With the summer season just around the corner, we thought we might dig into the topic of timelines for a couple of landscape construction projects and the importance of working with a professional you trust. One of the most important values we have here at Swazy is setting the right expectations for our clients and future clients. As much as we would like to say that “we will be there tomorrow” to begin your project that just isn’t realistic. Proper Landscape Design and Landscape Construction is a creative, collaborative, and professional process. And let’s be honest, if we said we could start tomorrow wouldn’t that send up some red flags for you? It certainly would for me if I were hiring someone to perform a major project to be done on my greatest investment.

So, let’s get to it, an honest look at a couple of timelines…

The Full Monty… The Complete Landscape.

Maybe you are looking for a flagstone rock wall with a flagstone patio and a few water features surrounding your new infinity pool, a natural stone outdoor built-in gas fireplace and to complete the project a custom fire pit adjacent to the new pergola enhanced with Bluetooth controlled LED lighting. Hey, I said the full monty, right?

Complete landscapes take weeks to plan, and it is common for most companies to be booked months in advance. Pool builders are known to be booking out 8-12 months, (the good ones anyway), and take it from experience, nobody wants to hire a bad one.

The complete landscape should begin with a 1-2 hour onsite discussion with a landscape designer. The designer will ask questions and listen to any ideas you may have. They will look at the plethora of photos you have filled up your phone’s memory with. Come on you know the 1000’s of “oooh this is nice…” you have grabbed from Pinterest. Once you share an expected budget, they will suggest features and detail that will fit your requests. If your budget doesn’t align with your plans, they should tell you that right away, any designer that doesn’t have the experience to do this is most likely not the one for you. In today’s fast-paced world who has time to play guessing games? Designing a landscape should not involve guessing, and if it does, I am guessing you are going to have stressful experience ahead of you.

Let’s talk about Landscape Designers for a moment. Landscape Designers charge for their time, so make sure to ask them up-front what the service fee range is to avoid any surprises. If you do find a designer who is willing to come out for free, you may want to stop and pause for a moment and ask yourself why are they working for free?…

Photo: TRD Designs/Flickr

You know that age-old saying…‘You Get What You Pay For’?

Services and goods are more often than not discounted for a reason. I know in my personal and professional experience I have found very few instances where you get more than you pay for. There is a reason that the charcoal grill at the ‘dollar’ store costs $35.00 and theWeber® Grill at the high-end home improvement store costs over $800. It is simple; the Weber® Grill is a superior product. The Weber® grill will most likely last 10X as long (or more… let’s be honest) than that ‘dollar’ store version. It costs more to make and therefore retails for more. Quality, whether it be, design, builders, or your backyard grill will almost certainly cost a little more but in the long run will always end up saving you time, money, and a whole lot of headaches. The moral of my sophisticated economics lesson based on grilling? Quality Landscape Designers charge for their time, period.

Generally speaking, you should allow a solid 1-2 months before breaking ground to PLAN a full landscape project and don’t forget to add a couple of weeks if permits are involved. Once up and running, a complete landscape project involving pools, patios, outdoor kitchens, and plantings can take 2-10 weeks depending on scope.

We like to remind clients that construction can be a messy business and will involve dust and noise. We always do our best to contain it, but there will always be some level of upset, we are working with dirt and stone after all. Oh and if it rains…and let’s be honest, it always rains, your project will take longer. I am hopeful that this spring is not the norm, but we never know what Mother Nature has in store for us here in New England. It is also good to remember if it is one of those hot, humid, and sticky days we often get, the crews’ production can slow down– guys get hot & groggy. There will be more water breaks; these guys need to stay hydrated. That is, part of the job!

On a somewhat smaller scale…. Let’s chat about Outdoor Kitchens!

Building outdoor kitchens are at the top of our recent requests and are often underestimated time-wise. From that exciting moment when the decision is made to build that ‘Top Chef’ worthy outdoor kitchen, you are realistically looking at about 2-3 weeks to plan and await the crew to start building.

Keep in mind this time frame is based on the time from submitting your down payment to actual work starting. This number can climb rapidly if you are the type of homeowner who is compelled to interview 5 or more companies before the trigger is even pulled. Remember the quote I mentioned earlier. You typically get what you pay for… with some good recommendations and a little research, you can save massive amounts of time and time is most certainly money for both you and any landscape companies.

Many of you will feel as though you are doing your due diligence by speaking to a few different businesses, and we certainly would not suggest that you should just close your eyes and point to someone that you found from googling “Landscape Companies Near Me.” A word of mouth recommendation is worth its weight in gold. Perhaps you love your neighbor’s yard, why not chat them up about who performs their services? If you are just looking for the lowest bidder, you are limiting your possibility to that of a ‘Craigslist’ quality designer/builder. The reasons not to go this route are long and many…so here are just a few.

  • You are likely to be disappointed in the results.
  • Unfortunately it is rather common to have contractors that simply do not show up.
  • I have even heard of contractor’s taking your deposit and never starting the job.
  • And should you end up with any warranty issues, well… you may be dealing with that on your own because you may not find them, they have mysteriously disappeared.
  • They do not build to code, and in a year the building inspector is knocking on your door.
  • They may start the job and then start hitting you with extras “Not Specified” in the agreement.
  • Maybe they take shortcuts and use cheaper materials than you agreed to. You could possibly have to replace everything in a year or two.

Remember, the Outdoor Kitchen you are so excited about is built on a patio. Those patios are hard, heavy work, and if you are looking for the lowest price, it is only logical to understand those costs are saved somewhere. One example of where those cost savers may come in is that the landscape company uses a cheaper stone and less base under the patio. Which means within a year or two that patio with all the fancy features you added on top of it are going to shift. Shifting patio = additional money out of your pocket and extra time to fix or completely rebuild, not to mention the time lost actually cooking in your new kitchen.

So, please, save yourself and your landscape! Skip the landscape design & construction list of horrors and hire a professional. With the right team in place and a little cooperation from Mother Nature, you should be dining al fresco in anywhere from 1 to 3 months!

What’s up for the summer season?

With the Spring Season almost behind us, we are focusing on getting out a lot of new and useful information to our clients and friends.

Keep an eye out for Summer Season blogging and stay tuned as we are putting together our first official Ebook/Guide: “A Homeowner’s Guide to Landscape Planning.”

Hire A Professional; You Will Be Glad You Did!