When you invest in landscaping you want to get the most for your money.
This is why landscape buyers are afraid to answer the dreaded question, “What’s your budget?”
We understand that because it sets up an adversarial relationship. First, we like to have a conversation about the vision you have for your landscaping project and how it will enhance your family’s lifestyle.
This conversation sets the stage, it gives everyone an idea of the project’s scope.
It’s important because your project doesn’t yet exist, other than in your imagination. To make it a reality there are a lot of things that have to be considered.
We Have A Proven Process
If you truly want to get the most from your landscaping investment, be confident, but honest about what you do and don’t know.
By asking good questions, you will learn if the company you are interviewing is right for you. Here are some to consider.
- What’s your process (or how does your company work)?
- What are the typical milestone payments?
- What guarantees and warranties do you provide?
- Can you show us some projects you’ve completed (and their budgets)?
- How can you help us get the most for our budget?
The contractor should offer ideas for making the project work.
More important is they should be honest about hidden costs. It’s always better to pay a little more than you expected than to have your project fail just to meet an arbitrary budget.
Start With Your Vision
Always clarify your vision before starting the design process.
The greater the clarity the better, but even a fuzzy vision is better than none at all. You need a destination before you can engage your creative juices to build the path.
Most people want what their landscaping allows them to experience, how it makes them feel.
This is why starting the landscape design process with the budget is almost criminal. It’s like throwing a bucket of ice water on those feelings and emotions.
What do you want to experience when immersed in your outdoor environment? When you get that right everything else falls into place.
Including the budget.
Activities and Spaces Drive Design
Whether you are designing interior or exterior spaces, they all have to work together, complementing each other. There should be a flow that makes sense.
For example, most homeowners would agree that the outdoor kitchen should be proximate to the indoor kitchen where preparation and staging will take place. How the transition between the two spaces takes place is vital for safety.
How about play areas? It makes sense to distance them from the outdoor cooking and dining areas.
To make your space interrelationships work, consider how people will flow between them, and the expected pace of that flow. Making transitions more or less open will give you control of that flow.
Landscape Elements are Assembled
This is where the magic starts to happen.
Nearly every landscape element has variable costs. There are large and small trees and expensive, moderate, and inexpensive paving materials. Stay true to your vision and first and then back into the budget.
You want to give the most thought to the permanent elements that carry the greatest value. For example, if a deck or patio is involved, you want to get that centerpiece of your design just right.
Think of this as a jigsaw puzzle with different-sized pieces. A swimming pool is a huge piece that dominates the landscape. Any uncertainty needs to be worked out before moving on to smaller pieces such as the pool house, walkways, and plantings that surround them.
Every living landscape element has a root system that must be respected if they are to thrive. For this reason, you may wish to organize your landscape elements into three categories, living, permanent, and flexible, or temporary. The latter could include outdoor furniture, playsets, and sculptures.
Don’t Forget Site Preparation
The easiest way to get and keep your budgeting process in check is to start with an item that is usually an afterthought. Site preparation or site work is everything that must happen that doesn’t directly contribute to the project.
It includes demolition of unwanted plants and hardscapes and disposal costs. This may be one or several days of intensive work with heavy equipment and labor. As you can imagine, this portion of the project can easily add up to significant costs.
Site work may also include supplemental drainage measures, temporary fencing, and permitting.
So, get this number on the table first.
Budget Ranges Offer Flexibility
The best way to work to a budget is by thinking in terms of budget ranges and expected elements.
If you and the designer agree on the elements you want, such as a pool, driveway, plantings, and so on, then the budget can be managed by working with the size or quality of each element.
Here’s how it works, step-by-step.
#1. Choose the must-have features or elements for your outdoor living space and list them on the left axis. For example:
- Site work
#2. Then to the right of that column create three more columns: HIGH, MEDIUM, and LOW.
#3. Now fill in the grid with estimates of the high, medium, and low price points. (e.g. a natural stone patio may be high, fabricated stone medium, and standard brick pavers low).
#4. These high, medium and low costs should include the materials, labor, and equipment to build them.
- The sum of the respective high, medium, and low columns will give you a broad budget range for planning.
- Choosing one high, medium, or low-cost option for each element will give you the target budget.
- The range will give you a sense of where you could be with further refinement. More than anything, it’s a reality check.
To stay on budget, you may decide to eliminate an element, e.g. taking the fence out of the budget like we did here.
You can always add it later. Just be aware that there will be additional mobilization costs to complete that work at a later date.
Plantings are your most flexible budget item. For this exercise, we wanted to allow for more mature and specimen plantings.
We Can Make It Work For You
Your outdoor living lifestyle is limited only by your vision and the budget you plan to commit to it. We’ll guide you through our proven process for making it work.
Our experienced team of professionals looks forward to learning about your next project. Contact us for a casual, no-obligation analysis.