure that the cheque is made out to the company name and is crossed as not negotiable so that it can only be deposited in the company account.

We are happy to help you out with any further information that you need to make the payment choice that is best for your needs. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need more information about payment option or any other information about the services that we offer.

I’m looking for a landscaping quote. Where should I start?

When you are looking at a quotation then you need to have a firm idea of what you want done. This is important so that the quotation includes what you want in your finished landscaping.

A great way to start is to sketch out the areas that you want to be worked on and then to make some notes on what you want done in each area. This will make it much simpler to make sure what you are asking for a quotation on and what is actually quoted on is the same.

This also allows you to show the landscaper where approximately you want certain features and plants so that they can make any suggestions about problems you might not have considered. It is important to let the landscaper know what your priorities are as well. If you are on a tight budget then being flexible on some items can help to get the best job at the best price.

When you are obtaining a quotation make sure that you get as much detail as possible because this will identify parts of the landscaping that are costing the most. This can help you to know exactly what you are getting so that at the end of the job there is a clear list of what should have been included. If it is detailed in the quote but not delivered in the finished project then you can simply point out the difference and ask that it is rectified. If you just have a quotation that states “1 x native garden” then it can be much more difficult to press your case.

The Best Native Drought Tolerant Plants

There are some really beautiful Australian natives that are drought tolerant and do well in gardens with full sun. You might not realize just how colourful some of these plants are so there is no need to sacrifice the look of your garden by choosing natives.

The Alyogyne is a native from Western and South Australia that comes in a range of colours from pink to purple and even a soft yellow. The flowers can have a tulip like appearance and flower over the summer period of each year. They benefit from strong pruning in autumn and do not need fertilizing.

A great native plant for shaded or partly shaded areas is the Banksia Ericifolia. The varieties that grow to from one to one and a half metres are perfect for garden areas under larger trees. It features typical Banksia flowers that range from yellow to orange in colour. It appreciates dry soil and is very drought tolerant. They flower through winter and require little maintenance to thrive year after year.

One of the easiest native plants to grow is the Grevillea. It is low maintenance and drought tolerant and varieties like the hybrid “Ned Kelly” can flower for much of the year. They are a favourite of native birds so planting them in your garden will attract the local wildlife. They vary in colour from red to pink and orange but care needs to be taken as they do not tolerate Phosphorus well and can be killed by using high Phosphorous fertilizers.

The range of native drought tolerant plants continues to increase making attractive low maintenance gardens a wise choice.

Water Saving Tips for Your Garden

One of the largest uses of our precious water is in the garden and by using less water we help to conserve a valuable resource and save money as well. There are several different ways that we can minimize water used on our garden so let us look at them individually.

Grey water is waste water that is suitable for use on our gardens. There are no permits or approval for immediate use grey water systems. Systems that store and treat grey water need to use EPA approved equipment and have council approval. It is important that grey water be matched to garden and safety needs. Water from the sink and dishwasher are not used without treatment because of the chance of bacterial contamination and the presence of strong detergents. Washing machine grey water from the wash cycle may also not be suitable because of high detergent concentration.

Timers can be a great way to use less water. This is because they can be set for the cooler night time when evaporation is kept to a minimum. The recently introduced permanent restrictions introduced by Melbourne Water mean that any watering system, except hand watering must only be used between 6pm and 10am.

When you are thinking of the plants to use in your garden then keep in mind native plants and drought tolerant plants. Natives are naturally able to cope with both lack of water and the high summer time temperatures. In an effort to compete nurseries and plant breeders have also developed drought tolerant versions of many popular non-native varieties.

These are just three things that you can do to lower your water consumption while still enjoying an attractive garden.

What are the best plants to choose for a low garden maintenance?

A low maintenance garden is a very good choice in Australia because of our hot summer weather and possibility of water restrictions that can mean big problems for plants that are not drought tolerant. There are a lot more choices as both natives and exotics are being specifically bread to be used in low maintenance gardens.

Natives

The availability of many different species of native plants has allowed people to be able to use interesting and attractive plants that do not need a lot of maintenance and tolerate poor soils and dry conditions well.

Shrubs and ground covers are popular and can add a touch of colour when they flower. Compact designs are very popular and do not require cutting back making them truly low maintenance.

A newer native that has been very well received in the landscaping industry are native grasses. They establish quickly and easily and are able to talk almost any conditions that are thrown at them.

There are a great range of options so a low maintenance garden does not mean an uninteresting garden. You can see some interesting ideas on the RHM Landscaping garden design page. For more information just fill out the contact us page.

What are the best paving options for my alfresco area?

There are so many paving options that it is very hard to say what the best is. The first area you need to address is the budget and the area to be paved. This can then rule in and rule out paving materials that can work within the budget.

The next consideration is the aesthetics already present if you already have slate crazy paving in the area then clay pavers might not be the ideal solution. Conversely the colour range in concrete and clay pavers might make them an ideal choice to match or contrast with existing colours.

Natural stone is very popular and can come in a more rust finish or in a cleaner finish that may appeal to people in different situations. These include slate limestone, sandstone, granite and Australian blue stone.

The pattern the paving is laid in is also a consideration it can be simple or complicated with borders or without. The borders can be of the same size and shape or different and can even be a different colour.

As you can see there is a truly impressive array of options. The best for an alfresco area, well if budget is open then stone paving has so many interesting looks that it would be my vote for best choice. They give a really outstanding finish and are tough so you know the area will look fantastic for years. My choice for style would be large natural masonry pavers rather than a crazy paving design to give a touch of class that will make your alfresco area impressive.

I’d love to put in a new water feature what options are there?

A water feature is a great idea and there are so many options that no matter the size of the area that you have there is a water feature that is just right for it.

Fountains

A fountain is generally electrically powered with a pump used to expel the water through the fountain opening and into the air. Some fountains are self contained with the water reservoir, pump and fountain all in the same fixture. Others are built into pools or ponds and can be popular for helping aerate the water if fish are kept. The soft and relaxing sound of falling water can add a natural ambience to a garden or outdoor area and with the proper lighting an attractive feature at night time.

Pools and Ponds

Pools and ponds are a great way to add water based plants to a garden. A small pond is not terribly water intensive particularly if it is in a shaded position. Larger pools and ponds can use more water and may require a moderate amount of cleaning and maintenance to be kept in top condition.

Waterfalls

These great water features come in many designs and range in size from large to tiny and can be included in any garden big or small. In most cases they use a similar design to fountains but with less pressure and higher volume.

Streams

Streams require a larger area and use a pump to circulate water from the end of the stream feature and add it to the beginning. Fountains and waterfalls can be added to the stream to produce an impressive water feature.

What options do I have when landscaping my pool area?

There are many options that could work well depending on the size and use of the area. If you like to entertain have you of thought about an outdoor kitchen as a great way to turn a pool area into an outdoor entertainment area.

Another great idea is to use natural stone paving to give an interesting natural look to the surrounds of your pool area. This is a hard wearing option that represents good value for money. The natural look lends itself to landscaping giving many options when looking at plant selection.

When you are looking at what to plant the look and natural resilience of native shrubs make them a great choice in any pool landscaping project. Hardy and low maintenance they will also tolerate our hot summers. Our designers can help you to choose the right plants for the shaded and full sun areas as well as those close to the pool.

A fantastic landscaping idea that will add usability to your pool is to install a pergola next to it. A larger pergola can be great as a place to relax and to add shade on the warmer days. A smaller pergola can become a focus with hang baskets or seating that adds character to the landscaped area.

All of these options and more are available from us at RHM landscaping. Visit our inspiration page and our pool landscaping page to get some ideas. You can contact us for landscaping advice, information or to arrange for a quotation.

What are the best questions to ask a landscaper?

When you are hiring a landscaper you need to ask them a few questions to ensure that you are on the same page regarding the design of you new garden or outdoor area. We have put together a few questions that you might want to ask for peace of mind.

What are the best ways to minimize watering needs or drought proof our landscaped area?

Water restrictions and long hot summers can take a toll of plants that are not suitable to the conditions. A good landscaper can meet your needs and keep the water load within reason.

Do we need to have our soil tested before deciding on the plants to be used?

Soil testing is an inexpensive way to ensure that the right plants are used in the right areas.

Do you have a portfolio or a recently completed job that we can look at?

A website and a portfolio of work are much more common now. Viewing recent jobs can be hit or miss because of privacy but it is always good to ask.

What qualifications do the people working for the company have?

Top landscaping companies have people that have experience and education. A designer that has a degree or a diploma and several years experience is a must for a complicated or extensive job.

What do you suggest?

Never be afraid to ask people that have experience what they think. You are the person that will make the final decision but listening to suggestions and why they are being suggested costs nothing and can help to make the end result much better.

How to find a good landscaper in Melbourne

It is not difficult finding a good landscaper if you are prepared to put in a little effort in to the search. In Melbourne there are literally hundreds of landscaping companies so you have a wide range of companies to choose from.

The first question you need to ask yourself is what do you want the landscaper to do? Do you need some maintenance or some changes or are you looking for a complete redesign. You might consider a smaller local landscaping or garden service for maintenance or a few small changes while a larger landscaper with design experience would be better for a more extensive job.

You can ask neighbors friends and family for recommendation particularly if you like what the landscapers have done for them. The internet is also a great place to research different companies and to look at the feedback that they have gotten. You can add each company that you like to your list so that you can contact them.

Your short list can then be contacted by phone or by email so you can find out more about the company and to have someone come out to talk about your landscaping needs. It is important that if you decide their ideas are worth considering then you get a written quote with as much detail as possible. This will allow you compare quotes equally particularly if you have different aspects in each company’s design that can affect the price.

The final choice is up to you. You might prefer one design over another or one price over another. When you have made your choice and hired your landscaper you are on your way to a new garden to enjoy.

Ideas for Outdoor Kitchens – Where Should I Start?

An outdoor kitchen is becoming more common as people enjoy entertaining outside and can stay with guests as food is prepared and served. The concept of an outdoor kitchen can be as grand as an indoor kitchen or as simple as some additional bench space and a sink to go with a barbeque and an ice chest.

The first thing you need to decide is how much use your outdoor kitchen will receive. This makes it much easier to then move to a design. If you are going to base your weekends and holidays around the outdoor kitchen, then a more substantial design would be ideal. If an occasional meal and a few parties are more likely, a less complicated and costly design will cost less but still provide everything you need.

A budget is also something that you need to start thinking about because a design that is large, includes top quality materials and new outdoor rated appliances can easily cost as much as a kitchen renovation. It is all a matter of balancing your vision and your budget until you are satisfied with the result.

There are some great ideas that might interest you on the RHM Landscaping Inspiration page and our Outdoor Kitchens page. We have many different designs that we can customise so that they give you the functionality you need and integrate into you existing outdoor area. We are always available to help with advice, information and quotations via or contact us page.

10 Step Guide to Pool Landscaping

When you are landscaping your pool, there are some important things that you need to be aware of so that you produce a great look without creating problems. Understanding areas that can be a problem will let you choose the right way to get the landscaping results that you want.

  1. Native plants can be a good way to minimise the ongoing maintenance of your pool landscaping project.
  2. Selecting hardy plants that can survive being splashed with pool water is definitely a good idea.
  3. Size matters and in many cases smaller slower growing plants will not only keep the original design intact but also cost less.
  4. Flowering plants are great but be careful with the type and placement so that bees are not attracted to the area.
  5. Plants that shed their leaves can hugely increase the amount of work you need to do to keep your pool and the area looking nice.
  6. Shade is an important consideration and a well-placed tree can make a huge difference in our hot summers.
  7. Ensure any plants near the pool will not have invasive roots because they can destroy your pool surround over time.
  8. Safety is a primary concern and keeping plants that are toxic or have thorns and barbs away from areas that children will be is a priority.
  9. Consider using plants that have similar needs for fertiliser and water.
  10. Check out ideas that have worked for others and do not be afraid of asking for help.

There are some interesting photos of pool landscaping work performed by RHM

Landscaping available on their website.

5 Step Guide to Installing Your Own Decking

Installing decking is something that a handyman with woodworking skills can do. It will take longer than getting professionals to build it but if you have the time it can be rewarding. It is important to take your time and make sure of every cut, every hole and every nail so that no mistakes are made.

  1. Ensure all of your tools are working and in good order. If you are hiring some tools then ask the hiring company to demonstrate how it is used.
  2. Arrange for the materials to be delivered ahead of time so that you can be certain that everything that is needed well before you start. Going to the local lumber yard or hardware store and then starting the build can leave things rushed and leading to forgetting items.
  3. Safety is vital not only for you but also for friends and family. Protect the area so that people cannot enter, have appropriate clothing, hearing and eye protection is used and take care when using power tools.
  4. If you have any deck boards that are warped then place the bowed out side towards the previously attached board. Then start with one end lined up correctly and as you nail the board to the joists use a large screw driver to lever it into position as you move to the opposite end.
  5. Use jigs to make it easier to position you decking construction. A few scrap pieces of wood can save a lot of time and ensure 100% accuracy.

RHM Landscaping can also supply and install all types of decking. Please feel free to contact us for advice, information and pricing.

We don’t have a large property but would still like to get a rainwater tank. What options do we have?

Having a small property or yard may restrict the size of the water storage unit but does not mean that one cant be installed.

There are “slimline” and “modular” type tanks available for installation in smaller areas.

Generally, slimline tanks are longer thin tanks (rather than the more traditional round tank) that can be installed along the side or at the rear of your home. They can still have a large capacity holding in the range of 600 to 3000 litre of water.

While there are different designs and materials used for these tanks, galvanised or colour bond tanks are quite popular.

“Modular tanks” can be designed and fitted into tight areas under the house (i.e. between stumps) or even under verandas or decks (if space is available).

Depending on the location of these tanks a pump system may need to be installed so the water can be pumped to where it is needed.

Underground tanks are also an option, however sufficient access would be required for digging and installation.
Are their issues with contamination when collecting water off the roof?

Generally speaking there is a reasonably high chance of contamination if water is collected from the roof.

Contamination can occur as a result of different roofing materials (i.e. galvanised sheeting or tiles), from paint used on the roof and lead flashings. Contamination can also result from debris from plants, birds and other animals, small insects from the gutters and spouting.

It is even possible for contamination to occur as a result of smoke and debris from chimneys, the closeness of your home to major roads and general pollution in the atmosphere.

It is for this reason you should discuss your requirements and have your property inspected experienced suppliers to help you make the decision to suit your needs.
We’re considering installing a rainwater tank. What can the water be used for?

Collected rainwater can be used for a variety of internal or external requirements.

The most common use of stored rainwater is watering gardens, washing pavers, concrete paths, decks and other outside areas.It is also possible however to use the water for washing cars, filling washing machines or for flushing toilets.

Before installing a rainwater tank it is important to know what you intend to use the water for. This will ensure the right water storage unit is installed along with any specialised plumbing pumps and connections that may need to be installed with the unit.

When you are thinking about water usage, you also need to consider the environmental factors that could impact on the quality of the rainwater that is collected (discussed in the question below).

Discuss your requirements and have your property inspected by experienced suppliers to help you make the right decision.

Most importantly the collected rainwater should not be used for drinking due to the contamination that can occur.

We’re considering installing a rainwater tank. What can the water be used for?

Collected rainwater can be used for a variety of internal or external requirements.

The most common use of stored rainwater is watering gardens, washing pavers, concrete paths, decks and other outside areas.It is also possible however to use the water for washing cars, filling washing machines or for flushing toilets.

Before installing a rainwater tank it is important to know what you intend to use the water for. This will ensure the right water storage unit is installed along with any specialised plumbing pumps and connections that may need to be installed with the unit.

When you are thinking about water usage, you also need to consider the environmental factors that could impact on the quality of the rainwater that is collected (discussed in the question below).

Discuss your requirements and have your property inspected by experienced suppliers to help you make the right decision.

Most importantly the collected rainwater should not be used for drinking due to the contamination that can occur.

We’ve recently had a soil report completed as part of the planning for our garden. It refers to “site drainage, tree and garden restrictions”. What things should be considered here?

Changes in soil moisture levels on your property and in particular, around your home’s foundations, can result in soil shrinkage (drying of the soil) or expansion (moisture in the soil – often due to excessive watering). Both circumstances can lead to movement in the foundations, which may contribute to unsettling the foundations, possibly causing cracking.

Tree roots are attracted to moist ground conditions. If trees are located near your home’s foundations, their search for moist soil may contribute to drying of the soil around the foundations, resulting in soil shrinkage or may disrupt the soil compaction, possibly causing foundation movement and cracking.

Preventing water from pooling against or near your home is important. Pathways and other areas around the house should be graded so they slightly slope away from the house.

Ideally, garden beds should not be used to resolve a poor drainage problem. Any drainage / pooling problems should be rectified before a garden bed is designed and installed. If you choose to locate a garden bed along your house, closely monitor the amount of watering.

Do we need a permit to build a pergola?

The requirement to obtain a permit will vary between Councils.

Before any work is undertaken you should contact the Planning Department of your local Council to review your proposed project. If possible, provide Council with draft plans of the pergola to enable them to undertake their assessment.

There are several components of the project that Council will look. Primarily these will include the location of the pergola relative to neighbouring properties, the height of the structure relative to the “setback” your properties boundaries, the materials to be used in the structure and roofing design and choice of cover.

Don’t forget that consideration should also be given to the structural integrity of the pergola. The larger the pergola you are building the more chance there is of it requiring structural approval.

Make sure your proposed project is approved first of all. You don’t want to get caught out building a pergola that is not structurally sound and not within the regulations.

We have just completed building a pergola and want to know what sort of cover we should use?

The choice of cover will depend on how you intend to use the area. There are several different covers to choose from.

You could use shade cloth to provide shade from the sun, but it won’t provide total protection from rain. It costs in the range of $12 to $17 per metre.

Laser light sheeting is a very popular selection. It provides complete protection from rain, is reasonably inexpensive, around $15 per metre, easy to install and is hard wearing.

It also comes in a wide variety of tints so you can choose the degree of protection / shade from the sun.

If you have a considerable budget, then automatic aluminium shutters may be an option. They open, close and can be angled, depending on the location of the sun, to provide shade.

We are considering painting our old fence. Should we spray paint it or use a paintbrush?

Old fences are usually very “thirsty” and so the paint is quickly absorbed into the fence.

As long as you use quality fence paint and spray is a smooth up and down action from the top of the fence to bottom, you’ll be able to apply consistent and smooth coats.

Make sure you don’t spray at one point for too long. This will create a large paint spot (“blotch”) and dribbles.

You can use a paintbrush, however you may find that each application (“brush full”) only covers a section of fence, say 20 to 30cm long.

We want to remove two sides and the roof from our brick garage to create a “pergola styled” entertaining area in our rear yard. What matters should we consider?

This project is not simply a case of knocking down walls and putting poles and roof trusses / frames in place.

You are making considerable structural changes to the garage so you should engage the services of an engineer to ensure the garage is structurally sound in its current condition, during works and on completion.

Also be sure to have the footings / foundation of the property checked as well particularly if you are considering removing any part of the concrete base.

You may also need to seek advice from your local council to ensure you can make the changes to the garage. There may be some planning requirements that need to be adhered to before this project can be undertaken.

Design is another important aspect. Try to keep two sides of the garage as “open” as possible to create an area where people want to be.

You may also consider connections water, electricity and gas to this are to create a self-contained entertaining area. You’ll need qualified trades for this work. Council approval may also be required.

We want to attach lattice to the top of our fence. How can we do this?

There are several options available to you:

  • Nail or screw the lattice directly to the existing fence. You may find that the lattice (by itself) is not strong enough to provide the support required to hold it in place. Over time it may bend, warp or break.
  • Lattice can be purchased set within a frame with extended solid timber supports that can be fixed to the top of the fence. The frame provides increased the stability of the lattice.
  • You could construct your own timber frame. Set pine posts (say 600mm taller than the existing fence and 2400mm wide), into the ground in front of the fence and fix these directly to the fence.
  • Fix a sheet of lattice; say 2400mm wide by 900mm tall, directly to the posts. A timber capping could be fixed to the top of the posts to provide a finished and solid frame.

Our decking, although nailed with a nail gun, lifts. Should we use other nails?

Fixing decking boards into position using a nail gun is an efficient way to build a deck, however the nails can pop.

As wood expands and contracts, nails may “pop” above the surface, presenting a tripping hazard.

Galvanised decking nails are graded and therefore twist (like a screw) into the decking boards and sub frame. Although the nails need to be hammered by hand, they provide a very strong hold and bond the deck firmly to the subfloor.

Pre-drilling nail holes can help to make this job a little easier.

Overtime you may still find that the decking nailed loosen or pop above the surface a little, but certainly not to the extent of other nails.

We are considering painting our old fence. Should we spray paint it or use a paintbrush?

Old fences are usually very “thirsty” and so the paint is quickly absorbed into the fence.

As long as you use quality fence paint and spray is a smooth up and down action from the top of the fence to bottom, you’ll be able to apply consistent and smooth coats.

Make sure you don’t spray at one point for too long. This will create a large paint spot (“blotch”) and dribbles.

You can use a paintbrush, however you may find that each application (“brush full”) only covers a section of fence, say 20 to 30cm long.

We have a deck with rear steps that are 950mm of the ground. Do we need handrails?

The requirement for handrails will vary between Councils so you will need to check the regulations.

Generally speaking, Council regulations stipulate that decks (and steps) 1 metre or more off ground level, must have appropriate protective rails and hand rails.

While it appears there is no requirement for handrails, 950mm is extremely close to the minimum requirements. Given the fact you should consider installing railings.

There is a fantastic variety of timber, stainless steel and safety glass railings and panels available. They not only look good but provide the necessary protection as well.

Should the riser / facing boards be flush with or set back behind the edge of the upper step?

There is no hard and fast rule for the positioning of the riser board. It really depends on the look that you are trying to create for your steps and the adequacy of the support structure you have for your steps.

You could choose to have the riser board sitting flush with the edge of the upper step However, if the width of your steps requires support, than you could set the riser 10 to 15 mm back from the facing edge of the step.

Alternatively, depending on the design, you may decide to have your steps “open”, therefore have no riser board at all. If you do choose to construct your steps without the riser board, you’ll need to ensure that there is adequate support across the width of the step.

We’re replacing are decking. Should the ribbed side of the decking be faced up or down?

Many people lay decking with the ribbed side facing up, usually based on their understanding that the ribbed side provides better grip. It is possible that the grip is better, particularly in wet conditions, however decking boards should always be laid with the ribbed side facing downwards.

When the decking boards are nailed into position onto the sub floor frame the ribbed surface allows the timber to “breath” (that is for air to move through the ribbed sections) at those points where the decking boards are fixed to the subfloor frame.

If the boards are not laid ribbed side down, water / moisture, trapped between the boards and subfloor frame can increase the likelihood of timber rot.

We want to sand our deck in preparation for oiling however the nails don’t sit flush with the decking. What do we need to do?

“Popped” nails can create a tripping hazard as well as difficulties with sanding a decking surface in preparation for oiling. Raised nail heads will quickly turn a sanding belt to shreds.

Before sanding make sure all of the nails sit flush with or below the surface of the decking.

You will need to use a hammer and nail punch to drive the nails below the surface of the decking boards.

If you don’t have a nail punch you can use another nail. Holding the nail on its side, place the head on the nail in the decking.

Holding the nail in position (make sure your fingers are a safe distance away) hit the head of the nail with the hammer. This will punch the raised nail further into the deck. It can take a long time though so consider purchasing a nail punch.

We’ve recently had a soil report completed as part of the planning for our garden. It refers to “site drainage, tree and garden restrictions”. What things should be considered here?

Changes in soil moisture levels on your property and in particular, around your home’s foundations, can result in soil shrinkage (drying of the soil) or expansion (moisture in the soil – often due to excessive watering). Both circumstances can lead to movement in the foundations, which may contribute to unsettling the foundations, possibly causing cracking.

Tree roots are attracted to moist ground conditions. If trees are located near your home’s foundations, their search for moist soil may contribute to drying of the soil around the foundations, resulting in soil shrinkage or may disrupt the soil compaction, possibly causing foundation movement and cracking.

Preventing water from pooling against or near your home is important. Pathways and other areas around the house should be graded so they slightly slope away from the house.

Ideally, garden beds should not be used to resolve a poor drainage problem. Any drainage / pooling problems should be rectified before a garden bed is designed and installed. If you choose to locate a garden bed along your house, closely monitor the amount of watering.

We have a decking privacy screen. The boards run horizontally, however have warped slightly. Can this be repaired?

The problem may be resolved however you need to look into the possible cause.

It may be that the distance between the first support point (i.e. the post that the decking is nailed into) and the next support point (i.e. the second post) is very wide, so there is insufficient support.

Try to keep the distance between the two support points to no more than 400mm to 450mm.

If you are able to get access to the “back side” of the screening, you could fix this problem by providing additional support in the middle of the existing support posts.

Have a project partner hold a length of decking vertically in position on the “back side” of the horizontal decking boards. Fix the bottom and top boards (check that they are level first of all) to the vertical board. Then, using a chisel, lever the remaining boards into position (making sure they are level) and fix these into position.

My Paving has developed big gaps between the bricks, causing movement. Should I fill it with sand, or is there a specific product I can use?

Excessive dampness or dryness in the underlaying foundations or base may have caused movement in the brick paving. You could fill the gaps with sand, but this may only provide short-term improvement. A longer-term solution would be to remove the bricks from the immediate and surrounding areas. Clear away any loose materials so the foundations can be prepared and set again. You may wish to move all the foundation back to the soil, as this will provide you with a clear base on which to lay your new foundation. A combination of crushed rock and washed paving or “bricky” sand can be used. These materials are available from garden centres. Average costs are: crushed rock, $35 – $44 a cubic metre, washed paving sand, $35 – $46 a cubic metre, and bricky sand, $37 – $46 a cubic metre. The thickness of the foundation will vary, however, a 2.5cm to 5cm thickness should be sufficient.

Lightly sprinkle the foundation with water to enable it to compact, thereby providing a solid base. Re-lay the bricks, keeping them evenly spaced, and use a level to ensure the height of the bricks is even. You may wish to cement some bricks to provide further stability.

We have a small retaining wall, which has developed some cracks in the mortar. Why has this occurred and can it be fixed?

Firstly, be very careful working around this area as the wall may not be structurally sound. Consider engaging the services of professional advisors and engineers to assess and undertake these works.

Cracking is an indication of instability, which may have occurred as a result of moisture build up and pressure behind the wall.

It will be necessary to dig out trenches behind the wall to check the adequacy of the existing drainage or install an appropriate drainage system (agi-pipes). Cover the trenches and agi-pipe with crushed rock before back filling.

Once complete, using a chisel and hammer, work the loose mortar free from the joints. Clear the area from all debris with a brush and dampen the remaining / existing mortar with water. Using a trowel, push fresh mortar firmly into the joints, give the mortar the profile you want and allow it to dry.

We have a contract with a landscaper and thought we had a fixed project completion date, but the end date has changed a couple of times. How can this occur?

You need to carefully review your contract and discuss it with your landscaper. If need be, seek clarification from a legal advisor who is familiar with construction contracts.

It may be that your contract has a commencement date and completion date, however, within the contract, there may be allowances for extending the contract completion date if there are variations (i.e. change of design or material selection) made by you during the construction process.

We have engaged a landscaper to landscape our garden. Each time we make a minor change to the finishes, the landscaper extends the landscaping contract by a week or two. Why should this happen?

Landscaping requires careful planning and scheduling of trades and materials. Various trades will be required to complete parts of their work before the next trade can start work. Landscapers will plan this carefully to enable a project to run smoothly.

While your changes may be minor, any increase in workload or delay in the availability of materials for a specific trade may mean a tradesperson is not able to finish their job on time.

Unfortunately, due to other project commitments, tradespeople may not have the time to wait until the job is complete. These trades may have to reschedule their work around these other project, resulting in unexpected delays on your job.

Keeping variations to a minimum will help to reduce the impact of these delays

We paid a deposit of $6,000 to a trades person to undertake a bathroom renovation at our property. Demolition works have commenced and the trade now requires additional funds to purchase materials for the renovation works. Does this seem reasonable?

Based on the limited information available your circumstance does not seem reasonable.

Generally speaking it’s reasonable to pay a 10% deposit for works under $20,000.
We’re uncertain of the size of your bathroom and therefore the amount of work to be undertaken, however on the basis of the figures you have provided; it appears that your bathroom renovation could cost you $60,000 (that seems excessive).

Here are a couple of things you should follow up urgently. Find out what the total cost of the renovation will be. Get this in writing and preferably with a detailed breakdown of the cost components, including labour, materials, fit out (tiles, vanities, bath, tap ware etc). Also try to secure written confirmation of when the works will be completed. Ultimately, the costs and timing may vary slightly, but at least you have something in writing to refer to.

Ask for a breakdown of the work completed for the $6,000 that has already been paid. Obtain a copy of each trades insurance cover and if the total cost of work completed by any trade is greater than $5,000, obtain a certificate of insurance for their work.

And one last thing, don’t pay anything more until you have been provided and are satisfied with all of this information.

We have a contract with a landscaper and thought we have a fixed project completion date but the end date has changed a couple of times. How can this occur if we have a fixed end date?

You need to carefully review your contract and discuss it with you landscaper. If need be, seek clarification from a legal advisor who is familiar with construction contracts.

It may be that your contract has a construction commencement date and completion date, however within the contract, there may be allowances for extending the contract completion date if there are variations made by you during the construction process.

For example, you may make a change to an internal design feature or perhaps your selection of fixtures and fittings, that is different to the original landscaping specifications detailed in the contract. The change should be recorded as a variation to the contract, and signed by yourself and the landscaper as approval of the variation.

It may be that this change creates project delays, as new materials have to be ordered or design changes approved and implemented. These requirements can impact on the scheduling of trades required to complete the project. As a result, there is now additional time required to complete the project and therefore the completion date has been extended.

Moving forward, if you make any further changes during the construction process, discuss the impact of these changes with the landscaper so that you both understand and are comfortable with the impact of these may have on the project completion date.

We have a concrete floor with several cracks in it. Should we tile on this?

If your floor has excessive cracking there may be a structural problem that is causing the cracking.

Before you undertake any tiling, it is important to check the cause of the cracks and have this cause corrected.

Consider engaging the services of a structural engineer to assess the problem.

Once stabilised and corrected, you’ll need to prepare the surface for tiling. You’ll need to remove debris, seal the cracks and level the floor.

There are a variety of cement products that are self-levelling and when mixed properly will flow easily into low spots to level the surface of the floor.

To help bond the cement floor to the “tile bedding mortar” use an acrylic floor primer, a milky white liquid that is applied with a brush or roller.

I want to build a small storage shed on a concrete base. What proportions should I use for my concrete mix, how thick should the concrete be and should I use some reinforcement?

A concrete base will provide a strong foundation and can help to improve the stability of the shed structure.

The general mix for a concrete base used for this purpose is one part cement, two parts brickies’ sand and four parts screening (small stones). Slowly add water while blending the mix, until any clumps of cement and sand disappears and the mix is uniform in colour.

For this job consider making a concrete base between 70mm to 80mm thick. Consider using steel mesh reinforcement if the area is greater than 2.5 x 2.5 metres as this will help strengthen the base.

We want to add colour to our concrete driveway. When should we add the colour?

If the concrete for the driveway has not been poured then it is possible to add colour agent while the cement is being mixed. It is important to make sure the colour is mixed consistently through the concrete mix.

This is often easier to achieve when the concrete is mixed in one load rather than several individual loads.

If you’re concrete driveway has already been poured and has hardened, then there are a variety of concrete paint products (available in a great array of colours) available on the market.

Preparation of the surface before it is painted is crucial. Following manufacturers instructions, you’ll need to make sure that the surface is clear of all debris, oil and other materials. As with most paint applications, you’ll also need to make sure that the weather conditions are suitable for the job.

High temperatures may result in blistering and peeling, while wet conditions may colour runs and inconsistencies.

Our concrete driveway was laid last Friday before the torrential rain on Saturday. One corner of the driveway has dropped and cracked. What can we do?

This is an extremely unfortunate situation, but it may be possible to repair.

If the driveway is large, it may have been laid in “cut sections”. If one corner has dropped then hopefully this has only damaged one section.

If this is the case, it may be possible to cut, remove and replace that section without disturbing the rest of the driveway.

You’ll need experienced concreters to do this for you as it is a difficult job as the concrete and the reinforced mesh will need to be cut, removed and disposed of.

Consider having a soil assessment completed on this section before any works are completed. The foundation will need to be prepared again and allowed to stabilise before the concrete is laid. It may be necessary for additional reinforcement to be used or, at least, additional support provided in and around the previously damaged corner.

Are interlocking blocks a good option for a garden bed retaining wall?

Interlocking blocks are a brilliant way of constructing a retaining wall.

While they are a little more expensive than sleepers and bricks, they are very easy to use. The block styles vary between manufacturers and the interlocking methods can differ as well.

The blocks are heavy, weighing between 20 to 30 kg which his helps to keep the blocks set in place. The blocks generally don’t require concrete footings or mortar. A level gravel or crushed rock base is generally recommended. However, if your budget allows consider a concrete base. It will make the foundation more stable and the garden retaining wall very solid and structurally sound.

Many blocks are manufactured with fibreglass pins fitted into the bottom of the blocks with small holes in the top. The pins fit into these holes, which helps to interlock the blocks together.

Corner block and caps are also available. The blocks also come in a range of grey and earthy tones.

Remember, to always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions in addition to height and drainage requirements and other such matters for your retaining wall.

We are putting the finishing touches on a kitchenette in our Alfresco. The two rows of tiles used for the splash back are thicker than the mirror that will sit on top of these. What should we do to make the mirror sit flush with the tiles?

Check with the supplier of your mirror as they may have materials used during the installation process to ensure the mirror is level with the tiles.

Generally however, before installing the mirror you’ll need to attach “packers” (usually masonry sheeting or strips) to the wall.

To determine the required thickness of the packers, you’ll need to measure the thickness of the space between the existing plaster wall and the face of the tiles
(say 10mm thick).

Subtract from this the thickness of the mirror (say 6mm) to determine the required thickness of the packers (say 4mm).

The packers should be attached to the plaster or cement sheet wall using “liquid nails” or other such suitable adhesive. For additional strength and support, position and screw the sheeting / strips into the timber studs.

We are installing a mirror as a feature in our outdoor BBQ area, but the wall area, surrounded by tiles, is not perfectly square. The surrounding tiles are straight. What can we do to camouflage this problem?

Even though the tiles have been cut a different length it may be possible to camouflage this problem.

Unfortunately replacing the tiles is not an option, as they will need to be cut to different sizes to make the area for the mirror square. This could make the problem more noticeable.

You could install a frameless mirror however make sure this is cut exactly to the measurements of the available space. Unfortunately, the mirror will not be square, however this could be less noticeable than replacing the tiles. You could use a white flexible sealant to fill any remaining gaps.

While installing a square mirror will create gaps between the mirrors edge and the tiles, this could be camouflaged using a frame. Depending on the size of the gap, the frame could sit square against the tiles so that any gaps are concealed under the frame giving the appearance that the tiles are straight and the mirror is perfectly square.

(2) What are 5 top tips for engaging a Landscaper.

1. Are they a member of the Landscape association? Landscape Associations have strict criteria that must be met before being accepted into the association. If your landscaper is a member of an association, you can be assured they have a high standard of work.
2. Were they prompt and punctual? If your landscaper doesn’t turn up on time, or at least within 10 to 15 minutes from the scheduled time, its a good indication of their attitude. At the very least you should expect a phone call to let you know they a running a little behind time.
3. Did they provide a well written and detailed quote? If the quote you receive isn’t typed on a computer with a letterhead, outlining in detail the work to be completed, then consider seeking another Landscaper.
4. Did you establish a rapport? It is important that you like or feel comfortable talking to your landscaper, especially if there are complications that need to be worked through down the track.
5. Are they insured? Public Liability insurance is a must. If your landscaper is not covered then you as the owner of the property may be liable.

(1) Are Landscaping and Gardening the same thing?

Are Landscaping and Gardening the same thing?
Landscaping and Gardening are similar, but not the same.
Landscaping involves a 4 year apprenticeship, 4 days a week of on-the-job training and 1 day a week at a Tafe. The course includes garden design, construction and maintenance, however there is a specific focus on construction.
Today Landscapers are actually Landscape builders. A landscaper will construct a garden where there wasn’t a garden before. A Landscaper will firstly work with you to design your garden and then construct it. Landscape Construction will often include building retaining walls, decks, pergolas, laying pavers and turf, installing irrigation and installing lighting. Lastly they will plant the garden for you.
Some landscaping companies will provide an ongoing service of garden maintenance. This is where the services of a gardener and landscaper are similar.
Gardening also involves an apprenticeship. It is usually completed by a person wanting to work in the plant nurseries or maintain parks and gardens.
The Tafe course has a strong focus on plants, trees, turf, pruning habits of plants, soil types and the pests and diseases associated with plants.
Gardeners will generally have a better understanding of plants, planting techniques, requirements, growing and suturing than a landscaper. Of course there are landscapers with very good plant knowledge.

(4) We have completed a draft Landscape Design for our rear garden. We are considering including Retaining Walls as part of the Landscape Design. Are Retaining Walls a good option?

It’s often said that Retaining Walls are the back bone of any landscape. They form the layout and structure of the landscape and create interest through height changes and a variety of levels or tiers. Retaining walls are usually the first elements of a landscape to be constructed.
Construction may include new or recycled bricks, concrete blocks, timber sleepers or natural stone.
Whatever the material, Retaining Walls often require engineering computations to ensure they are structurally sound and above adequate drainage to stand the test of time.

(3) We have a 800mm high brick retaining with a garden bed, including established trees, behind it. The wall is cracking and bulging in some area. What’s the cause and can this be fixed?

Tree roots or the expansion of the garden bed, due to excessive water build up or contraction due to dryness, could be the cause of this problem.

It can be fixed though.

“Weep holes” at the base of the brick wall (either small vertical sections between bricks that have not been filled with mortar or full bricks that have been replaced with grills) provide release points for excessive water. Weep holes may need to be added to if they don’t exist.

Larger trees may need to be removed so roots don’t damage the wall. Speak to experienced suppliers or landscapers though. You don’t want to remove trees unnecessarily.

Soil (say 150 to 200mm wide) may need to be removed from the garden bed (immediately behind the brick wall). This will enable repair works to the wall to be completed (remove and rebuild the damaged areas). If re-filled with pebbles, drainage may also be improved therefore releasing some of the pressure. Check this with an experienced landscaper and have an experienced bricky help you with the demolition and reconstruction of the retaining wall.

(2) What are the benefits of a brick retaining wall over a timber wall? What things do we need to consider?

A brick retaining wall can provide greater design flexibility than a timber retaining wall. The wall can be left as a plain brick wall or rendered, bagged and painted using a wide variety of bright and vibrant colours.

There is no chance of rot with a brick retaining wall, however extra care must be taken to ensure the wall is structurally sound. An engineer may be required to ensure the wall does not fall forward with the weight of the soil behind, as well as the weight of the wall.

Consider using concrete footings with reinforcing mesh to give a strong and solid base.

Brick piers, double the thickness of the wall, spaced every 2m to 3m along the wall should also be considered. Steel rods can also provide extra strength and stability.

Agi-pipes installed behind the wall at the base and vertical weep holes in the bottom brick row, spaced about 1m apart, will help to provide sufficient drainage.

(1) We have a small retaining wall, which has developed some cracks in the mortar. Why has this occurred and can it be fixed?

Firstly, be very careful working around this area as the wall may not be structurally sound. Consider engaging the services of professional advisors and engineers to assess and undertake these works.

Cracking is an indication of instability, which may have occurred as a result of moisture build up and pressure behind the wall.

It will be necessary to dig out trenches behind the wall to check the adequacy of the existing drainage or install an appropriate drainage system (agi-pipes). Cover the trenches and agi-pipe with crushed rock before back filling.

Once complete, using a chisel and hammer, work the loose mortar free from the joints. Clear the area from all debris with a brush and dampen the remaining / existing mortar with water. Using a trowel, push fresh mortar firmly into the joints, give the mortar the profile you want and allow it to dry.

(2) We have just completed building a pergola and want to know what sort of cover we should use?

The choice of cover will depend on how you intend to use the area. There are several different covers to choose from.

You could use shade cloth to provide shade from the sun, but it won’t provide total protection from rain. It costs in the range of $12 to $17 per metre.

Decorative hardwood timber slats also creates a nice finish, but again won’t provide total protection from rain. The timber slats can cost in the range of $3.75 to $4.75 per metre.

Laser light sheeting is a very popular selection. It provides complete protection from rain, is reasonably inexpensive, around $15 per metre, easy to install and is hard wearing.

It also comes in a wide variety of tints so you can choose the degree of protection / shade from the sun.

If you have a considerable budget, then automatic aluminium shutters may be an option. They open, close and can be angled, depending on the location of the sun, to provide shade.

(1) We’ve been looking at various pergola designs. We decided that we want to remove two sides and the roof from our brick garage to create a “pergola styled” entertaining area in our rear yard. What matters should we consider?

This project is not simply a case of knocking down walls and putting poles and roof trusses / frames in place.

You are making considerable structural changes to the garage so you should engage the services of an engineer to ensure the garage is structurally sound in its current condition, during works and on completion.

Also be sure to have the footings / foundation of the property checked as well particularly if you are considering removing any part of the concrete base.

You may also need to seek advice from your local council to ensure you can make the changes to the garage. There may be some planning requirements that need to be adhered to before this project can be undertaken.

Design is another important aspect. Try to keep two sides of the garage as “open” as possible to create an area where people want to be.

You may also consider connections water, electricity and gas to this are to create a self-contained entertaining area. You’ll need qualified trades for this work. Council approval may also be required.

(1) We’ve recently had a soil report completed as part of the planning for our Garden Design. It refers to site drainage, tree and garden restrictions. What things should be considered here?

Soil classification is an essential part of Garden Design. Changes in soil moisture levels on your property and in particular, around your home’s foundations, can result in soil shrinkage (drying of the soil) or expansion (moisture in the soil – often due to excessive watering). Both circumstances can lead to movement in the foundations, which may contribute to unsettling the foundations, possibly causing cracking in brickwork and retaining walls.
Tree roots are attracted to moist ground conditions. If trees are located near your home’s foundations or any foundations to be established for retaining walls in your garden, their search for moist soil may contribute to drying of the soil around the foundations, resulting in soil shrinkage or may disrupt the soil compaction, possibly causing foundation movement and cracking.
Preventing water from pooling against or near your home is important. Pathways and other areas around the house should be graded so they slightly slope away from the house.
Ideally, garden beds should not be used to resolve a poor drainage problem. Any drainage / pooling problems should be rectified before a garden bed is designed and installed. If you choose to locate a garden bed along your house, closely monitor the amount of watering.