If you’re thinking of improving your yard, hiring a landscape architect, designer or contractor is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. They level of knowledge and expertise may be the same, but they usually focus on different areas of landscaping.
It can indeed be hard to separate the tasks of these three types of landscape professionals. To clear the confusion, many design-build firms hire architects and designers internally to handle everything, from design, to installation to maintenance; other architects and designers, on the other hand, hire their own contractors. Sometimes, you can just work with a landscape designer or architect to create a plan for your project, after which you will be referred to a trusted contractor. With most landscape contractors, the construction package covers all design work.
So the question is, how do you decide whether to hire a landscape architect, designer or contractor? The answer depends on a few factors, particularly your budget, the size and timeline of your project, and the complexity of the job. But believe it or not, there’s a fifth factor, which is generally considered the ultimate litmus test: personality fit.
You’ll need a landscape professional who is receptive to your ideas, suggestions or goals, and will work with a schedule that is comfortable to you. They should spend time inspecting your property and asking you questions, such as what elements you want in the design (for example, bamboo outdoor furniture), how you plan to use the area (for instance, reading a book or dining with the family or with guests), or what overall ambiance you want for this part of your home). Of course, if they feel that you want something that isn’t possible or is hardly wise, they will offer their expert opinion.
As always, when you’re looking for any type of service professional, the best route to a good one is a persona referral. So ask relatives, friends or coworkers if they’ve worked with a good one recently. Another option you have is searching online directories maintained by industry organizations. Ask them whether they have licenses, certifications and professional affiliations; if they say yes, have them show proof. All proposals must be given to you in writing, and make sure all the terms and conditions, including the fees, are clear to you.
Even if you’re planning on a DIY for your landscape project, the advice of experts is always valuable. After all, there are many reasons people call them that. And of course, considering the usually expensive cost involved, you’d like to make sure that everything is done right on the first try.