Landscaping, fences, patios, pools…. all can take a big bite out of your home-improvement budget. Here, Local pros give 25 tips to invest smarter.
Planning makes perfect. (Shown here: Chappaqua property designed by Jan Johnsen of Johnsen Landscapes & Pools, Bedford Hills).
way to grow
Annuals, such as the pink and white impatiens shown here, make a big impact when layered in front of existing foundation plants, such as Limemound Spiraea and PJM Rhododendrons. (Shown here: Chappaqua property designed by Jan Johnsen of Johnsen Landscapes & Pools, Bedford Hills).
1. Progress with a plan, especially when the project is an extensive one. “There is so much to take into consideration—the varieties of colors, the different blooming times—that you need to plan ahead to maximize your garden’s potential,” says Augie Alvarez, owner of Perennial Gardens, Inc., in Bedford. “You don’t want to wing it and see what happens.”
2. Choose native flowers and plants to increase the chance your garden will thrive. “While foreign plants are still popular, they require fertilizers and are prone to insect and other damage,” says Daniel Sherman of Valhalla-based Daniel Sherman Landscape Architect, PC. “Keep exotics as accents and use natives as the bulk of your plantings. They’ve already adapted to our environment.”
Jane Dyer, manager of Nabel’s Nurseries in White Plains, says homeowners can get the greatest value from perennials with attention to blooming times and strategic placement. “You can experience continuous blooms if you coordinate the planting,” she says, suggesting a combination of perennials with annuals, adding some evergreens for “year-round interest.”
3. Jane Dyer, manager of Nabel's Nurseries in White Plains, says homeowners can get the greatest value from perennials with attention to blooming times and strategic placement. "You can experience continuous blooms if you coordinate the planting," she says, suggesting a combination of perennials with annuals, adding some evergreens for "year-round interest."
4. “Perennials can be planted as a layer in front of existing foundation plantings to provide seasonal color and interest,” says Michael Labriola, whose landscaping and masonry business, Michael Labriola, Inc., is based in Armonk. Another benefit: perennials also can be used in a cutting garden, giving an excellent excuse to bring a bit of fragrance and color indoors all season. “Most perennials can be split when they mature and become too big or thick,” Labriola says. “With care, they usually can be relocated.” Examples include Black-eyed Susans, assorted varieties of phlox, and ornamental grasses.
Pay attention to blooming time and plant accordingly for year-round interest. (Shown here: garden by Daniel Sherman of Daniel Sherman Landscape Architect, PC, in Valhalla).
5. In wild and wooded Westchester, deer can eat your landscaping investment from right under your nose. Labriola notes that savvy planters select deer-resistant varieties such as boxwood, Andromeda (aka Lily of the Valley), and spiraea, and perennials like catmint (Nepeta, a June bloomer), coreopsis (aka Tickseed, a summer-long bloom), as well as ornamental grasses to create a broad botanical palette. Certain highly fragrant plants actually repel deer, including chives, garlic, onions, honeybush, lavender, mint, and sage. Want to plant bulbs? Deer aren’t too keen on daffodils, but may be drawn to tulips.
6. Dyer agrees planning is paramount, and not just to interested deer, but to the pocketbook, too. Big eyes in the garden center can mean leftover pots in the backyard. Talk to the pros in your local garden center about your plans and carefully measure your square footage to avoid purchasing more than you need. You can also turn to computer programs such as Garden Manager that do the math and planning for you. Tip: depending upon your acreage, you may want to pick plants that don’t grow too quickly or too large.
7. Consider adding an Old World, low-tech watering method to your irrigation system. “It’s becoming popular to use roof water as part of your irrigation system,” Sherman says. “Roof water is piped down the litre, stowed in an underground chamber, and used as part of the sprinkler system.” House water is added if reserves are depleted (which, thanks to Mother Nature, are refilled with every rainfall). In addition to being resourceful, says Sherman, “it’s a very green thing to do.”
8. Unless a swimming pool is close to a window or takes center stage in your yard, focus pool-area plantings on summer blooms. “It may seem obvious, but the pool doesn’t get much attention during the fall and winter months,” Alvarez says. “There’s no reason to invest in plantings that look nice in January when your pool is off in the distance.” For pools that are front and center, Alvarez plants evergreen bushes that stay verdant year ‘round, adding flowering shrubs and flowers during summer months.
Hedge your bets A fence is only as good as its installation. Ensure that installers set posts to the correct depths.
Fences and Gates
9. Don’t assume you can cut corners in areas that you can’t see; when it comes to fences and gates, installation is key. “The product is only as good as its installation,” says Vincent Bellissimo, owner of Salem Fence Company and Westchester Automated Gate, both in Baldwin Place. “For example, the posts should be set to the correct depth to ensure that the fence will stand for many years.” Any reputable company should carry a labor warranty on its work, he adds.
10. Rob Walter of Yorktown Heights’ Northern Fence says that the time of year and the type of materials can dictate the cost of a project. Do your research and you can lower your costs for the same job. “We tend to slow down in the fall,” he notes. “You probably can get a little better deal then.” He says that by installing a fence in autumn, you also avoid price increases in insurance, materials, and cost of operations, which can rise as much as 4 percent if you hold off until the following calendar year.
11. If you’re willing to look beyond wood and metal, the new PVC fencing material can save you a few bob. “The new synthetic materials really have matured,” says Walter. “They come with great warranties and they’ve got the science of plastics down.” You may pay slightly more for synthetic fencing at the onset, but it’s lighter and less costly to ship. Once installed, it requires none of the maintenance—such as the staining or other treatments—that wood fences do. Walter mentioned both Country Estates (fencesbycountryestate.com) and Eastern Fence (easternfence.com) as producers of quality synthetic borders, calling the latter “the Mercedes of vinyl fencing.”
12. Once you’re ready to bid out the project, do your due diligence. Walter encourages consumers to get more than one bid on a project and “make sure you’re comparing apples to apples—the cheapest price isn’t always the best.” Bellissimo recommends homeowners make certain they’re dealing with a licensed home-improvement contractor that carries insurance and workman’s compensation. “Visit their place of business,” he advises. “There should be an established location where you can view displays and actual products.”
Take stock Special-order products not only jack up the price, but usually come with a wait time. Consider stocked products instead. (Shown here: masonry by Carmine D’Uva of Carmine D’Uva General Contracting, Katonah).
13. When it comes to economizing, Daryl Burbank-Wear of Bedford Stone & Masonry Supply Corp. in Bedford Hills applies the old “buy local” adage. “Use materials that are native to the area,” she says, citing fuel, labor, and transit costs associated with stone that requires a long haul to your house. “Material that comes from far away can be much more expensive than fieldstone and flagstone produced closer to home.” Check with your mason to determine if specific materials are easier and less expensive per square foot to set. While you may shell out more initially, the labor to install it may be more economical, saving you money in the long run.
14. Michael Labriola points to some recent innovations that can take the sting out of stone prices: concrete pavers produced by companies such as Unilock, Cambridge, and Grinnel, look just like the real thing and offer savings in material and installation over bluestone, other natural stone, or brick for walkways and patios. Burbank-Wear also advises setting your patio in stone dust, a finely crushed stone base, rather than cement. Not only will you save on material, but labor and repairs are easier in this medium.
15. Another easy way to save? Burbank-Wear advises clients to choose stocked products versus special-order ones, which not only jack up the price, but require a wait time that can delay your project. Order all of the material you’ll need at once to save on delivery charges.
16. Take advantage of your preliminary meeting with prospective contractors. “With most, the initial consultation is free,” Labriola notes. Take the time to develop a “wish list” of what you’d like done, and be sure ask plenty of questions.
Patios and Decks
Hit the deck Composite products may look just like wood, but they they’re easy to maintain (and no splinters!). (Shown here: Latitudes Composite Decking and Railing from Universal Forest).
17. Consider using less expensive paving materials, such as stamped and pigmented concrete. “The effects that are possible with the new concrete patterns and stains are astounding: you can simulate stone or wood or simply create a colorful modern design within the paving,” says Jan Johnsen, owner of Bedford Hills-based Johnsen Landscapes & Pools. Contract the most qualified concrete craftsman available, she advises, to ensure the best results.
18. Make certain the patio is well designed and well sited, and also is large enough to accommodate all of your furniture, large planters, and access ways. “One of the biggest homeowner mistakes is making the patio too small,” Johnsen says. “You only have one chance to get it right, so don’t skimp on the size.”
19. Looking for the just-right stone around your pool? Consider temperature. “If you’ve ever walked barefoot on stone on a 95 degree day, you know what I’m talking about,” Alvarez says. In general, limestone is cooler than flagstone or granite. Alvarez also advises looking into Kool Deck concrete topping, which significantly lowers the surface temperature of concrete and helps it better withstand thermal expansion and contraction.
20. To shade your patio, a new material called Alumawood, an aluminum-based product that simulates the appearance of wood, gives a high-end look without the high maintenance that’s part and parcel of owning a lattice or solid patio cover. There’s no painting, scraping, or preservation necessary, and there’s no peeling, warping, or termites to fear. And it’s covered by a lifetime limited warranty (alumawood.com).
21. Composite decks save time and energy in maintenance, and they’re also a green choice for environmentally savvy homeowners. The material is made from recycled wood and plastic and comes complete with advantages such as durability and color retention (there’s no sanding or staining required). Manufacturers to check out include Eon, Veranda, ChoiceDek, and Trex.
in the swim
In site Site your pool to capitalize on your property’s sun exposure; it helps to maximize heating capacity. (Shown here: Landscape Construction by Perennial Gardens, Bedford).
22. If you’re building a home and are thinking about installing a pool “in the future,” consider stepping up the process. Excavation is easier while the lot is vacant, potentially reducing machinery costs. Plus, you can site your pool to make the most of your property’s exposure to natural sunlight and maximize heating capacity and retention. “Any experienced pool-construction company won’t have a problem installing a pool after a house is already built, but it makes sense to do site development with a plan in mind, when possible,” says Paul Moloney, owner of Harrison-based Moloney Pool Service.
23. If you want to prevent costly repairs in the spring, monitor your water level before and during the winter. “Drain the pool to the proper level so that standing water is below the border tiles,” says Anna Torchia, vice president of Coral Sea Pools in Briarcliff Manor. “Once that water freezes, it can damage those tiles.”
24. Consider an automatic safety cover, which provides more than just security and peace of mind. “After the initial investment, you can save 70 percent on heating costs, 70 percent on pool-chemical costs, and 90 percent of your water,” explains Torchia. “It’s like keeping a lid on a jar.”
25. Do your due diligence. “Any home-owner constructing a new swimming pool should make sure that they’re educated about the construction process, that they’ve researched prospective companies thoroughly, and that they have the pool professionally maintained by a reputable company to protect the investment they’ve made,” Moloney says.
For more details and additional resources, click on westchestermagazine.com/home.
81 Pondfield Rd., #134 • Bronxville
(914) 509-6101 • savaspace.com
Amodio’s Garden Center & Flower Shop
1160 Mamaroneck Ave. • White Plains
(914) 949-3922 • amodiosflowershop.com
Fleur Garden Antiques & Decorative Accessories
10 Dakin Ave. • Mount Kisco
(914) 241-3400 • fleur-newyork.com
194 Route 100 • Katonah
(914) 232-3570 • katonahnursery.com
45 Bedford Rd. • Armonk
Michael and Sons Nurseries, Inc.
200 Tarrytown Rd. • White Plains
300 Saw Mill River Rd., Elmsford
1485 Mamaroneck Ave. • White Plains
National Lawn Sprinklers Inc.
645 North Broadway • White Plains
Perennial Gardens Inc.
414 Old Post Rd. • Bedford
(914) 234-6311 • sculptedland.com
Poundridge Nurseries, Inc.
6 Pound Ridge Rd. • Pound Ridge
(914) 764-5781 • poundridgenurseries.com
51 Saw Mill River Rd. • Hawthorne
(914) 769-1300 • rosedalenurseries.com
Sprainbrook Nursery, Inc.
448 Underhill Rd. • Scarsdale
(914) 723-2382 • sprainbrook.com
Sun Valley Nursery, Inc.
136 Croton Ave. • Ossining
2285 Boston Post Rd. • Larchmont
Dutchess Overhead Doors
40 Arlington Ave. • Poughkeepsie
Garage Door Store
1612 Main St. • Peekskill
(914) 739-2222 • garage-door-store.com
Genesis Garage Doors, LLC
183 Strawberry Hill Ave.
Henry B. Whitaker, Inc.
Overhead Garage Doors
4 Fallsview Ln. • Brewster, New York
(914) 962-9873 • hbwhitakerdoors.com
Town & Country Door and Operator Co. LLC
390 Danbury Rd. • Wilton, Connecticut
United Overhead Door Corp.
21 Saw Mill River Rd. • Yonkers
(914) 964-0038 • uniteddoor.com
Gates & Fences
Grand Entrance Gates, Ltd.
487 E. Main St., Suite 200 • Mount Kisco
(800) 486-7553 • grandentrance.com
3199 Albany Post Rd., #112F • Buchanan (914) 736-1009 • moheganiron.com
Northern Fence Corp.
166 Tomahawk St. • Yorktown Heights
(914) 248-1100 • northernfences.com
Salem Fence Company, Inc.
34 Route 118 • Baldwin Place
(845) 628-7200 • salemfence.com
346 Ethan Allen Hwy., Rt. 7
Westchester Automated Gate, LLC
34 Route 118 • Baldwin Place
(914) 962-7770 • gatesandfences.com
Benedek & Ticehurst
Landscape Architects & Site Planners
448H Old Post Rd. • Bedford
(914) 234-9666 • btlandarch.com
(914) 378-0236 • citrolandscapes.com
Daniel Sherman Landscape Architect, PC
4 Broadway, Suite 9 • Valhalla
South Salem • (914) 763-6026
Elaine Yellen, LLC
Scarsdale • (914) 723-4090
Earth Water & Stone
25 Whittier Hill Rd., North Salem
Fiori Garden Design
(914) 591-2679 • fiorigarden.com
85 Harriman Rd. • Irvington
(914) 714-3056 • garden-artistry.com
Greener by Design
87 Wolfs Ln. • Pelham
(914) 637-9870 • greenerdesigns.com
Hallie Flanagan Wolfe Gardens, Ltd.
1380 Spring Valley Rd. • Ossining
John Jay Landscape Development
282 Katonah Ave., #268 • Katonah
(914) 232-0399 • landdesign.net
Michael Labriola, Inc.
84 Business Park Dr., Suite 214 • Armonk
(914) 273-6530 • michaellabriolainc.com
Fireplace Patio Shoppe
369 White Plains Post Rd. • Eastchester
(914) 337-5301 • fireplacepatioshoppe.com
Mis en Scene Outdoors
135 Mason St. • Greenwich, Connecticut
600 Central Ave. • Scarsdale
269 N. Bedford Rd. • Mount Kisco
(914) 666-0192 • patio.compatio.com
1331 Boston Post, Rd. • Larchmont
81 Fields Ln. • Brewster
836 Post Rd. • Darien, Connecticut
(203) 655-8444 • seasonstoo.com
Design Lighting by Marks
5A Nepperhan Ave., Suite 1 • Elmsford
Outdoor Lighting Perspectives
10 Bucyrus Ave. • Carmel
(914) 461-3307 • outdoorlights.com
NY Landscape Lighting LLC
154 Hitching Post Ln. • Yorktown Heights
(914) 962-2095 • nylandscapelighting.com
Pool Installation & Maintenance
All American Custom Pools & Spas, Inc.
225 Main Ave. • Norwalk, Connecticut
(203) 847-2704 • allamericanpools.com
Anthony & Sylvan Pools
528 Post Rd. • Darien, Connecticut
(203) 655-4040 • anthonysylvan.com
Carmine D’Uva General Contracting, Inc.
25 Route 100 • Katonah • (914) 245-7869
Coral Sea Pools
518-A North State Rd. • Briarcliff Manor
(914) 762-1133 • coralseapools.com
Johnsen Landscapes & Pools
192 Harris Rd. • Bedford Hills
(914) 666-4190 • johnsenlandscapes.com
Moloney Pool Service/Paul C. Moloney, Inc.
59 Grant Ave. • Harrison • (914) 761-8124
Prisco Better Quality Spas & Pools
1031 Yonkers Ave. • Yonkers
(914) 237-0710 • priscospasandpools.com
393 West Ave. • Stamford, Connecticut
(203) 967-1203 • shorelinepools.com
101 Noroton Ave. • Darien, Connecticut
(203) 655-0766 • wagnerswimmingpools.com
Porches, Decks, Sunrooms & Awnings
Archadeck of Southern Fairfield & Westchester Counties
144 Selleck St. • Stamford, Connecticut
Four Seasons-Suburban Sunrooms
83 E. Main St. (Route 19) • Elmsford
(914) 592-7455 • ssr.fourseasonssunrooms.com
Gregory Sahagian & Son, Inc.
18 N. Central Park Ave. • Hartsdale
(914) 949-9877 • gssawning.com
(540) 542-6300 • trex.com
Stone & Masonry
Bedford Stone & Masonry Supply Corp.
284 Adams St. • Bedford Hills
(914) 666-6404 • bedfordstone.com
Champlain Stone, Ltd.
PO Box 650 • Warrensburg, New York
(518) 623-2902 • champlainstone.com
Concrete Images in Bomanite Corp.
27 St. Charles St. • Thornwood
(914) 741-5304 • bomanite.com
51 International Blvd. • Brewster
(845) 278-6700 • unilock.com
Windows & Doors
Marvin Design Gallery by Authentic Window Design, Inc.
90 Westchester Ave. • White Plains
(914) 644-4800 • authenticwindow.com
Pella Windows & Doors
298 Tarrytown Rd. • White Plains
(914) 428-7260 • pella.com
RMS Windows & Doors
903 Mamaroneck Ave. • Mamaroneck
(914) 698-2440 • rmswindowsanddoors.com
Sunshield Energy Control Systems
129 Union Ave. • New Rochelle
(914) 633-5853 • sunshieldenergycontrol.com
The Sliding Door Company
230 Fifth Ave. • New York City
(212) 213-9350 • nyslidingdoor.com
The Window Gallery
515 North State Rd. • Briarcliff Manor
(914) 923-1740 • thewindowgallery.net
3379 Crompond Rd. • Yorktown
2361 7B Central Park Ave. • Yonkers
(914) 997-7007 • windowrama.com
Wiser Home Remodeling/Windows & Doors
529 North State Rd. • Briarcliff Manor
(914) 941-8000 • wiserwindow.com