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It used to be that when a homeowner wanted to do a project on the exterior of their home, they hired several different companies to execute the task—a fence company, a driveway company, a swimming pool company, a sprinkler company, a landscape company—and so on. Oftentimes, the homeowners created the design themselves, or came up with the majority of the creative ideas.

Now, with the birth of exterior “Design/Build” companies, there are turnkey options that allow the homeowner to turn over the creativity (Design) and the installation (Build) of an entire project to an expert in those projects. There is, however, some buyer education that goes into hiring a Design/Build firm.

First, what is a Design/Build firm?
Simply put, a Design/Build firm has certified or degreed designers on staff that take the footprint of your home and property, and “design” the project, oftentimes using CAD (Computer Aided Design) software. Since the designer is trained in landscape, architecture, structures, and everything in-between, they have the credentials to appropriately design your dream home exterior. Homeowners work directly with this expert to create their dream exterior living area.

Next, after an approved design, the firm actually does the physical construction of the project. This allows accountability to reside within one company, and not the client as it used to be. Often, the designer is the lead project manager on the construction—assuring that the design is transferred as the project is installed.

Second, what elements can be included in a Design/Build project?

Outdoor Living Areas – These segments have gained in popularity in recent years, and truly provide an extension of the interior of a home. Because Kansas City is a three-season area, they can be used in spring, summer and fall. Sometimes, they can even be used in the winter.

Patios and Walkways – Most Outdoor Living Areas have patios and walkways as the benchmark of the project. Typically constructed out of natural stone or pavers, they offer a natural gathering location for parties and family get-togethers. Sometimes seat-walls and retaining walls are used for additional places to sit.

Fireplaces and Firepits – Used as a focal point, they are practical and aesthetic in nature. Positioned and constructed properly, and they can make an Outdoor Living Area usable in the winter.

Water Features and Fountains – The sound, look and feel of running water makes a backyard feel like it’s in its own world – away from neighbors and distractions.

Outdoor Kitchens – Recent technology has allowed kitchens to be constructed outside – including grills, stoves, refrigerators, warming bins and sinks. They often have granite or stone countertops, and bars added to them for the ultimate outdoor party gathering area.

Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs – From beach entry to built-in hot tubs, swimming pools are popular in Outdoor Living Areas, especially when families like to spend time in the water in the summertime.

Decks and Fences – Normally wood structures, fences can incorporate stone or brick pillars, and add privacy as well as protection. Decks are sometimes an alternative to a stone patio when elevation is an issue coming off the front or back of the home.

Lighting – No exterior project is complete without making it usable after the sun goes down. Accent lighting throughout a project brings attention to the architectural and physical elements, as well as adds safety when areas are being used during the nighttime.

Landscape – Areas that do not have a structure on them are often complemented with the softness of landscape plant material – adding color and four-season greenery to an incredible property. Special attention is made to make appropriate plant recommendations for the property, to assure an incredible mature landscape.

Although not a full list of Design/Build elements, the options are limitless to create a dream exterior of a home. One common misconception about a Design/Build project is timing – it takes some time to accurately design a cohesive project, as well as install it. Also, Design/Build firms can design, and usually install twelve months out of the year. The only exception to winter installation is typically the plant material—all other elements can usually be construction, even when it’s colder outside.

The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) is the trade association for over 4,500 Landcare professionals from coast to coast. To find a Design/Build firm that has the characteristics above, visit and click on Find a Professional in the upper right hand corner. Choose “Design/Build” as Area of Expertise and enter your Zip Code. A list of local, experienced and professional companies will begin your journey.

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design build pic
Incredible residential exteriors are not a new concept - but the ways they are designed and installed have certainly changed over time.
Concept to Completion