Tips on Hiring a Patio Professional

Know what questions to ask when choosing professionals for your outdoor patio project.

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Finding a professional is the next step. After consulting the websites that list landscape architects and garden designers and talking to friends and neighbors who are satisfied with their patio, arrange to have several come to your home to give you their ideas along with estimates on the costs involved. They generally do this for free but expect to pay for anything other than a consultation such as drawn up plans and lists of materials.

"A professional can give you guidance to things you haven’t thought of,” says Derek Archer, a landscape designer for Brentwood Landscape & Design. For example, they can take into consideration, the architecture of your house, where doors and windows are located and what to avoid. "You don’t want to put your patio near the air conditioning units outside your home. No one wants to hear them while they are sitting on their patio," says Archer.

Hiring a professional is like interviewing a potential employee. You have to meet many candidates before you settle on the one that’s best for the job. Follow your instincts. If the person seems vague or inexperienced, move on to the next one. Don’t necessarily choose the lowest price. Remember, as with most purchases, you get what you pay for. Be sure to ask for several references before you hire any one patio designer or builder. "You want to find a person who has experience (designing and building patios) similar to what you want to do,” says Monica Mroz, ASLA/PLA, Monica Mroz Landscape Architect. "Find someone who understands what you want and communicates well. That’s the key to a successful project."

According to the National Association of The Remodeling Industry, here's a list of questions you should ask before hiring a professional to build your patio:

  • When can you start?
  • When will you be finished?
  • What time will you knock on my door each morning?
  • What time will you quit for the day?
  • Are you going to work everyday?
  • Can you finish before (insert any major holiday or significant family event)?
  • How much will it cost per square foot?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
  • Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
  • Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? Always verify this information by calling the agency. A copy of an insurance certificate does not let you know if the policy is still current. Even if the certificate has an expiration date, you cannot tell if either party has canceled the insurance. If licensing is required in your state also ask if the contractor is licensed and call to verify compliance with the law. Not all states offer or require licensing. Check with your local or state government agencies.
  • What is your approach to a project such as this?
  • How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?
  • May I have a list of references from those projects?
  • May I have a list of business referrals or suppliers?
  • What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?
  • Are you a member of a national trade association?

Anyone with a pad and pencil can design a patio but if you are not designing or building it yourself then you’ll want to hire a professional to do the job.

Architects

An architect designs and builds houses, offices, structures and often landscapes depending on their professional degree which includes a masters degree in fine arts, architecture, and several years of hands-on experience plus a license to practice in their state. While an architect can design a patio they generally focus on designing the house, both interior and exterior, but in doing so, will design the exterior outdoor living spaces in their initial plan.

Designer

A designer can be anyone from a person with a degree in design from a professional school, to a person with hands-on experience designing interior or exterior spaces. They may or may not have additional study that would enable them to design an exterior space such as a patio.

Landscape Designer

Generally, a landscape designer has at least a four-year college degree in landscape design including hardscape areas such as patios, decks, walkways, as well as plantings. They have a degree in horticultural studies so they are well aware of the types of plants that grow in the area they are working in. They also have at least several years of hands-on experience and a license to work in the state they are located in. Design/build firms generally employ landscape designers to execute plans for exterior living spaces such as patios.

Landscape Architect

A landscape architect has at least a four-year degree plus at least two years of experience working under a licensed landscape architect before they take an exam to secure their own license to work. Their area of study includes drainage, irrigation and grading. They are well versed in horticultural study so they know what plantings would be well suited to your area. Their credentials can vary from state to state.

Garden Designer

Nearly anyone with knowledge of plant material can be a garden designer. However, a course of study that includes horticulture, landscape design and hardscape design is recommended for a garden designer. Many design/build firms that will design the patio and also build it will have a garden designer on hand.

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