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May 19

Gardeners and Addition Contractors - Unite!

Posted by C. Mason Hearn in landscaping, additions

Is it possible to build an addition and not seriously damage the landscaping? I have a lot of well-established foundation plantings and trees that I don't want damaged, or worse, by heavy equipment crossing over my property. This has been a major deterrent to moving forward with an addition.

- J.L. Powhatan, VA



I understand your concern very well.  Gardening is a great passion around the Hearn home.  My wife protects her azaleas and dogwoods like family members.  We had a very bad Saturday recently, when I (the lesser-skilled garden hand) cut the grass unevenly.

I fear to inform that, indeed, worse havoc might befall your lawn and garden during the course of expanding your home.  There are, however, a few steps you might take to define and mitigate the potential damage:

1)   Know that all materials in the footprint of the new addition, as well as a 3'-4' minimum working space outside the perimeter, must be either sacrificed or relocated. For the latter, make arrangements with a qualified landscape professional to assure the best chance of transplant survival.

2)   Consult a landscape professional or certified arborist where the "drip line" of trees is within the footprint of the addition or in work areas or work paths. Where goes the drip line, is also the likely extent of the root system. Any damage to the root system, or compaction of the soil thereupon, will compromise the continued viability of the trees. A professional will be able to advise how such compromise might be minimized.

3)   Communicate concerns regarding the value of your landscaping to your contractor prior to commencement, and agree on the "landscape protection rules". Measures such as tree / shrub protection fencing, controlling the work areas and travel paths, and minimizing use of heavy equipment (which may damage sod and/or compact the earth) are all possible to some extent. Your contractor should give you a good idea of what to expect, and what is practical in this regard.

4)   Know that there will typically be some incremental additional cost, as the work rules become more restrictive. For instance, it may cost an extra few hundred dollars to walk-in the framing materials or brick (rather than driving the delivery truck right up to the addition), but that might be well worth the bill for garden lovers.

5)   Agree on the terms of landscape restoration following the structural work. Some contractors only work on the "building" part, and will leave the restoration of the disturbed ground in your court. Others might include grading, restoration of topsoil and seeding or sod. Some might include a full landscaping package. There is no "wrong" answer here - you should get what you agree upon.

Summarily, you should expect some inevitable consequence to your landscaping.  However, with good communication and a contractor that shares your interests, you should be able to define the likely extent of disruption, and act accordingly to minimize any unanticipated threats.




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