Over the many years I have been a professional designer and landscape contractor, I have seen patterns of behaviors, misunderstandings and a general lack of how the landscape industry works from a homeowner’s perspective. Here are five top landscaping mistakes homeowners make and how you can avoid them.
If your needs are to simply do some clean up around the yard, you don’t call an architect. But if you need an entire backyard remodeled, you do not ask your gardener to prepare a design.
Part of the problem is caused by the services offered by these “landscapers”. Many who are not licensed, qualified, skilled nor educated will claim they can do virtually everything a landscape would need from tree trimming to building a retaining wall.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes and misconceptions homeowners have involving the landscape industry:
Being your own general contractor and architect
You should have a good handle on big picture thinking and a good sense of design if you intend to be your own general contractor/supervisor of the workers that you hire. Where most homeowners make mistakes is when they have a larger project that may involve several components such as grading, irrigation, lighting, masonry and plantings – even for a very small area and rely on their gardener to give them design advice and a quote.
Hiring multiple tradesmen to do work one “project” at a time usually results in a hodgepodge appearance and which may lack cohesiveness after it’s all completed. Do these individual “projects” fit into an overall plan or are you piecemealing the installation? Piecemeal installations often result in inefficiencies and additional expense.
Asking your regular gardener to perform work and/or design advice beyond their expertise
Arizona law does not require a contractor’s license to maintain landscapes, i.e. tree trimming, mowing, weeding, etc. but do require a license for any work that exceeds $750 which is then considered to be contracting . Thus most ‘gardener-landscapers’ are not licensed but often advertise that they install pavers, walls, etc. which all could easily fall into the category of contracting.
Getting “Free Estimates” to compare different designs
Homeowners may feel they do not want to pay for a separate design even though the project may warrant one. Here’s the scenario: Homeowner calls several contractors to give them a free estimate which requires some kind of design to be put on paper, perhaps an entire backyard. Some contractors will not charge a design fee, others will credit the fee towards construction costs, but many will do a design and proposal in the hopes of getting the work and perhaps present the design but not let the homeowner keep it.
Sacrificing quality of work, expertise, credentials and legal issues for the lowest price
We all are driven to get the best deal on our purchases, but in the field of construction, we think we are like the government who sends out a call for bids and who then selects the lowest bid.
Written by John Stuart.