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Clifton Park Landscaping Case Study – A Front Entrance Renovation


The owners of a residence in a modest development in Clifton Park had several design and construction challenges they wanted to address at their home and with a very focused budget.

The overall design intent was to create an inviting front entrance, develop a small sitting area where the owners/ guests could sit and enjoy the quaint street life. Overall, they wished to enhance the curb appeal of the house, not only using plant material, but architecturally as well.

Design Components/ Challenges

One crucial component to developing the design was the strong desire of the client to salvage a large, twenty five foot tall and twenty five foot wide Japanese Maple specimen tree. The crux of the problem was the location of the tree. Keeping the Japanese Maple in its original location meant it was directly in front of, and therefore blocking, the entrance of the house. Relocating the tree to a more ideal location would mean eating up a significant portion of the construction budget). Ultimately it was decided that relocating the tree would be the best aesthetic solution.

The final design included the relocation of the maple, the construction of a modest boulder wall that would provide level land for the new maple location, the construction of a new random dimensional bluestone walk, and additional plant materials to add color and interest. Further architectural improvements to the front of the house included the addition of a dormer to the existing front porch roof, removal of the existing railing and support posts and installing two larger more prominent support columns, upgrading the porch lighting, replacement of the entrance door and, finally, replacing all of the window trim on the front of the house with larger, more prominent trim work. We also had to address the steep slope to the east side of the house without disrupting the existing utilities running from the corner of the house to the street. All of the work (design and construction) was completed within the client’s strict $42,000 budget.

Construction Administration

After developing and reviewing several design solutions and consulting with an architect (Tim Gallagher of Architex, Latham) the final design solution was approved by the owner. Work commenced with the relocation of the maple, a complex and intricate affair due to the enormous weight (several tons) of the tree. First, the excavation of the root system was done by hand and with the help of an air spade; a device that is used to blow soil off of the roots using air under very high pressure. This device, if used correctly, does not damage the roots of the tree but removes any excess soil and its excess weight. Once the tree was maneuvered to its new home, a boulder wall was constructed around it to level up the space and provide an adequate soil bed for the root system. Note – the root system was approximately 35′ in diameter when it was moved. The new bluestone walk was then constructed along with the installation of the new plant materials and seeding of new lawn areas. Finally, the cosmetic improvements to the front facade of the home were implemented, including the new window trim, a new front door, a dormer over the front door with new, heavier columns and all associated finish work. Miscellaneous other improvements were also carried out, such as irrigation system upgrades and outdoor lighting fixtures installed.

Benefits/Lessons Learned

The collaborative working relationship between the client and Redbud allowed us to have focused and honest discussions about project goals, desires and budgets. The client was given many different options and had to do some tough prioritizing in order to stay within their budget. We were very pleased that they chose to invest a portion of their budget to save a beautiful old tree instead of simply cutting it down to get it out of the way. In the end, as we continually declare, having a thorough and well thought out design in placed allowed us to organize and coordinate the multiple trades needed to implement the work and maintain a strict timeline therefore keeping the budget in check.

Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce