Talk Irvine

General => Real Estate => Owner's Issues => Topic started by: akim997 on May 22, 2013, 10:50:00 PM

Title: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: akim997 on May 22, 2013, 10:50:00 PM
So I've decided to start landscaping now, and we are going with a company called Rare Earth Systems.  They are friendly guys (Chris Crary) and I'll track my progress and provide some photos along the way.  We also considered other companies such as West Coast Landcare, Go Pavers, and a few others.   Chris knows a lot about pavers, and has some good references and we'll build out through phases.   This is not a recommendation, but I'm just documenting a process with somewhat of a "new guy on the block".   We'll see where it goes.   Our design is pretty simple (not that much you can do with an Irvine box).
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: nosuchreality on May 23, 2013, 08:04:08 AM
Any chance to scan the plans?
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: socaltrojan81 on May 23, 2013, 11:06:10 AM
So I've decided to start landscaping now, and we are going with a company called Rare Earth Systems.  They are friendly guys (Chris Crary) and I'll track my progress and provide some photos along the way.  We also considered other companies such as West Coast Landcare, Go Pavers, and a few others.   Chris knows a lot about pavers, and has some good references and we'll build out through phases.   This is not a recommendation, but I'm just documenting a process with somewhat of a "new guy on the block".   We'll see where it goes.   Our design is pretty simple (not that much you can do with an Irvine box).

I am speaking with West Coast Landcare now. What are your impressions? Any reason why you chose not to go with them?
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: rideBMC on May 23, 2013, 12:21:26 PM
if you dont mind sharing plans & costs, i appreciate it. thanks
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on May 23, 2013, 12:27:39 PM
Yes, design or at least pricing would be much appreciated.

I'm still struggling with trying to figure out what we're going to be able to afford to do with our lousy plot of dirt.

It doesn't seem such a small bit of land should be so darned expensive.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: nosuchreality on May 23, 2013, 12:53:42 PM
Yes, design or at least pricing would be much appreciated.

I'm still struggling with trying to figure out what we're going to be able to afford to do with our lousy plot of dirt.

It doesn't seem such a small bit of land should be so darned expensive.

Bigger plots of land quickly cost a midsize vehicle to do.  A small pergola depending on the material can cost $5000-$10000 alone, not including stone work and landscaping.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: broda on May 23, 2013, 07:34:53 PM
Yes, design or at least pricing would be much appreciated.

I'm still struggling with trying to figure out what we're going to be able to afford to do with our lousy plot of dirt.

It doesn't seem such a small bit of land should be so darned expensive.

Bigger plots of land quickly cost a midsize vehicle to do.  A small pergola depending on the material can cost $5000-$10000 alone, not including stone work and landscaping.

I wonder how much it costs to take an AutoCAD class at IVC, do my own design and go to Home Depot.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on May 23, 2013, 07:40:47 PM
@broda - That's a great plan, but the biggest part of the problem is not drawing the design; it's figuring out how much every combination of options costs including all the different types of pavers, seat walls, rock facades, flagstone, generic ground cover, square footage, trees, bushes, flowers, irrigation, low-voltage lighting, etc. as well as knowing what types of plants are allowed by the HOA and which will survive in which part of our yards that will have how much sunlight at what times of the year.

And so on...

There are so many variables and options and we don't know what all the possibilities are, let alone knowing all the ins and outs of each.

The biggest problem is everything we'd like to do will cost $20k which is outside our budget.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: broda on May 23, 2013, 07:47:20 PM
in that case...AutoCAD class...drawing of grass...submit.  Plant Grass...save $$$$$$


 :P
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: Irvine_Dreamer on May 23, 2013, 09:35:04 PM
@broda - That's a great plan, but the biggest part of the problem is not drawing the design; it's figuring out how much every combination of options costs including all the different types of pavers, seat walls, rock facades, flagstone, generic ground cover, square footage, trees, bushes, flowers, irrigation, low-voltage lighting, etc. as well as knowing what types of plants are allowed by the HOA and which will survive in which part of our yards that will have how much sunlight at what times of the year.

And so on...

There are so many variables and options and we don't know what all the possibilities are, let alone knowing all the ins and outs of each.

The biggest problem is everything we'd like to do will cost $20k which is outside our budget.
Thanks for sharing info on landscaper.
He came by, and I had a long talk with him.  He told me he'll come back next day for measurement, but never did.  I guess he's not interested working on my yard.  This is the trend for me.  Two guys told me they'll come back with design and estimate, but never did.  One guy I talked to at my neighbor's yard he was working on flat out told me he's too busy.  I get a feeling that landscapers are now overloaded with works as builders are cranking out new homes as fast as they can.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on May 23, 2013, 09:47:19 PM
I think you hit the nail on the head.

We're having a really hard time with all but one landscaper. It's like we're chasing them down to beg them to take our money, which is ridiculous. If we're paying over $10k (and closer to $20k), they should be at our beck and call, but of our 6 contractors, 1 came back with a design and price after we kept calling, 4 have measured and talked with us but have never gotten back to us after 2 weeks, and just 1 guy had ready a design and detailed estimate in 5 days with a follow-up 2-hour-long discussion.

It just makes you feel foolish (and angry) to keep meeting all these people and discussing all the details of your yard ideas only to have them all never talk to you again.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: gaogi on May 24, 2013, 02:44:42 PM
in that case...AutoCAD class...drawing of grass...submit.  Plant Grass...save $$$$$$


 :P

I've seen the drawings my landscaper submitted to the HOA.  You don't need to take an AutoCad class, just need to find a piece of paper an a crayon.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: akim997 on May 28, 2013, 01:40:51 PM
Any chance to scan the plans?

Yes, I will scan the plans in the next day or so.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: akim997 on May 28, 2013, 01:43:43 PM
So I've decided to start landscaping now, and we are going with a company called Rare Earth Systems.  They are friendly guys (Chris Crary) and I'll track my progress and provide some photos along the way.  We also considered other companies such as West Coast Landcare, Go Pavers, and a few others.   Chris knows a lot about pavers, and has some good references and we'll build out through phases.   This is not a recommendation, but I'm just documenting a process with somewhat of a "new guy on the block".   We'll see where it goes.   Our design is pretty simple (not that much you can do with an Irvine box).

I am speaking with West Coast Landcare now. What are your impressions? Any reason why you chose not to go with them?

Overall impressions are good.   West Coast is a close second.  They've also done almost every house (it seems) in our neighborhood.   To be honest, some if it is just doing something different.   You can kind of tell the houses they do - similar plans, designs, etc.   It's not the case, but I'd think at this point I should get a deal, because everyone else has paid for the design work/ concepts... they just need to rinse and repeat with me.   

Dan is a friendly guy, not too pushy.   Talked to other owners' experience and its been pretty good with a few small complaints here and there.   
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: akim997 on May 28, 2013, 01:45:12 PM
if you dont mind sharing plans & costs, i appreciate it. thanks

Overall cost has yet to be determined, because I haven't factored in plants yet.   As of right now, hardscape, demo and irrigation will cost about $13K.   Will post more of my plans later.  My problem is that I keep changing what I want in my own head.   That's in part why we chose Rare Earth, because they will go along with the flow.   
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: akim997 on May 28, 2013, 01:49:12 PM
I would not worry about designs.   I think I saw that the designer our guy uses is charging like $150 for the drawings.   A drop in the bucket compared to everything else.   

Also, there are plenty of landscapers out there who will take your money... believe me.   The hard part is finding somebody good.   Hmmm.... I actually haven't heard back from Chris in a couple of days...   Hope this is not the start of something bad...
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: Irvine_Dreamer on May 28, 2013, 09:15:33 PM
Also, there are plenty of landscapers out there who will take your money... believe me.   The hard part is finding somebody good.   Hmmm.... I actually haven't heard back from Chris in a couple of days...   Hope this is not the start of something bad...
I agree, but who?  Who can I trust, has reasonable price, does a good job and communicates on timely manner?  I see a contractor who's doing my neighbor's yard, and he doesn't have a license, and I saw him shortcutting few things.
By the way, Chris never came back with quote on time, so I crossed him off my list.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: nosuchreality on May 29, 2013, 08:55:22 AM
Minimize the hardscape and you minimize the cost.  Irrigation from almost everybody seems to be $400-$700/zone range, more zones, lower end, less zones higher end, with a $1500 seeming to be minimum charge.

Maybe invest $20 in a suncalc sunmeter and check how much sun your yards really get.   Maybe do stepping stones with moss or another ground cover instead of pavers all the way down the sides.  If the house is oriented north-south, you'll get more sun than you think in the side yards.


Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: bones on May 29, 2013, 09:04:06 AM
Also, there are plenty of landscapers out there who will take your money... believe me.   The hard part is finding somebody good.   Hmmm.... I actually haven't heard back from Chris in a couple of days...   Hope this is not the start of something bad...
I agree, but who?  Who can I trust, has reasonable price, does a good job and communicates on timely manner?  I see a contractor who's doing my neighbor's yard, and he doesn't have a license, and I saw him shortcutting few things.
By the way, Chris never came back with quote on time, so I crossed him off my list.

We used Jefferson Rand and was very happy with them.  It's owned by an Asian woman and they have an in house landscape "designer".  Try giving them a call.  714-253-3167.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on May 29, 2013, 10:25:22 AM
Also, there are plenty of landscapers out there who will take your money... believe me.   The hard part is finding somebody good.   Hmmm.... I actually haven't heard back from Chris in a couple of days...   Hope this is not the start of something bad...
I agree, but who?  Who can I trust, has reasonable price, does a good job and communicates on timely manner?  I see a contractor who's doing my neighbor's yard, and he doesn't have a license, and I saw him shortcutting few things.
By the way, Chris never came back with quote on time, so I crossed him off my list.

I highly recommend the gentleman we recently settled on.

At the moment this is our experience with and opinion of him:
- He is definitely very trustworthy and knowledgeable and has had his business for over 40 years.
- He is licensed and insured.
- He is very easy to get in contact with via phone. (He's not so technically inclined, so he doesn't answer emails or texts.)
- He drew up the first draft of the design Friday after the Monday we met him (last week).
- He is extremely relaxed, friendly, and patient. In fact, yesterday we took a 2 hour drive around Irvine neighborhoods together to look at other homes' landscaping so we could discuss what we we liked and didn't like.
- He will have our official design ready for submission to the HOA by today or tomorrow.
- He is very anti-cookie-cutter. He was very unhappy with all the streets we saw where he could tell the same landscaper did several of the houses because they all looked so similar. He insists on only putting his name on a nice, custom design.
- His price is lower than everyone else for the same design and he doesn't require any up-front deposit.

I can't recommend him enough, especially after dealing with ~6 other contractors, most of whom stopped calling back or just never called back at all (after taking the time to measure our yard even)!

If you phone him, I'd really appreciate if you would please be sure to tell him Rommel referred you. (My name is pronounced RAW-mull.) I very much want him to know how much we appreciate his efforts. :) (In fact, after our 2-hour drive yesterday my wife is planning to buy him a $50 gift card to express our gratitude.) His name is John and can be reached at 714.351.9071.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: nosuchreality on May 29, 2013, 02:01:40 PM
Lucky, one suggestion for you even though you're not planning on extensive plantings.

Ask for written instructions on plant maintenance, particularly on the perennials and shrubs.  Ask for names identified along with trimming/cutback instructions and timing thereof.   

If you don't, you'll find yourself taking clippings down to the local nursery asking what is this again?
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on May 29, 2013, 02:10:28 PM
Lucky, one suggestion for you even though you're not planning on extensive plantings.

Ask for written instructions on plant maintenance, particularly on the perennials and shrubs.  Ask for names identified along with trimming/cutback instructions and timing thereof.   

If you don't, you'll find yourself taking clippings down to the local nursery asking what is this again?

Thanks, nosuchreality. Good tip.

Just another reason for me to praise our landscaper: As we were driving around yesterday, he kept remarking how badly most every yard was being neglected. In the middle of that he said he'd definitely be providing detailed instructions for us on what exactly we need to do in order to keep everything in top shape.

Not only did he write the name down of every plant we liked, he knew by sight the name and details of every plant we looked at.

(I know; I'm gushing a bit. But it's totally appropriate.)
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: stromung on June 02, 2013, 10:27:37 AM
My wife called on Friday for an estimate and John said he will call back, that never happened.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on June 02, 2013, 01:45:56 PM
My wife called on Friday for an estimate and John said he will call back, that never happened.

Whoa, really? Sorry to hear that, especially after my ridiculously glowing review. That's totally unlike him. I'm going to call him to ask what happened. I can only imagine maybe he was driving when he answered the call and had no way to take a note then forgot.

He is so behind the times technologically that he is able to receive texts but he doesn't know how to send a text.

He's even done the olden-days thing where he was driving and couldn't write a note, so he wanted me to call back to leave a voicemail to remind him about a meeting.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on June 03, 2013, 05:47:10 AM
@stromung - Spoke with John last night. He explained that he took the call while on the freeway and said he'd call back between 1:30 and 2:30, but because he was tied up called at 3:30 and got voicemail. He said he left a message but didn't receive a call back. He explained that because he doesn't want to be a nuisance, if someone doesn't call him back he typically won't keep calling and bothering you since you may have decided to use someone else and no longer want to talk to him.

After he learned that your impression was he never called back, he says he's definitely going to try calling again asap. Please let us know how it goes once he does!  :D
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: stromung on June 07, 2013, 07:37:55 AM
@Lucky ----My bad, he actually returned wife's call and we had the guy came over last night and apologized to him as well.  Nice and prof kind of guy he is.  He said will be back next week to give me the estimate.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on June 07, 2013, 08:07:34 AM
@Lucky ----My bad, he actually returned wife's call and we had the guy came over last night and apologized to him as well.  Nice and prof kind of guy he is.  He said will be back next week to give me the estimate.

Thanks for the update. Glad to hear it went much more like I would have expected it to. : ) I think you definitely won't be disappointed dealing with him, especially with how quick a turnaround you get with his designs and how much time he'll happily spend talking to you.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lookinginirvine on June 18, 2013, 12:00:04 PM
Lucky - Can you tell us the name of the landscaping company John's with?
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: Irvine_RC on June 18, 2013, 12:11:08 PM
Lucky - Can you tell us the name of the landscaping company John's with?

I was in the market for some landscaping, so I googled the phone numbed and found his website.

http://www.baclandscapinginc.com/contactus.html

looks like a basic website, but lots of good pictures

Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lookinginirvine on June 18, 2013, 12:28:32 PM
I just called John and he's coming tomorrow for an estimate. He knew right away where I am so I guess he is familiar with Stonegate.

I made sure I mentioned Rommel referred me.  ;)


Also, there are plenty of landscapers out there who will take your money... believe me.   The hard part is finding somebody good.   Hmmm.... I actually haven't heard back from Chris in a couple of days...   Hope this is not the start of something bad...
I agree, but who?  Who can I trust, has reasonable price, does a good job and communicates on timely manner?  I see a contractor who's doing my neighbor's yard, and he doesn't have a license, and I saw him shortcutting few things.
By the way, Chris never came back with quote on time, so I crossed him off my list.

I highly recommend the gentleman we recently settled on.

At the moment this is our experience with and opinion of him:
- He is definitely very trustworthy and knowledgeable and has had his business for over 40 years.
- He is licensed and insured.
- He is very easy to get in contact with via phone. (He's not so technically inclined, so he doesn't answer emails or texts.)
- He drew up the first draft of the design Friday after the Monday we met him (last week).
- He is extremely relaxed, friendly, and patient. In fact, yesterday we took a 2 hour drive around Irvine neighborhoods together to look at other homes' landscaping so we could discuss what we we liked and didn't like.
- He will have our official design ready for submission to the HOA by today or tomorrow.
- He is very anti-cookie-cutter. He was very unhappy with all the streets we saw where he could tell the same landscaper did several of the houses because they all looked so similar. He insists on only putting his name on a nice, custom design.
- His price is lower than everyone else for the same design and he doesn't require any up-front deposit.

I can't recommend him enough, especially after dealing with ~6 other contractors, most of whom stopped calling back or just never called back at all (after taking the time to measure our yard even)!

If you phone him, I'd really appreciate if you would please be sure to tell him Rommel referred you. (My name is pronounced RAW-mull.) I very much want him to know how much we appreciate his efforts. :) (In fact, after our 2-hour drive yesterday my wife is planning to buy him a $50 gift card to express our gratitude.) His name is John and can be reached at 714.351.9071.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on June 18, 2013, 06:13:49 PM
Thanks @Irvine_RC! Totally forgot to mention his company name. :-p Yes, his website is pretty ordinary, but he's lucky he even has it because it was his son who insisted that he set it up for him.

@lookinginirvine - Thanks for mentioning me! It really means a lot to my wife and me that he knows how much we appreciate him. :D I hope he's the right choice for you. I think he's quickly becoming a Stonegate expert. Which community are you in?
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lookinginirvine on June 18, 2013, 08:34:50 PM
Lucky - I'm in San Mateo. Landscaping is the last thing on our to-do list. Once landscaping is done, we will have officially completed everything we wanted to do to the house and can finally sit back and relax and enjoy the house.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on June 24, 2013, 12:41:18 PM
I know how you feel. We still have lots more to do for the house, but landscaping is the biggest thing on our list. The awful thing is we just got word back from the HOA and the person who approves landscaping plans just got back from vacation, so despite that we submitted our plans 3 weeks ago, she says we shouldn't expect a response sooner than 3-4 weeks from now. >: (
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: Jenita143 on June 29, 2013, 11:38:09 PM
@Lucky ----My bad, he actually returned wife's call and we had the guy came over last night and apologized to him as well.  Nice and prof kind of guy he is.  He said will be back next week to give me the estimate.

Thanks for the update. Glad to hear it went much more like I would have expected it to. : ) I think you definitely won't be disappointed dealing with him, especially with how quick a turnaround you get with his designs and how much time he'll happily spend talking to you.

How was the design and pricing? I've gotten a few quotes, but haven't favored one landscaper over another. Wondering if I'll get lucky with John.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on June 30, 2013, 12:31:41 AM
@Jenita143 - As far as quality of the final design, it is great, especially because we kept coming up with new ideas about how to change the design. John was totally easy-going about our constantly-evolving adjustments and patiently helped with lots of his own suggestions. As far as price, we went well above what we were hoping to spend, but (and it's a big but) it's because we were able to get *every* one of the featured from our design wish list included and our total price is still thousands below what every other landscaper quoted as a minimum.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: Irvine_Dreamer on June 30, 2013, 11:56:14 AM
@Jenita143 - As far as quality of the final design, it is great, especially because we kept coming up with new ideas about how to change the design. John was totally easy-going about our constantly-evolving adjustments and patiently helped with lots of his own suggestions. As far as price, we went well above what we were hoping to spend, but (and it's a big but) it's because we were able to get *every* one of the featured from our design wish list included and our total price is still thousands below what every other landscaper quoted as a minimum.
Will you be updating your post w/ the final design?
When are you starting the landscaping?
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lucky on June 30, 2013, 01:24:23 PM
@Irvine_Dreamer - Yes, definitely will. John gave me 3 copies for the HOA and I didn't bother to take a photo/copy for myself, but I'll do that whenever I have one in my hands again. We still don't have a start date because we're *still* waiting for the HOA to approve our plans. : ( We submitted the day we closed escrow immediately after they handed over the keys. Two neighbors on my street are already in the process of having their landscaping installed, so we don't understand why we still have to wait another 3 weeks from now. Just another example of our really horrible luck.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: irvine123searching on July 23, 2013, 05:57:17 PM
Lucky - I'm in San Mateo. Landscaping is the last thing on our to-do list. Once landscaping is done, we will have officially completed everything we wanted to do to the house and can finally sit back and relax and enjoy the house.

Did you get your quote from John? Do you mind to share the quote? How do you think his price comparing with other quotes?
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: shadyoc on December 02, 2014, 02:13:47 AM
Also, there are plenty of landscapers out there who will take your money... believe me.   The hard part is finding somebody good.   Hmmm.... I actually haven't heard back from Chris in a couple of days...   Hope this is not the start of something bad...
I agree, but who?  Who can I trust, has reasonable price, does a good job and communicates on timely manner?  I see a contractor who's doing my neighbor's yard, and he doesn't have a license, and I saw him shortcutting few things.
By the way, Chris never came back with quote on time, so I crossed him off my list.

We used Jefferson Rand and was very happy with them.  It's owned by an Asian woman and they have an in house landscape "designer".  Try giving them a call.  714-253-3167.

Hi Bones,

I am looking at landscaping and read your post of them. A lot of TI members say KS is good.  Also Jo from Echo but dont know his work.  His pics seem kind of simple.

Do you have any pics or details you can share about what you did?  May I ask how much you spent and the timeframe to complete? You can PM me if you dont want to post here.  Thanks for the help.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: bones on December 02, 2014, 11:49:47 AM
Also, there are plenty of landscapers out there who will take your money... believe me.   The hard part is finding somebody good.   Hmmm.... I actually haven't heard back from Chris in a couple of days...   Hope this is not the start of something bad...
I agree, but who?  Who can I trust, has reasonable price, does a good job and communicates on timely manner?  I see a contractor who's doing my neighbor's yard, and he doesn't have a license, and I saw him shortcutting few things.
By the way, Chris never came back with quote on time, so I crossed him off my list.

We used Jefferson Rand and was very happy with them.  It's owned by an Asian woman and they have an in house landscape "designer".  Try giving them a call.  714-253-3167.

Hi Bones,

I am looking at landscaping and read your post of them. A lot of TI members say KS is good.  Also Jo from Echo but dont know his work.  His pics seem kind of simple.

Do you have any pics or details you can share about what you did?  May I ask how much you spent and the timeframe to complete? You can PM me if you dont want to post here.  Thanks for the help.

I would love to share but sadly, I can't.  I do have some advice for you:
1. Pictures are great, but visit the landscaper's other jobs in person if you can.  They are usually more than happy to drive you around, or tell you which houses.  I would also personally talk to the homeowner and ask them specific questions about the job.  There have been instances where contractors bring clients by homes that they DID NOT do.  Also, talk to more than one homeowner (I suggest talking to at least 3) to get a broader opinion. 
2. In terms of timeframe, I know everyone wants their landscaping done ASAP but I would not use this as a deciding factor when choosing contractors.  Good work takes time.  Value getting it done RIGHT versus getting it done QUICK.  Landscapers can work neatly.  If you want, ask them to only use 1/2 of your driveway so you can still park your car in the garage on certain days and have clear access to your house.
3. Ask for a written contract with a detailed invoice.  This will allow you to see how much stuff costs on a PSF basis, etc.  And if you decide to cut certain aspects of the job, you know how to do that math.  Also, if you want to add to the job, you can also calculate.  The invoice should also outline a payment plan.  You should not pay more than $1000 initial deposit and have the contract broken up into multiple pay stages.  For example, 15% for initial start/materials, 20% for ground work, 25% for face work, 20% after sprinkler set up, etc.  There have been tons of stories about contractors getting fired midway through the job with 80% of the $ in their pocket.
4. If you are doing new construction, get the brands/colors/grout of your house exterior from your builder.  Give that to your landscaper and have them match everything - insist on it!  You'd be surprised driving around how much stuff (i.e walls) do not match. 
5. Double check their license #.  There have been instances of landscapers giving out a license # that appears to be correct but not. 
6. Ask them the order in which they do things.  For the life of me, I can't understand why landscapers plant trees/flowers prior to finishing all the hardscape.  Also, make sure they don't cut corners on drainage.  No one ever said - man i have too much drainage‚Ķ.

Landscaping can be a complete PITA but if you take the necessary steps, it can actually be a good experience.  Best of luck in your search/project.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: lnc on December 02, 2014, 12:43:25 PM
Hi Bones,

I am looking at landscaping and read your post of them. A lot of TI members say KS is good.  Also Jo from Echo but dont know his work.  His pics seem kind of simple.

Do you have any pics or details you can share about what you did?  May I ask how much you spent and the timeframe to complete? You can PM me if you dont want to post here.  Thanks for the help.

I would love to share but sadly, I can't.  I do have some advice for you:
1. Pictures are great, but visit the landscaper's other jobs in person if you can.  They are usually more than happy to drive you around, or tell you which houses.  I would also personally talk to the homeowner and ask them specific questions about the job.  There have been instances where contractors bring clients by homes that they DID NOT do.  Also, talk to more than one homeowner (I suggest talking to at least 3) to get a broader opinion. 
2. In terms of timeframe, I know everyone wants their landscaping done ASAP but I would not use this as a deciding factor when choosing contractors.  Good work takes time.  Value getting it done RIGHT versus getting it done QUICK.  Landscapers can work neatly.  If you want, ask them to only use 1/2 of your driveway so you can still park your car in the garage on certain days and have clear access to your house.
3. Ask for a written contract with a detailed invoice.  This will allow you to see how much stuff costs on a PSF basis, etc.  And if you decide to cut certain aspects of the job, you know how to do that math.  Also, if you want to add to the job, you can also calculate.  The invoice should also outline a payment plan.  You should not pay more than $1000 initial deposit and have the contract broken up into multiple pay stages.  For example, 15% for initial start/materials, 20% for ground work, 25% for face work, 20% after sprinkler set up, etc.  There have been tons of stories about contractors getting fired midway through the job with 80% of the $ in their pocket.
4. If you are doing new construction, get the brands/colors/grout of your house exterior from your builder.  Give that to your landscaper and have them match everything - insist on it!  You'd be surprised driving around how much stuff (i.e walls) do not match. 
5. Double check their license #.  There have been instances of landscapers giving out a license # that appears to be correct but not. 
6. Ask them the order in which they do things.  For the life of me, I can't understand why landscapers plant trees/flowers prior to finishing all the hardscape.  Also, make sure they don't cut corners on drainage.  No one ever said - man i have too much drainage‚Ķ.

Landscaping can be a complete PITA but if you take the necessary steps, it can actually be a good experience.  Best of luck in your search/project.

That's a very nice write up and great advice for those seeking landscape contractors. 

I just want to preserve it before it disappears. :)
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: irvinehomeowner on December 02, 2014, 12:54:21 PM
If you want, ask them to only use 1/2 of your driveway so you can still park your car in the garage on certain days and have clear access to your house.
But what if you don't have a driveway? ;)
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: barton on December 02, 2014, 03:03:12 PM
Hi Bones,

Your post about landscaping was useful information. I am also going to preserve it and make sure it does not disappear.
Jefferson Rand is one of the landscapers we have interviewed
but have not made a final decision.

Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: bones on December 02, 2014, 03:20:27 PM
Sorry, one last thing on landscapers that I forgot to mention in my last post re: plants/trees.

The "lushness" of the plants/trees in a lot of the yards you see around really depends on the homeowner's budget/taste/vision (and not the landscapers).  That's why I say go look at a few homes to get an idea of the landscaper's body of work.  Once you look at the various homes, you can ask the landscaper how much each house spent on trees/plantings.  This will give you an idea of how "lush" $x will get you.  Any good landscaper should be able to work with your softscape budget.  If you want ginormous olive trees that need to be craned in, they should be able to get those for you.  If you want smaller trees, they can get those as well. 

Here's a good resource on trees.
http://selectree.calpoly.edu

 If you type in the name of the tree, it'll give you a picture, how tall they get, how fast growing, etc.  For example, a lot of people like California Peppers except most don't know they get to 50 feet tall, has a canopy width of 25 feet, and grows 3 feet per season.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: shadyoc on December 07, 2014, 08:36:43 PM
Also, there are plenty of landscapers out there who will take your money... believe me.   The hard part is finding somebody good.   Hmmm.... I actually haven't heard back from Chris in a couple of days...   Hope this is not the start of something bad...
I agree, but who?  Who can I trust, has reasonable price, does a good job and communicates on timely manner?  I see a contractor who's doing my neighbor's yard, and he doesn't have a license, and I saw him shortcutting few things.
By the way, Chris never came back with quote on time, so I crossed him off my list.



We used Jefferson Rand and was very happy with them.  It's owned by an Asian woman and they have an in house landscape "designer".  Try giving them a call.  714-253-3167.

Bones, we are thinking of using Jefferson Rand also. Supposedly they do a lot of the portola springs homes with succulents and lush gardens.  Mind sharing price and lot size and what you did so we can know if we are in the ballpark?

How did you decided on them over others?  Did you give Jo at Echo a call?  People said he is good but from pictures they seem so so.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: zubs on December 08, 2014, 10:48:51 AM
Correct me if I'm wrong about this:

Bones wrote a bad review about Joe@Echo on TI.
Someone informs Joe@Echo about the bad reviews on TI
Joe@Echo makes an account here and begins writing PMs to Bones and other members.
Bones writes about Joe@Echo the stalker
Joe@Echo begins defending himself publicly
After about 2 months, Joe@Echo gets a lot of business from TI because he defended himself.

Is that about right?

It proves no publicity is bad publicity.
Title: Re: Starting Landscaping - Rare Earth Systems
Post by: irvinehomeowner on December 08, 2014, 10:54:28 AM
Correct me if I'm wrong about this:

Bones wrote a bad review about Joe@Echo on TI.
Someone informs Joe@Echo about the bad reviews on TI
Joe@Echo makes an account here and begins writing PMs to Bones and other members.
Bones writes about Joe@Echo the stalker
Joe@Echo begins defending himself publicly
After about 2 months, Joe@Echo gets a lot of business from TI because he defended himself.

Is that about right?

It proves no publicity is bad publicity.
Makes me wonder how Resort Style Backyards is doing. Has anyone posted a review for them?
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