Knowing what may occur during your landscape project beforehand can help reduce confusions and make you feel more certain of the process. So, we outlined some basic things to expect.
The amount of planning and communication that is required to successfully complete a landscape project is almost in direct proportion to the complexity of the job.
The size of the project is a factor, but it is more related to the details. A small 1000 square foot backyard remodel with a new patio, patio cover, firepit and planting needs far more work in design and planning than a 5000 sq foot concrete and grass project.
If communication or planning fall out, then it creates confusion and a road block to any project. If your project is larger or more complicated, you should expect to have to invest more time into it to ensure it comes out the way you are expecting. This does not mean that you have to manage the project for us. It just means that there may be questions that you would have to make yourself available for. As an example, you may need to visit a material yard or BBQ store to pick out rock or an outdoor kitchen appliance.
If you have a preference on what type of communication method you prefer, please let us know. We usually use a variety of emails, onsite visits, text and phone calls.
After you have settled on the design and contract price, we schedule your project for installation. This includes an initial job walk. The job walk is usually done with your rep and the Project Manager. It is good to have everyone there who will have input on the project or make any decisions.
On the job walk we will go over the design or plan again. We will walk it out and layout all the main features. The Project Manager should have a can of paint to help show contours and locations. We may also have string lines or boards to represent other things that will be installed. During the job walk we will also discuss more details on work times, access, where we may store materials, job site conditions etc.
During the job walk we will also go over major elements for demolition. We will identify things that are going to be removed including plants and trees. The project manager will mark them to help the crews identify what to take out and what to leave.
Also, during the walk you may make changes to the plans and scope of work and if you do, we will document those at that time.
We may also notice some things that have not been apparent when doing the initial planning and consultation. Realize that it is very difficult to ascertain 100% of all details and elements on a construction project. We just have to deal with those issues as they come up.
Your project may have some outstanding issues that need to be resolved by the time we do the starting job walk. There may still be some decisions to be made on materials or planting or some permit work to be done. We often address those issues during the course of construction, and it should not hold us back.
There are sometimes issues with material orders and delivery dates. We have had suppliers get backlogged or run out of inventory. If this were to occur, we try and get as much work done on a project as possible while waiting for material. In some cases, changing out the material to something that is available might be an option.
Once we have done the starting job walk, we will begin the work. That usually happens on the day of the job walk or it can be a few days or weeks after.
As mentioned in earlier parts of this orientation booklet, we have several crews that do different things. You will possibly meet more than one crew and crew chief.
The crew chief’s job is to oversee and help carry out the installation. He is usually the most experienced member of the crew. You may end up talking to him on occasion about the project. However, it is always best to give your communication to the Project Manager even if the Crew Chief is right there in front of you. The reason for this is that the Project Manager serves as a central point of communication and needs to know what is going on at the project at all times. In the past we have had clients discuss something with a crew chief without letting the project manager know resulting in added confusion.
A part of managing the job is identifying where tools and material should be placed during the construction. This way we are able to keep the jobsite as clean as possible. If you feel your job is not being kept in a tidy manner, please contact our office and we will ensure that this gets corrected.
Each part of the project has different elements and the installation has to be timed accordingly. With years of experience we have a good idea of what goes in when. However, it is not always perfect and there are times when we may have to do things in a different sequence. It could be due to availability of material or labor. As an example, we have had clients on one projects add a last-minute change order before a scheduled inspection thus delaying a crew for another one We try and prevent these delays and for the most part your project should go along at a decent pace.
Landscape installation like other trades is also noisy and dirty. Each stage of the project will have different noise and dirt levels. The demolition stage is by far the noisiest and dirtiest and is the one we always start with when doing a project.
The tools and equipment we use include jack hammers, diesel trucks and machinery, concrete saws, concrete drills, chain saws and other noisy items. Our guys have safety gear for their ears and if you happened to be outside or nearby it would be good for you to use some earplugs as well.
We will often protect certain surfaces from damage like using plywood to cover glass windows and doors or plastic for walls, but we don’t cover the entire house or property. That means that dirt will land and settle in some areas. We will always try and clean up the property as best as we can. However, you may have to do a pressure washing of the house or walls once we are done.
If there are any special requests for moving or protecting things during demolition, please let the project manager know during your starting job walk.
After demolition there may be some piles of debris. We will schedule a clean-up, but we may have to leave it there for a bit. We will always try and maintain tidy piles.
During demolition you may also experience vibrations in the house or building. This is unavoidable and goes along with the use of heavy equipment and tools. Some projects it is minor where maybe on some properties you will get heavy vibration. This occurs for a variety of reasons including jackhammering concrete next to a house. Just be prepared to remove loose valuables from shelving of walls near a work area.
It is during the demolition phase that we often “unearth” other issues on a project. We may find clogged drainage, broken or rotted utility lines or major obstacles like granite where a concrete footing is supposed to go. You will have to be willing to experience change orders if situations like these were to arise.
Our crews are good, and they maintain their employment only if they display responsibility. However, mistakes can still occur, and we will always fix any that we make.
To help keep an eye on things the Project Manager is instructed to monitor job quality. Every time he is on the jobsite, he is supposed to be doing quality control checks. If he notices something that we can correct without bothering you, he will instruct the crews to fix it without mentioning anything. If it is something more complicated to repair, he may discuss this with you, so you are kept informed of job progress.
If for some reason you notice something yourself that does not seem right, you can always contact the project manager to double check it. Sometimes it may look incorrect, but it just might be a stage of incomplete installation or a detail that had to be changed due to site conditions.
Like every good movie or story, a construction project has three main phases. A starting point, an ongoing change and eventually a completion point. The starting point is really the initial decision to do a project and contacting someone or taking that first step. Then as you move through picking a contractor, signing a contract and doing the work you are into the “change” phase of your job. Finally, when it is all done you reach the completion point.
You can’t get to the end without going through the change part.
Now, like any good movie or story it can be a smooth transition with changes that feel comfortable or it can be a wild or upsetting experience full of drama. We want your project to be the easier more comfortable one.
When you make changes to anything it always brings with it some level of confusion.
Confusion can be defined as a randomness that does not have any certainty. Even if you intentionally change something you are still introducing some level of uncertainty until the final result is achieved. You are therefore knowingly creating confusions.
Confusions, then, are not always bad. A simple example is doing a puzzle. When you spread out the pieces you have a nice little confusion. Only when you start identifying one piece and put it with another do you begin to get some certainty. Eventually you complete the puzzle with lots of certainty and the satisfaction of overcoming all the confusions that were there when you started.
You therefor have to be willing to experience whatever level of confusion you are creating by intentionally changing something like the puzzle.
Now, if you pick a bad contractor you will get added confusions to the ones that are created by simply changing your yard. If you pick a good one, well, they will contain some of the confusion and make it more manageable.
The reason that construction projects can be very stressful to a homeowner or business is that the level of confusion can exceed one’s tolerance level. This includes the confusion of cost overruns or self-inflicted change orders.
Everyone has a different ability or willingness to experience things. So everyone will experience change and confusions in a different way. But, as mentioned before, it is best if you tell yourself that you are willing to experience some level of confusion and randomness thus preparing yourself for the changes.
The majority of projects that we do have some level of change orders. They can add or reduce costs. In almost all cases it is the first one. This is something to keep in mind in your expectations of the final total.
There are many reasons for change orders. It can vary from unforeseen issues with the property to last minute “I got to have it” changes to the scope or material.
We always try and be reasonable with changes. We will never gouge our clients or introduce unnecessary issues or changes. This is because we want to treat others as we would want to be treated. We would not want any unfair or undue changes and costs made to a project we were paying for because we could “get away with it”.
With that said we will always explain any reason for a change and get your approval first before we do it. The only exception to that is if you are unavailable or there is an immediate fix that needs to be done. In those cases, we simply have to rely on our judgement when making changes before we get an approval.
Changes can only be made with the Project Manager or rep. Please do not ask for changes or any work outside of the contract from a crew member. They are instructed to politely refuse to do it until we have an approved change order. You must understand that the reason we have this policy is that we have to monitor our own costs on a job in order to stay in business. If we did not do this, we could easily lose money on many projects. Most of our clients are very reasonable and do understand the idea of fair play on a job.
This does not mean that we don’t go the extra distance or do some smaller things for free on a job. We do want to provide a good experience for our clients, and we do unpaid things frequently. It is just that we are honest and fair with our clients and do expect the same in return.
Another thing we should mention is the project management software we use. It is an online system called Builder Trend. We use this system for a variety of things including:
You the client also have access to some of this system. There is a special client portal built into the software that you can access over the internet. You will be sent an email with a link that allows to set up a password for future access. In this client portal you can have access to designs, contracts, send messages, enter in a job note and track payments. This will help you stay on track with what we are doing.
Another part of our company code is to always be learning and improving. If there is anything that you feel we could improve in the installation or project management of your job please let us know.