This post is a bit of a rant because I find that so many people don’t really get it. Landscape renovations and installations are as big a construction project as any bathroom, kitchen or home addition. Few would attempt those without a having a detailed plan or hiring qualified contractors, yet many people with a shovel and a free weekend believe that they can build their landscapes themselves. Worse yet are those who profess to be professionals and do not have the training or skills to mitigate even the most basic of landscape related problems. (The tortured River Birch below was installed by a ‘professional’ at my local Dunkin’ Donuts)
Because I am a landscape designer this may seem like a self serving post, but it’s really not. I earn a fairly good portion of my fees because clients hire me to correct problems with their already built landscapes and gardens. Either they built it themselves or someone else just did a shoddy job via lack of experience or professionalism. Problems range from easy fixes like appropriate plant choices to major issues with stonework and drainage.
Working with a designer isn’t really out of range financially for most people. It’s not only for the well-heeled and financially overblown. The fact is that designers save their clients money at every step of the way in essence earning their own keep. In my design practice I save my clients money by helping them to avoid costly mistakes before they are made, by passing on at least part of the professional discount I receive on furniture, accessories and plants and offering choices that are ‘to the trade’ only that fit their specific budget.
Even a DIY weekend warrior can save money with as simple paid consultation with a designer before that shovel goes into the ground. The emphasis here is on paid. A free consultation won’t yield in much unless a signature is put on the dotted line for the totality of the work and then that consultation’s value will be hidden in some other cost. (No one works for free.) A paid consultation can be as little as $75 and as much as several hundred. A professional designer will listen to their clients and be able to assess problems and talk about possible solutions, a professional designer will be able to steer a client to choices that will serve their lifestyle and budget, and a professional designer will often offer ideas for building a project in stages with a plan for one, five or even ten years as their client’s budget allows. A designer will also insure that the outside is unified, works with the architectural style of the house and isn’t over or under built for the neighborhood. A professional designer will make sure they communicate any town or housing authority regulations that will impact a project. They will have a roster of artisans and contractors who can do the job at a high level of quality if that’s what their client’s choose. Most importantly, a professional designer will consider the ramifications of what is proposed to be built on a property’s resale value therefore protecting what is most people’s biggest investment–their home.
Don’t make this, the most common mistake in any of the building trades. Hire a designer before starting a landscape project…even if it’s just for an hour’s consultation and save headaches and money.
To hear what other professional landscape designers have to say about reality…