What to Know Before you hire a Landscape designer​

Including landscape design costs

Are you Thinking about hiring a landscape designer ?

Not Sure where to begin ?

No Worries !..............Here is What you should Know Before you hire a Landscape designer.

Page Index

On this overall website you will find helpful Information you’ll need in order to plan any Landscape Project. The information on this entire site is based on my formal education in Landscape Architecture combined with over 25 years of professional experience, Designing Landscape & inground pool projects  in Rochester, NY and Hilton Head, SC.

More information on Landscaping and Landscape Design

A good Design Ensures that you are not throwing money away on a Landscape that is never going to look right, no matter how much time or money you spend maintaining it.

Why you need a designer

Landscaping Adds Value....But it has to be done right

A well-planned yard will look…..well… planned. When your Plantings and hardscapes are skillfully designed and integrated with your home’s overall architecture, your landscape grows and becomes an asset, adding Real Value to your home.

It’s helpful to think of landscape design as a recipe. If the recipe is substandard, then it won’t matter how much money or time you spend……it will never taste right and possibly it could be downright awful.

Let’s say you do decide to leave the design up to a traditional landscape company. It is highly likely that you will get a basic drawing……but chances are, that you are NOT dealing with someone who really understands design.  Especially when it comes to “planting Design.”

Everyone can “design” but not everyone is a designer

It can be confusing for homeowners because most landscape companies offer design. However, a landscape contractors specialty is installation, not design, and the typical result of that “limited design” approach is that your plantings often grow into a high maintenance mess.

Why Hire a Landscape designer

Put simply, landscape designers & architects can save you a lot of money over the life or your landscape.

well designed front yard landscaping. Bed on left balances the look of garage. Fixes the curb appeal. Adds value to home.
Beautiful front yard landscaping designed for low maintenance curb appeal. Planting on the left balances the visual weight of the garage.

University of Vermont findings show that…..” Landscaping can add up to 14 % to the resale value & speed up it’s sale by 6 weeks……….. “

Front yard landscaping was designed and installed in 2005. A good design is the reason it still adds curb appeal and home value.
Front yard landscaping was designed and installed in 2005. A good design is the reason it still adds curb appeal and home value.
New inground pool installation. designed properly and integrated into backyard living space. Adding to home value

Quality of landscaping impacts home value

"Beautiful Space.....Pays for itself"

Several University studies have done research on the relationship of landscape quality to perceived home value. As well as looking at a landscape’s factors/qualities that had the biggest impact on perceived Home Value and selling price. The conclusions are revealing.

I will have some abstracts of these studies on our front yard page soon. For now, the links to the studies are below if you want to dig into specifics…….If you Boiled down the findings into a quick summary, it says that:

  • The quality of a Landscape Design had the biggest impact on overall Landscape Quality.
  • The quality of the overall landscaping had a very high impact on a Home’s Curb Appeal.
  • And finally….Curb appeal has a big impact on perceived home value & selling price.

Landscape quality determines curb appeal......

And.........curb appeal impacts perceived home value

The fallacy of landscape Design

It's much more than choosing which plant goes where

Sources of information regarding landscape design, including most online sources, have a very thin definition of what landscape design really is. A typical definition would lead you to believe that landscape design is mostly Horticulture. The interpretation is…….

“……Choose some colorful shrubs which can survive your site conditions and you’ll have a great landscape…..”

 

But, that is a misconception about what it takes to create an appealing & long lasting landscape project. It costs homeowners time and money because those types of landscapes will never really look right, especially as they mature.

Here is proof. Simply drive into any modern housing tract and you will see house after house with very similar and unattractive landscaping. The key takeaway is that a Bad Design usually leads to a poor outcome. Here are a couple of things to know:

 
  • For the most part, all the plants are growing & living…so from a Horticulture perspective, the plants selected did their job. Landscape Design is not selecting which plant goes where.
  • Many, if not Most of these projects started with a plan.
  • If choosing plants which live was all there was to it, every home would have attractive landscaping that improves with age.
  • Choosing plants to survive your site’s conditions is fairly easy and straight forward.

Design Matters.......Make sure you use a good plan

The quality of the finished project is highly dependent on the design. If you are about to invest in an outdoor project, it is vital that you understand the importance of a legitimate design. Do some homework before committing a lot of time or money following a plan.

“…….These front landscapes will never look right no matter how much time or money is spent. There just isn’t an underlying design framework to visually hold it together……”

“…….Designing a yard or project, without an understanding of Core Design Principles almost never works………the project will not have lasting appeal”

“It’s helpful to think of landscape design as a recipe. If the recipe is substandard, then it won’t matter how much money or time you spend….it will never taste right…. and could possibly be…. downright awful.”

Design Matters

"Evaluating a landscape design "

It’s helpful to think of landscape design as a recipe. If the recipe is substandard, then it won’t matter how much money or time you spend……it will never taste right and possibly it could be downright awful.

The Design in large part, determines the outcome of a project over time. Most projects can look good for a couple of years, It’s usually at about year 4, where the wheat begins to separate from the chaff.

The Quandary is that it’s hard for you to know if your getting a quality design, and it will take several years before you can evaluate the underlying design composition.

"What to look for.... before committing to a plan."

The best thing you can do is to Invest time in evaluating a designer’s or landscaper’s capabilities before you commit to having a landscape design done. It will ensure that you don’t end up wasting time and money on your project. See real cost of poor design.

  • Pictures: of completed projects…& hopefully ones that show some maturity…Not just newly finished jobs.
  • Drawings: It will help you to get a feel for a designers artistic abilities….
  • *NOTE: Don’t just look at drawings & don’t just look at brand new installations.
  • *NOTE: Be sure that your designer is working within their comfort zone. Most frustrations and cost-overruns happen when a designer or contractor is working outside of that normal comfort zone.

3 design options

See our design pricing for Rochester homeowners

“If you think that good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”

Ralf Speth. CEO Land Rover

1) Landscape design/Build option

Hiring a Design Build Landscaper......what to know

Simply put, Design-build companies are typically landscape contractors who package a design service with installation. The value of this is clear:

  1. You will work with the same people throughout the process. 
  2. There are no confusing “hand-offs” or issues of responsibility if something isn’t perfect.
  3. A Design/ Build firm has a better ability to estimate actual install costs during the design phase.
  4. Furthermore, the design-build process ensures that the entire project cost is estimated early as part of the design phase.

*NOTE: A word of caution...What to Know

It is rare for design-build companies to be good designers. Partly because it’s just not the true focus of their work, their business is the installation process…..

……The other reason is that every other landscaper calls themselves a designer or Design/Build which really muddies the water.

 

“A word of caution……..It is rare for design-build companies to be good designers. Partly because it’s just not the true focus of their work, their business is the installation process…..

….The other reason is that every other landscaper calls themselves a designer or Design/Build which really muddies the water.”

“A good Design Ensures that you are not throwing money away on a Landscape that is never going to look right, no matter how much time or money you spend maintaining it.”

“Keep in mind, If your project is really large scale, unusually complicated or challenging, then don’t mess around, go with an Landscape Architect.”

2) designer/Architect option

Hiring a Landscape Designer/Architect ...........what to know

The hurdle when it comes to judging design skill, is that it can’t be fully evaluated until several years down the road…long after the job has been completed.

In order to simplify the task of separating “The Wheat From The Chaff” you should consider a full fledged Landscape designer or Landscape Architect. It’s more likely that you’ll find someone with good design skill compared with some of your other choices. The trade-off is that you will pay more upfront cost to get a design.

For single family residential projects you won’t see a big difference between a full time Landscape Designer and a landscape Architect. You can find qualified candidates in both camps.

Biggest Advantage: Because a good design is so vital to the outcome of your project over time, it might be worthwhile for you to take the safer bet and pay more upfront cost. More than likely, over time, the project will have a higher appreciate rate which will more than pay for the higher upfront cost.

*NOTE: A word of caution...What to Know

  • There is a little more leg work for you because you’ll have more than 1 company involved.
  • Also, once you involve more than 1 company, you can expect a little longer timetable to complete the job.
  • If something isn’t perfect,  “hand-offs” can occur. 
  • The upfront cost for the Design will be higher, and there is no guarantee you are getting more for your money….so make sure you still do the homework before committing.

3) Landscaper or Garden Center Option

Hiring a Landscaper or Garden Center ...........what to know

When looking for a design, It can be confusing for homeowners because most landscapers and Garden Centers offer design and many claim to be design/build or expert designers.

However, with these types of landscape businesses, their specialty is installation, designs are provided, but it’s not the focus of their profit or business model.

Everyone designs........But not everyone is a designer

A common result of that “limited design” approach can be seen in most housing tracts.  The projects don’t hold up over the long haul composition – wise”. The plants on these projects are thriving, so that’s not the problem. What’s missing is an underlying framework that organizes a project into an aesthetically pleasing composition.

Usually, when your design is handled by someone with mostly plant knowledge (Horticulture), but limited “design” knowledge, it ends up being the most expensive option, not upfront, but years down the road, when the final “bill” comes “due”. 

“….In most housing tracts over 10 yrs. old, the landscaping is pretty much the same….( its not good ). The plants are growing, so that really isn’t the problem….But why do most of them look so bad and almost cookie cutter….?

“….A good Design Ensures that you are not throwing money away on a Landscape that is never going to look right, no matter how much time or money you spend trying to maintain it…”

Bad design.....is expensive

The cost of poor design….. is REAL, it’s just that the the bill doesn’t come due until the job starts to really mature. Drive into any housing tract that is over 5-10 years old, and you can see this for yourself.

Often, the fast, cheap drawing you got ends up costing you the most money. The biggest cost comes from the reduced return on investment you get once you sell the house. But it’s even more than that.

The real cost of bad design

  • Opportunity cost: If your project doesn’t add home value….but it could have…it’s called opportunity cost. Research shows that this can be 5%-10% of home value…even a 1% difference would have justified paying more for a quality designer or architect.
  • Renovation Cost: Landscape renovations are popular and most of the jobs haven’t been in longer than 10-15 years. If you decide to renovate, get a quality plan this time around. It will ensure that your not wasting more time or money.
  • Higher Maintenance: Bad design typically causes a lot of extra maintenance. Not to mention the frustration of spending time or money on something that is never going to look ‘right’.

“If you think that good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design…..”

  • Ralf Speth. CEO Land Rover

Often, the fast, cheap drawing you got from a landscaper ends up costing you big money. Mostly by reducing your return on investment.”

How to get a high quality design

My Advice............ For Finding a high quality design

My company is a Design/Build Landscape Company in Rochester, NY. There are many advantages to hiring a Design/Build company which I covered here. However, it’s often a roll of the dice as far as finding a quality design within this category of Landscape professionals.

The problem is, that it’s hard for homeowners to know what they are getting as far as design quality, because everyone claims to be either a Designer or Design/Build.

It makes the water really muddy so it’s tough to not only identify companies that can truly Design & Build…… but who also, happen to employ skilled designers.

If you are confident you are getting a good design thru a Design Build Landscape company, the overall job usually runs smoother, and often comes out better. The reason is you have your Designer frequently on site overseeing the project.

The design is important.........Take the safe bet.

However, I would advise most people to take the safe bet and stick to a Landscape designer or Landscape Architect for the reasons I covered here. You’ll pay more upfront, but it pays for itself. You will most likely save thousands down the road.

Wading thru the stew....It can pay off.....with some homework

The other option, which only works if you take time to do some homework…. is wading thru the Stew listed below:

  • A sprinkling of Design Build with good designers
  • Mixed with Design build firms that don’t design well
  • Topped off by gobs of contractor’s & Garden Centers claiming to be design build.

Honestly, it’s tough to find good designers or even know what you are getting in that mix. You really need to scout the terrain. Look at projects, Project photos, Drawings etc. A poor design can really cost you, long term. Just be sure to do some preliminary work to find the right skill set.

Inground pool Design planning patio space Rochester NY Project
The industry Average

How much does a designer cost

Average price in New York

See our design pricing for Rochester homeowners

When you look at the average costs for a Landscape designer, it’s all over the place. According to Home Advisor the typical range is $2,015 – $6795.

However, You should be able to hire a good designer for about $750-$1000 in most cities. We all know that you usually get what you pay for….But I just don’t think you will see an enormous difference between say the $1,000 & the $6,000 designer.

Those prices reflect getting a design from a from a design professional. In most cities, you can find landscapers and Garden centers that do designs for a lot less upfront cost, ( usually $0 – $200 ). However, there is a pretty big dropoff in the quality of what you get and often it becomes the most expensive option. See our section, Real cost of Poor Design.

Do some Homework

Which ever way you go, Just make sure you look at completed projects, not just drawings before you commit. I’ve known a lot of landscape designers that are very good artists, but can’t seem to carry it over to real world landscape projects.

…” A good Design Ensures that you are not throwing money away on a Landscape that is never going to look right, no matter how much time or money you spend maintaining it.”….

Final Word

Your project can only turn out as good as the underlying design concept

Hopefully this webpage has helped you learn what to consider before you commit time and money on a design for your landscape project.

Even if you don’t consider us in the project, you hopefully will avoid the costly mistakes that too many other homeowners end up making.

If you are interested in going with us however, we make it easy to get started here, or you can fill out the contact form down below.

” ………..Best of luck on designing your new landscape project…. !

Landscape Design

2D Plan view

This is the classic architectural “floor plan view” layout. A 2D plan is like a floor plan for an outdoor area. A landscape design creates a visual representation of a site using scaled dimensions.

It allows for “take offs” when estimating the materials during cost estimation, ensuring accuracy in bidding. It is also important for laying out site features during the installation phase of your project.

I provide accurate linear and square foot measurements for Hardscapes which is better than relying on “take offs” from a third party. It helps eliminate uncertainty, which can cause bids to be “padded”. Just by having me do that, it usually more than covers the cost of a plan and you are assure of getting what you paid for.

Cost for 2D Plans

  • Backyard Landscape Design is usually $295 for an average Rochester, NY home site.
  • Inground Pool Design: Backyards that include an inground Pool are a little more. Usually $395 for an average Rochester, NY home site.
  • Front yard Landscape Design is $250 for an average Rochester homesite.
Custom Pool Design Example Rochester NY

A couple Notes for 2D Plans

  • Note: Some Renovation Plans for existing homes can be a little more. It depends on the amount of existing trees & site features.
  • Note: Sites with larger than normal grade changes can cost more to design if hardscapes or pools are being implemented.
3D design rendering for an inground pool installation in Buffalo NY
3D design rendering for an inground pool installation in Buffalo NY
3D design rendering for a Backyard in Greece NY
3D design rendering for a Backyard in Greece NY

Landscape Design

3D Renderings

One of biggest challenges when looking at a traditional landscape design is to get a real “feel” for what a complex design would look like in the actual space where the project would be installed.

3D renderings can be used in the design stage of a project to help visualize the overall layout. They are not used for project layout so you can consider them as optional.

A 3-D design can give an “in the landscape viewpoint” that helps give you a sense of ‘scale; and ‘proportion’ because it shows you the actual height of plants, walls or pergolas & other elements.

It is a worthwhile investment that is not meant to merely wow you with technology, but to aid you in truly envisioning the landscape.

A 2D plan is needed before a 3D Rendering can be accurately put together. A 3D plan is not needed to layout your project, therefore you can consider it as optional/add on.

Cost for 3D Plan/Rendering

  • Backyard 3D plan/Renderings are usually $250 for an average Rochester, NY home site.
  • Inground Pool 3D plan/Renderings: Backyards that include an inground Pool are $300 for an average Rochester, NY home site.
  • Front yard 3D plan/Renderings: are $250 for an average Rochester, NY home site.

we can help you design your space

Why are our projects always so different? Partially it’s the quality of the materials we use and the care we take in our installations, but mostly it is about creative and thoughtful design.

The right design will maximize the overall function and appeal of your entire property. It helps clarify your expectations, establish your budget and helps you to visualize and prioritize multi-phase enhancements.

Extensive time and detail is put into these plans so that your landscape will continue to add curb appeal, function & increased Home Value, Not maintenance and frustration.

It is for this reason we charge a fee for design work, which is around $200-$400 for a traditional 2D architectural plan for most front or backyard landscape Projects.

Backyards that include a Pool run about $395 Total due to the extra time involved, such as measuring and laying out grades, drainage, setbacks etc.

Don’t see what you’re looking for? Reach out.
  • (585) 202-0623
  • wdstrmpool@gmail.com

Frequently Asked Questions

Around $295 for a traditional 2D architectural plan for most backyard landscape Projects. We do offer 3D renderings for about $250 extra.

$395 for a traditional 2D architectural plan which is what is used for planning and layout of the pool and surrounding spaces for your project. 3D Renderings are usually $300.

Around $250 for a traditional 2D architectural plan for most Frontyard landscape Projects. We do offer 3D renderings for about $250, but it’s more for visualization and not critical for planning and layout of the project.

We do Planting, Landscaping & Hardscapes installs, (other than concrete).  We will provide estimates for any of that work. We don’t accept every install inquiry. It mostly depends on our backlog, distance, type of work.

Not at this time. Since we don’t accept every installation project we’re offered, ( even though we might have done the drawing ) we instead opt to keep the design fee reasonable across the board, in order to keep it “Fair”.

You choose the pool builder. They will install the pool, including backfill, rough grading and fence.

On projects where we are doing some of the installation work (like landscaping)….. we lay out fencing and concrete so it gets done according to plan.

We actually will be working for you. We manage a project with your best interests in mind. With that said, we work with whoever you choose as your pool builder.

No problem! As long as we are doing some of the other work (like Landscaping) I will layout the design for the mason to ensure it gets put in according to the plan.

Sometimes, yes. But it depends. More so in winter. Just shoot me an email. The fees will usually be a little higher because there is no installation aspect. I’m pretty familiar with plants in the East down to about zone 8. I worked in Hilton Head, SC. for 7 years.

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