5 Awesomely Easy Landscaping Projects


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5 awesome landscaping5 Awesomely Easy Landscaping Projects

By: Dave Toht

Published: February 26, 2013

Ramp up your curb appeal with cool landscaping projects you can easily pull off in a weekend.

Use a charged garden hose to lay out a smooth curve.

Tip: A “charged” garden hose full of water makes for a smoother, kink-free curve; charge up by turning on the spigot but leaving the sprayer off.

With the hose as your guide, use a lawn edger or spade to cut away excess sod and make an incision for the edging. Tap in the edging with a rubber mallet and add the stakes. Trim the edging with a hacksaw, using a speed square to mark for cuts.

Specs and cost: Steel — $1.25 per lineal foot; aluminum — $2.25 plf; rigid plastic or fiberglass — $1.65 plf.

Tools: Garden hose, flour or powdered chalk, lawn edger or spade, shovel, speed square, hacksaw, rubber mallet, hammer.

Time: 1 day to edge a typical yard.

Read on for more easy landscaping projects:

Add an Earth Berm
Build a Wall for a Raised Bed
Install a Flagstone Path
Add a Brick Tree Surround

Project #2: Add an Earth Berm

The setup: Create an eye-catching front yard feature by shaping a few cubic yards of topsoil into an undulating berm. Topped off with mulch, groundcover, and bushes, a berm adds interest and buffers street noise.

Use a charged hose to outline the berm. Remove sod a couple of feet in from the perimeter. Add a few mounds, but max out at 3 feet high.

Specs and cost: Three cubic yards of soil is enough for a good-sized berm. Expect to pay $15-$20 per cubic yard and $15–$60 for delivery — a total of $60-$120.

Tip: Don’t be tempted by those bags of topsoil at the home center: At $2.50 per cubic foot, a cubic yard (27 cubic feet) will end up costing you $67.50.

Have a cubic yard of mulch dropped off as well ($15–$20). A dozen periwinkle starts, plus a few boxwood bushes and evergreens, will set you back another $140.

Total for an 18-foot-long berm: $215–$280.

Tools: Wheelbarrow, spade, shovel, garden rake, trowel.

Time: A day to form the berm, another half-day for planting and mulching.

Project #3: Build a Wall for a Raised Bed

The setup: A stacked flagstone wall for your raised beds has an old-world look that mellows any landscape. Best of all, you don’t have to be stonemason to build one.

Begin by laying out the wall with stakes and mason’s line. Tamp a level bed of sand for the first course. As you add courses, stagger joints at least 3 inches. Set each course back ¼-inch so the wall leans backward slightly. Once finished, back the wall with landscaping fabric before filling with topsoil.

Specs and cost: Choose a stone of consistent thickness. Flagstone might be limestone, sandstone, shale — any rock that splits into slabs. A ton of 2-inch-thick stone is enough for a wall 10 feet long and 12 inches high.

Cost: About $300 for stones and sand.

Tip: Permanent retaining walls should be backed by pea gravel for drainage. In some locations, walls taller than 3 feet high require a building permit.

Tools: Stakes and mason’s line, spade, shovel, a 2-by-4 that’s 8 feet long, a 4-foot level, garden rake, tamper.

Time: 1 day for a 10-foot-long wall that’s 12 inches high.

Want to see some cool retaining walls? Check out our slideshow, 8 Retaining Wall Ideas.

Project #4: Install a Flagstone Path

The setup: For a welcoming addition to your yard, add a flagstone pathway. Use a charged garden hose to mark a meandering path about 3 feet wide. Arrange flagstones within the path so they are 2–4 inches apart and mark their location with sprinkled flour.

Tip: Sprinkling flour over the stones creates a “shadow” outline on the ground. When you remove the stones, you’ll have perfect outlines for cutting away the sod.

Cut away 3–4 inches of sod beneath each stone, add a layer of sand, and level the flagstones as you place them.

Specs and cost: For a 40-foot path about 3 feet wide, plan on 2 tons of flagstones and about a cubic yard of coarse sand. Cost: About $550.

Tools: Garden hose, flour, spade, trowel, level.

Time: 1 day for a 40-foot path.

Want more detail? Get the inside scoop on our start-to-finish DIY paver project.

Project #5: Add a Brick Tree Surround

The setup: Installing a masonry surround for a tree eases mowing and looks great. All it takes is digging a circular trench, adding some sand, and installing brick or stone.

Tip: To create a nice, even circle around the base of your tree, tie a big loop of rope around your tree. Adjust the length of the loop so when you pull it taut, the free end is right where you’d like the outer edge of the surround to be. Set your spade inside the loop with the handle plumb — straight up and down. Now, as you move around the tree, the loop of rope keeps the spade exactly the same distance from the base of the tree, creating a nice circle.

Use the spade to cut into the sod all the way around the tree. Remove the rope, and dig out a circular trench about 8 inches deep and 6 inches wide. Add a layer of sand. Set bricks at an angle for a pleasing saw-tooth effect or lay them end-to-end. Fill the surround with 2–4 inches of mulch.

Curious what trees to plant? Our popular slideshow tells you which trees you should never plant in your yard.

Specs and cost: This is an instance where buying small quantities of materials at the home center makes sense. Brick pavers cost $.50-$1 each — figure about 20 per tree. A bag of mulch, enough for one tree, costs $2.50.

Tools: Rope, spade, trowel.

Time: 3 hours per tree.


The Ripple Effect



Over the last few years since the economy tanked, there has been a lot of talk about job creation.  Now consider the ‘Ripple Effect’ of how business brings more business.  When you shop, that creates jobs, those business owners and employees  can now go shopping, and the cycle continues.  This occurrence happens on every level, and in addition, if you keep those dollars local it is good for your local community. You should especially consider shopping with mom & pop stores, because they are the backbone of our economy.  To help illustrate this, I have included a chart to show how much the big ticket purchase of a home helps our economy.


Recouping Your Remodel Costs


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Sometimes when people are ready to sell there home, they have an inflated idea of what their project has added to the value of their home.  The truth is, a home is only worth what the market dictates, it does not  always equate with the hard earned money, or sweat equity that you have put in.  So if you area going to live there a while, remodel in a way which you will get enjoyment out of the property while you are there.  If you are remodeling for the purpose of sale, take a close look at what your return will be – It will surely bring a quicker sale, but will it bring the added value you are looking for?  Either way, the chart below based on research from the National Association of Realtors will help to give you a realistic picture of of what you can expect in the way of a return, featuring the top ten remodeling projects to give you the best bang for your buck.

Top Ten Remodeling Projects

How to Remove a Popcorn Textured or Acoustic Ceiling • Ron Hazelton Online


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Popcorn ceilings, love em or hate em.  My experience with clients is that most don’t really like them.  I always love to see tips from Ron Hazelton, and here is his take on removing a popcorn ceiling.

How to Remove a Popcorn Textured or Acoustic Ceiling • Ron Hazelton Online.


Financing a Vacation Home


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Financing a Vacation Home

With the tightening of financing over the past few years, buying a vacation home is becoming a little more difficult. For those who have the cash though, it is a good time to make the purchase with home prices as low as they are. Above is an article from the New York Times on Financing a Vacation Home. If your ready to take the plunge, I would love to lend you my services in Tuolumne County, or refer you to Realtor in a vacation home market anywhere else.

Shorter Term Home Financing


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  When it comes to purchasing big ticket items, society in general tends to asks 2 questions.  How much does it cost? and What are my monthly payments?  The big problem is that we tend to leave out the question, How much will the total cost be when it is paid off?

     Not considering the 3rd question, has put most of America into trouble at some point or another, including myself.  Your best bet is to pay off credit cards every month, in other words, live within your means.  Don’t use credit for things that do not have lasting value (like dinner, concerts).

     There are of course things that are just too big to not use credit for, such as a car or a house.  In both cases, a shorter loan term may cost slightly more, but the savings in interest can be huge. The chart below is a good example of interest savings.  When taking out a home loan, many of us need 30 years to pay it in order to afford the payment.  If you do not need it however, I urge you to go for the shorter term.  If you already have a long term loan, consider a refinance to a shorter term.  Another option is to make additional principal payments on your current loan, you would be surprised how little extra you need to pay to double your principal payment, especially in the early years.Image


California’s Improving Housing Markets

After several years of a very depressed housing market, things are finally improving.  Here is a chart to show California’s improving housing markets.  Note that these numbers reflect permits for new construction, which is great news, but areas such as Modesto which have not increased much in new construction, have made great progress in resale homes.