A professional designer creates a space that meets your needs. Because of their expertise and experience, professionals can offer fresh ideas, anticipate code restrictions, and deal with unusual problems. If the cost of hiring a designer seems prohibitive, consider that professionals can help save on overall costs by contributing to the efficiency of the project, by organizing and managing work flow, and by helping to avoid expensive mistakes. Many of them are willing to work as consultants for an hourly fee.
When working with a professional, good communication is key to achieving your goals. Start a clipping folder. Use it to keep articles and photographs cut from magazines that show ideas and design elements that appeal to you. Add product brochures or advertisements that you can show to your designer. Draw sketches of your ideas, and share them with your designer. A good designer is interested in your lifestyle and should ask questions and take notes about how you live, your daily routine, and your project goals.
Three types of design professionals can work on a deck or patio project. Although they have specialized areas of expertise, most professionals are well-versed in all phases of design and can help create a comprehensive plan.
Architects work primarily with structure and reorganization of space. They are familiar with many types of building materials, finishes, and structural systems. An architect is a good choice for complex deck designs. An architect will design your deck and make sure it is sensibly integrated with adjacent living areas, such as your kitchen or family room. Architects charge a percentage of the project's total cost, usually 10 to 15 percent. If hired on an hourly basis, they charge $50 to $125 per hour. For a listing of architects in your area, look in the Yellow Pages of your phone directory, or try the Internet search engine offered by the American Institute of Architects.
Landscape architects registered with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) are usually designers only; the plans they furnish must be given to a landscape contractor for final installation. Occasionally, a professional landscape architect joins with a landscape contractor to offer full-service planning and installation. An ASLA architect will charge $75 to $125 per hour to inspect and analyze the property, and then complete detailed drawings that recommend plantings and landscape features which help connect the new space to the outdoor environment. To create a plan, expect to pay 15 percent of the cost of the finished landscape project. To find a landscape architect, consult the Yellow Pages of your telephone directory under "Landscape Architects," or check with the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Landscape contractors can install decks, patios, walkways, retaining walls, plantings, and ancillary structures such as pergolas and arbors. Many landscape contractors are full-service business firms that have landscape architects, designers, and installers, and can provide a full range of services that include initial concepts, finalized plans, installation, and ongoing maintenance. If required by state law, a landscape contracting company should be licensed or certified, indicating they have passed examinations and have demonstrated expertise and knowledge, and that they participate in ongoing programs of education. Find "Landscape Contractors" in the Yellow Pages of your telephone directory or contact the Associated Landscape Contractors of America.
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