Working with a landscape architect will help transform your drab yard into a relaxing weekend getaway. From enjoying a frosty drink with coworkers, to playing touch football with the kids, some of the warmest memories are created outside. In order to turn your dream backyard into a reality, you must partner with a professional that understands your unique vision.
Picking the ideal outdoor designer can be overwhelming. With dozens of landscaping companies competing for your business, it can become a time-consuming process. Follow my simple steps to make an educated decision not not only as a homeowner, but also a consumer.
1. Outline Your Goals
Increasing curb appeal, updating patio hardscapes, and diversifying plantings are just a few of the reasons why homeowners invest in professional landscape design. Before you pick up the phone, it’s important to write down exactly what you want to accomplish with your outdoor space. Do you merely need more room? Or are you looking for a major overhaul of the entire backyard? Come up with a single “wish list” of ideas that you’d like to discuss with a landscaper. It is also very helpful to collect clippings of pictures from magazines, or Houzz and Pinterest, which can illustrate what your dream landscape may look like.
Also, remember to be flexible with your expectations. Each property is unique, presenting the landscape architect with design requirements, and oftentimes, challenges to overcome. From soil composition, to competing vegetation, there are numerous factors that might alter your final design. To prepare for this, I highly recommend outlining all your landscaping “wants” and “needs”. Figure out what you’re willing to compromise on, and which items are non-negotiable. Above all, stay open-minded!
2. Do Your Homework
You sat down with your spouse and dreamed up the perfect outdoor space. But now comes the hard part: Matching that vision with a designer who can flawlessly execute it. Most homeowners begin with a simple online search, which hardly narrows down your options. Instead of contacting all local landscapers, focus on the specific details of your project. Within the industry, there are family-run nurseries, hardscape specialists, and landscape lighting masters. Research those companies that specialize in services that best align with your needs.
A Landscape Designer understands the importance of making a first impression. Check out websites. Scan Social Media pages. Review online galleries of previous work. Has the company put time and effort into their online presence? Or does their portfolio only feature images from years ago? If they have a professional website and effectively showcased their work, they’re likely to bring that same passion and attention to detail to your project.
3. Consultations? Or Interviews?
You’ve narrowed it down to a handful of companies that really impressed you. Now it’s time to meet, face-to-face. Most landscape architects will provide you with a free, no-obligation estimate after walking through your property. If possible, try to schedule all your consultations within a few days of each other, which will make comparing each company much easier. During these inspections, keep in mind that the designer is often interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them. Simply explain the vision you have for the outdoor space, how much you’re willing to spend, and any other important items you’d like them to know about.
You can learn a lot about a landscape architect during the first meeting, so take notes and ask questions. Their estimate will no doubt influence your final decision. Be weary of low bids, which could be a warning sign of shoddy materials and inferior craftsmanship. Don’t allow yourself to be sold on additional services you don’t need. Experienced and honest companies will be able to not only justify their estimate, but let the work speak for itself.
4. Ask For Portfolios & References
Landscape designers should be prepared to provide you with the names satisfied customers. If possible, contact these former clients and inspect the final product for yourself. Speak directly with homeowners and ask them about their overall experience. Did any problems arise during the project? Did the designer stay within budget? Their answers can be telling, but also give you an accurate impression of what working a with particular company would be like on a daily basis.
Check review websites only after you’ve spoken with past customers. If all the testimonials you see online are negative, this should raise a red flag. Unfortunately, there are companies that over-promise and under-deliver. Ethical landscapers will stand by their work, offering a warranty offering a warranty on all services provided. Ask about any guarantees and always read the fine print prior to signing off on the paperwork.
5. Trust – The Dealbreaker
You love the design and the price falls well within your budget. But you need to ask yourself one simple question before you commit to anything:
“Do I Feel Comfortable?”
No matter the scale of your landscaping project, trust is the foundation of any professional relationship. The designer’s team must treat your home with the same respect as if it was their own. If you ever have a question or concern, you should always have the ability to speak with the owner himself. Larger jobs can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, so you’ll earn peace of mind knowing that help is just a phone call away.
When the project is complete, would you recommend this designer to your family and friends? Would you work with them again in the future? If you can answer with a resounding “yes” then you may have found your landscape architect for years to come!