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Big Impact Landscaping: 28 DIY Projects You Can Do on a Budget to Beautify and Add Value to Your Home

Big Impact Landscaping: 28 DIY Projects You Can Do on a Budget to Beautify and Add Value to Your Home

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Big Impact Landscaping: 28 DIY Projects You Can Do on a Budget to Beautify and Add Value to Your Home

530 pages
1 heure
Mar 14, 2017


The Ultimate in Designer Landscaping Projects for Boosting Your Home’s Value

If you’ve ever looked at the weed-filled expanse that passes for your backyard and wondered why your family never uses it, then this book is for you. Sara Bendrick, host of I Hate My Yard! and Build It Like Bendrick, addresses the most common homeowner requests for affordable ways to bring privacy, shade, dining areas, fire features and manageable plantings into their yards to increase their enjoyment of outdoor spaces and increase the value of their home.

With 28 unique projects featuring step-by-step instructions and photos, Sara shows you how to:
• Build an outdoor kitchen area for a grill or pizza oven
• Assemble a fireplace out of prefab concrete modules
• Install a stone patio with a pebble mosaic focal point
• Build an overhead structure to provide shade and the feeling of an outdoor room
• Make a privacy screening wall that lets in light and provides a beautiful backdrop
• Create a maintenance-free dry creek bed with a footbridge that will wow your neighbors
• Construct a retaining wall from practically free recycled materials
• Add a bocce court that will return fun and games to your backyard

Get the most out of your property and expand your living space while enjoying more time outdoors. With Big Impact Landscaping as your guide, your backyard will go from a forlorn, forgotten wasteland to the go-to gathering place your family and guests will never want to leave.

Mar 14, 2017

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Big Impact Landscaping - Sara Bendrick






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Table of Contents

About the Author

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Whether this book was given to you as a gift or you purchased it for yourself, I have to assume that you are curious and handy … or you want to be. I have to assume you are driven, as most DIYers are. My hat’s off to you and the many projects you dream up for your exterior space.

Spending time outdoors is one of the easiest and most fulfilling ways to improve your quality of life. I hope you find inspiration in these pages and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your interest in my projects and ideas. From a crafty little girl to a starving college student to a landscape contractor, I have found many opportunities to do what I love, and luckily, most of the time I get paid to do it!

I have been involved in the world of exterior design, construction and maintenance for almost ten years. One of my first hands-on jobs in the landscape industry was as a landscape forewoman running a maintenance crew for an apartment complex and all the city’s libraries. It was not a glamorous job—imagine directing a motley crew of non-English-speaking hardworking laborers and ex-convicts from employment agencies. I ran the scheduling and worked side by side while we trimmed, hedged, mowed and emptied the trash from all the city libraries (to be honest, public trash is no joke: that stuff is pretty gross!). But I’m glad I had the job, and I’m glad I had a boss who wasn’t afraid to let me take a stab at doing what some people might consider an unconventional job for a female college student. I learned a ton, and I was blissfully unaware of the stereotypes and limits that other people may have set for me; for that I am grateful.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from California Polytechnic–San Luis Obispo, I found myself working for a residential design-build company. I learned to love residential design and working with individuals. People’s homes are a reflection of who they are and what they love, and it’s very satisfying to be able to guide my clients in designing functional and relaxing environments that they will experience every day.

In 2012 I received an email stating that the DIY Network was looking for a landscape expert to host a landscaping show. I sent in an email with a brief introduction, a portfolio of my work and a photo. Within three weeks of reaching out, I beat out almost two thousand applicants and got the position! Around the same time, I started Sarita Landscape Design, a residential company named after my grandpa’s nickname for me, Sarita, which means Little Sara in Spanish.

Since then, I have secured an active landscape contracting license and I balance landscape design, contracting and TV/media engagements. With DIY Network’s I Hate My Yard! under my belt and a new series, Build It Like Bendrick, in the works, I am keeping myself out of trouble.

It has always been my dream to write a book that gives an inside view of landscape materials and projects that can affect the overall function or aesthetic of a home. On a daily basis I am explaining landscape processes and ideas to clients, from DIYers to DIFMers (do-it-for-me-ers). In this book you will learn how to start making educated decisions based on your budget and your style. You will also find some instructional projects of various skill levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. You can customize projects to fit your situation or simply to understand the principles of how these projects come together.

Cost is taken into consideration for all of the projects presented in this book. Because prices will vary from region to region, depending on the level of customizing and sizing, the following key gives a rough estimate of what to expect.





* Time given for these projects is approximate and is assuming you have two to four sets of hands to help move things along for the bigger projects. If you are working solo, expect the projects to take at least twice as long. Working with a buddy or two really does keep things rolling. Plus, it’s a lot more fun that way.

Thank you for picking up this book and supporting my journey. I hope it is a resource you will turn to again and again as a guide for your own projects.




I take any chance I can get to be outside, whether it’s for work, to dine, to play or to relax. I always feel more alive after spending time walking under trees or relaxing in the sunshine. We should all welcome opportunities for comfortable outdoor experiences, as they elevate our moods and clear our minds. This section focuses on how outdoor living spaces can enhance your home and the various elements you can build to bring you and your family outside more often to make the most of your yard.


Did you know that scientists from the University of Illinois and the University of Hong Kong, along with other researchers, have found that looking at trees significantly reduces stress in as little as five minutes? That is pretty incredible considering how simple it is. There are numerous studies that link exposure to nature with lower stress, faster healing and improved overall health. I’ve never had a client who regretted adding an outdoor kitchen or living area.

An outdoor living space can be one of the most significant areas of your home. Nothing makes our hearts more content than relaxing in dappled sunlight with a warm summer breeze wafting over us. We have the power to manipulate our surroundings in a manner that benefits our entire family. This is quite amazing if you think about it: we can make an environment of our own design!

So what is an outdoor living room? It is any space that is created with the intention of outdoor living, such as a dining area, a lounging area, a kitchen area or a combination of any or all of these. An outdoor space can have not only a functional living area but also a quiet beauty that serves your needs for a long time to come. Unlike a room addition, creating entertaining or lounging areas outside offers a completely different aesthetic and purpose. An open-air room allows you to experience the outdoors by bringing comfortable living elements outside.

It’s important to figure out your priorities when tackling a job. Know how you want your space to feel and how you want it to function. Those priorities will guide the direction of a renovation. Depending on where you live, you may need to consider climate factors. Hot climates have different issues to consider than colder climates. But despite your climate, elements such as outdoor heaters or fire features for cold evenings, misters for hot climates, lighting for evening use and shade structures for hot areas can maximize your enjoyment of outdoor living spaces and extend their usefulness. Allow your imagination free reign; there are always new and creative possibilities to explore.


Landscaping and building structures can be expensive, so should you expect your property value to increase because of the large investment you’re making? To keep it simple … it depends. There are many factors that affect the value of a property, from ZIP code to local neighborhoods to the current economy.

To truly determine whether a project is a good idea in terms of return on investment, you need to rely on your local realtors and appraisers for valuable information about your local market. This is the most accurate way to determine whether you will see a return on investment (ROI). In my opinion, it’s a good idea to have the mind-set that you’re renovating in order to enhance your quality of life and functional living space for you and your loved ones first, and that an ROI is simply an added bonus.

If you live in a neighborhood where all the homes have shade structures, pools and fire pits and your property doesn’t, then expect your unimproved property to sell at a lower price. If you spend as much as $50,000 to $100,00 to catch up to the neighborhood, you will likely increase to the market price of your neighborhood, but you also most likely won’t see a 100 percent ROI. Also, if your neighbors haven’t installed patios and pools and so on, and you plan to, keep in mind that your home value will likely increase, but not significantly more than the average home in your neighborhood. It’s best to check with your local real estate professionals if ROI is a concern for you.


When it comes to outdoor living, there are countless options, depending on your space, your style and your needs. Thinking of the opportunities can be exciting! Imagine lounging in a nice comfortable sofa chair with a glass of white wine and the aroma of marinated vegetables on the grill wafting your way. Achieving such a space can mean anything from purchasing furniture and a grill to custom building a space to the exact dimensions of your yard.

Popular exterior features to consider include kitchens, bar counters and grills (Chapter 1); fire features such as fireplaces and fire pits (Chapter 2); water features such as fountains (Chapter 3); overhead structures such as pergolas and arbors (Chapter 4); and space for outdoor games such as a bocce court (Chapter 5). Section Two offers an in-depth understanding of hardscape materials: stone, lumber, metal and masonry (Chapters 6–9), and Section Three introduces softscape topics: soil building, plantings, gardens, décor and lighting (Chapters 10–13). Of course, most of us would love to have them all, but space, time and budget may be limiting factors. So planning, phasing or value engineering are valuable options. Inviting family and friends to enjoy your yard and try out all the amenities may be the most important element of all.

Most of your money will be spent investing in outdoor living elements, whether you do it yourself or hire it out. Consider your key features carefully. Ask yourself, How do I like to entertain? How many people do I want to gather in an area? and Do I want a relaxing and intimate setting or a social and fun environment?




If your family is like mine, we all hover around the place where the food is being cooked. Having an outdoor counter space to prepare meals and drinks, a place to grill and a comfortable seating area will never go out of style. But what makes one kitchen better than another? Ultimately, it comes down to preference and functionality. This chapter will help you sort out the options in order to make the best decision for your home. Various building methods, choices of materials and amenities, and site selection will all be explored, as well as considerations such as adding countertops, a bar and a pizza oven.

Some projects will require professionals, but there are still many roles you can fill by yourself to bring style and functionality to your outdoor space. Built-in counters can quickly get expensive, so the Grill Counter Island project (here) will help you cut down on costs and beautify your space with customizable options. And if you like to entertain, you’ll love the Swinging Bar Shelf (here) project that provides guests with a relaxing place to hang out.


Permanent kitchen counters are the ideal choice in my opinion because they can be customized to the location and personal taste. There are a few popular ways to construct a permanent counter. The most common options are building them out of concrete masonry units (CMU), bricks/blocks, steel stud frames and prefab boxes (see the project on here for a grill counter). The benefits of building a solid counter unit are that it is a permanent fixture in your yard, adds value and purpose to a space and is relatively low maintenance.

Build-arounds are another option if you are looking to spruce up a nice freestanding grill you already own. You can build counters around the grill with paver blocks or lumber to elevate your existing grill from a stand-alone unit to a built-in look. This typically costs less and is a little simpler than permanent structures.

Prefabricated grill islands are usually made from steel stud construction to create a mobile grill unit with counters already built in. These are obviously the simplest way to get a built-in counter as all you need to do is wheel it into place. They function well, but you may lose the ability to customize it and match it to your space.


Location is probably the most important consideration when designing a kitchen, because once it’s built, you can’t move it! Typically you want to choose a spot close to your indoor kitchen so that you can easily transfer food and entertainment items. If you have to walk too far—for example, more than 30 feet—to get to your outdoor cooking area, you will use it a lot less. The idea is to extend your indoor living experience, so having close, functional access to your grill setup will increase your usage.

You also want to keep your grill away from flammable materials, so locate it a fair distance away from any wood shingling or flammable surfaces. Some localities require a 10-foot clearance from such surfaces. If you want to place your grill under an overhead structure, you need to check with your local code for height requirements and consider installing a range hood.


Amenities are what make your outdoor kitchen customized to your taste. When deciding which features to select for your kitchen, start with the basics. A grill and counter space for preparing and serving are the bare minimum but are still enough to create a great area. There are so many other frills you can add to enhance your kitchen, such as an outdoor fridge, sink, side burners and beer taps, and so on. The options are limited only by your creativity (and, okay, maybe your budget, too!).


Gas. It’s extremely important to consider the utilities when building your structure. How hard will it be to pull your gas line? Do you need to break through 30 feet of concrete to run it? The answers may prompt you to install a grill that runs on a propane tank rather than on a gas line. Get a quote from a licensed plumber or your contractor to help navigate these options.

Electricity. Electrical outlets are the second most popular amenity after a gas line because they are versatile and allow you to plug in a fridge or a wine cooler or simply charge your phone.

Water and sewer. If you plan on having an outdoor sink, you will need to run water and probably have to tie into a cleanout. Check your local code to see what is required; many areas specify that the spent water be run into the sewer line because they want to protect the environment from contaminants. However, some areas allow you to run cold water into a French drain or other drainage system. If you’re putting in a garbage disposal, then you will definitely be connecting to the sewer. All of these features give you a premium, turnkey system, but the more amenities you build in, the pricier it all gets.


Most built-in grills use natural gas or propane. Running a natural gas line is more expensive

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