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Landscaping for a new home: What new homeowners must know

“Always pick your yard based on your Summer lifetstyle.”


January 17, 2019 - Karl Yeh

So you just bought a brand new home. What are your landscaping responsibilities?  In this episode, we discuss landscaping for a new construction home. We explore what home builders provide for landscaping, some tips for new homeowners, mistakes to avoid and impact of house settling. 

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Karl Yeh:

Hi everyone, Karl Yeh here. Welcome to another Homebuyer's School video, a channel where you get the latest strategies, tactics, and tips from home buying experts. Remember, if this if your first time on this channel and you want to get the latest strategies from the experts, hit the subscription button below. Hit the little notification bell [00:00:30] so you don't miss anything.

Today I'm joined by Kurt Gibson, Director of Construction Management with Brookfield Residential. The topic we're going to cover is landscaping in a new home construction.

Kurt, can you tell me,

When you're buying a new home, what does the builder actually provide in terms of the landscaping?

Kurt Gibson:                      

A typical standard would be they would excavate the ground after it's done. Obviously when they're building the home there's all the ground around that has to be cleaned up. They would excavate that to the point where [00:01:00] it's gotten low.

Usually they put about six to eight inches of topsoil on top of that.

And that's for any planting, and sodding, and everything you wanna do. I know us as a builder, we typical in a lot of cases will put front yard sod in.

Karl Yeh:                          Okay.

Kurt Gibson:                      

Not every builder does, but some will do that. Not a lot of builders do a complete package, at least on the production side of the building.

New homeowner landscaping tips

Karl Yeh:                          

Yeah. I guess, what are some tips in terms for a new homeowner to take care of [00:01:30] the landscaping around, or make additions to that landscaping?


Kurt Gibson:                      

One of the big things that's important is we have to get what we call a grade certification on every property. What that is, is gets registered with the city.

The whole point is so that the grades are determined and what you wanna do is not cause any issues with your neighbors.

A lot of times, misconceptions, people will come in and start grading their own yards and digging things up, changing the grade.

Karl Yeh:                        Oh, okay. Yeah.

House settling and landscaping

Kurt Gibson:                

And then what happens is that their neighbors end up getting water. Sometimes it can cause water [00:02:00] in their basements and stuff.

You don't want to be messing with that too much unless you figure it out or get somebody, an expert to come in and determine what the right thing is to do there.

The big thing for me is in Calgary's climate, again, you want to go through a year of settlement.What that typically means is that when we excavate, obviously every building we do, we typically excavate a hole in the ground.

You're basically taking dirt out. When you put dirt back in it doesn't settle at the same rate.

Karl Yeh:                         Yeah.

Kurt Gibson:                  

You typically want it to go through all four seasons, especially [00:02:30] rainy season to do it.

One misconception is I've seen a lot of people take a hose and try and go around the house to try and increase the settlement.

Karl Yeh:                          Oh, really?

Kurt Gibson:                     

But what happens is they end up putting water in their basement, or they get water in the neighbors basement because they're forcing so much water into the ground.

Karl Yeh:                         My dad has done that. Yes.

Kurt Gibson:                      

At first it's so much water in the ground. Water will just find a place to get in.

If it goes underneath the footings or comes up through the basement.

The thing people want to remember with that is you don't want to be doing that because [00:03:00] you could probably void your warranty with your builder if you do that.

Karl Yeh:                          Oh, really?

Kurt Gibson:                      

And you can actually cause concrete issues, cracking issues by forcing so much water.

Because, again, the pressure is ... water is always gonna try and find inside if it can, or go to a place where it can go out to a normal air space or something like that.

Karl Yeh:                           

What other mistakes do some new homeowners make in terms of that landscaping grading issue?

Kurt Gibson:                       A lot of people want to get it done.

Karl Yeh:                          Yeah.

Kurt Gibson:                      

I mean, I get it. Kids, dogs, you want to get your landscaping [00:03:30] done.

But I think rushing it quickly is probably one of the biggest things people have.

But if you are gonna go do it, I think you have to be prepared for the fact that if you're moving in, say in the wintertime and you wanna get it done in the spring, you have to be prepared for the fact that you know you're gonna have to deal with some of the settlement issues.

Karl Yeh:                         Yeah.

Kurt Gibson:                   

Because around your house it's gonna settle quite a bit. It can settle, I've seen it as much as three or four feet deep. The big problem is people go to try and throw more topsoil in.

Topsoil is not a great, you have to make sure you get some clay or something [00:04:00] in there. Bring that up so that you can get the proper base in, and then put topsoil.

Because again, what happens if it's not done properly? Water forcing against your foundation puts pressure on it and finds ways to try to get out.

Karl Yeh:                          

Remember, if you have any questions about house settling, watch our video above.

If you do want to change maybe some of your landscaping grading, is it something that you might want to talk to your builder with before you actually make that direction?

Kurt Gibson:                      

In some cases you wanna talk to your builder.

I think the biggest thing you need to do is talk to your neighbors.

I [00:04:30] mean, it's really about working that out with your neighbors because it's not an issue between the builders.

The builders do it.

We typically design a street, so we're doing the entire street and trying to figure that out, where the last thing you wanna do is cause an issue typically with your neighbor and have bad relations there.

Karl Yeh:                          Yeah.

Kurt Gibson:                      

If you want to change it, you need to put a retaining wall in. You probably want to turn around and talk it.

You can also talk to, there's lots of landscaping companies out there that certainly should have the expertise to be able to help drive that solution to you.

Karl Yeh:                         

Once you take possession of a new home, that landscaping is pretty much your responsibility?

Kurt Gibson:                      

It is, yes it is [00:05:00] .

One of the big misconceptions we have as builders, a lot of times you get ... we get a phone call in a year.

We'll put it in say in the summertime and customers will come back and call us and they'll be wanting new trees replaced, they want sod replaced and they didn't bother to water it.

Karl Yeh:                         Oh, okay.

Kurt Gibson:                      

We don't water or we don't warranty that because it's obviously as soon as we turn it over it really is a maintenance issue for the homeowner to take care of.

Karl Yeh:                         

What's interesting is I've had some city folk come into [00:05:30] my neighbor's yard and they actually started watering the trees. I don't know if that has anything to do with it.

Kurt Gibson:                      

Well, again, I think it's important to water your trees. I'm not horticulturist but I mean, the bottom line is that you can certainly look up a lot of this stuff online and determine what trees need what watering. I think it's obviously beneficial.

I mean, I live in an older area where they always say you should put water on your trees and stuff, but make sure you do it to the right amount. The last thing you wanna do is have so much water that it's going into a direction that's gonna cause damage to someone's property or something.

Karl Yeh:                           [00:06:00] Awesome. Do you have anything else to add?

Kurt Gibson:                       I don't

Karl Yeh:          Great. Well my question for you is:

What are some of the landscaping tips you have when buying a new home?

Let us know in the comments below.

Thank you very much for joining us and we'll catch you next time.


Your turn:

Let us know if you have additional home construction or home buying questions that we can answer by submitting them in the comments section below. 

Homebuyer's School publishes new content weekly so subscribe or check back regularly for the latest information, strategies and tips from home buying experts. 

About Kurt Gibson:

Before starting his work career, Kurt Gibson, received Diploma’s from SAIT in Architectural Technology and Building Development Technology. Several years ago Kurt completed the Business Essentials “Mini MBA” from U of C Haskayne School of Business. Kurt has over 30+ years of experience in the Home Building Industry in Calgary and has work for several Builders over that time in all capacities from Sales, Design, Estimating, Construction and Customer Care. He prides himself in having strong leadership skills with coaching backgrounds in both sports and the business world.


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