A welcoming driveway and a well-designed garden not only sets the tone for the whole home but can also add value – up to 20%, suggests Paul Baker at the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL).
It’s important to consider how you want your property’s exterior to look and find a landscape gardener who can do the work for you early on in your project’s schedule. Here’s our guide on how to source a skilled landscaper for your scheme.
Internet research and word of mouth is the most common way for self builders to find a landscaper.
“There aren’t any industry recognised qualifications that you need to ask for, like when employing an electrician, for example,” says Paul. “But you do need to make sure that they are capable of the work you want them to complete.
So always ask to see some examples of previous projects they’ve worked on to ensure you’re satisfied with the quality of their work.
Once you find a firm, check they’re a member of the APL. The organisation works on behalf of householders by putting them in touch with its members.
“All the registered companies are vetted by us. They’re inspected annually for quality of work and to ensure they meet health and safety standards,” says Paul.
To become a member, the landscaper has to have full employer and public liability insurance cover.
The APL also runs a complaints resolution procedure. They will investigate disputes that arise between you and your tradesperson to help resolve any disagreements.
“I think it’s best to discuss ideas for your home’s exterior at the start of a project,” says Paul. “You can then set a realistic budget.” This helps avoid a situation whereby the house is complete but you don’t have enough money to finish your home’s exterior.
Another reason for finding a landscape gardener early on is that, on many sites, you might not be able to get heavy machinery into the back garden once the house is finished. So you’ll have to do some work in the garden before your dwelling is built.
You might also find it more cost-effective to consider some elements of the job, such as drainage and levelling out, during the preliminary groundwork stage.
Once your dwelling is finished, you’ll need to get your tradesman to return and complete the soft landscaping, planting and boundary enclosures.
One thing that can restrict your design is planning stipulations, especially if you’re building in a conservation area or next to a listed building.
A key consideration is the driveway. It needs to be made from a permeable (porous) surface, such as gravel, permeable concrete block paving or porous asphalt.
Drainage is also vital. Any rainwater needs to be directed to a lawn or border to disperse naturally.
It’s also your responsibility as the self builder to inform your landscape gardener of any tree preservation orders that might restrict what groundwork they can do.
Most landscapers will have their own set of tools and will hire machinery if needed. They will also advise on what plants and products to install and can purchase these for you at trade prices, or provide you with a list of what is required and the quantities needed.
Prices vary depending on what work you want done and where in the country you live.
“From experience, I recommend customers spend up to approximately 10-15% of what their house is likely to be worth when finished,” says Paul.
“Providing the design is well thought-out and you use good quality materials, a landscaped garden can add real value and saleability to a dwelling.”
Always get two or three quotes specific to your project. Once you’ve picked the tradesperson, be sure to get a contract written up. It needs to detail what work is to be done, a full breakdown of the costs and a predicted timetable of works. This will help minimise any confusion at a later date.
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