What to Ask A Landscape Designer Prior to Hiring Them
If working with a landscape designer is something that you are considering. Being able to find the perfect one and avoiding any unpleasant surprises mid project is really about knowing the question you must ask upfront as well as being familiar with the range of services provided by these professionals.
We reached out to Greg Kaider, seasoned landscape professional of Houston Landscaping Source in Houston, Texas and he provided us with the inside scoop of what services are available as well as the ten most important questions that potential clients should ask prior to hiring any professional for their project.
For starters, get your ducks in a row. Before you even reach out to a professional, make out a wish list for your garden remodeling, establish what your budget and priorities are, and decide what aspects of the projects would you need to hire a professional for. Armed with this list, you have a better idea before you start contacting professionals of what you are looking for in a designer.
Questions to Ask a Houston Landscape Designer Prior to Hiring Them
1. What Services are Offered?
Determining the services offered by the designer is the first and foremost step to see if they are the perfect person for your project. Algozzini says that the best question you can ask as a potential client is: “Do you have experience in the area of work we are looking for, and are you able to design and manage it?”
Landscape designers, depending on the services they offer, usually fall into one of the three categories below:
There are designers who only specialize in the design process. Typically this includes an analysis of the site and discussion of what the client needs, a preliminary design, and based off of client feedback; revisions as well as detailed and final master plan for the garden. The detailed planting plans as well as the construction document will then be handed over to the client or their landscape contractor and they will take it from there.
Other designers offer the above mentioned design series and the overseeing of the purchasing and installation of the plants. For permitting and hardscape installation aspects, contractors are needed, there are times however in which the landscape design will also be a registered contractor, there are also cases in which they either have contractors on their teams or contractors that they recommend and oversee.
This means that they design, build and maintain the project. For a top-notch service, there are landscapers that offer all of the above and they even oversee the ongoing maintenance of the garden.
2. May I See Some Samples of Work You Have Done in the Past?
Reader says: “Consider the designers style and compare with the garden you want. If you are looking for a clean-lined, modern city garden, have they designed that before? Or are you looking for more of a cottage style garden, do they have the proper pant knowledge to provide that?
Another thing you can do if the portfolio of the designer does not include the specific style you want, is to look over their credentials to guarantee that the training they have allows for them to turn your vision of a garden into a reality. Two good indicators are degrees for landscape design colleges that are accredited as well as memberships in professional organizations.
3. Are Garden Consultations Offered?
There are landscape designers that will offer consultations for your garden that last one or two hours. During the consultation, typically a designer comes over to the property, walks around the garden with the potential client. Listen to what they would like to accomplish with the remodel and starts to bounce some design ideas around.
This opportunity is the perfect one for you to determine whether the designer is a fit, as well as for the designer to see if they fit in with you as a client. Kaider says: “It is important that the client determine the role they want to play, are they looking for collaboration, or would they rather completely defer to the designer, maybe they have a clear idea of what they want and merely need someone who can implement it?”
Never expect that the initial consult will not cost you, it will. It is after all two hours out of professional’s schedule, however there are designers that if you do hire them they put the consult fee directly toward the cost of the design.
4. What are Your Ideas for Our Garden?
After the designer has seen you wish list and knows what you budget is, and the designer has been able to view the property, as what the vision they have for your landscape is. There are different mediums that designers have for presenting their landscaping ideas, form a mood board that collage-style with inspiration imaged of materials and plants, to a scale drawing that is two-dimensional and is created either by hand or with a CAD program.
This is when you should speak up about what you do and do not like or if there is something from your wish list that is missing. For example, room to grow vegetables, extra space for a tool shed, or a shaded area. After this meeting, a revised design drawing will be drawn up by the designer based off of your feedback.
5. What is Your Process?
The services that a designer offers are what will determine their process. Become familiar with their process and whether the designer or you will be responsible to oversee every step from the beginning so that you are aware of what can be expected once the project has begun. If the designer you are hiring only specializes only in design, ask yourself if you have the experience and time needed to oversee your project installation, or if there are contractors that your designer can recommend.
It is important for you, as a responsible client to be honest with the landscape design in regard to the budget you have for the project. Kaider says: “It is crucial to know your budget beforehand. This does not mean that the budget must be spent by the designer, it however dictates how much the designer can realistically design for.” Oftentimes if the look you want is over your budget, many designers have creative ways in which they stretch a budget provide you with the best garden for your space.
6. What do you estimate this project will cost?
It is crucial to get an estimate for the project, to make sure you and the designer are on the same page, and he or she feels confident that your landscape goals can be achieved within your budget. The designer should provide a range of cost for the design and for the installation as well. The installation estimate is usually tallied up by a contractor, using the cost per square foot of the hardscape materials planned and expected hours of labor.
You should also find out how the designer will handle any changes that need to be made through the course of the design and installation. It’s not uncommon for unexpected adjustments to be needed during the project, so it’s important to know if there will be additional fees incurred for any changes, or how the changes may affect the project’s estimated time of completion.
7. Can you suggest ways to reduce the costs?
If budget is a concern, the designer should be able to make suggestions that may reduce costs if necessary. Expenses can often be reduced by switching some of the hardscape area to a less expensive planted area. A designer can also suggest alternate hardscape materials that will still offer an aesthetically pleasing final product, but for a lesser cost.
8. How long will it take for the project’s completion?
The entire project timeline incorporates more than just the time needed to design and install the landscape materials. Many factors can affect the amount of time needed, including availability of installation specialists and contractor, appropriate weather needed for installing hardscape, the ordering and shipping time needed for the delivery of plants and materials, and any unexpected issues that may cause delays during the installation process.
Understand that a hard deadline may not be possible, so ask for the designer to estimate a date range for project completion. High quality landscape installation takes skilled planning and delicate care, and is worth the wait.
9. How long will it take for the garden to reach maturity?
Plants take time to grow in, and the length of time depends on the current weather, and the type of plants. The more mature the plants are at the time of planting, the faster they’ll come in. A small garden area with perennials and simple ornamental grasses will reach maturity in a single season, while a complex design utilizing large shrubs and trees may take years to reach full potential.
Your designer will be able to suggest plants to splurge on that are already semi-mature, so you can have at least one or two focal points in your landscaping without having to wait too long, or incorporate some fast-growing plants like vegetables, ground covers, and ornamental grasses which will help fill in the landscaping while you wait for the slower maturing plants to grow.
10. How much maintenance will be required with this garden plan?
This is an essential question to ask early on, as you want a garden that fits in not only with your style, but with your lifestyle. If you don’t enjoy yard work at all or want to pay for regular maintenance crews, you’ll want an easy to care for design. If you live in a dry climate and want to be eco-friendly or keep water bills reasonable, you’ll want low-water plants.
Be honest with yourself and your landscaper with how much time or money you’re willing to commit to garden maintenance. Your designer may be able to recommend a good gardener or landscape specialist to perform your garden maintenance.
By asking these important questions, you can easily narrow down your landscape designer candidates, and make a fully informed hiring decision that will likely result in a good working designer-client relationship, and a gorgeous garden that you can enjoy for years to come.