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What you need to know before starting your next backyard project

Summer FanousAugust 26, 20218 min

With all the time spent indoors, recently, most people now have a greater appreciation of the outdoors. Inspired by the longing of lounging in a private backyard, renovations and master creations of outdoor spaces have taken off. The changing landscape of fall brings with it colour and cooler temperatures, perfect weather for building. With lumber prices slowly coming down, a new deck or pergola design could become a reality. Here are some things to consider before starting your next backyard project.


Sit back and daydream a bit about your ideal backyard. What features does it have? A resort-like pool with a cabana, top notch greenery, outdoor chef’s kitchen? Perhaps an unlimited budget could accommodate such a wish list. The main goal during this exercise is to tap into how a dream backyard would make you feel and suggest concepts accordingly. A nook on the patio with a comfortable chair where morning coffee can be enjoyed while basking in the sunlight, for instance. Put together a list of must haves, nice-to-haves and items you’d be willing to compromise on. Budget and timeline will uncover what matters most.

Where to build?

Not all home purchases require a land survey or real property report, but if you have one, this would be a great time to consult it.  Learning the boundaries of your land determines which improvements are allowed, especially if you don’t have a fence and share space with a neighbouring property.

Gas lines

Whether changes are being made to an existing structure or the project is brand new, it’s what’s under the earth that matters. Buried natural gas and utility lines should be located before digging the ground. Accidentally hitting one can have huge consequences including costly repairs, serious injury and death. Dig Safe Canada is a free service that provides locations of utilities and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Owning a home doesn’t necessarily mean you can do anything to the structure and land. You need a basic understanding of the municipal zoning regulations before changing anything to the foundation or structure of land, such as building an extension or deck, or even digging.

Obtaining proper permits is crucial before beginning any construction. It establishes the scope of the job and ensures that fire safety, structural standards and zoning requirements are met. Some building projects that need permits include cabanas, decks or outdoor kitchens and bathrooms (because of plumbing).

Luckily, it comes in handy when you’re selling the property as it gives comfort to potential buyers that the job was completed safely and legally. An issued building permit also puts the responsibility on the developer to do the job according to plan and to code.


There have been many horror stories of trees being removed without proper permits resulting in flooding of neighbouring homes. Homeowner’s insurance could be invalidated due to not securing a building permit. Not having one can have worse repercussions like being ordered to completely halt the project, rip out all the completed work or start all over again at your own cost.


Spend time in your backyard to get a feel for light patterns and seasonal changes. Which areas provide shade and which feel the warmth of the sun? Start by analyzing the spots that would thrive and which would require protection from the elements. Once this step has been taken care of, the landscaping can begin. Factor in any existing items to be incorporated into the new design. Consider saving money by giving that old fence a makeover. Sanding it down and adding a fresh coat of exterior paint goes a long way.


Those with the skills to complete their backyard projects on their own may find a huge sense of joy accomplishing something so rewarding. When it comes to hiring contractors like landscapers, designers and surveyors, it’s important to do due diligence. Think twice before agreeing to work with just anyone and make sure recommendations are backed by solid references and reviews.

Home improvements and backyard projects could result in bettering your physical well-being and mental health. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors has a positive impact on mood. Experiencing the sights and sounds in nature may reduce negative feelings of anxiety, insomnia, irritability and depression. Having a welcoming and natural setting to retreat to in the backyard is beneficial and likely to add value to your home.

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Summer Fanous

Summer Fanous is an international freelance writer specializing in real estate, health and lifestyle content. A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University, she enjoys traveling and crafting in her spare time.

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