How do landscapers analyze sites?

Mapping a Landscape's Boundaries

­­At some point in the past, your property has been surveyed. If you have those records, make them available to your landscape designer. If not, try checking with your city's planning department. Either way, it's not a bad idea to have your landscaper re-survey the property, as aspects of it may have changed since ­the construction of your home.

At a minimum, the survey should include information on elevation, boundaries and flood zones. It should have a detailed description of the property itself and map out the edges of your property in relation to your neighbors' property.

Drawing the edges of a lot may not seem like such a big deal, but there are several issues a landscaper must consider, such as:

  • Overhangs and roofs
  • Right-of-ways
  • Access to property features such as water meters
  • Fence placement
  • Shared driveways [source: Rinomato]

If you're working from old surveys, this may be where your existing information stops. But that doesn't mean a landscaper is done mapping the property. The landscaper's map should include major trees and their likely root patterns. It should trace all existing planting beds and borders, which -- if the beds are curved or asymmetrical -- can be a complicated operation involving stakes and string and applied geometry.

Your landscaper may also want to map current use patterns -- how you and your family move across your property. If the grass has worn thin from your habitual shortcuts, it might make more sense to lay a new path there than to keep the existing path. (This aspect of mapping overlaps a bit with finding the functional areas of your property, which we'll discuss later.)

Finally, remember that major landscaping projects can cause a property's elevation and flood potential to change, like when you install a swimming pool. For the sake of your insurance and records, it's a good idea to have your property re-surveyed at the completion of the landscaping project.

Now that you've got the lay of the land, how do you know what's lying under all of it? Go to the next page to learn about locating a property's utility lines.