The Importance of Planning for your Project’s Landscaping

Hiring a contractor for a new project can be stressful.  There are a lot of decisions to factor in before giving someone control of your project.

  • How much will your project cost?
  • What is included in the project costs?
  • Where should the pool be placed to maximize other needs in the backyard?
  • Is the seating area sufficient in size?
  • What would an alternative shape or size look like?
  • How will the placement of a large tree effect your view?

These are all examples of questions that could arise in the process.

Having a landscape plan prepared prior to making an important commitment will provide for many benefits that will ensure you maximize the investment in your property.  Benefits of a landscape plan can include:

  • Allow for a detailed illustration of what things will look like
  • Identify areas of the project that are to be included in a contract with your contract.  Perhaps there are some items on the plan that are easy enough for the homeowner to organize on their own time.  Like a vegetable garden or fencing.
  • Allow you to show an option 'B' or 'C' for consideration.
  • A future reference for plantings.
  • A designer can plan for the future.  Phases can be identified.  Perhaps a patio or pergola that is not in the budget now, but is desirable 5 years from now can be planned for in present time.
  • Comparative quotations.  A specific plan that you can distribute to 2 or 3 contracts will allow you to compare quotes on an even keel.  Without a plan it would be difficult to compare one quote to the next.  Most contractors have different visions and installation methods.  Make note of details on a contractor's quote?
  • Specifics.  A designer can recommend the ideal depth of soil beneath soil for example.  Or, the base preparation required for a paving stone driveway installation on an existing clay based soil.  Or a grouping of flowering shrubs that will grow nicely in a shady location with deer that inhabit the area.
  • Landscape Lighting is easy to plan for on paper.  To clearly mark and identify lighting locations on a scaled drawing is easier than in the field.

For me, any project over $5,000 warrants a detailed plan up front.  Anything less can likely be identified on site between the contractor and homeowner with the use of measuring tools and marking paint.  The landscape plan process could take 1-3 weeks.  A well-referred contractor may take 2-4 months to be able to accommodate your installation.  So lead time is key to preparing details for your project.  The fall/winter months tend to be a good time to look at this area of your property.

Fees for a landscape plan will differ from designer to designer.  But for most new builds on typical homesites can cost from $600-1,200 for a descriptive plan.  Some designers even offer incentives or discounts for plans when their company's install crews are hired for the work.  Most Landscape Designers start around $60/hr and can be as high as $100/hr.  Designers can also show your plan in color, or render portions in 3D if required.

Ask your prospective designer to show you past plans for a similar sized property and identify costs associated.  This will allow you to get a good estimate of what you may spend, and show the level of detail included.  Perhaps there are specific details that can be avoided to save a bit of money as well.  Having the designer simply show the plant material, but not label it would avoid a couple hours of design time.

Having a $15,000 budget and handing those funds to a contractor and just hoping you get all the things you want out of your yard can be very risky.  Corners can easily be cut by the contractor.  Depth of soil could be cut in half.  Smaller plants could get installed.  Wrong locations could be chosen for large trees. Cheaper pavers might be sourced.  Or perhaps certain areas of the project are assumed to be not included in the contract price.

Explore options with local designers in your area.

By Michael Arding, owner/designer of Nokomis Landscaping