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The Best Landscape Border Materials for the Long Haul

stone mulched garden ted lare design & build

When you plan your landscaping, you are planning for the long term. You want everything, especially border edging, to last as long as possible—no matter what Mother Nature throws at it. Since landscaping is often one of the most significant investments you’ll make in your property, it can feel like you’ve wasted money if products break down, decay, or start to look dingy after just a few years. 

There’s a wide variety of products you can use for border edging. Here are the pros and cons of a few of the most common edging options available, and what we recommend for the longest-lasting hardscapes in Iowa

Plastic Edging

Plastic edging is a very affordable option, and it comes in a variety of colors and styles. However, plastic edging is a true case of “you get what you pay for.” Plastic edging degrades very quickly when exposed to the elements. Sun fades its color and weakens the material while snow and freezing temperatures make it even more brittle. Then it starts to crack, break, and look bad in just a few seasons. The plastic edging looks cheap, and it only gets worse with time. While plastic edging may seem like a great deal, you’ll be replacing it pretty frequently, and cleaning up all the bits and pieces from your yard can be difficult. We don’t recommend plastic edging to anyone. 

Spade Edging

A clean-cut line of spade edging looks fantastic. It’s minimalist, it’s definitely the most affordable option, and it allows strong landscaping to stand on its own without distraction. However, it is a high-maintenance approach. To keep it looking nice, it needs to be cleaned up at least once per year, and perhaps a second time depending on how crisp you want to keep the edge.  

Metal Edging

Metal edging products are very utilitarian and leave very clean lines. With that said, they’re not particularly attractive or creative, and they don’t bend well. These products are most useful in straight lines for commercial applications and utility areas of your home.

Natural Stone Border

One of the best and longest-lasting options is a natural stone border. Natural stone has a classic, timeless look, and fits into any landscape beautifully. As edging, natural stone is extremely durable, and weather and sunshine won’t drastically affect the look or texture. If you’re going with stone, avoid soft stone, like Iowa Buff, as it will discolor and degrade very quickly. Choose a dense stone that will stand up well to wear and tear over time. 

Stones that are at least 6″ wide and 2-3″ thick are the best for durability. If you have areas that see regular traffic from lawn equipment, like around pathways and patios, choose larger stones. Natural stone can be cut to custom sizes and installed end-to-end for a tighter or looser fit, depending on the look you’re going for.

Paver Stones

Paver stones are also a top option for landscape borders. These days, there are so many varieties, styles, sizes, and colors available to choose from! They’re also very durable and will last for a very long time. Similar to stone, we recommend larger and thicker pavers—at least 6 inches wide—for high-traffic areas.


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If you need help choosing and installing a landscape border, one of our landscaping pros would be happy to give you their opinion and some pricing for your home.  

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Working with a Landscape Pro- Your Questions Answered

stone walkway Ted lare design and build

When it’s time to consider a new landscaping project, you need to know the basics of how to work with a landscape professional. What is the consultation process? How long will it take? And how much is all of this going to cost? 

Our resident landscape expert Keegan Lare, shares his advice on what to expect when you work with our professional team here at Ted Lare.    

The First Step: The Phone Consultation  

After you call in to start a project, we organize a phone conversation with one of our designers. This typically happens within 24-48 hours of the initial call, depending on what part of the season we’re in. 

During this call, we answer any questions you may have, and we try to get a feel for the projects you’re looking for. If it seems like a solid fit for both sides, then we schedule an on-site consultation at your home or your business if it’s a commercial job. 

 

Next Steps: The On-Site Consultation

We usually meet for up to an hour to check out your residence and discuss our initial thoughts on your project. 

We charge $300 for consultations in the Des Moines Metro area, but this $300 gets credited back to you if we do the work. Depending on the complexity of the job, we may charge additional design fees to account for some of our design time. This will all be discussed on-site and agreed upon before we move forward. You will also receive that amount back in credit if you decide to carry out the project within the first year.

Most importantly, the on-site consultation is a time for you to ask questions, so don’t be shy!  

 

Common Questions during the Consultation 

Here are some of the questions you can expect us to discuss with you when we visit your property for the first time. 

 

What are your goals? 

In general, we like to ask homeowners what their top 3 goals are for their outdoor spaces. These goals help us focus on what is most important to you and allows us to develop a plan that meets your aspirations.

 
How do you live? 

We’ll also ask for general information about your lifestyle. For example, how big are the gatherings you expect to have on your new patio? What does a typical weekend look like for you? Do you love the sun, or prefer to hang out in the shade?

 

What are your tastes? 

Any images that show your taste in materials (patios, walls, etc.) always help us get an idea of what you like. Providing any previous plans for the property also helps us save time creating a base plan from scratch. 

 

What is your budget? 

Discussing a budget range is very helpful so that we know any limitations on the project. We’ll generally give options with different price points, as clients find it beneficial to have a few choices.  

 

Information Gathered for Design 

When at your site, we capture all the data we need to create an initial design. This includes several photos of the yard and home, critical measurements of the space, and information on accessibility, powerlines, and obstacles. 

This process can be quick or rather extensive, depending on the existing conditions of the location. New homes without a lot of previous installations are easy to measure and capture. Older homes with many existing hardscapes and plantings can take longer to document. 

Design Timeline 

We try to respond with design ideas and a preliminary budget within two weeks of the first meeting, but this time frame depends on the complexity of the project. If there are many construction elements to design and price out, it may take longer.  

 

Moving Forward 

After we provide you with an initial design, the decision is in your hands on how to move forward and set a schedule. Often there are different phases of work to choose from, such as tree removal, garden preparation, installation of hardscapes, etc. We are happy to do it all at one time or phase it in over a few years. Usually, it makes sense to do as much construction as possible in one trip to limit the cleanup expenses involved in multiple trips over several years. 

Once the project scope of work is agreed upon, we work to schedule the project in the near future.  If it is a simple planting, it may only be a few weeks before we can complete the work. If the project involves a lot of construction, it might be a few months before we can start a project. Once we start a job, we see it through to completion.  Our install crews are some of the best around and you will love working with them.


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The landscape consultation process is often that simple. For a small fee and in short order, you can have professional designers guide you towards your ideal renovation. If you have any further questions on the landscaping process, or would like to start a project, please don’t hesitate to contact Ted Lare Design & Build. We would love to hear from you!

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Landscape Design Trends: Covered Patio Areas & Pergolas

Covered Patio Areas & Pergolas

“Sometimes you need to step outside, get some air, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.” 
– Gossip Girl

Some people may have a fondness for rainy days, but wet weather can get in the way of enjoying your backyard. A rainy picnic is a classic frustration that has pushed covered areas to be an outdoor patio essential and make them one of the top of current landscaping trends.

This is all about lifestyle. If you find yourself wanting to spend more time enjoying your own backyard, this is how to make it happen. Imagine being able to get outside earlier in the spring, stay later into the fall, and even grill in the rain.

Why a Covered Patio?

A covered patio can be built as an extension of your home, or as a separate structure out in your yard.  As counterintuitive as it may sound, we cover our backyard space because we love to be outdoors. A covered patio opens up so many new opportunities to enjoy your time at home outside more often:

Extend the Year: Iowa isn’t quite a tropical oasis, and our harsher weather leaves us treasuring our fleeting summers. With a covered patio, your year is extended. Early spring and late fall become part of your outdoor living and entertaining season, and your summer can include protection from unpleasant weather and hot afternoon sunshine. 

Amenities: Covered patios spaces are perfect spots for outdoor kitchens, hot tubs, fire places, and outdoor TV setups. 

Protection: We are used to needing to protect ourselves and our outdoor space from rain, snow, and UV rays. With a covered patio, however, you won’t need to run outside to cover the patio furniture at the first sign of rain and you can feel free to leave your books outside without worry. 

Resale: It doesn’t take much to cover a patio, but by essentially adding another room to your house, your resale value will improve dramatically.

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Pergolas

A covered patio is an extension of your indoor space, usually sharing at least one wall with your house. A pergola is a structure that shades the seating area below it, but does not provide shelter from rain. The most common type of pergola is constructed from cedar wood. Alternative and more modern materials may include steel or aluminum.  

Typically, a pergola will have a sturdy post and beam wood frame that is covered with additional wood rafters for shade. Recently, more material options have been introduced, such as fabric shade sails or adjustable aluminum louvers. The end result is a shaded and protected area that still remains open to the rest of your yard. It’s the perfect spot for picnics, reading, or entertaining. Imagine your own personalized version with flowering vines, or maybe with a hot tub for entertaining. If you’re a romantic, imagine a freestanding pergola for a secluded corner of the yard, perfect for quiet time at home. If you are an entertainer, imagine a modern gazebo, complete with an outdoor kitchen and big screen TV for weekend parties. A pergola or covered patio is all about taking the outdoor lifestyle of your dreams and making it your reality.

You can do almost anything with a covered outdoor patio or pergola. We can customize any space to suit your family and lifestyle. When we are done with your backyard, you will not believe you lived without it for so long. 

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Landscape Design Trends: Fire Pits & Outdoor Fireplaces

Fire Pits and Fire Places Outdoor Landscaping Design Ideas Trends

“Screw your nightclub. I want to be with outdoorsy people who drink by the fire pits.” 
– Unknown

Why an Outdoor Fire Pit?

It’s human nature to look for the centerpiece of a space, a hub to organize ourselves around. It’s no coincidence, then, that this makes centerpieces so important in design. Outdoors, the most compelling centerpiece is a fire. 

While outdoor fireplaces come in a myriad of forms and designs, they all have the same function. They bring people together, whether for an afternoon roast or a late-night chat across the coals. 

The first step toward creating that experience is to take a look at how you already use the space in your yard. A fire pit will become the center of gravity in your backyard, and will affect the space around it, so place it somewhere that you want people to go, sit, and relax. 

Natural Gas, Propane, or Wood?

This is one of your first design questions. Do you want a campfire, the country vibe of a wood fireplace, or the clean convenience of gas? What could be a drawback for one person, could easily be a benefit for another. It’s largely a decision about what kind of fireplace experience and lifestyle you’re after. There are pros and cons to both:

Cleanliness: Wood may be a renewable resource, but gas burns cleaner. The smoke carries far less odor, and it produces less floating embers. Gas fires tend to give the fire experience without too many of the uncomfortable side effects. Particularly for those with family members with asthma or scent sensitivity, gas is the preferred choice. 

Ease: Gas is so popular because it’s convenient. It’s a lot faster to flip a switch than to start a fire from scratch, and it’s a relief  to know your fuel is always at hand, rather than chopping logs when you’re running low. 

Safety: Gas fireplaces should be installed by professionals. Wood has its own safety concerns, including chopping wood, and installation location.  Wood-burning fire pits and fireplaces should be located farther away from the home.

Cost: Wood-burning is cheaper in both installation and fuel, if you have it readily available. The cost of installing gas varies, depending on whether you have a propane or natural gas source  nearby.  If you have to run a new line from a long distance, it will cost a little more. The level of automation you choose will also influence the cost of a gas fire pit.  If you are OK lighting a match to start the gas fire, it will cost you a lot less than the convenience of flipping a switch.

Luckily, the decision doesn’t have to be final. You can convert a wood fireplace or fire pit into a gas burner by installing an insert. It is always cheaper to do this upfront with the initial project, but these changes can always be implemented. The cost of an insert can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the size and automation level you desire.

Fire Pit or Fire Place?

Outdoor fire comes in 2 basic styles: fire pit or fireplace. 

A fire pit is cheaper, and allows people to sit all around it. Fire pits are made for roasting marshmallows, drinking some beer, and relaxing into the late hours of the night over crackling embers. They are more difficult to incorporate into a covered outdoor room and are more vulnerable to wind, but tend to invite a more outdoorsy feeling. The height of the actual fire pit can be customized for your specific needs.  It can be sunken in the ground 12” for a more primal feel, or raised 12” with a finished stone cap for a more contemporary feel.See our portfolio of our backyard fire pit designs

A fireplace is where the fire burns above ground, typically with a chimney above. They are more expensive but can provide a larger focal point, creating an outdoor living room wherever it goes. Fireplaces are perfect for sipping wine and putting your feet up under a blanket in a cozy patio chairSee our portfolio of our backyard fire place designs

Material Options:

Fire pits and fireplaces can be created out of a variety of materials.  We use a lot of natural stone for fire pits, although there are some nice manufactured stone options available as well.  Both last a long time and costs are similar, so the main factor driving the decision is purely visual. You can see some of our installed fire pits and places on our Landscaping Materials page.

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Design Ideas:

Your ambition can go as far as your imagination and budget allow! You’ll need a stone or non-flammable base to build on, but after that, the world of design choices are entirely up to you. The easiest solutions include buying a portable metal or stone firepit to give some fire and warmth. It may not be a signature centerpiece, but it’s an easy way to get started.

On the other side of the spectrum, makeover your entire backyard living space to include a patio area with a firepit in the center to anchor your backyard. Transforming a patch of grass into a stone oasis will change the atmosphere of your yard as a whole and create the perfect space for comfort and socializing.