Infill Landscapingby Adam Sproule
Infill landscaping has become very popular in the Edmonton area over the past several years. It involves purchasing a lot in a mature neighbourhood, typically with a very old home on-site, and demolishing the home to build a new one. This allows folks to enjoy a modern home within a mature, desirable community. However, when it comes to building and landscaping infill properties, there are a lot of things to consider that the average homebuyer might not know. If you’re considering building and landscaping an infill, here’s some information that can help you make a confident decision.
Infill vs. New Development Landscaping
In new developments, every home around you is generally a new build and you may not even have neighbours on both sides yet. Folks who have chosen to live in a newly developed community are prepared for the ongoing construction as more like-minded homeowners invest in the neighbourhood. The layouts of the landscapes and the appearances of the homes are designed in a contemporary style that blends easily. The grading requirements require that water is diverted away from the home, to the property line, as per the grading plan.
Infill landscaping is a whole other ballgame. Your neighbours may have been in your new neighbourhood for decades and are not used to the noise and mess associated with a new build in the community. Some may even feel concerned about the effect a nicer, larger home nearby will have on their property value. Beyond the potential friction with neighbours, the building and landscaping requirements are completely different. Unlike in a new development, water needs to be captured in an internal swale before reaching the property line, then diverted to the street. This is a significant difference.
Even beyond the grading requirements, the design of infill is a bit trickier to nail than in a new development. You want your property to look modern and fresh, but it still needs to fit in with the other homes. You’re almost guaranteed to have neighbours on each shoulder of your home and your landscape should blend well with theirs.
Working with a Builder
We’ve been doing infill landscaping since it became popular, and in that time we’ve learned a lot. We can’t expect customers to know the difference in process between infill and new development landscaping, just the same as they don’t expect us to be experts at their jobs. However, we have been surprised at how a large number of contractors in the building and landscaping space aren’t aware, either.
When working with a builder, it’s extremely important that they’re up-to-date with the codes and requirements for infill grading. Our team is very experienced with infill building and well-versed in our requirements. When it comes to landscaping, we’re comfortable working with builders and offering our expertise. Be cautious of builders that don’t have infill experience. Even if you know what to look for online, it’s difficult to find and learn the right procedures without the experience of having done it correctly yourself.
It’s also to your advantage to work with contractors who keep a clean site. This goes for builders as well as landscapers. Your neighbours will be getting familiar with the infill construction site before they get to know you, and even if you’re not involved in the build, their experience will colour their first impression. If the site is kept clean and professional, and the streets are kept clear, the experience will be much more tolerable for everyone in the surrounding homes.
The landscaper and builder of your infill project have very specific requirements to follow when grading the site. As I mentioned, it all has to do with how water escapes the property. Due to the stricter requirements for infills, your landscaper often has to build in an internal swale into the design to divert water runoff properly.
Because infills are still fairly new, not all landscapers are aware of this requirement. This is just one of many considerations a landscaper will have to be aware of as they complete the job. Ultimately, after the job is done, an inspector will visit the site and assess the grade. If the job isn’t done to standard, everyone is in for a giant pain in the butt. The affected area needs to be corrected and the job will go on much longer than expected. This could be a nightmare for a homeowner.
Our team is focused on making sure this never happens to our customers. We handle permits and work with the city to make sure everything is compliant with the current codes as we go. We take it upon ourselves to ensure our customers get a passing grade.
Infill Landscape Design Considerations
Once the requirements are taken care of, we’ve still got to make everything look awesome! A great challenge of our job is figuring out how to work with the layout of the yard and create an updated design that blends beautifully with the neighbourhood. It takes a lot more thought to get this right, and we love it!
One way we like to set our customers up for a great end product is to get involved right at the beginning to assess the trees on the lot. Mature trees really help the infill blend in. If a homeowner has some great trees on-site, we like to come in and check them out before we plan the design. We analyze the tree’s health, size, whether it fits the general plan for the new landscape, and how much shade it brings into the yard. Then we can make the tree part of the design element.
When it comes to trees, it’s not just the ones in your yard we need to work with. Neighbouring trees can create a lot of competition with the garden plants on the other side of the fence, so we’ll also consider the location and species of your neighbour’s trees when selecting plants for the yard. We also take into account the light, moisture, and soil conditions on the site when choosing plants for the design.
What to Look for in a Landscaper
Knowing what you know now, it’s really key to talk with your infill builder and landscaper before you start drawing up contracts. Ask the contractor how many infills they’ve done, how many final grades they’ve passed on those infills, and ask them to tell you the difference between infill and new development landscaping. If it seems like they’re brushing off the question or talking around the truth, pay attention. These are big jobs and experience and honesty are a crew’s biggest assets when it comes to getting the job done on-time and on-budget.
When done properly, infills are a fantastic way to get into your dream neighbourhood and your dream home at the same time. There are plenty of advantages to taking on these projects, but there are also plenty of risks that need to be respected. Contact us today if you’d like to chat some more about our experience with creating seamless infills for our customers.