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How to Choose a Landscape Architect, Designer or Contractor

If you plan to improve your yard, one of the key decisions you’ll make is whether you should hire a landscape architect, designer or contractor. Their level of expertise and knowledge may be the same, but the areas of landscaping they focus vary significantly.

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. In most cases, when you hire a landscape contractor, all design work will be part of the deal.

So how do you decide which professional to hire? The answer depends on a few factors, particularly your budget, the size and timeline of your project, and the complexity of the job. But whether you believe it or not, there’s one more factor that is even deemed to be the definitive litmus test: personal connection.

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 checking out your property and asking you questions about how you usually use it, the elements you want to include in the design (for example, rattan outdoor furniture), and the overall ambiance that you would like the create with the final design. Of course, if there’s something you want that isn’t possible or recommendable, they will express their thoughts to you based on their knowledge and experience.

As always, whether you’re looking for a landscape professional or any other service provider, a personal referral or recommendation is your best bet. So ask around – relatives, friends, coworkers or neighbors may have hired a good one just recently. You can also scan online directories built and maintained by several business associations. Ask them whether they have licenses, certifications and professional affiliations; if they say yes, have them show proof. Any proposal you consider must be presented to you in writing, and be sure to understand every single term and condition, as well as the fees.

Even if you’re thinking of pulling a DIY on your landscape project, the advice of experts is still indispensable. 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.

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