Planning to Build Something this Spring?
How long will my landscape project take? If you haven’t already started planning, you are very late indeed!
Complete Landscapes with pools, patios, and decks;
Complete landscapes take weeks to plan and most companies are booked months in advance. Pool builders and stone masons are known to book 8-12 months in advance, (the good ones anyway). Nobody wants to deal with a bad one! The best Landscape Designers charge for their time, so ask them up-front what the service charge range is to avoid surprises. Famous designers often charge $5-10k to show up, (deposit normally), but most are in the $250-500 range. If they are coming out for free it is time to temper your excitement. Ask yourself why are they working for free? Who is paying for the service and why?
Anything discount is marked down for a reason. Just about everything in this world is worth what you pay for it. Yes, that Kia looks a lot like the Mercedes — but when buying the Kia for a fraction of the price you really should have different expectations. Will the Kia take punishment? Does it Handle? Will it have power and reliability– I would warrant the guess that the two are going to give very different ownership experiences.
Good Design takes Time!
The complete landscape should begin with a 2-3 hour site consultation with a landscape designer. The designer will listen to your wish list, look at your collected inspirational photos and after you share an expected budget, they will suggest features and detailing that will fit. If your budget doesn’t align with your plans they should tell you that right away. If a designer doesn’t have the experience to do that, you may have the wrong designer. Designing a landscape should not be a guessing game–who has time?
IN general, you should allow 3-6 months to plan a full landscape and add a couple of weeks if permits are involved, from start to breaking ground. These projects can take 2-20 weeks depending on scope. It will be dusty, noisy and messy. If it rains, the project will take longer, and it always rains! If it is hot– production slows– guys get groggy and mistakes happen. That is part of the job!
Decks and Outbuildings;
People consistently underestimate lead time for decks and cabanas. If you are building or high-end deck, you should get permits, which means 3-4 weeks longer. From the decision to build a deck or pavilion with outdoor kitchen, you should allow about 6-9 weeks to plan and await the building crew. From putting your down to begin work it will take weeks, not days. If you are the type to interview 5 or 10 companies before you even pull the trigger, you may want to add 5 more weeks.
Here is something you might not expect. Did you know that most of the better builders of decks, pergolas, and outbuildings now charge for designs and even design consultations? The rookies and guys that specialize in crude structures all still do it for free–but when you want something “Magazine Quality”, expect to pay a designer. Plenty of landscape designers can come up with a decent concept plan, but those normally go to a technical draftsman to blend detailing with code requirements. People expect better deck and outdoor building design these days, (thanks to Paul Lafrance!), and that takes time and acquired the skill to make it happen.
I know you feel that you are doing your due diligence by speaking to numerous builders, and you expect them to do it for free, and plan the project for free, however by insisting on this, you are doing yourself a disservice. It may be how it was always done in years past, but that has changed in the blink of an eye. Better designers are busy. Good builders are busy. Better businesses are doing a better job of qualifying their potential clientele and are simply not willing to do the things for free that they once did. By insisting that they meet with you for free, and design the project for free you are limiting your possibility to Kijiji/Craigslist quality builders. Not only are you likely to be disappointed in the results, you are also rather likely to have contractors that may not show up, may not finish and may come and go unexpectedly during the build and may not be around should you have warranty issues.
Roofed Structures and Large Decks can take Longer
Decks and Roofed Structures are a specialty, and you should expect that if you are building something inspired, you need to pay inspired help to make it happen. A Craigslist deck builder is not going to build what a www.gardenstructure.com builder will. They build entirely different things. What they charge for the service is similar to what a landscape designer will bill. Generally speaking, a few hundred for small structures but it ranges upward with complexity.
The best designers will render decks and outbuildings in 3d Photorealism, showing you exactly how everything will look down to receptacles on the wall. Water shimmers, light reflects and shadows are cast. Check a few of our 3d deck designs here.
Fences, Pergolas, and Patios
If you are planning to build fences, pergolas, and patios this spring get it done early. Make that call. most of these guys have a few jobs lined up for spring and may already be booking June. If it is standard suburbia quality fences pergolas and patios, there are literally thousands of builders stuffing your mailbox with flyers and Kijiji and Craigslist are full of listings. If you watch those pages and reload them every few seconds as we get closer to spring, the page scrolls down like a ticker tape!
Better builders are often charging something for their time, but as you read about decks and outbuildings, it really depends on your expectations. If you want a high-end fence, pergola or patio that will not shift or deteriorate over time, expect to work with professionals. In 2017, professionals charge for their services and are not competing with others on price. They charge what they need to stay in business.
Fences and patios are what many “New” builders choose to dip their toes in the water with. It’s easy to get in business and find customers, and for this reason, they don’t last long. Every year there is about 1500 new companies in the GTA that specialize in fences or patios. Every year by about the end of July, about 90% are gone. The remaining 8% are out of business by Christmas.
Patios and fences are hard heavy work. If you are in the low bid subdivision game, in order to be low bid and get more work, you have to reduce quality. Using cheaper stone and less base under the patios means shifting patios. When it comes to fences, they use shallow footings. Those pop out of the ground and lean, and the gates only work for one season. The whole exercise is so wasteful. There are a few quality builders doing beautiful patios and fences that last, but they won’t come cheap!
What have we learned about the spring building season in 2017?
Simply put, there are a lot of new companies building things in backyards. You may not want to deal with them. When it comes to talented builders with a track record, there is a dramatic shortage of skill. The bigger builders that specialize in unique landscapes, decks, and outdoor woodwork train their builders. They have to!!! This work is a specialty, and it takes knowledge and development of skills to achieve good results.
The better builders no longer do free estimates or free designs. When you are good at something during a skilled trades shortage you simply don’t have to. If I did free estimates for everyone that asked me to do it, I wouldn’t have time to work!
When you want better results, hire professionals–but do it early or you will be lucky to get it by Christmas!