Home & Garden

First Time Home Owner Seeking Guidance

  • Last Updated:
  • May 18th, 2021 9:28 am
[OP]
Jr. Member
Nov 22, 2019
128 posts
33 upvotes

First Time Home Owner Seeking Guidance

Hi everyone,

I'm usually lurking and upvoting in the Hot Deals sub-forums and was thrilled to discover there were RFDers who are savvy with other aspects of life such as how to properly take care of a lawn.

Long story short, my wife and I bought our first home in the suburbs off the island and now have a front and back yard. I was hoping to delay getting landscaping done for a while, because once it's done, I can't make an excuse not to maintain it anymore. That said, my wife is concerned that the neighbors will be talking about our unkept front yard, so it's time for me to start seeking advice. My presumption is that the best way to approach this is to hire a competent reputable company to do the initial work to get the yard up to a normal baseline, and from there it's up to us to maintain it well. Before I contact landscapers, I'd like to get advice as to what exactly I should hire them to take care of. As a secondary goal, I'd like to determine the various equipment I'll need to start shopping for to maintain it afterwards.

I've attached pictures of the front and back yard. Here are some of my questions:

*Front yard*
- I think the walkway to the entrance leaves to be desired. Would it be cost-effective to have this work done at the same time or can it be done later? Not a priority for me at this time but will take care of it if it would lead to savings later.
- If I don't do it now, can something be done for the stone steps? They are actually quite wobbly.
- Should I provide any specific instructions with respect to the area in front of the basement windows? Our inspection report said something is not up to code or that there may be a risk of water infiltration the way it is currently done. I think he said something along the lines of increasing/decreasing the area in front of the window by an inch or so for some reason.
- Should I grass the long strip of rocks on the side of the driveway? I may offer that area to my father in law to store his RV. But that may not happen.
- The remainder of the front yard seems basic enough.

*Back yard*
- Should I have the backyard leveled? It's not terribly unleveled, but I'm thinking I may as well do this as I am concerned my small mother-in-law's dog could escape from under the fence in some areas.
- Should I have them remove the rectangle where the previous owner had the rocking bench/table thing? I don't know if they can do that; I just know I have no idea how to do so.
- Should I have them move the storage shed so that it's placed next to the electrical lines as I think that would optimize the overall space more?
- What should I do with the rock-bed? Turn it into a garden? There's a few cement squares in front of this rock-bed and I don't know if they serve any purpose.

My wife and I are allergic to ragweed and pollen. If possible, I'd like to employ an ecological approach to the work that will be done. We are also expecting a child so this is contributing my need to be prudent with harmful chemicals and pesticides.

With respect to the equipment we will need to purchase, I think I can safety assume a lawnmower and a trimmer will be on that list. Is there anything else obvious I will need to purchase? I honestly have no idea what all of this work and equipment will cost, but cash flow is not an issue at this period. I typically like to start with the best-value solutions and then add to the budget to have added convenience. For example, I think I would want the lawnmower to be cordless. I assume that robot lawnmower's are not as affordable as robot vacuum cleaners yet, are they? (half joking).

I apologize if a lot of this seems obvious and easily determinable with a few google searches. To be honest, time is really a short resource for me at the moment and I have spent some time googling this only to conclude that I don't know what I'm doing. Since I expect this to cost a decent chunk, I would rather get some good guidance before I commit to an approach that leaves us dissatisfied in the end. If any part of this post seems like I am approaching this all wrong, please point it out. I would like nothing more than to have my faults pointed out.

Edit: typos.
Images
  • Backyard 1.jpg
  • Backyard 2.jpg
  • Backyard-Dry dirt.jpg
  • Backyard-Electrical lines.jpg
  • Backyard-Not leveled.jpg
  • Backyard-Rock bed.jpg
  • Backyard-Rocking bench.jpg
  • Backyard-Storage shed.jpg
  • Front yard.jpg
  • Front yard-Basement window.jpg
  • Front yard-Rock strip.jpg
  • Front yard-Walk way.jpg
11 replies
Deal Addict
Dec 19, 2009
4309 posts
2208 upvotes
Pleased don't be concerned what your neighbours think or talk about ... live your own life.
Member
Apr 24, 2011
440 posts
194 upvotes
Scarborough
pootza wrote: Pleased don't be concerned what your neighbours think or talk about ... live your own life.
What this guy said.

Your front lawn looks fine. Sure it'll look nice with a perfect lawn but do it for yourself, and not your neighbours. Mow it, take care of your allergies, and then call it a day.
Deal Guru
User avatar
Sep 1, 2005
14283 posts
9050 upvotes
Markham
Don't worry about the neighbours right now as you're just moving in.

1) Buy a lawn mower and a weed puller.
2) make an overall plan or idea of what you want and how big a budget you have to spend.
If you don't have a lot of funds, then just fix the walkway [discussed below] and weed and cut the grass. Any work on the grass is better than nothing.
Using the weed puller vs using chemical weed killer...do an hour or two a day and in a few days it'll look 50x better.

https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/fisk ... s#store=87

Your front walkway/entrance area needs to be fixed very soon as it's dangerous the way it is. You got tripping hazards and wobby steps at the bottom and there's a pretty good slope down in that white cemented area. Why didn't they add another step or two and get rid of the slope? In the winter, you could easily slip in that sloped area. In light of the danger [you have owner liability if someone gets hurt], you might want to temporarily locate the mail box down towards the bottom of the walkway so the mail person doesn't have to go up and down your stairs.

Pic 5 The area by the fence looks like an area you could do some raised bed veggie planting. You can increase the size of it as well. ReUse wood from the paver area in pic 7
Pic 6 - Buy some soil and fill that area and plant some flower/shrubs etc.
Pic 6 - that space/void under the stairs...you need to cover that with some lattice or wood before animals take possession under the deck.
Pic 7 - Get rid of the rectangular paver area - why it's there is a wonder.

Moving shed to hydro wire area is better but watch the setback requirements.

Storing father in law RV in the front strip of rocks area...there may be bylaw restrictions on doing this.
We're all bozos on the bus until we find a way to express ourselves...

Failure is always an option...just not the preferred one!
[OP]
Jr. Member
Nov 22, 2019
128 posts
33 upvotes
Thanks for everyone reminding me not to overthink what the neighbors may say about our yard. It seems very obvious now.

Thanks also @gr8dlr for the detailed response. Quite a few of your suggestions were things I never considered. But it sounds like the key take away is to handle a lot more myself than I had original planned for. Seems like for this season, my outsourced tasks might be limited to the front walkway, perhaps the rectangular area in the backyard unless I can do it myself, and moving the shed after I look into the city rules.
Deal Guru
Jan 25, 2007
10630 posts
5919 upvotes
Paris
ScatterStash wrote: Thanks for everyone reminding me not to overthink what the neighbors may say about our yard. It seems very obvious now.

Thanks also @gr8dlr for the detailed response. Quite a few of your suggestions were things I never considered. But it sounds like the key take away is to handle a lot more myself than I had original planned for. Seems like for this season, my outsourced tasks might be limited to the front walkway, perhaps the rectangular area in the backyard unless I can do it myself, and moving the shed after I look into the city rules.
My wife used to drive me bonkers about watering the front lawn that no one even walked on and making it look good vs my idea to keep the backyard pristine and barefoot friendly so the kids and I could play soccer and whatever else we wanted to do. Aesthetics vs usability.

In the end, I made her deal with the front lawn and me the back and the front is in worse shape now, but still over the 50th percentile on the street. Our back yard you could roll around naked on as the grass is near perfect.
Deal Guru
User avatar
Oct 23, 2008
13221 posts
10099 upvotes
GTA, ON
Just cut the backyard with a mower for now, but I'd definitely pull the weeds to keep them under control.

The front yard is where I'd pay my attention to, 1) to keep the wife happy, 2) so at least your house doesn't like trash.

Same as the above, pull the weeds at least. Your frontage doesn't look too bad but definitely needs a bit of lawn TLC. Once the weeds are pulled, fertilize, and then turn over the bare dirt spots, put down some top soil, add grass seed, and water 2-3x a day until grass catches. This should hopefully get you through this summer as long as you water, deweed and mow. You can then plan with the wife what you want to do next year.
Tis banana is IRIE

10% off is cold, 50% off is warm, 75% off is hot, but FREE IS RFD!
Sr. Member
Dec 5, 2009
815 posts
811 upvotes
Mower, string trimmer, and weeder. Mow your lawn, trim the edges, pull weeds, and it will look much better. Get that going first so everything is neat and tidy, then take your time and plan out what you want to do. Do you want grass, mulch, rock garden, wildflower meadow, ornamental grass, garden, etc? Think of this as a multi year project (and slowly tackle it).

Honestly, your neighbours are probably just concerned that your house is going to become THAT house of the block (unkept landscape, poorly maintained, etc). As soon as they see you out and about, putting effort into it, then will probably be more helpful than anything.
Deal Guru
User avatar
Oct 23, 2008
13221 posts
10099 upvotes
GTA, ON
It's great you got a large front.

So based on your layout, you really can't put a garden bed against the home because you have the basement window there (it would block light), and there is also a hedge along the fence line. I would suggest a circular island type garden bed in the centre of the lawn. It would provide something to look at from the front window and something to see from the street. The hardest part will be you and the wife deciding what to plant. Like anything else, layers. Some taller in the middle and work yourself to shorter plants to the perimeter.

Also consider, the closer you get to that mature tree, the higher likelihood you'll encounter annoying tree roots while trying to make that garden bed.
Tis banana is IRIE

10% off is cold, 50% off is warm, 75% off is hot, but FREE IS RFD!
Deal Addict
User avatar
Jul 2, 2001
4737 posts
2180 upvotes
GTA
ScatterStash wrote: That said, my wife is concerned that the neighbors will be talking about our unkept front yard
It just needs a trim, get a mower/blower/string trimmer and go to work, in the back the dry spots need soil/seeds/water.
Watch some videos on youtube on landscaping, you'll learn a lot.
.
Deal Addict
Nov 17, 2012
3524 posts
2518 upvotes
Toronto
Mow it, get rid of any extra 'stuff' like that odd rectangular set of 2x2 pavers, throw some topsoil and grass seed in the bare spots and see what happens over a couple of seasons.

The first real order of business is taking care of the grade and downspout beside your garage. It's sloped towards the house, the downspout seems to end right beside the house etc. I'd start with that whole area - the gravel drive for the extra car (likely illegal), the grade etc. Get a bin for clean fill (4 yards max usually) and start shoveling out all that gravel and extra earth so the grade is away from your house. Throw some topsoil and grass seed in there and let it grow.
Deal Addict
Nov 17, 2012
3524 posts
2518 upvotes
Toronto
I'd dig out that flower bed in front of the basement window and work to correct the grade there too. The fact there are bricks in the dirt is the problem the inspector likely was talking about. There should be a concrete foundation wall down there somewhere that should be exposed above grade. Given the slope of the front yard it should be simple to remove as much material as needed from up against the house and maintain the grade away from the house.

Is the basement finished? Measure the humidity levels in the basement and make sure you don't have moisture issues down there.

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