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Why do I need a design?

                We are often asked why we recommend going through the design process on most landscape and construction projects.   Now, with over 20 years experience in designing, building, and maintaining our projects we thought it would be a good time to answer this question with a top ten list.

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  1. It can help save you money-  Starting a landscape or construction project without an eye to the future could end up costing you money.  For example, say I would like to install a patio and have thrown around the idea of a future outdoor fireplace.  If I have a plan, I can go ahead and install the footing for the future fireplace along with the patio.  If I do not have a plan, I will have to pay the additional cost to remove part of the patio to install the footing for the fireplace.  Much is the same with construction in the way things are framed, wired, or plumbed for future changes or expansion.
  2. Everyone involved is on the same team- There is only one team involved in a design- build-maintenance company and that team has one goal -to meet or exceed the client's expectations for their project.  When challenges are encountered there is no finger pointing, just a team that rolls up their sleeves to work on creative solutions.
  3. You are involved- From the formulation of the design to the installation, the design-build process is set up so that you (the customer) are involved in every step.  Not only does this give you the outcome you want with the satisfaction of achieving your goals, we have found that our clients also experience a greater sense of pride in the finished projects.
  4. There is a thorough site assessment- There are many things to consider when selecting a site for your project.  Most any home building or landscape projects not only affect the immediate area they also effect the surrounding ecosystem.  The design process includes assessing these impacts as well as the most efficient and cost saving options for the construction. 
  5. The materials used will be of a higher quality- With a design in hand you can figure exact material measurements.  This information will allow the contractor to locate the necessary materials before construction begins.  Many high quality material options need to be ordered or custom made.  The differences in materials between a thrown together project and one that has been planned correctly can be huge.
  6. There is team collaboration- With the design-build process everyone is involved to see the client's dreams come true.  The company will do all that it can to empower the client while guiding them through feasible options.
  7. More accurate time lines- When working with a designer and contractors individually you have to work with each of their time lines and any delays in responses to challenges.  When one company controls every aspect of the project there is time to consider the provided options on big decisions.  The team will make every effort to not take steps backwards with change orders or additional fees.  Any changes can be made during construction allowing minimal disruptions to time lines and budgets.
  8. One firm is accountable for everything- When looking at the time line, budget, and how the final product turns out there is only one company responsible.  A company who designs and builds a project will tend to pay more attention to those details.  The costs involved can be looked at during the design process so that there is less chance of big cost surprises.
  9. There are better budgeting and phasing options- A project that can be looked at from start to finish can be divided into pieces or phases.  This allows a client to take manageable steps toward a final product.  A client without a plan for the final product with spend more money, taking much longer to get there.
  10. There are no surprises with the final product- With a plan to work from there are no questions of what the final product will be.  Each size, material, and cost are laid out before work begins.  
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Renovating and remodeling before the holidays... Am I Crazy?

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The holidays will be here before you know it. This is a phrase we all hear every year. What do the holidays hold for you and yours? Hosting parties, family gatherings, and overnight guests is a normal part of my family's holiday adventures. Maybe you are looking around your house and thinking it would be nice to have an updated look this year, or even some more space! Surely starting a renovation or remodeling project in the fall is crazy, right? Though it may sound crazy to start a project this time of year, there can actually be many benefits. Here are a few reasons why starting a project now and having it wrapped up before the holidays might be for you.

The biggest factor in deciding to renovate or remodel , at least for me, is the money. Right now mortgage rates are low. This means you can get a reasonable interest rate on refinancing your home as long as you have a good credit score, at least 20% equity in your home, and proof of income. Of course if you save your money throughout the year maybe you have enough saved up to use a little on your home. With either option figuring out your financial situation is a key deciding factor on determining whether now is the best time to start your project.

For most home contractors, fall is a slower time of year which means there are several areas you will benefit from in starting your project now. Generally a contractor will better focus on the few jobs they have in the fall as opposed to other times of the year when their attention is spread thin. What does this mean for you? Your project will get completed faster and usually with more attention to detail. With the amount of jobs at a low for the year, a contractor will look to smaller jobs to compensate his/her income. Not only that but the majority of construction work is completed at a lower price. It's not just contractors that slow down this time of year, their suppliers are in the same boat. When you add it all up, most customers will get materials cheaper as well as pay lower labor rates during the fall months, a win win.

Most anyone with a truck and a clipboard can call himself a contractor these days. In many cases it can be hard to distinguish a good contractor from one that is there to take advantage. With the fall months being toward the end of the year some of your work in finding a good contractor has already been done for you. A good contractor will stand the test of time even during lean times. What I mean is that even during the slower fall months a true professional contractor with his or her work behind their name will not have gone under already. They might even be busy! Of course I highly recommend doing your research in finding the right contractor for you and your home. Communication is key in a renovation or remodel so look for a contractor who has great references or referrals and experience in working with homeowners.

One of my favorite reasons to complete your project during the fall is that you get to enjoy it during the holidays. I advise people to be reasonable with their budget but to focus on the areas that are most important to them first. It never fails, when I have guests they always seem to congregate in the kitchen. If you look around your kitchen do your cabinets scream their age? Do you get a cramped feeling when more than three or four people are in there? If so you might want to consider updating or an addition. Opening up the kitchen to the rest of the house, updating cabinetry, or adding a big custom island might sound like overwhelming projects to take on. However, a good contractor can walk you through each step in the material selection and installation process. I always tell my clients " it will get worse before it gets better, but I give you my word, it will get better!" Starting one of these projects during the fall months, with the right contractor, will allow your project to be completed before the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Not only that, but during the holidays many people have more time off. This time off can be the perfect opportunity to re-organize your cabinets and decor after your project is completed.

Because I started this article with a point on money, I thought it fitting to end it on one as well. With any renovation or remodel it is important to keep in mind what your project might add to your home's value. Most any updating, whether on the kitchen, bathrooms, or other areas of your home, will add value to your home. Not all projects add monetary value, however most all will add appeal to potential home buyers. A realtor friend of mine always says that a house that is routinely updated every two to five years usually sells quicker than one that has been recently renovated for the sale of the home. A renovation done correctly and done for you and yours to enjoy is almost always more appealing than a renovation completed in a hurry, on a tight budget. It's a lot like buying a car that has been detailed to look good verses a car with routine maintenance performed throughout its life. A second point to add to a quality renovation is that it will lower your energy bills. Today's materials are highly energy conscious as opposed to a materials made even ten years ago. A key point to keep in mind for your home is spending some money now can help save you money in the future.

Although there is never really the perfect time to renovate, I hope the above benefits of completing your project in the fall will help you make the decision of when is the best time for you. From the Ground up Landscape and Construction is here to provide a one stop shop for all your construction needs, providing the highest quality in products we carry and the services we provide.

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IT'S HOT!- Part 1: Your lawn, landscape, and sprinklers in the summer

Dry and Green

     If you have been outside lately there's no denying it... it's Hot! Oklahoma's hot, dry summers can put a strain on your grass, landscape, and not to mention your pocket book. Here at From the Ground Up we want to see your lawn and landscape the way they were meant to look, vibrant and beautiful, as well as save you money with these summertime tips.
     First we will take a look at some simple summer care techniques for your plants and grasses. Most all plants will stress out during extreme hot and dry conditions. Hot summer days are not the time to do any major pruning as this will stress and possibly kill your plants or grasses. On that note I would also like to mention that actually keeping your lawn a little longer this time of year will keep it green while your neighbor's yards turn yellow. The longer blades on the grass act as an insulator helping to keep the heat away from the roots. Less heat to the roots also means your lawn will not need to be watered as much. So save the major pruning on your trees and shrubs for the early spring or fall and let your lawn get a little longer this year.
     The summer months are also when several insects emerge. Aphids love to invade Crape Myrtles during the hot months so keep an eye out for a glossy film on the leaves with tiny white specs. There are many products available to treat for aphids, but remember that several treatments will be necessary to break the aphid life cycle. Another insect that thrives during the summer months are the infamous webworm and bagworm. Webworms create large nests, or webs, high up in trees, usually Pecan's. These worms will slowly eat any and all available leaves. Bagworms on the other hand, usually look for a good evergreen like a Spruce, Atlas Cedar, or Juniper to munch on. These moth larvae begin to build little hanging bags this time of year as they eat away your tree or shrub. A preventative spray during May-June will keep these pests at bay. The final insect I want to highlight in this section is the common grub. Grubs flourish in the spring months however preventative treatments during the months of May-June of the previous year is best to control them. The mother will lay her eggs in the ground to hatch around July. These larvae feed on the roots and organic matter near the surface. As the weather cools they move deeper into the soil, only to re-emerge during the spring more hungry than ever. With all of these pests a professional is best recommended to both diagnose and treat them.
    Still yet another obstacle you want to try and avoid with your plants and grasses is mold, mildew, and fungus. Most people associate mold and fungi with the wet spring months however the hot months are when they are most prevalent. One thing that can contribute to this factor is watering in the evening or at night. If you water your plants and lawn at night STOP! When you water at night your plants never have a chance to dry out. This residual water, along with the warm temperatures, is a perfect incubator for a multitude of molds, mildews, and fungi. Treating your plants with a fungicide may help prevent these diseases. Most fungicides are applied right before the plant blooms, and again about a week later. Because there are many contributing factors, here again we recommend a professional who will best diagnose any mold, mildew, and/or fungus as well as give you the best options to treat them.
     The final thing we will look at during the summer months is watering. One of the most common calls I get is "My (plant) looks bad so I have been drowning it in water but it isn't helping." Water is an important element to summer plant care, however too much water can be more damaging than not watering the plant at all. Most all trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses enjoy a good drink of water but they do not like to stand in it. If your plants never get a chance to dry out they will die pretty quickly as the roots never get a chance to take in oxygen. So, if your plants are drooping during the hottest part of the day, that is normal. As long as the plant perks back up the next morning there is nothing to be concerned about.
Because most everyone is on permanent water restrictions (you can only water on an odd or even day based on your house number) it is important to water your plants and grasses on your day. If you have an automatic sprinkler system with spray heads in your flower beds, run your sprinklers 10-15 minutes (for an established landscape) early in the morning during 90 degree + days. For spray heads in lawn areas you will water about the same range of time. If you have rotary sprinkler heads in your lawn areas you will need to increase this time to 20-25 minutes. Of course these times will vary depending on the type of grass, type of soil, and sun exposure. It is always a good idea to check your sprinkler system routinely. Any breaks in your system may be costing you money in water usage. These tips will best help your plants take advantage of the water you apply.
     Two additional ways that can help save you money on your water usage are a smart controller and a rain and free sensor. Sprinkler controllers have come a long way in the past few years. Most new units are WiFi enabled and allow information input such as soil type, sun exposure, slope, and plant varieties. With these variables the controller runs so that the least amount of water necessary is applied with little to run-off. A rain and freeze sensor will shut off your system if it is raining or if the temperatures are near freezing. This will also save you money in water usage and possible future repairs. From the Ground Up is here to help with any issue you might be having in your lawn or landscape so follow these tips and don't' blame the ragged look of your lawn and landscape on the heat this year.

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A BIG SHOUT OUT From The Cardins

We've been using From the Ground up Landscaping and Construction now for years. They are reliable, diligent and precise. Their construction work is A+. We thank the entire team for their latest project at our home! Kudos!

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Spring House Maintenance Tips

It's that time of year again.  A time of birds chirping, plants budding, and the dreaded spring cleaning.  Along with spring cleaning this year keep in mind these simple house maintenance tips.

1.   Examine your roof to see if there is any damaged or lost shingles.  Look for shingles that are cracked or missing granules.  Oklahoma summer heat can really damage shingles.  Any shingles with damage need to be replaced.  Also check your flashings around the vents and any vent covers for damage.  Any repairs should be made by a qualified roofer.  If your roof is beginning to age, it is a good idea to start budgeting for a replacement.
2.   Service and clean your air-conditioning unit.  Yearly maintenance of your heating and cooling system will keep it working at peak performance.   Be sure to check your air filters and replace them if needed.  If your air-conditioning unit is not working correctly it should be repaired by a qualified repairman.
3.   Check and clean your gutters.  Look for any leaks during a rain and remove any debris in the gutters or down spouts.  Leaking and/or clogged gutters can lead to water damage on your exterior trim as well as letting water sit up against the foundation.  You also want to make sure the down spouts are draining away from the house.
4.   Check all your exterior trim and siding for bare spots.  Bare wood is at extreme risk of rot during the wet spring months.  Wood that has rotted out will require replacement.  Scrape any loose paint off your trim and siding, apply a quality exterior primer, and put on two coats of a quality exterior paint.  Paint and primer combinations are also a good sollution to save some time.

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5.   Insure your windows and doors are well sealed.  Visually inspect the caulking around each door and window as well as the seals on the doors and windows.  This will help keep cool air in and hot air out this summer.
6.   Inspect and clean your concrete.  Concrete damage can occur during the winter season on your driveway, walkways, and the foundation of your house.  Fill any cracks with a quality concrete filler.  Once the weather permits, this is a great time to power wash your driveway and walkways.
7.   Move your firewood.  If you have any leftover firewood it is best to store it at least 1' off the ground and no closer than 2' from any structures.  Aging firewood attracts insects and insects are not something you want near your structures.
8.   Check your exterior faucets.  Turn on and off each of your faucets checking to make sure they shut completely off.  Look for any cracks or water coming from where it should not be while they are turned on.  This is also a great time to check your garden hoses for any cracks or leaks.
9.   Clean and open your foundation vents if you have a crawlspace.  These vents are located around the bottom perimeter of your home.  Make sure they are free of debris and open so that heat from below your home can be circulated out.
10.   Time to clean and inspect your deck, outdoor furniture, and grills.  Before the backyard barbeques and pool parties give your deck a good cleaning.  Look for any damaged or splintering wood and replace as necessary.  Now is also the perfect time to apply that fresh coat of stain and sealer.  Whether your stored your outdoor furniture or left it outside give it a good cleaning.  If your paint is fading a good coat exterior spray paint is a simple remedy.  Finally, clean your grill from any residue or debris.  You want to also insure your grill jets are operating correctly, there are no leaks in the hoses or connections, and that your propane take is in good working order.

Completing the above tips will help keep those dreaded surprise house repairs to a minimum.  From the Ground Up is here to help with all of your spring maintenance needs.

Wipe your windows clean with this non-chemical window cleaner recipe. Give it a try!
1 cup- rubbing alcohol, 1 cup- distilled water, 1 tablespoon- white vinegar.  Mix all the ingredients together and apply it to your windows.

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Spring Lawn and Landscaping Tips

Spring is here and it is time to get your lawn and landscape ready for the new season! Here at From the Ground Up we wanted to give you some tips to help get your lawn and landscape ready for the new growth ahead.

Blog 11. First is first, clean out your lawn and flower beds.
a. Pick up any branches, leaves, and debris that may have fallen throughout the winter season.
b. All warm season grasses need to be scalped or de-thatched and the cool season grasses need to be mowed regularly. Scalping removes the thatch that insects love while promoting healthy growth of the grass.
c. Prune your shrubs and ornamental grasses. This is a good time of year to prune your Crape Myrtles and like shrubs. Most ornamental grasses should be pruned down to approximately 6" -8" above ground.
2. This next tip depends on if you are going to plant new grass seed this spring.
a. If you are going to plant grass seed do not apply pre-emergent. You will just want to apply a balanced fertilizer, organic if you can find it.
b. If you are going to plant your seed or sod this fall, apply a crabgrass pre-emergent and a balanced fertilizer.
c. For you flower beds and vegetable garden you want to make sure the soil conditions are good for planting. A soil test will tell you what nutrients, if any, will need to be added. Make sure to add organic matter to the soil at the time of planting. These nutrients will help the plant to grow deeper roots which will decrease the stress on the plant.
3. Planting seed or not, watering is a must. Now is the time to de-winterize your sprinkler system and get everything working correctly. Run through each zone of your sprinkler system checking every head for leaks and correct operation also look for any leaks away from the sprinkler heads. The last thing you want to do is insure your programs are set up correctly. Don't forget to set you controller to automatic once you have finished tinkering!
4. An often overlooked tip is to make sure your mower is tuned up. Replace the spark plug, change the oil, grease any joints as needed, and sharpen the blade. A dull mower blade actually tears the grass instead of cutting it. This tearing will result in brown ends and can promote fungus.
5. Set your mower height and mow regularly. Cool season grasses such as Fescue and Bluegrass should be cut from 2.5" to 4" in height. Warm season grasses such as Bermuda and Buffalo, should be cut from 1" to 2" in height. Weekly mowing and grass removal will leave your lawn looking the best it can this season.
6. Finally you want to apply a 3" to 4" layer of mulch over all your flower beds. I recommend using a premium shredded mulch as it will not float or blow away as easily. Mulch will provide your flower beds with a great weed defense while helping to retain the moisture from watering.

If we can be of any additional help with your spring lawn and landscaping needs please let us know.

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