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Finding the Right Landscape Expert – Architect, Designer or Contractor?

If you’re planning on a landscape project, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether to 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. If you work with landscape contractors, all design work is considered part of the deal.

So the question is, how do you decide whether to hire a landscape architect, designer or contractor? The answer depends on a few factors, particularly your budget, the size and timeline of your project, and the complexity of the job. But believe it or not, there’s a fifth factor, which is generally considered the ultimate litmus test: personality fit.

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 inspecting your property and asking you questions, such as what elements you want in the design (for example, bamboo outdoor furniture), how you plan to use the area (for instance, reading a book or dining with the family or with guests), or what overall ambiance you want for this part of your home). Of course, if they think that what you want isn’t very wise or possible at all, they will give you their professional opinion.

As always, whether you’re looking for a landscape professional or any other service provider, a personal referral or recommendation is your best bet. Ask your friends, neighbors or coworkers if they’re hired a good one before. Another option you have is searching online directories maintained by industry organizations. Ask them whether they have licenses, certifications and professional affiliations; if they say yes, have them show proof. All proposals must be given to you in writing, and make sure all the terms and conditions, including the fees, are clear to you.

Even if you intend to do this project on your own, you should still seek the guidance of experts. After all, they’re not called that for nothing. And of course, since this will probably not be cheap, you’d like to ensure that it will be done right the first time around.

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