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
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
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
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
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
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
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
13- Q: What distinguishes
your designs from those done by other companies or
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.
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we are happy to answer any questions you may have.