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Sacandaga Lake House Case Study


A unique hand hewn post and beam house was designed for a home on 2.2 lakeside acres. The design of the house was developed by the client, architect and builder. Significant thought was paid to the interior layout and design of the home, the structural character of the house and views to the lake. The house looked gorgeous on paper. The old existing house was demolished and the new foundation was installed; only then did questions begin and the exterior site issues become apparent. The client hired Redbud to solve the exterior site issues and consider other elements for the property.

A conceptual design was initiated to assess the site and integrate the client desires. The following specific components highlight major areas of concern, the solutions and potential cost savings that could have been realized if the exterior design of the property was considered earlier in the project.


  • Grading and Drainage – The elevation of the house was set too high, creating the need for a retaining wall on the right side property line to prevent runoff negatively affecting the neighbors’ property as well as significant drainage problems at the front entrance to the home.  With the correct elevation, the retaining wall, additional grading and drainage components would have been eliminated or drastically reduced resulting in an approximate cost savings of $18,000.
  • Utilities – The location for the water lines, electric service, propane tank, HVAC, generator, etc… were also not considered in advance.  All of these components require not only space within the landscape but also room below the surface.  For example, electric lines cannot be buried in certain proximity to gas lines. When all of these elements were assessed as a whole the propane tanks needed to be located significantly further from the house than was ultimately necessary which caused additional excavation expenses of  $3,600.
  • Patio Spaces, Walls & Septic FieldOutdoor entertaining spaces are customarily installed as an extension to the home.  A 15’ wide by 55’ long patio was initially designed for the lake side of the house, but in order to maximize the views for the master bedroom and great room only 18’ to 20’ near the kitchen is favorable family entertaining space; not enough for the desired components.  Again, due to the high elevation, this patio is floating 6 feet above the lawn area requiring 145 feet of retaining walls and steps to be constructed on the lakeside of the home.  Of course, these walls will look beautiful but they will add significant cost to the total project budget.  In addition, these walls took up valuable space on the property that further restricted the available area for the septic field.  Combine the location of the house, the required property line and shoreline setbacks and suddenly we had to shoehorn the septic into the property.  If the design of the outdoor entertainment space, and therefore the elevation and slope, had been planned at conception the size of the walls could have been reduced significantly resulting in a cost savings of $48,000.
  • Existing Vegetation – The property has a number of mature trees; one in particular is a large sugar maple standing 45’ tall directly behind the new garage.  Unfortunately, under this majestic beauty was the illogical space chosen for all the contractors to park their trucks and equipment.  An initial site analysis would have dictated a different construction staging area and guaranteed the survival of this tree.  Now, approximately$4,700 will need to be spent to feed, prune and manage the health of the tree over the next several years to ensure the tree will live and be a permanent fixture of the property.


Since the design of the house was completed and construction commenced prior to any consideration for the landscape elements, there were limited opportunities to modify the design of the house to better integrate the functional and aesthetic exterior elements. The involvement of a landscape architect is much more constructive and cost effective when introduced to the project before the building is complete, even before ground-breaking, in the early concept and planning stage. Landscape architects can assist clients with understanding the budgetary considerations of the functionally required aspects of the site as well as planning for the more recreational, creative and artistic accompaniments. This client is now forced to allocate approximately $74,000 of their overall house budget to fix problems that could have been mitigated with some forethought.

Looking for a landscape designer around Sacandaga Lake? Contact us today at 518-691-0428 to schedule a consultation!

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