Having been in the landscape industry for over 30 years, I have seen many great, and not so great, trends that affect the value, and overall satisfaction of the customer. Some of these tips will also save you some money! I thought I would share those with you since many of you will be contemplating landscaping projects in the near future. Here are my top 10 tips on how to get the best landscaping value.
1. Plan ahead: As Confucius said, “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” These wise words illustrate the fact that planning is the first and most important step in getting anything of value. I would further say that this action drives all the other subsequent steps and has the most impact. Planning ahead allows the customer to identify opportunities and also potential risks to their goals. Planning ahead for a landscaping project would include, developing a project budget, timing of the project, the scope of the work, etc. All of these factors will improve the final product received.
2. Have a plan: This step is one of the most important elements in the planning process. A properly prepared landscape plan allows the project elements to be identified and quantified before a Bobcat hits the property. It also enables you to identify goals and priorities, phase the project as necessary, and make changes before construction starts. This step will ultimately save you TIME and MONEY on your project.
3. Know what you want: Think about the project area and ask yourself: How will I use this space? How often will I be entertaining and for how many people? What features and elements do I need to have incorporated for my enjoyment? What plant and construction materials do I like, or conversely do NOT want to see in my landscape? Once you answer these questions, contact a Landscape Architect or other design professional to have your master plan prepared. If you are considering hardscape or larger scale structures for your project, I would recommend that you contact a Landscape Architect in that their schooling and training is specifically geared towards larger-scale hardscape design.
4. Do your homework: This step also falls under the heading of 'planning' but with a few added steps. 'Doing your homework' would occur after identifying what end result you are looking for. This would include tasks such as investigating contractors that have constructed projects similar to one you want to undertake. You can find that information on websites such as HOUZZ. I also would check their reputation tby using companies such as Angies List, or the BBB. I would also request references, AND check them out. These steps may take a little more time, but it will help you immensely in identifying the best contractor for your project. Also check online reviews of the contractor you are investigating, there is a wealth of information available to the consumer. Make sure that the contractor you choose has updated insurance and does not have any complaints or outstanding judgments against them.
5. Hire a professional: For most projects, it is always important that you hire a professional for the design and the installation of a project. This decision most often dictated by the scope of the project. This is especially true for projects involving hardscape or structural elements. A professional will be able to save you time and money on the project. The benefit to the consumer would be utilizing their expertise and understanding of the overall construction process to allow your project to run smoothly and on budget.
6. Get a warranty: Make sure that you receive warranties on the materials and installation of your project. Most landscape contractors will offer a one-year warranty on plant materials. On general construction, the warranty may vary by the materials or product. Ask your contractor to give you full disclosure and details on the warranties their company provides.
7. Don't be in a hurry: Many mistakes made on projects is when homeowners are in a hurry to get a project underway or completed. A contractor pressured to begin when the ground is too wet OR finish too quickly may cut corners (or make mistakes) to comply with the homeowner's desires. Most reputable contractors will not allow pressure to deter them from their best practices, but still be mindful. Allow your professional to make the calls in the realm of timing and the critical path of the installation of your project. They know what is best to achieve the best result for your project.
8. Have it done in the off-season: In the landscaping industry, it is advantageous to have your project done in the off-season for several reasons:
- Save Money- Since landscapers are not as busy in the winter months, they will be more willing to offer an incentive or discount to get your contract.
- More Individualized Attention: Again, since your contractor will not need to rush off to the five projects being installed at the same time, you will get more of their individualized attention.
9. Put in Some Sweat Equity: Are you willing to do some of the installation yourself? There are some tasks in a project that can allow your effort to save money and add value while, not sacrificing quality. Can you spread the mulch yourself? Can you install the plant material? One option would be to have your contractor install the hardscape and do the bed preparation while you do the plant installation on your own. Think about these things in the planning stage.
10. Maintain your investment: This part of the equation is up to you, the homeowner. When the project installation ends, your responsibility begins. There are some essential things that can be done to enhance the value of your project.
- Ask your contractor for a maintenance and watering guide. You will need to water your plant materials every few days until they are established. This is especially true in the hot summer months. Other questions to ask: When you should you remove the tree stakes on your trees? How often should I water my new lawn? These should be covered at the final walk through with your contractor.
- Hardscape Maintenance: As for your hardscape, is there anything additional that you need to do to keep these elements looking and performing their best? Do they need to be sealed, etc? These factors need to be taken into consideration and are the homeowner's responsibility, ask your contractor.
About the Author:
Lori Hawkins, RLA, ASLA has been a registered landscape architect and active in the landscape design/build industry for over 30 years. Her service area includes Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem, Chapel Hill and the Raleigh NC metro areas. For additional inspiring project pictures, design ideas, or great garden gifts, take a look at these websites:
GARDEN ART AND GIFTS: WWW.TriadGarden.com
DESIGN WORK PORTFOLIO: WWW.HawkinsLA.com