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Landscape Design

Talking Numbers

A guide to discussing budget with your landscape designer

  • Being upfront about your budget will help your designer create the best landscape possible for your needs.

While nobody looks forward to that awkward budget discussion, it's important to have a frank conversation about money with your landscape designer as early in the process as possible. You may be thinking that if you tip your hand and share how much you've set aside, that the bid for design and construction will come in at exactly that number despite what the parameters of your project really call for. That's a valid concern.

However, it's almost impossible for your landscape designer to do their best work when they don't know what elements you'll actually be able to install. "It's my job to tell you whether your budget and your desires are in line with one another," says designer Howard Roberts of Liquidscapes, Inc in Pittstown, NJ.

Roberts says that there are four major factors that influence the cost of your landscape. First is the scale of your home and property, because scale, size and proportions play a large role in design and cost. Second are the landscape features you want, which Roberts refers to as the client’s program (pool, fireplace, outdoor kitchen, etc.). Third are the existing site conditions (like a steeply sloping site, a wooded lot, bedrock, major water and runoff issues, etc.). Lastly are the materials you choose to create a finished look. Roberts says, “When we are designing a space and making decisions regarding the material palette, it typically starts with the architecture so there is continuity within the design.”

If your designer knows the “range” of the budget from the start, they can create the best combination of all these elements to fulfill your vision while staying within the financial range you've set. In other words, "a professional can help you bring budget and desires together," says Roberts.

Typically, a professional that is experienced and truly knows their craft has a sense of what things cost. “So what I will provide if necessary is an allocation or allowance of costs based upon specific program desires, so the client has immediate understanding of where their costs can go,” Roberts explains.

“The goal is not to keep generating paper and designs that are not within your financial grasp, but to build a project,” he says. Design is an absolute necessity to every successful project, but more importantly it is a collaborative effort to a common goal between the client(s) and the professionals and companies they work with.

In order to have a win-win talk about budget, consider these two tips:

  • If you are concerned about discussing the specifics of budget, propose a range instead. That way, your landscaper can suggest a few solutions at different price points, and you can make the choices which will give you the most enjoyment for each dollar spent.
  • Early in the design process, help your designer hit the mark by differentiating between your needs and your desires, and prioritizing both. If your designer knows that a pool is a must-have, and that you would sacrifice quality of materials elsewhere in the landscape to afford it, that helps ensure they don't eliminate the pool in favor of doing high-end stonework around the patio.

Lastly, remember that you and your designer are on the same team. It's your designer's job to help you create the best landscape possible for your needs, and they can only do that when you're upfront about the budgetary constraints they'll face during the project.

To see more of Howard's work view the Liquidscapes portfolio.

Contributing Author:

Genevieve Schmidt, contributing writer for Landscaping Network and owner of North Coast Gardening

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