When you start thinking about improving your landscape, a lot of things may come to mind. Replacing old concrete with a large stone patio for entertaining, a flattened play area for your kids, a beautiful tree to provide a focal point from a window, or a vegetable garden with raised beds for your homegrown goods. If you’ve done a landscape or other construction project before, you may also have had to think about how to get everything IN and OUT. Access can be a real bummer -or savior- in any construction project. As so many Bay Area homes have multiple flights of stairs, or side yards 3′ wide, or – especially if you live in San Francisco- no side yard at all, we’re used to dealing with challenging access issues.
As designers, our favorite part of our job is coming up with cool ideas to make your space better. Unfortunately, we also have to think about your access. How are we going to fit that hot tub through that gate? What’s it going to take to pour concrete when the truck has to park 250′ away from the patio? Are those really 65 stairs, Barry??? (I heard this one from our project manager, Maribel, just last week. Our foreman on that job had us take a picture of his belly on day one of construction, since he’s pretty sure it won’t be there anymore on day 30. Another crew member asked for an oxygen tank). That one is an extreme case- and the clients are well aware of the challenges, and understood that some of the costs were increased because it will take more time to get materials and tools in and out of their backyard.
On the other hand, when we have that rare project with 8′ on each side of the house, and it’s flat or downhill from the street (or has a driveway that goes all the way to the back! Or we got Lazarforce 1 back from the shop, and our helicopter pilot PFC Wingnut can just drop the stone pallets in for us!) we are extremely happy.
Some of the most crucial elements of a project are the ones that you don’t even get to see. Drainage. Wall, fence and deck footings. Irrigation piping. These are not the fun parts of your design and installation, but they’re important. We see access in a similar light. It should be considered when designing and estimating your project, but it can eat up budget, influencing choices in landscape elements.
It’s not nearly as exciting to spend your money on moving materials as a firepit. We know this. But if you want said firepit in a patio at the top of your hill, and this which trenching a gas line 24″ deep and 60′ long, moving all the stone up 30 stairs, etc. etc., we may come up with a different idea. We want you to have your firepit. But if you could have a bigger patio and a water feature for the same cost if you put the firepit, somewhere else, we’ll probably suggest it. It may not seem all that important, but when your patio is done and you have to move your brand-new beautiful wrought iron furniture up 32 stairs to set it up, you’ll see our side of the story. After a nice long nap.