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Design First, Then Estimate!

Updated: May 27, 2022

It is so important to have a good, solid design before you begin to call companies for estimates. While most professionals have a trained eye from so many years on the job, their expertise is typically limited to their own field. A concrete company is not going to be able to advise you on the best set-up for your plants, and an artificial grass company won't be able to advise you on concrete or pavers.

This is especially true if you are getting your estimate from a sales consultant, not the professional who will be supervising and working on your installation. Sales consultants typically visit 3-4 homes a day, and their livelihood is truly a numbers game. Their goal is to make your project as basic and run-of-the-mill as possible.

Unless you are calling strictly Design+Build companies, it's best to have a design in-hand before you start getting estimates.

Starting with a design also allows you to compare apples to apples. If you call six companies to come to your home and give you an estimate, each company will likely quote you on a different installation. One may give you a price on 3000 PSI concrete with wire mesh, the other may have quoted you on 3500 PSI concrete with rebar. One company may give you pricing on an imported product, while the other gives you an estimate on a product manufactured in the USA.

I once arrived at a beautifully done backyard full of gleaming concrete pavers and artificial grass - and no way to get water or electricity across the backyard without having visible hoses and wires. Irrigation and electrical conduits typically need to be installed before anything permanent goes in, but this is often overlooked by sales consultants. The lowest bid isn't a bargain if you're getting less work.

The above-mentioned homeowner had to pay to have the artificial grass carefully removed and re-installed so that the lighting and irrigation conduits could be placed underground. The pipes could not be laid directly across the yard, but had to be snaked around the concrete paver configuration. Having a design before she had her concrete and artificial grass done could have saved this homeowner a lot of extra trouble and expense.

You don't have to spend an arm or a leg for a residential design. The artistic masterpieces or 3D renderings that come to mind when you think of landscape design are usually done by licensed landscape architects, who command a much higher price than the residential landscape designer.

Here is a simple to-scale drawing that I did for a client while I was still a landscape design student.

Backyard site/design drawing of a historic Victorian mansion in the Angelino Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.

For product choices - paver types and colors, concrete finishes - I always recommend making a personal visit to a showroom near you. You can see colors in a catalog or online, but textures are best experienced in person. Your second-best choice is having a designer curate options for you from a wide range of products.

Your landscape improvements are investments that are meant to last a lifetime. You want to make sure you are choosing products and styles that are a perfect fit for your home and your family's needs now, and in the future. For help with your design, give us a call at 626-879-7070 or email us at today.

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