Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find some answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

1- Q: What is the advantage of having a design/build contractor, instead of a separate landscape designer and contractor?

A: When working with a design-build contractor the process of creating a successful landscape design is streamlined into a turnkey process. The major advantage to a design-build system is that the designer and the contractor are one in the same; this insures that the design intent is carried out faithfully and that construction is directly and consistently supervised by the designers. In addition, it saves time and money, because there is no extra layer of communication between the designer and the contractor. We do not have to take the time or expense to create drawings to communicate the installation of our designs to the same degree as an independent designer working with a separate contractor because we know that we are going to be executing the design in an integrated process. This makes the whole process simpler and more cost effective. Ultimately, everything is easier and more cost effective for our clients.


2- Q: Can we do our landscape in phases?

A: Absolutely. In fact, this is common on many projects. What we recommend is that first, we develop a landscape plan for the entire scope of the project. The advantage of planning all the stages in advance is that once each stage is completed you will be assured that each element and stage of your landscape fits and is designed well together. In the end it is evident that you had a professional designed and installed finished product. We can make recommendations for a sequence of staging elements or areas based on construction and design requirements.


3- Q: How do you bill for your design services?

A: Our design services are billed on an hourly rate. We have found that this system works put best for the clients and for us. You pay only for the hours necessary to create the design. Typically, we require a design retainer that is replenished as hours are used.


4- Q: How does the design process work?

A: Essentially, the design process consists of three phases. A conceptual design phase which helps us to develop ideas and focus on desired styles and materials. An initial design phase, which develops the concepts into a meaningful design form; and a final design phase, where changes to design layout and materials are adjusted into a finalized form ready for construction.


5- Q: Can we purchase materials for you to install in the design.

A: We typically purchase all materials for our construction jobs. This ensures quality control and enables us to schedule the project according to material availability. At times we can use client provided materials, check with us for more specific information.


6- Q: Can you do a design for our project that we can then put out to bid or have another contractor construct?

A. No. We are design-build landscape contractors. All of our design work is done with the intention of being constructed by O’Connell Landscape.

7- Q: What is the typical cost for a landscape project?

A: First, there is no typical landscape project. Each project has its own aspects and location that make it unique. This is one reason we strongly recommend having a landscape design done for all major landscape projects. This being said there is no way to determine an average cost for a landscape project. Most of our projects cost between $10,000-$200,000. For projects with smaller areas of emphasis it is possible to do a good job on a smaller budget. As with any sort of home improvement or major purchase, cost depends on the cost/quality of materials used and the size and scale of the undertaking. It is easy to spend in excess of $10,000 on just a bathroom remodel, let alone a fully developed landscaping. When trying to establish the cost of your landscape try to think in terms of costs for each element. Softscape elements such as lawns and plantings tend to be less expensive than Hardscape elements such as concrete or flagstone patios, fences and arbors or specialty items such as outdoor kitchens or water features. Ultimately, the cost of any project varies depending on the total time necessary to do the project plus the cost of materials


8- Q: Why do you recommend using Natural stone paving such as Flagstone or Sandstone rather than concrete?

A: We find that Natural Stone provides a warmth and depth than cannot be achieved with concrete or other types of paving. Natural stone also diffuses heat better than concrete. In addition, there are a large variety of natural stone types and colors to fit almost any design application. There more options for designing with Natural Stone than with a colored or traditionally finished concrete. In addition, natural stone (such as Flagstones or Sandstones) can be integrated with concrete in accents to create a beautiful design that is cost effective.


9- Q: What is cultured or manufactured stone veneer?

A: Manufactured stone is a stone veneer product typically made of formed colored concrete. Manufactured stone has rapidly gained popularity recently and is used for architectural accents on newly constructed homes and commercial buildings. In a landscape or garden setting manufactured stone gives the look of natural stone veneer but at a lesser cost. Manufactured stone is typically used on retaining walls, applied to concrete walls or concrete blocks (CMU). While not a perfect replacement for real stone veneer, when the proper style of stone is selected it can create beautiful stone walls at a lesser cost than real stone. For more information on manufactured stone, visit these manufacturers: El Dorado Stone or Cultured Stone


10- Q: Why are elements such as Flagstone Patios, Retaining Walls, Arbors and Water Features so expensive?

A: These elements are commonly those that have the highest material cost, while taking the most time and labor to construct. Sometimes we talk with clients who have received bids for masonry or carpentry work that is much lower than our pricing or that of other contractors. Typically, these cost savings have to be generated somewhere. We have heard from many clients and potential clients who have opted for a much cheaper bid who have not been happy with the quality of workmanship and/or materials used.


11- Q: How do you structure your landscape construction contracts?

A: All our contracts are in writing and give a detailed description of the work to be done and the time table for project completion. Any changes to the contract or additions to the project are done in writing via change orders. This is required by the California State Contractors Board (CSLB) and benefits both the client and the contractor. We believe in having a thorough and complete contract that defines the project to be done and the terms and conditions of the agreement. This helps prevent surprises for both parties down the road.


12- Q: Do you bid on landscape designs prepared by other designers?

A: Yes. While the majority of projects we do are designed in-house, we have completed many successful projects done from other designers plans. We have found that we can bring our own insights into plans done by others to make the project even better.


13- Q: What distinguishes your designs from those done by other companies or designers?

A: Please refer to the question above about our design-build process, for why we feel there is advantage to having a turnkey landscape design. Beyond that, we feel that our designs are distinguished for a number of reasons. First, we have knowledgeable staff, which has experience on hundreds of design and construction projects. Our 2 on-staff landscape designers bring a variety of diverse talents and specialties that ensure successful design. We also distinguish ourselves through the process of landscape designs. We value our client’s input. We feel that our projects are the most successful when we are able to use our expertise to facilitate the clients desires for the project. While we will suggest and help facilitate our clients through the design process, we do not believe in imposing our own rigid design vision on any project. Also, because the principals of the company are directly involved in the design and execution of all our projects, we feel that there is a greater degree of care and craftsmanship put into each design. Finally, we have faith in design work because of the years of experience we have tackling the many diverse challenges, from drought resistance to deer, found in Marin and Sonoma counties.

14- Q: Do you subcontract out large portions of your projects?

A: No. We don’t frequently subcontract elements of our projects; we are a full-service landscape construction company. For specialized installations such as stamped concrete, automated driveway gates, or metal fencing we will use subcontractors. All of our subcontractors are under our supervision and answer directly to us. We only use subcontractors who do work that matches our high quality installations.


15- Q: Do you do multiple projects at once?

A: Yes. We do have multiple projects under construction at any given time. HOWEVER, once we start a project we work on that project from start to finish. The only exception to this might be if there are interruptions due to inclement weather or material availability. We give a firm start and finish date for our projects so that our clients have a time table they can plan around for the project. Projects can go over this timetable, but most of the time this is due to increases the project scope or interruptions due to weather.


16- Q: Do you offer guarantees on your work?

A: Yes. All of our work is covered by a standard guarantee period. We also offer extended warranty plans for customers who want additional warranty protection.


17- Q: Why do you recommend having a good gardening service maintain the project once it is installed. Can't we do this ourselves?

A: You can do the maintenance yourself, and the amount of care depends on the scope of the project. We recommend however that our clients hire a good gardening service to do maintenance on your new yard. A weekly or biweekly proper maintenance will keep your garden looking good throughout the year. It also makes sense to protect your new landscaping investment. We have seen gardens that have done well after installation decline rapidly because they were not cared for properly. A good gardening service will be sure the lawn is mowed weekly and fertilized seasonally, shrubs are pruned and shaped and the irrigation system is checked and repaired as necessary.


18- Q: How do we care for our garden after installation?

A: After each project is completed, we give you a landscape care booklet. It outlines the care of the plantings, and other features such as timers, lighting systems, drip irrigations systems, custom woodwork and more. This will help your new garden thrive after it is installed.


19- Q: Are you familiar with obtaining construction Permits from Local Agencies?

A: We have experience throughout Marin County with many of the local planning approval processes (including homeowners associations). We can submit drawings and attend planning meeting to obtain permit approval as part of our design process.


Didn't find the answer you were looking for here? E-mail or Call us , we are happy to answer any questions you may have.


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