Last month we told you what things you should consider and what prep work you need to do before even researching which landscape design company to hire for your landscape design project. This month we want to talk about asking the right questions when you interview landscape design companies, so you hire just the right one for your project.
Let’s start out by stating the obvious though, make sure you consider only skilled professionals who are licensed, insured and bonded to do the work. Because your yard is a key part of your home, especially the front yard. It’s the first thing guests to your home encounter, so you want it to make a good first impression. The value of your home and property are on the line after all, so you want professionals to handle the design and planting. Hiring a company that is bonded and insured also protects you as the employees doing the work will likely be operating heavy equipment and carrying heavy items like shrubs, trees, or bags of mulch. So you’ll want to know that if they injure themselves on your property, you are protected. Here are some of the other questions you should ask when you are interviewing landscape designers, and yes, you should interview at least three to get what you really want.
What do you consider to be your specialty?
Last month we spoke about the fact that you need to start by figuring out what you want. Now, you need to make sure the landscape designer you hire specializes in what you want. If you’ve fallen in love with a specific species of tree or bush, or a type of landscape, you want to double check to see if the landscaper you want to hire is familiar with those plants. If you are looking for some specialty items such as hardscapes like retaining walls or tiered gardens, or even waterfalls or ponds, not every landscaper knows how to do those things. Because of our unique climate and terrain, you certainly want to hire someone who is familiar with Southwest Florida, understands our soil type, and knows which plants will work best for your yard, and which invasive plants to steer you away from.
Can I see some examples of your past work? Do you have a reference list of past clients and professionals you’ve worked with that I could call?
Landscape designers usually have their own style and it will be an uphill battle if you hire one who’s past work does not match your style or the design of your home. Are you looking for a cottage-style garden, a tropical resort style, a modern looking city garden? Be sure you see examples that match your particular style in the landscaper’s portfolio.
Sometimes people make the mistake of equating years in business to expertise, and professionalism, and let’s face it, that’s never a foregone conclusion. So you may want to call on a past reference to see how well their project went, and to find out any pitfalls there may be in working with this particular landscaper. You may even want to go and visit a past project of theirs, now that it is fully grown in, to see a final result, since most portfolio photos will have been taken right at the end of the project when the plants are all mainly small. This will also allow you to see how their work stands up to the test of time.
Do you understand my vision?
Talk at length with the potential landscape designer about what your dream looks like, what kind of budget you have and how much yard maintenance you are willing to do on a regular basis. Share photos, websites and magazine clippings showing what you really love. Be sure to be clear with the landscaper about what it is you love about the pictures you are showing, and check in to be sure they understand your vision.
Can I get a sketch or drawing of the plans?
Each bidder should provide you with a design sketch before you make a final decision. This will let you know if they understood your vision, and if they can match it in design. The sketch may come in many different ways, from simple hand drawn sketches to full scale drawings created with a CAD program, to a photoshopped vision of what the final design will look like. They should be able to explain the rendering in full detail to be sure you are both on the same page. Be prepared to pay for it, because most landscape designers will charge a fee if you want to keep their design. Now is the time to talk about what you like or dislike about the design, or to make sure nothing is missing from your original vision.
What is the estimated cost?
Be sure you communicate clearly about your budget, and ask your designer for a range of costs for both the design and installation. Most installation estimates are drawn up by a contractor based on the cost per square foot of installing areas of hardscape outlined on the plan for the yard. Within this question is another one, which is “How are changes in scope handled during the design and installation process? Will you charge additional fees for the time it takes to change the design plan or installation?” Very few designers will give you a fixed price, and with good reason, since quite often things change mid project, but be sure to get all of the circumstances surrounding changes into the contract so it’s all spelled out for you and there are no surprises.
Be sure to read the second part of this article on our website next month, for six more questions you should be getting answered before hiring a landscape designer and installer. We would love the chance to bid on your project, so give us a call to get started 239-645-6455 #SWFLlandscaping #Floridalandscapedesign.