Do it Yourself or Hire a Landscape Architect?

Posted by Madison on May 14, 2009

Now that we’ve decided to stay in our house long term we decided it was finally time to do something about our patio. When we built our house, I think it was the only thing that didn’t quite turn out the way we envisioned.

The current patio is just too small. We’re planning to expand the patio, extend the retaining wall, regrade the lawn around it, and try to make it look like one of the fancy magazine pictures.

I tried to convince Scott that maybe we could do it ourselves. After all, I can Google and find a do-it-yourself website with instructions, right?

Although the thought of his pregnant wife trying to read a website, add dirt, boulders, and install brick pavers or flagstone didn’t quite fly. Of course, he’s right. I like to try to do things myself, but this is way out of my league! So we agreed to have some professional landscape architects come out to draw up plans and bid on the work.

Luckily, I saw that Angie’s List has a promotion right now. They waive the activation fee if you use the promo code ROOF by 5/17. I signed up and got a great list of contractors that had multiple good reviews.

While I was there, I checked out references for the solar panels we’re planning on getting and dentist referrals, since mine is retiring soon. It was well worth my $2.60!

The various landscapers are coming out in the next few weeks to design the proposals. I’ll let you know how it goes!




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Comments to Do it Yourself or Hire a Landscape Architect?

  1. There is a monumental difference between a landscaper and a registered Landscape Architect. Please note the terms are not interchangeable. if you are putting in retaining walls you should hire a licensed professional to perform the design work. anyone can open up an landscaping business, it takes commitment and time to become a licensed professional.


  2. I have a landscape architecture degree, but don’t practice in that field any more. Give me a place to stay and feed me and I’ll help you design it 😀


  3. I agree with Katie, and I’ll expand on that.

    There are three main types of professionals you can hire.
    1. Landscaper – Typically they do not have the expertise in design (for those of you that might, I apologize). Their expertise is in the installation of the project.

    2. Design Build firm – Same as a landscaper. They may or may not have landscape designers or architects working for them. Regardless, their goal is to get the job. That is where they make their money, not on the design.

    3. Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect – their main business is to provide designs and possibly project management. They are not interested if they can make more money installing pavers rather than bluestone, or if they have some shrubs left in their nursery they want to use up. Their sole purpose (or should be) is to provide a creative and functional design within or close to your budget. They are working only for you.

    Landscape Design Advice

    Susan Schlenger

  4. I knew a Landscape Architect major in college. He smoked a lot of dope. Good luck!


  5. @ Katie & Susan: Thanks for the helpful advice! The three that we picked are all landscape architects focused on the design, so hopefully they’ll be able to design something beautiful and functional for us.


  6. I just wrote about our front yard landscaping that we did ourselves on my site. We saved ourselves a ton of money.

    Last fall, we hired someone to put in a 600 sq foot patio with retaining wall in our back yard. This was not a job we could do ourselves. We spent several months interviewing contractors and getting bids. We also called their references and actually went to see their work. I would highly recommend this. We narrowed our search down to two people that were both very qualified, capable and certified. We went with the guy who was the most detail oriented. We had lots of questions and decisions to make and our guy probably came to our house at least three times to review our plans before he even dug one hole.

    Very exciting project…good luck with your search. We absolutely love our new patio, it has become an extension of our home.


  7. Since my wife is an LA, this article caught my eye, and I just wanted to reiterate the points above.

    A landscaper and landscape architect are two different things, the latter requiring at least 6 years of schooling and/or LA experience in most states, as well as professional licensure.

    LAs can not only provide you with design experience, but will often have great knowledge about green building practices that will save you money on irrigation, maintenance, and the like.

    Many partner with contractors to provide design-build services that can save you a lot of money in the end (you get two services in one).

    Good luck with the project!

    Wojciech @ Fiscal Fizzle

  8. I can’t see hiring a landscape architect for such a small job as a single home. You might want to study a few principals yourself. In particular, environmental care, expressed in such things native plants and rain swailes, would be out of your hands. It does not seem to be standard practice for professionals, around here at least.


  9. You might be interested in the bit I wrote last year on DIY vs. hiring someone:

    And before that on the difference between landscape architects, designers and contractors:

    Bottom line for DIY is, take on what you’ll love… and hire the appropriate pro for the rest of it.

    Good luck!
    John Black
    Verdance Fine Garden Design

    John Black

  10. Although I am a DIY kind of person too, I strongly encourage others to follow this route of getting professional advice especially as John mentioned above.

    Congrats to getting the pros in the beginning stages!


  11. If you want it to turn out well, you should hire a good design/build firm with good references and plenty of photos of their previous work. An “A” listing on Angie’s List doesn’t hurt either. Hiring an actual “landscape architect” is a little overkill for the project you’re describing.

    Portland Oregon Landscaping

    Jim Lewis, Portland Oregon Landscaping

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