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BUILDCAL FAQs

  • What are the differences between landscape designers, landscape architects, and landscape contractors?

    Landscape designers may provide design ideas, landscape plans, planting plans and lighting plans. Some also offer installation-related services such as material selection or plant placement. While they may provide conceptual ideas on garden structures, irrigation, and hardscape layout, most are not licensed to provide construction drawings. Likewise, while they may work closely with contractors overseeing the aesthetic elements of an installation, most are not licensed to provide actual construction services. Their education is in residential design, which emphasizes design strategies, hardscape options, and plant materials appropriate for residential projects.

    Landscape architects are licensed by the State of California and, in addition to the plans typically provided by a landscape designer, are qualified to produce construction-ready plans that may include complex retaining walls, grading and drainage plans, and physical structures. Their training emphasizes design for large public and commercial spaces such as parks and commercial landscapes, although some specialize in residential projects.

    Landscape contractors are licensed to install the designs created by landscape designers and landscape architects. Some are design/build companies, and provide design and maintenance services as well. When working with a design/build firm, be sure to clarify the design process used and whether you will receive landscape drawings for your review and approval or just a verbal or written description of the landscape to be installed. Some design/build companies bundle the design fees with the cost of construction, but it is still important to understand the design cost component should you decide to hire a different company for installation.

  • How does the design process work?

    While the process may vary depending on the designer, the client’s needs, and the complexity of the project, most residential design projects include the following:

    Initial Consultation. This is a chance to meet the designer and review the requirements and objectives of the project. Many designers charge for this visit, so to get the most out of the experience, ask the designer the best way to prepare and be sure you understand exactly what will be covered at this meeting

    Concept Plan. After listening to your ideas and priorities, the designer analyzes the site’s character, strengths and problems, and then develops one or more alternative concept plans for review.

    Master Plan. The final master plan represents the culmination of your choices with the designer, and typically includes a complete spatial layout for your outdoor living spaces and other hardscape or architectural concepts.

    Planting Plan. This is a working drawing from which the garden will actually be planted, and includes botanical names, container sizes, specific plant locations, and planting instructions to the contractor.

    Additional Plan Documents: Depending on the scoop of your project, your designer may also provide a lighting plan, specialized guidelines on planting or irrigation, or notes and sketches on design elements such as water features or furniture and accessories placement.

    Installation Assistance: Many landscape designers will assist you in soliciting and reviewing construction bids, including referring contractors appropriate for your project. Others may choose to provide drawings only. Designers often stay involved throughout the installation phase to advise on design modifications, material selections and purchase and placement of garden art and accessories

  • What does a landscape design cost?

    You purchase a landscape designer’s expert consultation time, and, typically, your project’s design plan. Landscape designers bill for their services in various ways. Design is ordinarily billed on an hourly basis or as a flat fee. It is important that the homeowner and the landscape designer have an early discussion and agreement about the cost of services.

  • What about the budget for my landscape installation?

    There is extensive documentation of the value that intelligent, thoughtful landscape design can add to your home. In many parts of California, the value of the land surrounding your home is equal to, or sometimes even greater than the value of the home itself. Well designed, installed and maintained landscaping can lead to a substantial increase in the overall value of your home.

    A budgeting rule of thumb for a complete landscape installation or renovation is 5-10% of the total value of your home, including the land. Therefore, if you own a $550,000 home, plan to spend between $27,500-$55,500 for a basic, functional landscape that will return up to 200 percent in value. Unusual materials mature specimen plantings, or elaborate hardscape will add to this figure.

    The most successful landscape projects start with a realistic budget. Don’t hesitate to share your budget with the landscape designer. The designer can help strike a balance between special materials and cost-conscious choices to create a beautiful space that meets your functional, aesthetic, and budget preferences before you ask contractors for bids.

    Finally, be sure to budget for the ongoing care and maintenance of your new surroundings. Good maintenance will protect your investment, as well as ensure many years of personal enjoyment and satisfaction.

  • Is there a fee for the initial consultation?

    We do not charge for the initial site visit. This is your opportunity to share your ideas and vision for your landscape project, start the process of design by discussing initial ideas, pin-point any landscape problems you are having, and get a scope of the overall size of scope. Plus this gives you the opportunity to meet us, learn more about our company, and ask questions.

  • Can you give me an estimate for my project during the initial consultation?

    No – Too often a landscape contractor will come to a site and immediately give a potential client a price without first knowing all the details of that project. Our first question is always, “What is this estimate based on?” Before making out a bid of any sort, we must first discuss all the work to be done, the planting and construction materials necessary, and the labor involved. After which we do a breakdown and present to you a complete and itemized preliminary estimate. As our client you will be able to see, not only how much your project will cost, but also where every dollar will go.

  • Why do I need to hire a licensed contractor when an unlicensed one may be cheaper?

    There is always a price. Working with a licensed contractor is highly recommended for many reasons: A licensed and insured contractor offers many protections to the property owner, especially regarding residential properties. A contractor cannot obtain a State Contractors License without first possessing a minimum amount of experience. In addition, the contractor must pass a business management test. The applicant also may be subject to a criminal history background check, and must not have any unresolved contracting complaints outstanding. Here in California, if a contractor has employees, they're required to carry workers compensation insurance. The importance of this alone cannot be overstated. If a worker is injured on your property and the contractor doesn't have insurance, you could be legally liable to pay for injuries and rehabilitation. Your homeowner's insurance may not cover those costs

  • What phases of landscaping should be done first, and last?

    What we call 'hardscape' should be installed first – such as walkways, walls, stonework, patios, and such. Then will come all of the irrigation and electrical installation work, to be followed finally with landscape plantings, or ‘softscape.’

  • How can we plan a low-maintenance landscape?

    There are several ways to create a lush and lasting low maintenance landscape. Such as: installing smaller planting beds, filling the property with hardy plants and border color (such as perennials), applying a 3” layer of mulch to retain moisture, picking correct plants for the existing sun exposure, soil conditions, and water availability.

  • How long does a project usually take?

    Every property and client is different and therefore there is no set standard. The time required to complete a project relies completely on the amount of work which will be necessary. And the size of a property is not always a guide. For instance; a large property requiring minimal landscaping and irrigation installation will most likely be completed in a shorter amount of time than a small property requiring landscaping, a patio, spa, and a custom water fountain. Once a preliminary estimate is prepared, we will have a realistic estimate for project completion

  • Can you maintain my landscape after the final installation?

    Yes – We have a complete team of highly trained maintenance professionals to provide weekly, daily or even monthly services for your property. While a growing number of people have become dissatisfied with the poor quality of the typical ‘mow, blow, and go’ service, we take the time to maintain your property to perfection while providing a reliable service you can trust.

  • Do you use a lot of harsh chemicals and pesticides in your landscape maintenance service?

    No – We prefer a more naturalistic approach to practices of fertilization, pest problems, and weed control. While uses of chemicals are at times necessary, they should always be used minimally and in the recommended application

  • Will you work with my HOA?

    Yes - While individual requirements of HOAs can be as diverse of the properties they represent, a set of established and agreed upon standards must be maintained. We will work closely with your HOA to conform to all specifications and approval processes while bringing out your property's absolute best.

  • Can you provide a landscape plan?

    Yes – we have our own Design group who can draw anything from basic hand-drawn layouts and sketches, highly detailed concept plans, or a complete set of working construction drawings. Clients will often call upon us to provide this service as a first step to their overall project.

  • We want a lot done, but cannot afford to do it all now. Can you still work with us?

    Yes – it is not uncommon to do a project in phases, especially when there are such constraints as budget and time. Because we draw up our own plans, we can design a project to be installed in phases. Once the complete plan is established, the property owner can easily pick and choose which parts to be completed now and in the future.

  • What if I’m not ready for an installation and only need a landscape design or site consultation?

    We can provide anything from a complete on-site consultation to a complete landscape design and plan. Many people will use this as a reliable and cost-effective solution when exploring options and ideas before investing a large amount of time and expense into a project they might not be happy with in the end.

  • What if I already have a design or plan?

    Not a problem at all. We will gladly review your design at the initial consultation and discuss the best way to proceed and achieve the very best finished product

  • If I already know exactly what I want, why do I even need design services or consultation?

    This is a very good question. Creating a pleasing and lasting landscape project is more than simply digging holes, laying sod, and stacking stones. Every site has its own unique set of issues which need to be addressed. Items such as sun exposures, site drainage, grading, and a number of other conditions can have a dramatic impact on whether or not the finished project will stand the test of time and function as it was intended. During the course of preparing your landscape design and planning of each project, we record and analyze all the issues which will affect the final results, including follow up maintenance. With this information, we can proceed with a game plan which, in the end, will add to your complete satisfaction, as well as saving you money by addressing these issues before the project begins.

  • WHY SHOULD I PAY FOR A LANDSCAPE DESIGN WHEN SOME COMPANIES DO IT FREE?"

    There is a huge difference between price and value. Good landscape project can increase the value and curb appeal of a home and provide many years of beauty and enjoyment. Poor landscaping is a liability and wasting money. Some companies may offer a "free plan" but hide their time spent in the cost of the installation. Others will spend minimal time on your project or be unqualified.... and you will get exactly what you pay for.

  • How can I know more?

    As simple as calling contacting us.