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PRO
Tips on choosing a landscaper, garden designer or gardener

Please note that this is a referral service only and Landscape Juice does NOT recommend its members - before entering into a transaction, please refer read the following carefully.

If you feel comfortable with a contractor and how they put themselves across, then you are at liberty to ask them further questions either via email or by telephone.

Don't feel rushed; the process is an important one and, let's face it, you are likely to be signing up to spend several hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds.

Here are a few Dos and Don'ts when choosing a garden contractor:

Do write a brief before you have spoken to anyone. Having a clear idea of what you need to achieve is essential, especially as all traders should be given the same information. It’s fairer to them and important for you to be able to compare what they say on a like-for-like basis.

Do spend time on research. Click through to contractors’ websites from their profile page on Landscape Juice Network and get a feel for their business. Look at their ''before and after” photos. Be sure that you are initially comfortable with the person or business that you decide to contact.

Do compile a list of contractors in your locality and whittle it down until you are happy with your choice; three contractors is an ideal number. More than three and the whole process could become jumbled and complicated. Less than three and you will not have sufficient information with which to compare the estimates.

Do write a specification based on your brief, or ask one contractor to write a specification as part of their service. You may have to pay for this service, so check before making a commitment. This specification should go to all the contractors.

Do tell your contractor what you have to spend and don't try to play one contractor off against another or trick anyone into getting the price as low as possible. Look upon the transaction that you are about to undertake as an equal partnership and not as a “them and us” scenario. Ask a friend or family member to join you during the quotation process if you unsure about dealing with the contractor yourself.

Do ask to talk to previous clients and, better still, try to visit their gardens, as this is the best way to vet a contractor’s work. Many landscape contractors develop a special bond with their clients and it is evident when a job has gone well and both parties are happy with the results. This is genuinely reflected in testimonials or at on-site meetings and cannot be faked.

Do ask to see samples of materials. There are many types of materials with varying costs associated with them. A real York stone patio can cost substantially more than a imitation stone patio. Similarly, there are different grades of turf, and trees and shrubs can cost a little or a lot depending on the size you specify.

Don't rush the process, or you may make costly errors. You should allow 2-4 months (sometimes longer, depending on the complexity of the project) from the time you provide a brief, through to receiving the design and the quote. That way, you will be able to make decisions at a pace that suits you and, more importantly, get the right results.

Clients will be looking for the best possible job at the best possible price, but, as previously stated, you are entering a partnership. Every contract should be mutually beneficial.

A landscaper, designer or gardener can be a very skilled person who may have spent many years studying and learning their trade through hard work and on-the-job experience. It is this experience and skill that you are paying for; do not, whatever else you do, expect to pay too little. Garden contractors deserve to be paid the right fee for their time and their skills.

What does landscaping cost?

Because of the vast potential for variation, it is not possible to define landscaping costs precisely. The right contractor will assist you by explaining where the money will be spent, and if you follow the above advice and consult a minimum of three contractors, you’ll find it easier to understand where costs are attributed.

Bear in mind that a larger contractor may have to charge you VAT on top of the price of the work. The contractor is not benefiting from this extra money as it has to be collected from you and sent on to HM Customs and Excise.

Don't ask for cash discounts to avoid VAT and don't expect to be asked for cash. Keeping the transaction on an official level is a safeguard for you as cash payments and a lack of paperwork may make it difficult to enforce a warranty or guarantee. It also reflects poorly on the contractor if payments are made via a brown paper bag.

Do expect a full set of paperwork from a contractor. You should receive a typed quotation (or estimate) that reflects your brief or specification. Supporting information should include a set of terms and conditions, a copy of the contractor’s insurance certificate, a code of conduct (for firms employing staff) a schedule of works so that you can understand how long the work will take.

Glossary:

Quote or quotation. This is a fixed price and is binding by law. The cost may only vary if you ask the contractor to provide services or materials not included in the quotation. A quote is the safest option because there will be no extras to pay and any mistakes made during the pricing process will be the responsibility of the contractor.

Estimates are supplied in certain circumstances where a project might not be clearly definable. If you agree to receive an estimate, be sure to understand where price variation might occur.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –
PRO

Phil

Comments

  • PRO
    A very good summary. I would draw particular attention to providing a budget. It is so difficult when customers refuse to give you a budget when there is any element of design involved. It starts the whole process with an air of mistrust and in the end, it means they can't make a fair comparison between contractors/designers. To say nothing of the difficulty of flailing around trying to take a guess at what the customer can afford when designing their garden.
  • One more thing to pay attention is the garden design process. The cost is also depending on the design process, designer and the size of the garden or project. It can be started with site survey, concept plan, visualisations, master plan, planting, lightening and more.

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