Hiring a landscape architect can be an unsettling task for somebody who hasn’t done it before. There are many questions that can be swirling around in your head. In order to make sure you hire the right landscape architect for the job, you need to make sure that you ask these questions first.
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What is a Landscape Architect
First of all, we need to understand what a landscape architect is and what their role entails. A landscape architect is a professional who designs outdoor living spaces. Unlike landscape designers, landscape architects hold the legal rights to submitting “Wet Stamps” which are often required for commercial and civic projects.
Landscape architects create detailed design plans and layouts. Multiple pages outline the demolition process, hardscape, irrigation, drainage, lighting, planting plan, and other design specifications. In simple terms, they draw up the plans and manage subcontractors throughout the projects entirety.
When to Hire a Landscape Architect
Not all projects necessitate a landscape architect. Landscape architects usually take on larger commercial designs because there is more money in this area. Think about whether you really need to hire a landscape architect or if you just need them to create a design plan for you. If you are planning an extensive project, then you can also consider hiring a landscape designer. Here are some instances where you need to hire a landscape architect.
- You are part of a Homeowners Association (HOA) that requires you to have a landscape plan. Make sure that you check with your HOA before beginning any of these backyard renovations.
- When you want something extraordinarily special. Think something out of a magazine. It takes years to hone a craft like this for a reason. I’d strongly recommend against tackling a developed plan if you do not hold any experience in the field.
- When your plans involve complicated features like wheelchair accessible, swimming pools, fireplaces, design, outdoor kitchen, etc. You have to know safety codes and figure out all of the small details that only an expert would know.
Hiring a Landscape Architect
- Ask for a License – You wouldn’t want to hire an unlicensed contractor any more than you would want an unlicensed landscape architect working in your backyard. Landscape architects are licensed in 49 states. To obtain work, a landscape architect must hold a license in the given state. Most hold a Bachelor’s and/or Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture. To receive a license to become a Landscape Architect, they must pass the Landscape Architect Registration Examination. Never hire someone who can’t provide proof of a license.
- Ask for References – Don’t just take their word for it. Do your research, ask if they could put you in touch with a couple of happy past clients. If for some reason, they “don’t have their number anymore,” tread cautiously. Use good judgment and decide if this is a trustworthy person with strong business principles.
Don’t be afraid to stop by some homes in the neighborhood that you admire and ring a door bell. Ask them who they used and if they would recommend this person/company!
- Creativity & Imagination – This is what separates the good from the great! If you can come up with better ideas than them, it’s probably not a good idea to hire this particular company. Your landscape architect should help guide you through the entire process and make you feel comfortable about the project at hand. They should be able to articulate the pros and cons of each layout. Ask yourself, did I learn something new?
- Payment Method – Before you hand over the check, make sure that they have done everything that they agree to. Prior to hiring a landscape architect, they should tell you the depth of the work involved to achieve the desired results, project timeline, and provide a flat-fee design proposal that outlines what’s included and what’s not. Similar to a contractor, you may expect to pay a deposit before the project commencement and the final payment is to be given near the end or after completion of the project.
- Budget – A good rule of thumb is to invest no more that 5-10% of your homes market value. This will prevent you from overspending. Don’t agree to an inflated pricing plan that goes outside the bounds of your budget.
Landscape is different from other home remodeling projects that lose value over time. Historically, landscape renovations continue building equity as the years progress. Check out this article to learn Why Curb Appeal is a Worthy Investment.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
- Make sure you know what’s in style by checking out the Latest Outdoor Design Trends in 2014. This will help you get an idea of what’s to come!
- Upkeep and Maintenance- How much time can you spend taking care of your backyard. Do you need greenery that is self-sustaining or do you want to be able to enjoy the benefits of watering and tending to you own yard?
- What do you want to include in your backyard. Here are a few special features that you can implement into your backyard landscape.
About the Author
Cheryl Khan is an interior designer who contributes to several home decor blogs on topics inside and outside of the house. While her forte lies within the confines of a home’s interior, she believes that it is important to connect the exterior of your home with the interior.