Don't let the landscape estimate process cause confusion. Here's what you need to understand when you're reviewing landscape estimates for your next project.
In this article:
What to look for in a landscape estimate?
Quotes or estimates for landscaping projects are essential to ensuring you understand the scope (or elements) or your project. This is your tool as a homeowner or property owner. When reviewing your quote, make sure you set yourself up for success by looking for the following elements.
1. Pricing Breakdown - Is your project cost one number, without any detail into the elements that make up the project total? It's important to make sure each element of your project has a number associated with it. For example, if you have a water feature, pergola and new yard space in your project, each of these features should have a separate number. This allows your the flexibility to compare quotes and ask questions.
2. Detail - Besides a breakout of the different elements, make sure your estimate provides a level of detail about the products being installed. A description helps you compare apples to apples. For example, if you were getting a new pergola installed, make sure the pieces of this are included (concrete footings, installation, delivery, etc.). It's important to make sure the contractor includes all elements of assembling the project, or clearly indicates exclusions.
Key elements of a landscape estimate.
In addition to the elements above, it's important to make sure you have some of these key elements, depending on the scope of the project.
1. Work Packages - These are groupings of project elements. For example, part of your project may be a new patio space with a fire pit. A work package would provide a detailed price for all the elements of the patio and fire pit. What this enables you to do is make informed decisions of the elements to incorporate in your outdoor living space.
2. Allowances - These are budget numbers that help you plan for project elements that are not yet clearly defined. For example, let's say you want to spend $3,000 on plants, but are not yet sure on what type. A plant allowance would be added to your estimate to set aside a budget for this scope. When it comes time to plantings, your contractor would help you select shrubs, perennials and trees to reach the $3,000 target. If you spent less, or a bit more than the target number, you receive a credit or change depending on the circumstances.
How to evaluate a landscape quote?
No two estimates are ever the same. Therefore, it's important to look for key differences when reviewing landscape quotes. The materials going into your project may be the same, but the means and methods could be very different.
The best thing to do when comparing quotes is to understand how they contractor put them together. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Start by comparing the different project elements apples to apples. Let's go back to the pergola. Are all the necessary components included in each quote?
From here, look to understand the means and methods for their construction of your space. Do they include any costs for disposal, soil prep, or deliveries? Are these numbers separate or broken out?
Also, make sure the quote clearly defines inclusions and exclusions to your project scope. This ensures that you're making the most informed decision regarding your project and how it's going to come together.
What questions should I ask my landscaper?
Even if an estimate looks complete, it's always important to have a series of questions to ask any landscape contractor (or any contractor in general).
1. What's the estimated start date? - Make sure you and your contractor have discussed the approximate start date and time frame of the project.
2. How long will my project take? - Check with your contractor to get an estimated duration for your project. Project timelines can frequently chance if unforeseen conditions arise (weather conditions, soil conditions, additional scope, etc.). If you're aiming to have a project complete for a family event or deadline, communicate with your contractor. They should be able to help develop a plan and schedule to meet your needs.
3. What's your process for change orders? - Project changes are normal. Let's say you see something additional you'd like to add the the project. Or maybe your contractor finds an unforeseen condition that couldn't have been identified prior to the project. No matter the scenario, you need to know how these change orders are priced and handled. Make sure if the contractor deviates from the scope, that you have discussed it and received a price to complete the additional work.
4. Payment Terms - Make sure your payment terms are in place with your estimate. Do not pay for a project in full upfront. Typically, you want to look for a deposit, and project draws based on completion milestones. Make sure you and the contractor are clear on the milestones and when they are to be collected. Also, it's important to make sure your contractor will review the progress with you, answer any questions and make any adjustments as needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long are estimates good for?
A: Typically most estimates are good for 30 days. Check with your contractor. The reason for this time frame is continuous fluctuations in material pricing, which affect the overall cost of a job.
Q: How long does it take to get an estimate?
A: This is really dependent on the size of your project. If you're looking to make a couple of quick changes, an estimate could take 1-2 days. A custom designed landscape for a full backyard can take upwards of 1-2 weeks, as it's tied to the design process. On larger projects, getting to a final estimate takes longer to ensure you get a level of detail that matches your job.
Q: How do I track changes in estimates?
A: This depends on how the estimate is set up. Grey Rock will specifically call out line items that change between different estimate versions.
Q: What do I do if I want to phase a project?
A: This happens all the time! In this scenario, it's okay to go ahead and price all phases of your project. This will give you a good understanding of the long term project cots, aiding in your decision making. From here, simply get the price of the section you want completed now. For the future sections, go ahead and plan for a slight increase in pricing, as material costs typically increase year-to-year.