Backyard Makeovers: What You Must Know Before Planning a Backyard Project for Summer

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The Do’s & Don’ts Of Planning a Backyard Makeover

Dreaming of summer already? Even though the weather outside may be too chilly for dining al fresco or a dip in the pool, the winter is actually the perfect time to start planning your backyard makeover projects. We recently interviewed Paul Saladino, owner of Stone Creations of Long Island, who shared his dos and don’ts to make sure that your project goes as smoothly as those summer days you’re day dreaming about while the snow falls. Whether building a pool, patio, fireplace, outdoor kitchen or the full works, Saldino will set you on the right path to completing your build in time for outdoor fun and entertaining with family and friends. 

DO Have Inspiration

Saladino says the first question he always asks his customers is, “what inspired you to do this project?” Is it something you saw on social media, something at a neighbor’s house?” “Years ago, everyone got their ideas from catalogs. Now it’s all social media,” says Saladino. “Once they tell me the idea for what they want, I can start a design and work in the different elements.”

If you don’t have an inspiration yet, there is a wealth of content online, from Pinterest to Instagram, to get ideas for your backyard stone project. You can even check out our very own Pinterest page to get you started.

DO Build in Phases

Creating a backyard oasis sounds like a dream come true. But it’s a big project and investment. Saladino suggests setting the expectation of doing your backyard amenities in phases. “You don’t want to go and spend a quarter of a million dollars and get yourself deep in debt. Phase it out. Start with a pool, then a patio the following year,” he says.

Check out our Guide to Building a Backyard Oasis for design and material inspiration for for pools, patios and outdoor kitchens to more extravagant pavilions and beyond. 

DO Plan Ahead

Saladino says one of the most frustrating things he experiences as a builder is when a customer comes to him with a request for pool in May, expecting the project to be installed in two weeks. Contractors book jobs far in advance, and summer is their busiest time of year. If you want a pool in time for summer entertaining, the winter is the ideal time to get started planning. “I always say two seasons out. Give yourself six months to get your inspiration together, get the permits, get the contract done, check the liabilities and insurance of the people doing the work, then book them,” he says.

DO Make The Time 

There’s no set amount of time a job will take. It depends on the project’s complexity and also making allowance for bad weather days when the project needs to be paused. Saladino says to expect about two weeks for each phase.

Natural stone pavers and stone veneer are the star of this backyard makeover.

DO Your Research

A must is to check out the company that is doing the work and make sure you get along with them. Check references, check licenses and check insurance. Saladino says to ask to see their paperwork, don’t just take their word for it. “Some guys are like, ‘yeah, yeah I got it,’ real nasty about it when asked for papers. These are not people you want to work with. Tell them you want to see it. Any licensed contractor would be more than happy to show their papers.”

A liability contract is important with coverage of a million or two. Also, make sure every worker on site is covered under the company’s workman’s comp. “You want to know they’re not just picking up workers on the corner,” says Saladino. And check that the state attorney licenses your contractor.

Most importantly, get everything in writing. “You want to have the contract, the warranty and go over every single detail,” Saladino says.

DON’T Go with The Lowest Bid

Backyard makeover build projects can run from affordable to luxurious. The cost depends on the size of the project, the materials you use, the labor, and the job’s complexity. Saladino says whatever you do, don’t try to save money. “You’ll get prices that are on the high end and the low end. Try to stay in the middle. Never go with the lowest bid and try to save money. Those contractors will try to skimp on the materials they use and cut corners. Skip a few dinners, save your money and get it done right,” he advises.

He adds to also plan for a little extra in case something comes up that will increase the cost of the project. “If a contractor gives you an estimate, add 10% just in case. If you don’t spend it, great. “You don’t want to get halfway through a job and run out of money. Put a little extra in the cookie jar.”

DON’T Disappear During the Job

When you have builders doing work on your property, it’s your responsibility to check the work daily and ensure the work is going according to your plan. “Don’t go on vacation with the idea that when you come back, you’ll have a pool,” says Saladino. All the decision makers in the household should also be looking at the job daily to make sure it’s what was agreed upon by all. Revisiting any work will cost you more money, time, and aggravation.  

DON’T Be Afraid To Ask Questions 

Saladino says you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions before or during a build. “Check progress daily to ensure everything is going as planned. Sometimes they miss things and you’ll want to catch any mistakes right away. Morning meets are often the best time to connect with your contractor. “


Checklist for Homeowners When Planning an Outdoor Project

Get Inspiration 

Pinterest is a wonderful platform to explore for outdoor project inspiration. Search for terms like these to explore boards and starting pinning your favorites……..

  • Patios
  • Outdoor living
  • Stone veneer
  • Pavers  

There are many online sources to help you create a vision or plan for your backyard oasis. Here are a few from Instone: 

  1. 6 Places Your Outdoor Design Needs Stone Fabrication and What’s Possible
  2. Use Aura Natural Stone To Turn An Ordinary Backyward Into An Oasis
  3. Summer is the Perfect Time for a Pizza Party with the ISO’ven

Make sure your backyard makeover ideas and materials are appropriate and available for your area. Instone can assist you and your contractor/builder with locating a dealer in your area. Contact us here. 

Plan Ahead 

  • Start planning your backyard makeover project in winter to break ground in spring/summer.
  • Plan for larger projects in phases and anticipate two weeks for each phase of work.
  • Check that you have the space to accommodate your project(s).
  • Find out what building permits are needed.
  • Review bids and consider the quote that comes in the middle, never go with the lowest bid to save money. 
  • Check out the license and insurance of the company you want to work with.

During The Build

  1. Make sure you have the money to pay in full when the build starts and anticipate that the cost can go up as the project moves along.
  2. Put it on your schedule to be home during construction.
  3. Review the work daily to maintain good communication with your builder and to ensure there are no mistakes that would cost you more money and delay the project.
Backyard makeover that mix and matches natural stone for a wonderful result.

Terms To Know Before Starting A Backyard Makeover

Stone Samples – Ask your local dealer for stone samples to pair with other finishes and colors and to perform your own tests. Place the samples in different areas in the stone installation area to see how it changes in various lighting and with different conditions (i.e. when wet, dry). 

Square Footage – Learn how to calculate the area for your stone project to set realistic estimations and a budget before you meet with your contractor. The calculation at its basics is length multiplied by width, but this can get a little tricky if the space is not perfectly rectangular or square. This means there may be times where you need to get approximate square footages instead. There are other variables as well of where you may need to subtract from the area like if there was going to be a firepit, water feature or flower beds in that area. This work will help save time and effort on everyone’s part. It will also help you to determine if that material you fell in love with is a fit for your project. 

Stone Fabrication – Seeing, understanding and approving of your backyard design before it is sent to a fabrication shop is key to ensuring that your project meets your expectations. You may also learn more about the wide-variety of finishes, edge profiles (split face, eased edge, bevel), and the cuts that can bring your project to life and in line with your vision.

The Instone Team - Here To Help With Backyard Makeovers

When Instone’s Fabrication and Design teams receive a plan (or drawing) set of a full backyard design, takeoff and stone schedule, they then provide an estimate to your local stone distributor. Once the quote is approved, the shop drawing process begins for each stone. It includes the type of stone, dimensions, finish and fabrication work such as edging and placement according to the stone schedule. Instone works closely with local distributors, landscape designers and contractors to ensure the shop drawing is perfectly constructed and accommodates the needs of their projects. 

Technical data – Instone will give your contractor the technical data including the stone’s stocking sizes and country of origin, as well as mechanical properties such as density, water absorption, and rupture compression strength. This information is helpful so you can have a conversation with your contractor when they reference the materials you select for the backyard makeover project. For example, will the stone you use around your pool be slip resistant and suitable for a salt water or chlorine? Will the stone be warm or cool on bare feet? What are the care and maintenance considerations? These are all good questions to ask when sourcing your project materials. 


If you have questions or need assistance sourcing material or a dealer in your area, contact Instone today. Start planning in the winter months for a fun-filled summer in your new outdoor space. 

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