By Mike Lessard
Every new garden begins with a dream. Every new patio starts with visions of a barbecue with friends or fun family get-togethers. New driveway and front garden ideas often begin after slow drives through your neighbourhood, scoping out the projects others have created.
Do you have a growing vision for your perfect outdoor space but wonder how you can get started?
There are so many options for completing a landscape project. Call in all your healthy young relatives. Bribe your buddies at work with a bbq and a full cooler. Hire that guy down the street. Or do it yourself…. Just remember that old adage: You get what you pay for.
At times like this, it often helps to consult a landscaping professional. There are so many snags you can run into when doing a landscape project. Simply estimating how much time it takes to do a project, or how much material to order can be daunting.
Many top landscaping firms offer a landscaping consultation as one of their services. For a nominal fee they will send out a landscape professional to meet with you, to review and refine your ideas. That’s a great place to start.
Often, the best companies will provide you with a concept drawing to work from and a materials list to order from. And, if you like, they can construct the project for you as well!
It’s your dream. if you want great results, don’t settle for the first landscaping contractor that crosses your path. As with anything else, if you do a little leg work before you start, you’ll be more likely to find the best landscaper to work with, and you’ll be happier with the results.
Here are some tips to help you get you started.
1. Define Your Vision.
What do you want from your outdoor space? Decide what is most important to you.
- Is it the overall aesthetic? Is it the quality of construction. Do you want specific building materials? Maybe there are certain colours, plants, or features that you just can’t stand.
- Do you like to cook and entertain guests? Then maybe an outdoor kitchen is in order.
- Perhaps you like to unwind with a glass of wine and a book. You might enjoy some shade, and a little privacy — how about a hammock enclave? Or possibly a cabana, with a nearby fountain to add some ambience?
- Do you enjoy the water? Would you like to create a personal “staycation getaway” with a pool or a spa?
- Maybe you have some specific features you can’t do without, like outdoor lighting, irrigation, a retaining wall, patio, deck, pond or waterfall?
Whatever it is that you like, now is the time to dream and collect your inspirations.
2. What if I have a dream developing, but no specific ideas just yet?
How would you like the new landscape to function? What’s the value you want to get from the space you create? Relaxation? Curb appeal? Investment in the home’s resale value?
Make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Create a file of images with features you really like. Close your eyes and dream a little. You’ll want to share all of this with your landscaping consultants.
3. Set a budget and timelines.
Also be sure to define a budget range and timeline for completion. It’s important to share these important factors with your landscaping consultants, they need to understand the resources they’ll be working with.
4. Identify several landscape professionals in your area.
Ask your friends, family and neighbours for referrals. Then do some searching online to check the companies they recommended. Narrow your list to contractors that offer the kinds of services that you require, such as - landscape design, construction and ongoing upkeep.
While you’re researching, ask yourself these questions:
- How long has the landscaper been in business? Landscapers do not remain in business for long if their customers are unhappy or their work is substandard.
- Do they have an experienced team? All company workers should be experienced, or under the direct supervision of someone with experience.
- Do they do all of the work themselves or subcontract work? How do they choose subcontractors?
- Is there a portfolio available online? Do they show samples of their past work?
- Are they local? The further away the company, the harder it will be to get them to provide follow-up service once the job is complete.
- On top of expertise, does the business have adequate insurance? In the unlikely event that damage occurs to your property or on-the-job injuries happen at your home, it’s important to know that the landscape professionals have proper insurance coverage and workplace hazard training.
- Look for reviews on Google or Facebook? Are they generally positive? If there are negative reviews, has the business responded to explain or set things right?
The information you gather from these sources will help you gauge the quality of the landscapers you are considering.
5. Book two or three consultations.
Now that you’ve identified a few good landscapers, contact the companies to request a consultation and quote. Some landscapers may charge a design consultation fee. Don’t let that scare you. It allows them to put their best efforts into your quote, and compensates them for their creativity and original ideas.
A few quick tips:
- Meet with your landscaper in person.
- Pay attention to how well they listen to your vision. Do they get it?
- How well do they explain different options and services they provide? Their suggestions should align well with your dreams and needs — and with your timeline and funds!
- Take note of landscapers who are enthusiastic about their profession and recommend creative solutions to the issues you have.
How did you feel when you spoke with the company’s representative? Did you feel that you could trust them? Did they they meet with you on time, as scheduled? Did they take the time to listen and understand?
6. Make your choice.
It’s gut check time! Choosing the best landscaper for your home can be exciting, and maybe a little daunting. Remember, its your dream project, you want the right professionals to bring the dream to your backyard. Rest easy and enjoy the project knowing you did your homework.
Looking for an experienced, award-winning landscape design-build team in Caledonia, Stoney Creek, Hamilton or Haldimand County? Consider Jeff’s Outdoor! We’d love to help you create your outdoor dream and start getting the most from your outdoor space.
Need some help?
We love to work outside so you can enjoy your time there.
Mike, our Design-Build Client Rep, has a background in client services. Mike likes to volunteer in the community: we like that about him. He is currently the vice president at the Dunnville Chamber of Commerce. Mike is also a very fast skier — or at least he claims to be. We're fine with that because we know he always takes his time with our customers.
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