Here are the steps I followed to design and build my courtyard.
After weighing out our many options and getting a few estimates for our backyard makeover, i,e, wood decking, composite decking, pvc decking, concrete patio, stamped concrete patio, patio with a privacy fence, courtyard with a wood fence, stuccoed courtyard with...dizzy yet? We decided to go with (long pause) the courtyard with stuccoed massive fortress-like walls, 2 big door gates and room for a pony, yeah!
But before we built our courtyard I wanted to make sure we were able to build such a massive wall and stone fireplace in our backyard. And most importantly, wanted to make sure we could fit it into our budget. I did a lot of research by consulting with other contractors; home improvement stores; making a materials cost list; and asking the building department lots of questions.
I even called our tax department to make sure our taxes wouldn't skyrocket. Thankfully, they said the wall would just be considered a fence, and the largest portion of the increase, of around only $80.00 annually, would be from the outdoor fireplace and the stamped concreted patio. The square footage of steps and driveways are not counted for taxes purposes. Wow, I was on my way to getting my new backyard haven!