Garden and Landscape Editor Steve Montgomery Discusses the Benefits of Hiring a Professional Landscape Designer
So, you’re at home much more this year than you were in the past with all the crazy things going on in the world and you’ve decided to improve your property. Updating the kitchen, remodeling a bathroom, and painting a bedroom or two are common upgrades.
Then there’s the outside, you want to do something, but you’re not sure exactly what. You have some general ideas but how do you put it all together so that it makes sense and does what you want or hope for?
Does it make sense to hire a landscape/hardscape designer/architect for your mountain property or any other property? Do you really want someone else telling you what you should and should not do to your property? The answer is, YES. Would you do anything on the inside without a plan or plan of action, NO. The same is true for the outside as well, especially the outside as it can be overly complicated to plan for and to execute. Let’s walk through the advantages and one disadvantage of hiring a professional designer/architect so that you can make an educated decision.
Right away I’ll tell you that the disadvantage of hiring a professional is the cost, but as you will see, that is easily explained away. A designer/architect will charge a wide range of fees for the services they offer. The fees can be as low as $200 to $300 for a quick on-site sketch and consultation up to several thousand dollars for a detailed 2d design and 3d modeling images. So, let’s look at the several levels of service you can get from a professional.
A designer usually has a lot of hands-on experience and some, or a lot of education in this realm. They may also have a degree in horticulture or another related discipline, but designers are not registered architects with credentials. An architect has a degree in landscape architecture, is certified, registered and has an official stamp to put on their plans. Architects often charge more for their services than a non-registered designer. But that doesn’t mean that their services are better. Quality service depends squarely on the individual.
What are the normal services that you can expect to get from a designer or a registered architect? As stated earlier, at the lower end, you can get a quick sketch (see example above) and consultation for a couple of hundred dollars. This would be appropriate for a smaller, specific space that you want to improve or change.
The next level cost-wise would a full design plan (see example on next page) for the front and back yard areas that addresses all of the challenges and details of your property, usually presented on a 24” x 36” paper and a PDF file. This will include all the items you may be considering, things like a pool, a water feature, a fire pit, walls, lawn areas, plants, irrigation, drainage, lighting, steps, decks, and patios are considerations. You can expect to pay in the range of several hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on who you hire and the size of the project.
You can also have 3D modeling done in the design phase as well (see example on next page). This is great for people who have a difficult time visualizing the finished product. You can expect to pay $1-2k for this service depending on the size and the designer.
The next level of service is having the professional oversee the build phase of the project. You have a couple of options here. You can take the design and then get bids on the project from build companies yourself or turn this over to your designer. The designer is a great resource for getting bids for you, as it’s not just the price that you should be looking at, it’s the details. A professional will be able to see those details and qualify the bid. In my experience I have seen many times where people hire someone because the price was lower and then get burned with a project half done or very poor quality work that will have to be re-done in the near future. A third option here is to take the design and install it yourself over time depending on your level or desire for the workload and your knowledge.
Next would be If the company/professional is a design/build firm, you can get a quote from them and use them to install the project. Here you get the benefit of having the designer oversee the project to make sure everything is done the way it should be and the way you envisioned it. Usually this is not for any additional fees as the designer is part of the build firm and gets compensation from them. If the designer is not part of a build firm, then you can hire them to oversee who you do hire to ensure the quality and the success of the project. This is usually charged on an hourly basis and agreed to ahead of time.
By going through this process with a professional you’ll get the benefit of a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience which is invaluable. A professional knows plants– when they bloom, how big they get (plants are often planted in the wrong place and become a real problem down the road), are they evergreen or deciduous, and what plants can be used for privacy? Are the plants deer and pest resistant? Or what about plants that help control insects (Permaculture), a professional knows what is best for your area/region and more. Then there’s the hardscape– where does it make sense to place the patio, the fire pit, the water feature, the pool, the outdoor kitchen, the arbor, or the pavilion? Also, a professional will consider the amount of both sun and shade, drainage issues and many other factors will insure the best outcome for your project. There’s also the overall consideration of how does the project flow for accessibility and use? This is a major consideration that most people don’t really think about. A professional will be able to assess and meet requirements by the jurisdiction for permitting and code compliance. This can be complicated. Many times, the biggest challenges are the actual rules laid out by the jurisdiction as these rules will dictate where things can and cannot go. For example, there are setbacks on most properties that don’t allow certain structures to be built within those areas. This can require a lot of creativity to make your plan work. There are also many times a homeowner’s association has rules that must be met.
This brings me to probably the biggest asset that you get from a professional and that is creativity. Along with experience, and knowledge, you get creativity. Being able to come up with great and fantastic ideas and then making them work for your space is probably the biggest challenge a designer will face. Figuring out creative ways to solve problems and make something look amazing is a big one.
Having a professional designer watch over the project and answer your questions is key to making sure everything is done right. This avoids potential costly mistakes and additional cost. A professional can also reduce problems like plants dying because they are not in the right place, failing inspections from lack of compliance, and much more.
As you can see there are a lot of things to consider to insure a successful outcome. A professional will be highly creative and knowledgeable for a project to come out beautiful and functional. Is it worth spending the money to get an expert’s opinion and knowledge? I would say in most cases absolutely. It’s money well spent, and will most likely save you money in the long run. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I know for sure that finding and hiring a good creative designer/architect does not cost, it pays. ACLM
Steve Montgomery and Company has extensive knowledge in the areas of landscape, hardscape, construction of outdoor structures, water features and pools.
Steve Montgomery and Company.
Phone: 404-966-8283 or 770-317-1484
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