If you’re fed up with having the worst yard on the block, your landscape beds are outdated and overgrown or you need some privacy from your neighbors, it may be time to consider upgrading your landscaping.
A full-service landscape design/build firm can completely transform your property into the outdoor oasis you’ve been dreaming of – and increase the value of your home – if their team understands your goals for the project. That’s why it’s important to consider your family’s wants and needs for the space before engaging a landscape professional.
“We like to tell people to think about scope, details and budget,” says Michael Beightol, a landscape architect with Exscape Designs in Novelty, Ohio. “What is the underlying problem you are looking to solve? What can we do to make your life better?”
Before you sign on with a landscape contracting firm, be sure to think through the following items on the checklist below.
Beightol adds, “You don’t need to come up with a design, but you do need to come up with the information that lets us design and build a landscape you will love.”
When it comes to the project’s scope, Beightol encourages clients to think holistically about the entire site, considering their goals, how they use the space and timing. When do you need the project completed? How long do you plan to stay in your home? Do you plan to put in a pool in a few years when your kids get older? You may think you just want a patio, but what are your plans down the line? Will you eventually want to renovate the front or side yards?
“The goal is to have everything in the landscape working together congruently,” Beightol says.
The more information you give your landscape designer, the better. Answers to the above questions and others may lead you down the path of creating a master plan rather than a standalone design for a single element like a pergola or pathway.
A master plan, which can be installed in phases over several years, ensures a useful, well-designed property for years to come rather than a series of piecemeal projects. Additionally, it can save you money in the long run.
“Maybe we can do the prep work for a future phase now, like pouring footers for a grill, even if those elements aren’t going in for a few years,” Beightol says. “It can make our work a lot easier and save the client money in terms of not having to damage and rebuild things in the future.”
It’s also a good idea for all decision makers, such as both husband and wife, to be on the same page when working with a landscape designer.
“Even if one partner is driving the project, we still want to hear opinions from both parties,” Beightol says. “It allows us to set the proper expectations and avoid a lack of communication that can really affect the end game.”
Next come the details, which Beightol says typically include reviewing the site’s existing conditions and also the clients’ styles and preferences.
Site conditions include your property’s grade, problem areas, improperly placed trees or plants and other considerations. Your designer will collect many of these details during a site visit, but it’s helpful if the homeowner points out anything notable.
In fact, Beightol suggests making a list of your landscape’s assets and liabilities prior to the design meeting. Assets include favorite trees or site lines you’d like to keep. Liabilities are things like wet spots, too-shady areas or undesirable views of the neighbors.
When drawing up a plan, landscape designers will take cues from your home’s exterior to ensure a harmonious, tasteful aesthetic. Beightol adds that it’s a good idea to give your designer a peek inside your home, as well.
“We want to see the views of the landscaping from the inside, and we also want an idea of your style,” he says. “The interior doesn’t always match the exterior, and we’ll want to discuss whether the yard should reflect the look of the outside of your house or your tastes.”
In any case, look online or in home and gardening magazines and share your likes – colors, materials and plant selection – with your designer.
Before engaging a landscape company, it’s important to have a good grasp on how much money you’d like to spend – and don’t hesitate to share that figure with your designer, Beightol says.
Consider your financing options and remember, a master plan with several phases installed across multiple years is always an option.
“A lot of people are scared to share their budget,” Beightol says. “But they should know we as designers want to do the best work we can and get the most bang for their dollar. It doesn’t make sense for us to shortchange the client. We want every job to be a good referral.”
It’s also beneficial to share your maintenance expectations with your designer. Do you plan to hire a company to maintain your landscape or will you do it yourself? Those details will have bearing on the types of plants a designer will include in your landscape bed, for example. It also gets you thinking about the time and money it will take to keep your property looking great.
Keep in mind, you and your designer are working toward the same goal: a functional, beautiful outdoor space that your family will enjoy for years to come.