Reluctant Renovator: Lawn, Interrupted

Reluctant Renovator: Lawn, Interrupted

I used to fantasize about ripping up my front lawn and planting a vegetable garden in its place. And then it actually was ripped up due to plumbing and sewer work.

After that, a dumpster sat on it for the duration of the renovation, and now I’m left with an eyesore of a front yard. My living room window currently overlooks several square yards of clay and soil, mostly clay.

Neighbors and friends were kind about our mess until Chicago had a taste of summer weather and now the comments are coming fast and furious.

“You guys gonna do something about your lawn?”

“Why don’t you just lay some sod already?”

Sadly, it’s not that easy. We need more clay removed and will put a ton of dirt in its place. Then the ground has to be graded away from the house before sod can be put down. Ten years and two back surgeries ago, I might have been up to the challenge of doing it myself, but at this point, I’m happy to hire out.

And so the calls began. I started with the companies whose flyers were shoved behind my mailbox. You know the ones that appear like robins when it’s springtime in Chicago? I made four calls resulting only in one guy leaving me an estimate to mow my front lawn weekly (apparently he didn’t notice I lack a lawn) and another guy who showed up and gave me a verbal estimate. When I told him I’d think on it, he immediately knocked $500 off of his price. He had no references, and I was suspicious.

Then I noticed an ad for a free estimate from a more professional company in my Angie’s List magazine. I brought them out. Their representative showed up on time and listened to my concerns. After measuring my lot and taking notes, he returned two weeks later with detailed plans and a quote.

Based on my research, I expected to spend $5,000 to $10,000 on landscaping. In fact, the American Society for Landscape Architects recommends spending from 5 to 15 percent of a home’s value on landscaping.

I’m in the process of gutting our two original bathrooms, so I’m looking for budget-friendly landscaping options (i.e. the lowest end of our range). We can always upgrade later, right?

The quote came in near the high end, so I continued my search. A friend referred me to a firm that designs and installs drought-resistant and native plants, which would all but eliminate the need for thirsty sod. I was thrilled when I heard they could do something for well under $5,000, except that they couldn’t. The estimate was more than double the figure we’d given them.

It looks like I’m back to a landscaper we used at our previous house. For now, I’ll likely go with the typical grass lawn and hostas (aka the Winnetka Weed) transplanted from our side yard. Granted, our front lawn won’t match the droolworthy ones on Angie’s Pinterest page, but our neighbors will be happy to see our muddy mess covered by something green.

Kim Moldofsky knows how to rock a tool belt, but her favorite technique for fixing things in her home is calling up tradesmen she finds on Angie’s List. That said, she’s learning a few things as she works to turn her “new-to-us” 1950s Cape Cod into a modern home in Chicago’s suburbs. She documents her home improvement projects at Reluctant

The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.

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