(Landscape) Contractor Fees, Demystified

0 766 This article was originally posted here on houzz.com, but it resonated so strongly with us, that we wanted to share it with our readers.  Landscape design and construction has a great deal in common with home contracting projects, and we hope this helps people understand the pricing of a landscape project…there’s a lot of good reasons why they cost what they cost! (For the complete article, click on the link above–and while you’re at it, check out Oakland Design Associate’s houzz page!)

by Anne Higuera, CGR, CAPS (houzz.com contributor)

When you ask a contractor for an estimate, it usually includes the direct costs of construction plus a markup charged on some or all of those expenses. This is true whether you have a time-and-materials estimate or a fixed-price one, also known as a bid.

Ranging from 10 to 30 percent or possibly more, markups are often loosely described as covering overhead and profit, although they cover a wide range of costs that contractors incur while doing business. Be assured that whether you see that markup clearly or it is included in other costs, it is in there somewhere, because if it isn’t, your contractor can’t be solvent. 

What kinds of overhead costs are you paying for through these fees, and how do those benefit homeowners as well as contractors? Here‘s a short list, which may vary by company and the state and county in which they operate.

0 738 Insurance. General liability (GL) and other kinds of insurance (for tools, leased equipment, workers’ compensation etc.) is often considered overhead. Some companies list their GL insurance as a line item on their estimates, because it is tied directly to revenue, but many cover it in their markups. GL policies generally cover a contractor’s operations. It is also possible with many policies to list homeowners and their architects as “additional insureds,” giving them added protection under the general contractor’s policy. It is worthwhile for homeowners to consult with their own insurance agents ahead of a remodel to make sure they have all of their homeowners’ coverage in place, and that there are not exclusions for unoccupied homes or those under construction.

Taxes. General contractors pay a full range of taxes — federal, state, county and city — or fewer, depending on where they operate. In some states contractors are retailers, so they collect and remit sales tax along with paying their own revenue-based state taxes. If they have employees, contractors also pay their share of social security, unemployment and Medicare taxes for their staff.  The upside as a homeowner is that you are helping to keep your local economy healthy by improving your home. On a larger project, you may be keeping five or more people fully employed during construction, and there aren’t a lot of other opportunities to see your investment at work.

0 710 Labor burden. Payroll taxes, worker’s compensation and other benefits add up to what’s known as the labor burden. That’s the overhead cost of having an employee working for the company. Those costs can include recruitment, training, taxes, medical coverage, paid time off, vacation, retirement and more. This “burden” can actually be a benefit to homeowners, who are able to hire companies with a fully compliant workforce that is well trained and feels well compensated with benefits. A full benefits package tends to draw top candidates. And isn’t that who you’d like working on your home? 

Office and office staff. Contractors may own or rent their office spaces, or even work from their own homes, but offices come with a panoply of expenses. Aside from the cost of the space, there are many bills to pay: utilities, phones, landscaping, security and more. When contractors have office staff, they can be underwritten by overhead or may have their time billable to projects, depending on their job descriptions. Offices provide a number of benefits to homeowners. Unlike a P.O. box, they are bricks and mortar — a place to meet the contractor in person. Need to review your bill or look at receipts? You know where to go. An office usually means there are office staffers who work at least in part on your project and handle all of your paperwork. Having a staffed office means the phone is consistently answered, and that the office is open during regular hours. That regularity of business operation is often a sign that paperwork is processed at expected intervals and that systems are in place to provide consistent customer service.

Marketing. Even contractors with a stellar reputation, a beautiful website and a six-month backlog need to market their business. Marketing almost always involves spending money, whether it’s on ads or sponsorships or other opportunities that get the name of a company out to potential clients. Even though marketing may not strike you as valuable for your current project, if effective, it will ensure that your contractor stays in business in the long term. That means your contractor will be around to service your warranty, answer your questions and be onboard for the next project you plan. And it may be how you found him or her in the first place. Now that’s money well spent.

(For more about what contractor fees cover, see the whole article here. To check out Oakland’s houzz profile, click here.

Posted in Gardening, Landscape | Comments Off

GROWING VEGETABLES DURING THE SUMMER

VegetablesWe have noticed quite resurgence in vegetable gardening as of late, with many customers trying out growing their own vegetables for the first time. We find this very exciting! Many are finding space for this by trying them in containers or constructing small raised beds in their back yards, a break in the traditions of the large gardens of the past but still well worth the effort!  We have recently had lots of discussions with customers who have tried out planting vegetables this spring and have the basic question of “ What do we do now?” This is the time that several challenges can appear in the veggie growing process. Firstly, this is the time that the plants are bush-blue-lake-beansgrowing on and maturing- we want to encourage this development as much as possible as the goal is to produce and harvest as many high quality vegetables as we can! So, keeping the plants well satisfied with water and nutrients is essential in early summer. Containers and raised beds with high quality potting soils or organic humus mixes are great in that plants love it, grow large, and developing quickly & healthy. However, due to nature of their drainage, they require lots of supplemental watering. The easiest and most efficient way to accomplish this is to hand water thoroughly with a hose and wand or spray nozzle, checking the soil several inches down daily as most vegetables root at least that deeply. Morning watering is preferred, and avoid watering the foliage as this can encourage disease problems. Also, fertilizing is extremely important this time of year: an organic slow release dry fertilizer blended for vegetable plants is essential and if was not applied this spring could still be done now. In addition, supplemental fertilizing with a quick release, water soluble fertilizer such as MiracleGro biweekly is extremely helpful.

This is also the time of year that we may notice quite a few insect or disease better-boy-tomatoproblems. For instance, we have quite a few customer concerns already, mainly in tomatoes, the most popularly grown vegetable. Leaf curling has been noticed quite a bit already this year and can be attributed to not only a number of diseases but also  cultural issues –copper fungicides are effeburpless-hybrid-cucumberctive as well as cultivating the soil for adequate aeration and applying as light layer of mulch to make the soil moisture  more constant. We will also begin to see more insect problems- some, such as aphids, can cause curling while others, such as Japanese beetle or tomato hornworm, can cause holes or lacerations of the leaves. In addition to tomatoes, most commonly grown vegetables can be affected, such as cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, and beans. Sevin is a tried and true comprehensive insecticide for these problems and can be sprayed directly on the foliage periodically. For a more organic approach Spinosad has been effective. We also cannot forget protecting against deer and rabbits- fencing and netting are great but also spraying repellents are quite effective and safe to use in vegetable gardens. In small areas, using stakes or cages for tomatoes are highly beneficial and can still be installed. Also, let’s not forget we can still plant some beans, zucchini, and carrots now for additional crops in the summer!

-Provided by Oakland New Albany

 

Posted in Gardening, Landscape | Comments Off

Composting in the Home Garden

One of the pillars of organic gardening is the steady application of compost to any area that is growing something of value. Compost is, of course, readily available for purchase from the garden center, but compost can be easily made at home with the most minimal tools. And the benefits to soil and plants of composting well justify the modest effort of making it.

 

Compost is created by combining organic wastes from home and yard in proper ratios and allowing microorganisms, water, and heat to decompose the materials into dark brown earthy humus. This humus can then be used as a soil amendment or medium to grow outdoor plants. All soils can be improved with the addition of humus. Specifically, most urban and suburban soils are of high clay content and compacted. This makes growing plants a challenge. The addition of compost promotes the creation of high quality soils that grow better plants and improve the environment.

 

Benefits of Composting

-Reduces the amount of waste into your garbage can by up to 50%. The landfillComposts don’t need or want this material.

-Reduces or eliminates the need for fertilizers.

-Enriches existing soils and regenerates poor soils by encouraging the production of beneficial micro-organisms. These micro-organisms in turn, break down the organic matter to create humus.

-Helps soil retain moisture and breath. Soils with high organic matter hold moisture better and release it over a longer period of time. They create a more friable soil that roots love to grow in.

-Suppress plant diseases and pests. The beneficial micro-organisms you introduce into the soil naturally suppress harmful diseases and pests.

- Greatly increase yield of crops. It’s easy: Better soil-Better crops.

-Holds, degrades, or eliminates many chemicals and hazardous materials in the soil. This is particularly important in the city where fallout of chemicals from the air can contribute to hazardous material in the soil.

-Reduces erosion and turf loss on hillsides, grassy play surfaces and roadsides.

 

Composting Ingredients

There are three ingredients to making compost:

Brown stuff: Dead leaves, branches, twigs, and a little native soil. Shred or break up to as small pieces as practical. Avoid material diseased or infested material or material contaminated by pesticides or petroleum products.

Green Stuff: Grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, garden plants, coffee grounds, wood ash, and egg shells. Again, avoid material that is diseased, infested or contaminated with chemicals or oils.

Water: The right proportion of water in the compost activates the biological activity.

 

Other Stuff that is OK to Compost:

Horse or cow manure, cardboard (torn up or shredded), clean paper shredded, dryer or vacuum lint, hair and fur, hay and straw, sawdust, nut shells other than black walnut.

Do not Compost:

Black walnut leaves or twigs, coal or charcoal ash (only firewood ash), dairy products, diseased or infested plants, fats including grease lard or oils, meat including fish bones or scraps, pet wastes, or yard trimmings with possible chemical residues.

 

Making your Compost Pile

Select a spot for your compost pile or bin on bare mineral soil that is fairly level and receives plenty of sun. Compost piles that are contained on at least three sides will decompose quicker. There are a number of materials you can make a bin from such as stonth1e, wire fencing, wood pallets, or several side by side turning bins. Turning bins make turning the compost easier by just turning it into the next bin. It requires more space and more compost.

-Chop your compost materials up whenever possible. The more surface area available, the faster the decomposition.

-Size the compost pile correctly. . A pile should be between 3 and 6 feet square.  Smaller than this and the pile won’t be able to generate enough heat for decomposition. Larger than this and it won’t get enough oxygen which  could lead to unpleasant smells.

-Place large or course materials at the bottom of the pile to introduce air into the pile and drain excess water. Also, do not cover the pile with plastic or any impervious material. Air needs to circulate.

-The first layer should be some branches, twigs and other course ‘brown’ material -up to about 6”.

-Start adding your green materials up to 8-10” thick. Keep the compost ‘sponge damp’ moist.

- When you’ve dumped the above amount of green stuff in, add some native soil, compost inoculants, or topsoil on top (an inch or so will do).

- To speed decomposition up a bit, you can add manure, lime, or wood ash to the top. These materials add nutrients and reduce the pH of the mix.

-Repeat the above steps when the pile or bin is full.

 

The pile will generate some heat as the bacteria start their work. This is a good sign. The pile can be left alone to compost in 12 months, or the pile can be turned every couple of weeks to greatly accelerate the process. This yields nice compost in one growing season. Compost is ready when the material is brown, crumbly, and earthy smelling. If you have unpleasant smells in the compost, turn the pile well and give it more time. Work your finished humus into the top soil layers of flower, shrub or tree beds. Vegetable gardens can be top dressed any time of the year. For lawn applications, apply as a ½ inch layer each spring and rake in.

 

It is hard to know the exact nutrient make up of compost as it is created. This can lead to swings in soil acidity, nutrient excesses or nutrient deficiencies. It is a good idea to have your soil tested every three years or so. Soil amendments can then be added to soils before serious growth problems reach the plant. You can obtain composting materials and advice at any of the Oakland nursery stores and many websites.

 

-Provided by Oakland Columbus

 

Posted in Gardening, Landscape, Lawn | Comments Off

Garden Pottery

PotteryJune is the perfect time to shop here at Oakland Nursery.  The weather is not too hot, the perennials and flowering shrubs are in bloom and waiting for that perfect spot in YOUR garden.  Along with the live product, Oakland Nursery also carries a variety of yard and home decor in our gift shop.

Let’s talk about the three different makers of pots for YOUR special spot. Guy Wolff and Paul Wakefield are actually friends and have been turning the pottery wheel for many years.  Guy Wolff is known for his historical terracotta shapes.  They blend well with almost any décor, and let the plant be the star of the show.  Paul Wakefield is in the same school of style except that his pottery brings a little more modern tempo to the room with its dark shade of gray.

PotteryLast but certainly not least is my personal favorite, Campo di’ Fiori pottery.  This is a very organic looking line with the pots being modeled after flowers like campanula, poppy seed heads, and fern.  The awesome feature of these pots is that they have a moss coating that gives them that ‘aged-look’ and once you plant them and water, the moss grows and makes them look even more like an antique!  Is that not cool?!

Come in and enjoy the beautiful surroundings while deciding what to take home to YOUR special spot. Whether it be a perfect plant for your garden or a specialty pot for a special plant, come in and check us out!

-Provided by Oakland Columbus

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Floral Arrangements, Gardening, Interiorscapes, Landscape | Comments Off

Love Your Shade!

   HomeEventsSP04You’ve always imagined a bright sunny cottage garden full of bloom and color.  That’s always been your vision of a real garden, the type that you’ve always wanted.  However, your perfect house, in that wonderful neighborhood comes with shade trees, Rhododendrons, Hostas, and Ferns.  Your whole concept of gardening has to change and evolve.  Instead of riotous color, you will now have to look for interest in subtle variegated leaves, varied textures, and in the patterns created by dappled sunlight filtering through the tree canopy.  You’ll soon discover with a little research that there are more shade loving plants than you had realized and learning about them will lead you on a new adventure. 

 

Perhaps you’ve alwaysF013-14 loved Japanese Maples – now you have the perfect location for one in the protected understory of your mature trees!  A dark corner can be brightened with a golden hued plant such as Sum and Substance Hosta.  You’ll come to learn that variegated plants are best used as accents, to pop against a solid background rather than jumbled together with other variegated plants.  Plant a Toad Lily (Tricyrtis), and in late summer you will enjoy the purple speckled orchid like blooms on the arching branches.  You can also develop an appreciation for the lovely silver and purple patterns in the Japanese Painted Fern, and the amazing light blue Forget-Me-Not flower types of the Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera).  F557-02Lenten Roses will start your season, sometimes blooming as early as late February.   Lilies of the Valley will provide a heavenly scent in early spring while Astibles will give a long bloom time mid season if you select early, mid, and late blooming varieties. 

 

You will create curving pathways in your shade garden that lead visitors to surprising vistas.  Perhaps someday you will add a bench, sculpture, or water feature as another layer of interest.  Over time your shade garden wF323-05ill become established, multilayered, calming, and serene.  Best of all, you will enjoy spending time in your shady paradise on hot humid summer afternoons while those gardening in the sun have been forced to retreat, awaiting cooler temperatures.  You will truly love to garden in the shade.

 

-Provided by Oakland Delaware

 

 

 

Posted in Gardening, Landscape, Lawn | Comments Off

Beechy Keen: Beeches in the Landscape

DSC_0060Visions of cool forests and ancient lands come to mind when the beech tree is mentioned. A native forest tree of North America and Europe, this grand deciduous tree also makes a stately shade tree in the landscape. In the garden center, you’ll more often see the European varieties, Fagus sylvatica, as they are easier to grow. There are many varieties to choose from: tricolor, green or purple foliage, upright or weeping, narrow or rounded in habit and even a beautiful fern leaf variety. Tricolor beech and weeping beeches make for especially good specimen trees, if you are looking for a dramatic focal point for your yard.

photo 1 Whichever suits your landscape, these trees need even moisture, good soil, and some space to spread their smooth, silver-gray branches. Somewhat sparse in youth, the tree develops a rounded, regularly-branched stature that is rarely rivaled in the landscape.   Most Beech Trees grow at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions, they can live to 120 years or older.  They are a relatively low maintenance tree and are best pruned in late winter.  Deer do not normally find them tasty which is an added feature.  Consider the beech for a beautiful shade tree in your yard.

Beech3  photo 2

-Provided by Oakland Columbus

Posted in Gardening | Comments Off

Windchimes in the Landscape

Invitation From my Window. . .

windchime1Gentle breezes brush softly against chimes to send an invitation to savor my morning coffee while the morning awakens song birds.  I love the view from my window.  This is the best part of the day.  The earth is fresh with dew on the ferns and flowers.  Squirrels are looking for the nut they buried last year.  Birds are singing, is there anything better?  This is the fruit of my winter planning and spring labor – and it feels glorious.

windchime2Benches, stone walls, and eating areas are the bones to build a feast for the eyes and ears upon.  Add in the perfect toned wind chime amidst trailing Bougainvillea and it’s like hanging the perfect art work over the side chair.  Chimes come in all sizes.  They come in all sounds –  Tinkling, Altos, Baritones, and Mellow sounds.  Some bring back memories of small town chimes at noon or Grandma’s garden.  Check out the extensive selections for the sound that sets the right feel for you.

They can be hung from Shepherds Hooks, on a suction cup outside your kitchen window, or maybe even the base of a hanging plant, or maybe a standing chime that bows with the breeze.  By testing, you will find the one that fits you perfect.  Consider the overall length for a perfect fit in the location you have selected.  An open corner is idea when hanging from a building.

Metal wind chimes are the only ones that can be tuned to specific tones and notes and are often selected because they are weatherproof and rust resistant.  Bamboo wind chimes are less durable, but provide beautiful, soothing sounds that are hollow, deep and resonant that can emulate rain or exotic drums.  Ceramic and glass wind chimes are most often selected for their visual appeal than for their sounds.  Whatever your preference, wind chimes add that ‘special touch’ to your landscape.

-Provided by Oakland Dublin

Posted in Gardening, Landscape | Comments Off

PLANNING A DEER RESISTANT LANDSCAPE AND GARDENS

Deer   “What can I plant that deer won’t eat?” It is one of the most frequently asked questions here at the garden center as the deer population in central Ohio are a constant threat to our gardens as they search for food sources. And it’s a very good question! Sadly, there are hardly any cultivated plants that are totally resistant, but deer do have certain favorites and others that they will less likely touch.
If looking into trees and shrubs for the landscape, here are a few to consider: for low growing attractive plants for foundation, entrance, and patio plantings, boxwood are one of the best choices. It has lush, vibrant green foliage that stays throughout the winter and can easily be maintained to certain shapes and sizes, often used as a low hedge. Dwarf Alberta Spruce is another evergreen that is more upright and conical in nature and is relatively small (about 6’ in height at maturity) and great for anchoring founF236-02dation and entrance plantings. To add some color to the landscape, consider potentilla, very attractive compact shrub with yellow, white, orange, or pink flowers depending on variety, that keep blooming throughout the summer! Barberries have foliage of vibrant color – red, orange, or yellow – some small and spreading, some upright, and all considered some of the most deer resistant shrubs available. For some larger shrubs in the border, consider Forsythia, an extremely hardy shrub known for its early golden flower; Blackhaw Viburnum, a natural looking taller shrub; Bottlebrush Buckeye, a shrub-type that has gorgeous yellow flowers; and Serviceberry, known for its early white flower and awesome red fall color. Magnolias, a staple of the landscape, also have great deer resistance. Butterfly Bush would be a great choice, and they provide flowering most of the summer and known for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds!untitled
For perennial flowers and color, we fortunately have quite a few popular plants to choose from that deer tend not to bother. Firstly, ornamental grasses are considered safe and are staples of the landscape with majestic and graceful foliage and flower that lasts through the winter. Consider Coneflowers, Shasta Daisies, Salvia, Sedum, Geranium, Coreopsis, and Blanket Flower for some great options that flower most of the summer! Columbine and Bleeding Hearts are favorites that bloom this time of year. And for early flower HelleborF627-05us (Lenten Rose) are hard to beat as they start blooming as early as February! Peonies, a favorite for their summer blooms, are also good choices. For shady conditions, Astilbe, with their vibrant early summer flower, ferns and brunnera with attractive foliage, make great options.
It is also important to keep in mind that one of the best ways to keep deer from the garden is applying a repellent around and in those areas; we would be happy to help you choose the one most appropriate for your needs.

-Provided by Oakland New Albany

Posted in Gardening, Landscape, Lawn | Comments Off

Landscape Design Essentials for the Homeowner

lanscape example “The right plant in the right place” is one of the most important things to know when you are planting new material in your yard. Ensuring that you have the right plant for specific sun, shade, soil, growth patterns, and moisture conditions is the first consideration you should make, but after that, a little bit of artistry comes into play. Successful landscape design requires looking at your yard from a big-picture perspective and thinking about what is important to you as the homeowner.   Here are the steps we recommend taking if you’re going to design your landscape.

First, think about what you’re going for. Make a list of important elements that you want in your yard.  A grassy space for kids to play? An outdoor “room” for cooking out and entertaining?  An oasis where you can relax and watch birds and butterflies?

Next, look at your property and determine what direction you face, where you get the most sun or shade, and if you have an “issues” that bother you…maybe you have a neighbor with an ugly fence that you want to hide, or you back up to an alley that has a lot of traffic. Make note of those things as well.

From there, draw a rough plan of your property and make note of your problem areas, favorite views from kitchen or dining room windows (what do you want to see when you look out the window?), and existing plant material. We recommend starting with the area closest to your home and working your way out.  Evergreen hedges (boxwood, taxus, juniper) along the foundation will give you a solid background for flowers and will also provide visual interest in the winter.  Taller evergreen elements like pines or spruces can be placed on the corners and act as an anchor to place your home in the landscape. Consider a grouping of spruces on the northwest corner of your property if you have the room—they will act as a wind break against winter winds and provide a habitat for birds. Reiner-summer Reiner-winter

After you consider your base layer, think about midsize shrubs, perennials, or ornamentals that will add some visual interest throughout the year.  If you want to accent your doorway or the walkway to your home, ornamental trees like serviceberry or magnolia add interest without obscuring or overpowering your house.  Shade tolerant hydrangea or rhododendron will add color and texture, and there are lots of great sun loving perennials (including knock-out roses) that will add beauty and value. Keep in mind that your landscape will look more visually appealing if you demonstrate consistency in color and materials, and avoid the trap of planting two different plants in an every-other-one pattern.

Symmetrical plant placements lend a more formal look (think two small trees or shrubs flanking a door) while asymmetrical arrangements create movement and drama. If you have a shallow yard, layering plants short to tall from front to back in a bed give the illusion of more depth, just be careful to make sure your transitions between the layers are gradual and even.

Foundation planting

To sum up:

  • Create a working plan, explore your yard and take note of sun exposure, soil conditions and existing elements. Clearly define you needs/wants
  • First Layer: establish your “backbone” and vertical anchors–make sure to include evergreen elements.
  • Second Layer: Start building layers and movement with flowering shrubs and ornamental grasses.
  • Third Layer:  Perennials and annuals will create pockets of color.
Posted in Gardening | Comments Off

Water Fountains

Have you ever been working on your garden and suddenly realized that Untitled-2the sounds of nature have been drowned out by the droning sounds of suburban life? Well, fountains are an excellent way you can bring back peace and serenity to your garden. Fountains are a low maintenance fixture that will create a relaxing atmosphere; they can also double as a container for aquatic plants.

Fountains come in several shapes and sizes, from your standard two tier fountain to the strange and unique designs of Compania and Henri Untitled-3Designs.

Bigger isn’t always better; just because the fountain is bigger doesn’t always produces a better sound. That means you don’t need a huge space for a nice fountain. Most founUntitled-4tains run from a small pump that you fit inside, the pumps and tubing is sold with the fountain. Assembly of most fountains is fairly simple; all you’ll need is the the supplies given, and an electrical outlet. And after a short assembly you’ll have back the peaceful atmosphere of your garden.

-Provided by Oakland Dublin

Posted in Gardening, Landscape | Comments Off