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So, you have decided to engage professional help with your outdoor space, and you have got a few quotes. So, the next challenge is how do I know which landscape quote is the best for me? You may think I will just choose the cheapest of the three or so quotes surely? There is a timeless saying that “good work isn’t cheap and cheap work isn’t good” and there is allot of truth to this but it’s not even as simple as going for the most expensive quote either because some companies are overpriced. So how do I find the right price then? Well budget is obviously a factor, but the budget needs to be realistic for the job that is being done. Take into consideration that materials usually make up roughly half the cost of a landscaping project so that is where allot of your money is going, design could be a significant cost depending on the complexity of the job and labor is obviously going to make up the remainder of the cost. Also, the complexity and the technical nature of the work could add significant cost such as intricate work that only a select number of contractors can perform. If a price seems to good to be true, then it probably is…
So, what questions do you need to ask your landscaper to find out what you are getting for your money so you can compare apples with apples. To start with how professional did the landscape company present themselves both online and in person? How many years’ experience do they have? Do they have past projects that you can see on their website and can you visit a few in person ? if it’s visible from the street then they should be keen to let you see their past work. Have they won any awards? What does their portfolio look like? Do they have many positive reviews?
When you are looking at the actual quote then you want to ask about the quality of materials you are getting and how many square meters or cubic meters of each material are there? Are you getting tube stock or advanced trees and how many? What is the quality of soil preparation for each plant or the turf area? What variety of turf are you getting? What is the quality of the reticulation system being installed? It is great to speak to past customers that they have worked for to get their feedback.
The biggest area I see that customers are getting ripped off across the board is when it comes to soil preparation of plants as this is hidden and you might not be watching them when they are installing plants. I've seen a few high-profile companies not correctly improving the soil for plants and this shocked me considering what the customer is being charged and if this is happening at a "professional" level then what are the entry level "landscapers" up to? Not all plants need soil preparation such as succulents and some natives however there are products that you can use that will improve the soil and have only positive effects on even these plants. For turf it is essential that you improve the soil significantly if you are only giving it the 2 watering days a week. It is essential that your soil preparation is good enough to help retain the water and nutrients that you are applying and with the cost of water you will save that money and have a much better quality lawn in the long term. This isn’t a matter of bringing in Lawn mix as this isn’t good enough to retain much water and nutrients and I use Soil Solver clay to a minimum of 5% and this has far better results than any lawn mix I have come across 10-20% is even better but this may only be cost effective for small areas.
The other area where customers are getting ripped off is by cowboys installing amateur reticulation systems that may put out water, but you get poor and uneven coverage. There is a massive difference with a professional job vs a "landscaper" job who is not trained or qualified and has little understanding of what they or doing or even care. The other area they try and rip you off is by installing poly pipe throughout the entire system including underground. This will cause huge issues later on as the fittings are only clamped tight and over time they can pop leaks under paving, lawn or even your house and the water can wreak your brickwork or concrete foundations not to mention anything else that water can ruin. Did they install a master valve and a retic kit to stop contamination of the water source via backflow? The master valve is an essential safety valve that is a higher standard valve than regular stations valves and this means that only the master valve is under constant mains pressure and your other pipework and valves are only under pressure when they are running.
The reticulation industry is currently pushing very hard for greater regulation and they are hoping that in the future that you will only be able to do professional reticulation if you have trained in Cert 3 in Irrigation and Technology which is a trade level qualification. You would probably need a certain number of years’ experience also. The Landscaping Association is also pushing for regulation in different areas due to customers being given poor value and having to pay a professional to come and fix another "landscapers" mess which could add significant costs compared to choosing the right landscaper in the first place. The Watercorp are getting serious about saving water so I am hopeful that there will be much higher standards set across the industry going forward.
Here are Ben’s gardens we believe in giving you the best value for your money, but this means we cannot be the cheapest, but we are not the most expensive either. Please contact us as we would love to help.