Outdoor design Featured

10:44am EDT August 26, 2003
A house can only look so good, no matter how well designed it is. But when it's tied into a beautiful landscape, it can become a work of art.

It can also add up to 20 percent to the value of your home.

Many people build their dream home, then forget about the rest of the lot. So how do you find someone to help you turn your plain property into a botanical garden?

"Landscaping is an art form -- tastes and styles vary," says Sandy Munley, executive director of the Ohio Landscapers Association.

It is important to find a designer or landscape contractor that has a style you like. Ask to see their portfolio, photos and/or slides of projects they have completed. Ask for addresses of properties with landscapes they have designed and installed. If you admire the landscape of a neighbor or friend, ask about the company they hired to do their landscape."

There are various credentials and certifications that signify a professional company, ranging from the Certified Landscape Technician certification from the Associated Landscape Contractors of America to the Landscape Architect certification that comes after a four-year college program and a thorough exam by a licensing board.

Once you choose a designer, he or she should provide a plan or drawing of the work that will be done, including specifying size and names of plant materials to be used.

"All details should be carefully laid out in a contract," says Munley. "The contract should identify payment terms, guarantees if applicable, and detail the scope of the work and materials to be included. The contract is a legal and binding document. Any changes requested during the job should be noted in writing and signed by both parties, including any additional cost involved."

Payment details vary from contractor to contractor. Munley says many require 50 percent at the signing of the contract, with the balance due at completion. Others require one-third down at signing, one-third when the job is started and the balance on completion.

"Be sure to discuss this with your contractor in advance and be sure that it is included in the contract so there is no misunderstanding later.

"Ask questions. Be sure you have a full understanding of what is and what is not included in your landscape plan and contract." How to reach: Ohio Landscapers Association, (440) 717-0002