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From pizza ovens and fire pits to exotic water features and vine pergolas, sprucing up your outdoor entertaining area and landscape is a big project to take on. With so many products, appliances, materials and designs to choose from, it can be difficult to know:
To help add value and character to your backyard, we’ve created this structural landscape renovation guide to explore the considerations and costs involved for an outdoor entertaining area renovation.
We turn to architect Michelle Bull and expert builder Samuel Tastzidis for advice.
As a defining element of any outdoor area, many Australian homeowners place a deck/patio at the top of their landscape renovation “to do” list.
However, as Samuel Tastzidis suggests, it’s important to understand that a deck or patio may require ongoing maintenance which could influence costs:
“Keep in mind that timber is a natural product and needs to be maintained. I recommend oiling your deck, instead of using a hard finish lacquer because the oil is better for the timber. Initially, the timber will soak up a lot of oil so it may need to be done every 3 months for the first year and every 6-12 months after that.”
Michelle Bull highlights an alternative to a timber deck: “A stone or tiled patio, properly sealed, will not require the sort of maintenance that a timber deck will. Rustic, irregular pavers will have a softening effect whereas rectilinear, uniform sized, even surfaced paving will tend to be harsher and more formal.
“Avoiding large expanses of paving and introducing different surfaces and textures will also help to soften and humanise the space, as will the scale of the structures built.”
Popular timber decking materials include black butt, iron bark and spotted gum which feature on the premium end of the range. Timbers such as merbau, northern box or treated pine are less expensive options.
However, Samuel Tastzidis warns that although a popular choice, merbau can be damaging to surrounding surfaces, especially stone or concrete, as it can cause staining when exposed to water.
For a low maintenance choice, Samuel Tastzidis suggests that concrete could be a viable option: “A concrete slab for can be built and then never touched again. You can cover your slab with many different finishes- coloured concrete is a fairly cheap option and a stencil or stamped finish is also popular. For a more high end renovation, tiles or stone can be laid on the slab.”
According to Pro Patios, a simple patio-deck will cost around $180 per square metre whereas a more premium supply and installation can go as high as $900 per square metre.
Plain concrete can cost anywhere from $45 to $75 per square metre, while coloured concrete is around $55 to $90 per square metre. For a stencilled finish, you’re looking at around $75 per square metre while a stale impression will set you back $65 per square metre.
Samuel Tastzidis estimates that the average size of a timber deck is 15 square metres which could cost between $3,000 and $5,000, depending on the materials and finishes used.Back to top
Many houses have large amounts of rock in their backyard or they’re on a sloping block where the area is impractical. Retaining walls and stairs are designed to solve this issue, involving a cut and fill process on a sloped block to create a practical, multi-level area.
Typically retaining walls are built from timber sleepers, split-face blocks, bricks, sandstone or concrete.
If you’re looking to cut costs, Samuel Tastzidis says “Timber sleepers are the cheapest option and can be done as a DIY job generally.” Otherwise, a concrete or brick retaining wall will require engineered footings and experienced tradesmen to complete the job properly.
“Retaining walls generally require quite a bit of excavation as a footing is required. It’s important to ensure your retaining wall is appropriately water-proofed as you don’t want your retaining wall going mouldy.
The average retaining wall is 1.2m x 5m which could cost around $270 per linear metre for a pine or block retaining wall, or as much as $440 per linear metre for a brick retaining wall.
Michelle Bull notes that the finish will greatly impact the cost of a retaining wall: “If a lot of stonework is included, it will be expensive. For the types of pavers or tiles..again stone is at the upper end of the cost scale, whereas brick paving and timber decking are at the cheaper end of the spectrum.
“Masonry garden beds are a more expensive option whereas creating stairs from timber sleepers and gravel or metal edging is a less expensive option than a concrete and paved solution.”Back to top
If you have the budget, an outdoor kitchen provides great opportunities for entertaining. Generally an outdoor kitchen space will include a bar fridge, sink, gas burner for a fry-pan or wok, a pizza oven, bench space and cabinets.
For outdoor kitchen appliances, opt for stainless steel as it won’t be easily damaged or susceptible to rusting from outdoor weather conditions.
Samuel Tastzidis sheds light on some barbeque and outdoor kitchen options: “The benchmark for Australian BBQs has always been a Weber model with gas being more popular than charcoal these days.”
“You can buy an entire basic outdoor kitchen at Bunnings or Harvey Norman which you can generally install yourself. Otherwise, you can speak to a cabinet maker who will custom-design and fit your dream outdoor entertainment area.”
The cost of the outdoor kitchen will depend on its size as well as the materials and appliances you choose. A basic outdoor area with a patio, BBQ and countertop may cost a few thousand dollars while a luxury design with modern appliances will cost much more.
A pizza oven from Bunnings may set you back around $500 whereas an ‘off the shelf’ outdoor kitchen including bench space may be around $2 200.
However for a built-in kitchen area, the costs will increase significantly where labour alone, depending on how detailed the work is, could set you back $800.
Keep in mind that outdoor refrigeration appliances such as wine chillers have ongoing costs to keep them cold which will bump up costs significantly.
Check out some discounts and coupon codes for the BBQ Store.Back to top
A typical Australian backyard often features a swimming pool, yet this can be a highly costly feature that requires ongoing maintenance.
Before building a pool, Samuel Tastzidis warns that it’s important that you’re aware of what your block of land sits on: “A $45,000 pool could end up costing thousands more if you're sitting on rock, because the removal of rock is highly expensive.”
In terms of the aesthetics of a backyard pool, Michelle Bull says:“Introducing water features is a great way to introduce calm and coolness to a space. Again it adds cost and involves pumps and other additions, but it may be worth the extra expense when the quality of the space is taken into consideration.
If introducing spas, a purpose-built concrete and tiled spa will be a more expensive option than building an off the shelf spa into a deck, for instance.”
For recommended materials, Samuel Tastzidis says that pools with concrete and a tile finish are amongst the most popular: “Swimming pools are generally built out of concrete with a render or tile finish which vary in shape in size from the popular plunge pools to large resort style pools with water features and a spa.”
Depending on the size of the area, you can buy ready-to-go plunge pools and spas from suppliers such as Spa World for around $4,000 - $5,000 for a low-cost option.
Alternatively, the average cost to build an average 8m x 4m pool in Sydney is around $45,000-$50,000.Back to top
A pergola is a great way to optimise space in an outdoor entertaining area for both the warmer and cooler months.
Michelle Bull offers insight for some lighting and roofing considerations when building a pergola: “If the structural element is to be roofed then introducing skylights will help to maintain light levels internally if the structure is connected to the house. Again this more 'finished' approach, involving ceiling structures as well as roof will add to cost. A fixed skylight will be cheaper than an operable one , however the latter may create better airflow and ventilation. A cheap alternative would be to use clear acrylic roofing, but the overall impression would be vastly different.”
If you’re looking to cut costs, then she suggests that shade cloths are a good solution, but they aren’t water tight.
Most pergolas are made of treated pine, hardwood or steel and feature semi-transparent roofing such as laser light or the more expensive Makrolon.
For a roofed and ceiling structure, you may opt for timber slatted hardwood ceiling which would be more expensive than a fibre cement sheet ceiling. Michelle Bull suggests that you can combine the structural and softer landscape elements for a pergola.
“Roofing options to provide shade could be hardwood timber slats or cheaper options like ‘natureed’ (a Bamboo product) or just grow a climbing vine like Wisteria, Bougainvillea, Jasmine or an ornamental grape vine for shade.”
For a pergola with an operable roofing system that’s watertight when closed, and opens to allow in light and air when sunny, it would cost around $10,000 - $30,000, without the rest of the structure.
Before committing your time and financial resources towards a landscape renovation, you need to undertake meticulous research so that your renovation goals and considerations are clearly defined. Whether it’s an ad-hoc project or a large-scale renovation, you need to be diligent about how you’d like to execute your project by considering the ambience, spatial orientation and size of the external area, as well as the components of the project to ensure that your outdoor renovation is a success.Back to top
The right plants are an integral component of any outdoor space, adding a natural element to the area and helping your outdoor space blend in with its surrounds.
The best tip when deciding on plants for your garden is to choose species that are well suited to your local climate. After that, the choice really is up to you.
If you don’t have a green thumb, choose low-maintenance plants. If you’ve got an ugly wall or shed that needs to be concealed, climbing vines can be used to create a gorgeous green wall. Maybe you want privacy, ground cover, beautiful flowers or even to grow a few herbs and veggies, so choose your plants according to your needs.
The choice when it comes to plants is more or less unlimited, so develop a coherent idea of exactly what you want before you start shopping.
The cost of plants varies greatly depending on the type and number of plants you need. As an example, if you want to create a garden with a lush tropical feel, you might consider the 250mm Archontophoenix Bangalow Palm from Bunnings for $34.98, or the 300mm Ravenea Majestic Palm for $46.98.
If you’re looking for hardy plants to create a drought-proof garden, succulents like aloe vera (120mm - $12.99 from Bunnings), sansevieria (180mm - $29.99 from Bunnings) and agave attenuate (180mm - $17.88 from Bunnings) are all suitable.
Alternatively, you might prefer a more traditional garden filled with colourful flowers, so a rose bush (200mm - $36.50), assorted gerberas (130mm - $7.98) or blue agapanthus (bulb pack - $20.27) might take your fancy.
Grass is a crucial component a landscape as it gives natural colour, functionality and ambience to a space. Of course, behind every patch of grass is good-quality soil, so ensure that the grass species you choose is well matched to the soil beneath it.
If you’re lucky, the existing soil at your site may be good for the garden, grass, paving or whatever other feature you plan to lay on top of it. But if the soil is not suitable for your intended use, you may need to buy some soil or soil mix.
For example, you might need a good-quality topsoil for turf underlay, a premium garden soil to encourage plant growth, or a garden mix that contains a combination of organic matter and soil.
When choosing grass for your outdoor project, it’s important to make sure the turf you choose is ideal for its intended purpose. Consider the soil, climate, shade cover, what it will be used for and how willing you are to take on extra maintenance duties when making your decision.
Some commonly available grasses are:
Alternatively, if you want something really low maintenance to cover a small space, consider installing a section of synthetic turf – it actually looks more realistic than you might think.
Turf costs vary depending on the variety of grass you choose. For example, if you need turf cover for a site from 1 - 29m2, Ace Landscape and Turf Supplies in Belrose, NSW, sells Sir Walter Buffalo for $10.45 per square metre, Kikuyu for $6.60 per square metre and Wintergreen Couch for $8.80 per square metre.
If you choose a slightly less natural option, a 1.8-metre wide strip of Tuff Turf natural synthetic turf is $74.90 per lineal metre from Bunnings.
In terms of soil, Ace Landscape and Turf Supplies stocks turf underlay from $44 per cubic metre, premium organic garden mix from $69 per cubic metre, and vegetable soil mixture from $69 per cubic metre.
Fencing helps create ambience and privacy in an outdoor setting.
There are several fencing options available for your outdoor renovation project, including:
The material you select, the length and height of the fence will all influence the overall cost. As a rough guide, costs range from around $30 to $100 per metre and include labour and materials.
To give you a more detailed idea, Colorbond fencing will typically be at the upper end of the price scale, around $75 to $100 per metre. Getting a timber paling fence installed by a professional, meanwhile, averages around $60 to $65 per metre. Glass pool fencing panels and installation will start from about $200 per metre.
Paving can perform a variety of important tasks in an outdoor area, from offering an easy way to get around to providing good looks, unique layouts and the benefits of minimal maintenance. Paving can be simple and functional, or it can be an eye-catching design feature in its own right.
You’ll need to consider a range of factors when selecting the right pavers for your project, including the design you want and the type of traffic that the pavers will receive.
Sandstone offers a lovely natural look and a wide variety of colours, making it perfect for a range of uses. Granite pavers are durable and look great around pools, while slate can make a beautiful and long-lasting addition to many outdoor areas. Other options you might like to consider include bluestone, limestone, concrete and bricks.
As every outdoor landscape is unique, paving costs can vary substantially for each individual project. Not only are costs affected by the materials you select, but also the site conditions and the complexity of installation. To give you a rough idea, the pavers themselves cost anywhere from $12 to $100 per square metre, depending on whether you want basic square concrete pavers or more intricate, exotic options.
Then there’s the cost of getting the pavers laid. Labour costs for a simple job, for example a job on a level, easily accessible surface, start at $20 per square metre. Labour costs on jobs that require intricate paving arrangements and have a range of other complicating factors could go up to $50 per square metre, or even as high as $100 per square metre on the most complex jobs.
Like any major renovation, the factors to consider before throwing your time and money at a landscaping project can seem endless. Here are just some of the things to keep in mind before initiating a landscape renovation.
Ambience is everything, according to Michelle Bull, who suggests that homeowners envisage the end result of the design and aesthetics of their backyard before starting the project.
“Whether you’re after a tropical, lush garden, a structured formal garden or a modern streamlined space, the ambience will affect the cost involved. For instance, if you wish to achieve a tropical garden but live in a hot sunny area or have an orientation that’s sunny, then watering systems will be essential.
“Generally a formal landscape involves more structural elements - raised masonry planters, paved areas that require a concrete slab base, for example. A modern approach may involve trying to obtain large spans free of post and structure, which would only be achieved with steel structure adding to the costs.”
The orientation and nature of your outdoor space will determine the approach taken to the overall renovation, as well as the structures and components required:
“If you have a north facing backyard that has sun all day, you may want to introduce shade structures. If it’s south facing retaining sunlight may become a priority”, Bull says.
“You need to consider whether the site is flat or sloping. A sloping site easily lends itself to creating different areas defined by changes in level, but this will add to costs as retaining walls and steps will be needed.”
Michelle Bull points out that the available space will determine the size, type and scale of the structures for the landscape renovation:
“If the space is small, the deck/patio and other structures may be the main elements, and retaining enough planting to give a good feel to the space and yet give useable outdoor areas may be what defines the approach taken.”
“Using an ‘off the shelf’ structure will significantly reduce costs as opposed to a purpose built structure. It’s a compromise as it is not designed with the site, house, garden or clients needs in mind, but it may be an alternative if the rest of the space is well designed and thought out.”
The components of a structural landscape or outdoor renovation project will greatly affect the required budget. Major components may include a deck, pergola, an outdoor room, a pool and water features, fire pits and a BBQ area.
“Designing structural and other landscape elements is often the opportunity to give structure and definition to a space that may be bland and amorphous.”
According to Michelle Bull, the first step in deciding what elements to include is to define the project brief to get a realistic idea of your budget:
“Often your wish list will far exceed your budget, so be realistic and prioritise the areas and things that are most important.
Think gas, electricity, water.
You’ll need to maintain these outdoor services to optimise the practicality of the outdoor space. For instance, Michelle Bull suggests that garden lighting is highly useful in outdoor entertaining areas: “Lighting the garden beyond the deck or other structural outdoor element will visually extend the space as well as creating atmosphere.”
Not only do you need to consider the running costs of maintaining your outdoor area, but you need to think about the labour costs involved for executing your renovation, such as the hiring of professional contractors.
It’s essential that you contract a professional builder and clearly set out what is to be built, what the finishes are and the fixtures and fittings that will be used. Michelle Bull offers some advice about finding the right builder: “When hiring a builder, check references, past work for quality, how they managed the process. Were past clients happy? Did they maintain a good relationship with their clients? A bit of research can avoid headaches later on.”
Additionally, she recommends signing a building contract and other contract documents so the legal responsibilities and the scope of work is clear. This will lessen the chance of disputes and possible variations to the agreed costs and scope of work further down the track.
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