Respect, Remove, Repurpose: Keys for Landscape Renovations

Photo by ZDA, Inc.

More space, more parking, a garage, or a fresh look? When you make major changes to your home or landscape, take advantage of the disturbance and make your outside spaces more functional and enjoyable. Before you begin, analyze what you love about your current spaces and what things you find are persistent annoyances. Then look at how your desired improvements will fit into the site and relate to existing features. Change is bittersweet. To make room for the new, we usually have to sacrifice something. With a little extra forethought, your finished project will exceed your dreams.

by ZDA, Inc.

Respect, Remove, Repurpose

What to keep, to remove, and to repurpose are key considerations for ensuring the new maintains the unique character of the old and results in great spaces that resolve old problems. To start, determine what is sacred and must be protected to respect the inherent sense of place. This could be a special tree, a choice view, a prized patio, or a historic feature. Next, decide what is not worth saving or must be sacrificed. You may want to save a special tree, but if heavy equipment is driven near an oak tree during the construction process, for example, it may be better to take it down. Be realistic. Oaks are very slow to show decline but are extremely sensitive to construction damage and often die 1015 years after construction. Removing a large tree 10 years down the road after everything is established will undoubtedly be more disruptive and expensive. Anticipating problems may allow you to protect the trees from damage or utilize the wood from the trees that are best removed. Salvaging and repurposing pavers, flag stones, wall materials, landscape ornaments, and architectural features help to create a sense of place that connects old to new.

by ZDA, Inc.

Fit and Flo-Transitions

Access and circulation are often the least thought about and most impactful changes you can make when renovating your landscape. Changing entrances, steps, and walkways changes how we are invited into the home and out into the landscape. A stoop that is too small can make it hard for one person to get to the door, much less a group of friends or family. Narrow, tall, or uneven steps leading up to the door are a deterrent which makes us less likely to use an entrance or an outdoor space. Decks, patios, and paths extend your living space to the outdoors to visually and functionally expand indoor improvements. Take advantage of renovation opportunities to make more gracious entrances, improve curb appeal, and enhance the architecture of the home and the unique features of the site.

by ZDA, Inc.


Change is inevitable. Whether expanding or updating a look, the best home and landscape renovations incorporate a level of sustainability and resiliency that adapt as a familys needs change over time. Regrading is a great opportunity to create flat spaces for children to play and adults to entertain. It can also solve drainage issues and improve access around the home, making it easier to maintain and age in place. Restoring disturbed areas is an opportunity to incorporate sustainable lawn alternatives and rain water infiltration features, such as gardens and permeable pavements. Consider planting new trees for the next generation, providing a respite on hot summer days, and cutting down on cooling costs. With some planning, many spaces can become multi-functional areas that will serve you well over the years. For example, the space under a deck is typically regarded as uninviting, but a well-designed deck creates great access, enhances views, and the under space can be used for storage or play, or screened in for additional summer living space.

Respect, remove, and repurpose. These three considerations during the planning process can enhance the beauty, function, and sustainability of your home while potentially saving significant cost, materials, labor, and headaches down the road. Anticipating the changes to the landscape during a home renovation provides a unique opportunity to enhance your outdoor space. The disturbed landscape will need restoration, so the time to make big changes is during the construction phase while the big equipment is there and changes can be easily made. Renovations are a time for change, but when youre finished with the project, it should look amazing and like it has always been there.

Joan W. Ziegler is a horticulturist and garden designer, and Jared A. Vincent , PLA, ASLA, is a landscape architect for ZDA, Inc. Landscape Architecture, 4797 Capitol View Road, Middleton.

Call (608) 831-5098 or visit .

Photographs provided by ZDA, Inc.