Posts Tagged ‘NJ landscape Architects’

How to Choose a NJ Pool and Landscape Contractor or Company

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

How to Choose a NJ Pool and Landscape Contractor or Company

How do you choose the right NJ pool or landscape company for your project? This can be an overwhelming task. Any homeowner looking to build a pool, design a landscape, or begin any other type of home improvement project is faced with a significant investment. Knowing how to choose the right contractor is essential to every one of these endeavors. There are great pool and landscaping companies out there. The key is finding the most qualified contractor for your specific project. This task can be difficult as you sift through all of the experience, services, and credentials being offered by all of the companies. Given the crucial significance of this aspect of the pool or landscape construction process, let me offer a few tips on what to look for in a landscape and/or pool contractor.

What to look for:

1. Happy Customers

The easiest, and yet the one most ignored, is to speak with, or better yet, visit past customers. If you speak with former customers, you can get a feel for how the landscape or pool construction process went, the timeline of events, and the follow-up care or relationship the customer has with the contractor. If you go visit the customers, you will be able to see the projects, first-hand, how they stand today. This helps to ensure that the beautiful luxury pool and landscape you saw online or in an ad has stood the test of time and not fallen apart since the photograph was taken.

2. Solid Background

Do a little background check on the pool or landscape contractor. Any filings for bankruptcy or past lawsuits will give the homeowner an idea of a pool company’s credibility. A good place to start with the background check is the Better Business Bureau.

3. Licenses and Insurance

Try to make sure that the contractor has the proper licenses to complete whatever work you are looking to have done. Licenses mean the contractor is actually allowed to perform that work. Most licenses require some kind of background, so they can help with the overall background check as well. Along with proper licensing, the contractor should have liability insurance.

4. Trusted Leadership

Homeowners should try their best to verify that the owner of the company will be involved in the day-to-day operations of construction. Choosing a landscape or pool company like this will ensure your ability to communicate directly with the owner in order to track progress, address concerns, and simply feel more comfortable about the investment.

5. Complete Bids and Contracts

There should be little to no grey area in your contract. In regards to bidding, you might have an architect or engineer prepare a bid package. A good bid package contains the entire project specifications needed to get a complete apple to apples comparison. It also asks the contractors to certify that all of the items are included in their bid. If items are missing from the bid, you can set it up that the contractor is liable for those associated costs. When dealing directly with a contractor, avoid bundled or lump sum pricing. Insist on a unit pricing structure; this transparency protects you from price gouging because all of the unit pricing is established prior to the start of the project.

6. Professional Memberships

Active memberships to professional organizations can be a good benchmark for credibility. These organizations typically have a rigorous process for acceptance into the organization. Many times they also call for a certain amount of continuing education to stay up to date and maintain that professional membership. For pools, look for APSP members and Certified Building Professionals with the APSP. For NJ landscaping, look for NJLCA, NJNLA, and organizations like these. For a landscape design professional, the ASLA is key.

7. Variety of Services

One favorable quality of the right pool or landscape contractor may be a diverse set of services that eliminate the need for multiple contractors on the site of a single project. If you can hire one company to install a natural stone patio and install the landscape design, this will make for efficient planning and swift completion of the work. The proper planning will cut costs and prevent you from doing things twice.

8. Type of Experience

For whatever service you are looking, find out how much experience the contractor has with this type of work. When all things appear equal, experience can be the best deciding factor. Remember, a 25-year-old landscaping company may have only begun building pools 2 years ago. It’s important to get down to specifics when you look into a landscape or pool contractor’s experience.

9. Levels of Experience You Should Expect for Your Project

We wouldn’t build you a vinyl liner pool because that’s not our specialty; similarly, you wouldn’t want a vinyl liner pool company to construct your luxury concrete swimming pool. The experience should not simply be determined by the services offered but also by the level of difficulty for the project at hand. Make sure you can find multiple example of the things you want in the contractor’s brochure or on their website. Extensive experience with luxury features such as glass tile pools, fiber optic lights, and natural stone patios can really set one contractor apart from another depending upon the work you would like to have done.

10. Complete Package- Design and Build

When choosing a contractor, you may be able to find a qualified professional in your area who can design the pool or landscape and construct that design completely in-house, without ever involving another company to interpret and reinterpret the intentions and goals of that design. In other words, if you find a landscape construction expert or a pool construction expert, and they offer landscape architecture services, you will have a better chance of protecting your investment and ensuring your ideal design from start to finish.

The best advice we can give is to not do one or two of these tips but try to implement them all during your interviewing process for each contractor you interview, this will help you set an overall benchmark and give you an in-depth comparison to help make your final choice.

NJ Swimming Pool Architecture-How Landscape Architects Can Kill Your Pool

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Let me start by saying I have a tremendous respect for landscape architects and their dedication and valuable contributions to the swimming pool industry. My goal here is to bring attention to companies that advertise as swimming pool architects who overlook best management practices that can compromise swimming pool structures.

Yes, it’s very important for a landscape architect to know municipal ordinances and where the sun rises and sets when designing a swimming pool.  It’s also important to know where the swim-out and the dive rock should be placed. But shouldn’t you expect more from your landscape architect or pool designer? What about safety, proper equipment function, and construction techniques? Just because a landscape architecture firm has designed a lot of properties that included a swimming pool doesn’t necessarily make them experts who can manage or build your luxury swimming pool.

This 20K Pebble Tec Plaster Upgrade is Ruined After Only 5 Years

There are some NJ landscape architecture firms who claim that they can save clients money by managing their swimming pool project. They tell the client that they can send the job out to bid, get them the best price, and manage the construction for a percentage of the swimming pool construction costs. In many instances, the low bid pool builders (who will give the landscape architect that “best price”) sub contracts most of the construction out to smaller companies. So that means the sub contractor of the low bidder is being managed by a landscape architect who more than likely has no construction experience. Does anyone else see the problem with this?

If you’re going to spend fifty thousand dollars on a swimming pool and then add a fifteen thousand dollar waterfall or a twenty thousand dollar vanishing edge, I’m sure you want to enjoy it for many years to come. That’s questionable at best, given this scenario, As the degree of difficulty in luxury pool building continues to rise and the economy continues to remain weak, it has created the perfect storm in the luxury swimming pool market. Low and mid-market pool builders now claim to be high-end builders. They are running to the luxury pool market (because it’s the only pool market left) despite lacking the necessary skills to build these extremely involved structures! In addition to that there are certain landscape architects who claim to have experience managing swimming pool construction. It’s become confusing for the consumer, and unfortunately the end result is a lot of failing pools.

Swimming pools have been the dominant feature in back yard designs for many years. Over the last ten years we have built some of the most intricate structures garnished with some of the most lavish finishes. Unfortunately, we have also seen a larger number of failures in structures and finishes due to poor construction techniques. Here are five of the thirty issues that will ruin your swimming pool which most landscape architects fail to address in their design specifications:

Soil Stability – The failure of many pools and patios stems from the soil on which the structures are built. On all the landscape architecture plans we have bid on in the last ten years, I have yet to see one plan with any specifications regarding poor soil conditions.

Rebound – What is rebound and why will it destroy your pool?  During the gunite installation material is pneumatically applied to create the pool shell. During the application, material that does not bond accumulates on the floor of the pool. This material is called rebound. Rebound should be discarded because it no longer contains structural qualities, but many pool companies don’t discard this material. They simply shovel the loose material into the walls and “flash” over it with fresh gunite. Once the material hardens it forms weak nonstructural pockets which can compromise the structural integrity of the pool vessel. This practice is against best management practices, but it is still a widespread problem in the industry.

This Vanishing Edge Swimming Pool Has Sever Structural Damage

Groundwater – How can groundwater compromise the inground swimming pool vessel?  Gunite needs 28 days to properly cure, but the first 48 hours are the most crucial. Fresh gunite that is exposed to groundwater can be structurally compromised. As the water infiltrates the newly applied gunite, it basically washes out the concrete and leaves the weakened aggregate behind. The problem with this usually becomes apparent several years down the road when the homeowner decides to upgrade the pool plaster and drains the pool. Once the pool is drained, the pressure relief plugs which normally allow the groundwater to enter the pool vessel and reduce the pressure on the pool shell are rendered useless. If the groundwater reaches weakened gunite before the pressure relief plugs, the pool will crack under pressure where the groundwater compromised the gunite during installation. In other words, a cosmetic upgrade becomes a difficult structural repair.

Improper Sealing- Most companies don’t properly seal their pools, and some don’t seal at all. Some use generic sealers that only deal with positive water flow but fail to address the negative flow of water through the gunite shell. This can lead to plaster or tile damage or, even worse, the structural failure of the gunite.

Pump Size and Function – Undersized pumps in a spa will ruin the whole experience. What’s the right size pool pump for your spa? Spas are getting larger and more elaborate, and there isn’t much worse than getting in your spa and having weak jets. Ok, a cold spa would definitely be worse, but you can easily fix a heater. For pumps, it’s very expensive to have to redo the plumbing if the pump and piping is undersized.

The economy is still hurting and the mid and low swimming pool markets have been annihilated, so everyone wants to build luxury pools. Meanwhile these luxury swimming pools are getting more intricate and harder to build, and your everyday pool company is not capable of building these extravagant structures. Given the climate of this perfect storm, it’s extremely dangerous to let landscape architects who don’t have the proper build experience manage your swimming pool construction. While having a landscape architect is so very important (that’s why we have one on-staff), someone with the proper pool building experience must oversee construction to ensure the safety, durability and reliability of the pool. In my years in the pool industry I have never seen specifications come out of a landscape architecture office that address essential best management practices. Without these specifications, it’s easy for swimming pool contractors and subcontractors to make mistakes or drop their price, earn a bid, and do a half-hearted, poor job without the landscape architect ever realizing what’s going on. It’s a scary situation, and these 5 issues are just the tip of the iceberg. To find out the solutions to these 5 issues and the 25 other critical specifications not addressed by most landscape architects, email me at chris@plantnj.com.

NJ Landscape Architects – Avoid Free Landscaping Plans at “All Costs”!

Friday, March 11th, 2011

NJ Landscape Architects – Avoid Free Landscaping Plans at “All Costs”!

 

Starting a great landscaping project with limited funds?  Here are five hardscape and planting suggestions that are GUARANTEED to save you THOUSANDS.

1.     Always start with a landscape plan (blueprint) prepared by a licensed landscape architect. This will ensure a balanced design and will allow you to phase the work as budgets permit.

2.     Pick materials and plants that will work within your budget. You can cut the cost of a project in half with the right choices in material. For instance, if natural stone isn’t in your budget, try pavers and save about 50%.  Larger trees and shrubs cost significantly more than smaller ones. Reduce the size and save 20 – 50%.

3.     Start the construction process by focusing on your main areas of concern, your focal point, and your most valuable asset. In general, focus on the areas you’re going to enjoy the most.

4.      When phasing a project, always look ahead to future portions of the project. Be sure to include any infrastructure components like conduit or irrigation lines early in the process so you don’t have to disturb your completed areas. An experienced landscape architect will help prevent you from doing things twice!

5.     At the start of every landscaping or swimming pool project, the best investment is a great set of plans prepared by a licensed landscape architect. A well thought-out set of plans takes a considerable amount of time to prepare, but they will help avoid hidden costs and minimize overruns in your custom landscape or swimming pool project. Don’t waste time with anyone offering you free landscaping or swimming pool plans. It’s a gimmick used to trap you into a situation where you never know the true value or cost of your project. Pay for the plans, and you will own the exclusive rights to them. Once they are in your hands, you can get an apples to apples comparison through a bidding process.

Please remember only a Licensed Landscape Architect can offer landscape architecture services. Anyone offering landscape architecture services must post their landscape architect’s name and license number issued by the state in which they practice. If any firm is advertising landscape architecture services and fails to post the proper credentials, please contact your state’s Board of Architects or your state’s Attorney General.

Antiques in Landscape Design Add Old World Charm

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Landscape Design can be elevated with the proper use of antiques, Cipriano Landscape Design shares techniques utilized in a New Jersey landscape design project

Over a decade ago, the old Hotel Dorset on 54th Street in New York City was sold to the Museum of Modern Art, who intended to use the building as an addition. The MOMA demolished the exterior of the building in order to transform it into art galleries and offices. In 2000, when the walls came down and demolition began, an antique medallion was salvaged from the original structure built in 1927 by architect Emery Ross. (Emery Ross and his sons played significant roles in the construction of many major NY buildings, including the World Trade Center.) For ten years, the salvaged antique medallion had a life of its own, until 2010, when it found its new home above an Old World swimming pool in New Jersey. Above the swimming pool, the antique was transformed into a working water feature with an additional custom sculpture set in the center of the piece.

A growing trend in swimming pool and landscape design is to incorporate antiques into projects. The story of this antique medallion represents the unbelievable journey of antiques as they travel for many years from their original sites to modern day landscape and swimming pool design. Skilled swimming pool and landscape designers have a keen-eye for one-of-a-kind pieces that can accent back yards in beautiful ways.

The key to the successful incorporation of antiques into a landscape design is establishing a style or theme and applying the antique treasure in a unique, practical, and appropriate way. Let’s use the antique medallion as a way of exemplifying these skills. The treasured medallion fits nicely above the swimming pool as a result of the Old World theme and elegant style. The swimming pool itself is small and designed for quiet relaxation, rather than recreation. As a result, the pool is able to reach a very high level of delicate intricacy. Along the back of the pool, there is a large barrier wall in need of decoration and a centerpiece. With concrete sculptures of lion heads and satyrs, as well as detailed precast concrete coping made to look like aged stone, this pool hosts the antique medallion quite fittingly. An antique medallion matches the Old World design and ornate style. The storied medallion also contributes to the mystical qualities provided by the sculptures.

Next, the seamless integration of the antique requires that it be a practical addition to the overall swimming pool and landscape design. In this case, the antique was transformed into a fountain. Six other fountains line the barrier wall, so naturally the centerpiece should provide the largest stream of water. A small trough was designed for the center of the medallion. The fountain in the medallion represents the antique’s usefulness to the swimming pool. Many antiques seem randomly thrown into swimming pools and landscapes so that designers can say there’s an antique in their design. This antique is the highlight of the entire yard, and it actively demonstrates this by serving as the swimming pool’s largest water feature.

Finally, an antique has to fit seamlessly within the swimming pool and landscape design. While most antiques are unique, some shine as one-of-a-kind treasures. In the medallion’s case, a hand-crafted concrete sculpture of a seahorse was placed in the center, bending around the fountain spigot. The seahorse has the head of a real horse and the fin of a mermaid. The intricate sculpture at the center of the antique medallion provides character to the antique just as it benefits the look of the elegantly mystical pool as a whole.

In conclusion, an antique addition to a swimming pool or landscape must be appropriate to the design, practical towards the goals of the design, and unique in its contribution to the overall project. Expand your landscape and pool design ideas with useful antiques. You can successfully incorporate antiques such as terra cotta medallions, columns from India, fire bowls from Turkey, and extravagant neoclassical rotundas into a swimming pool or landscape design. All you have to do is decide on a style and theme. Use your imagination. Search for that one-of-a-kind treasure that will set your yard apart from anything anyone has ever seen before. If you head in the right direction, keeping in mind appropriateness, practicality, and uniqueness, you could stumble across the perfect accent to your custom swimming pool and landscape.

Are NJ Swimming Pool Architects the Same as Licensed New Jersey Landscape Architects?

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Today more than ever, people want landscape or swimming pool companies to be competent and qualified enough to give them everything they need so they can go about their daily lives without having to worry about the task-at-hand. When hiring a swimming pool or landscape company for a project, homeowners tend to hire companies that have the experience, licensing, and skill to accomplish a complete backyard transformation including luxury swimming pools, complete landscaping, and superior masonry work. This worry and hassle-free process is the ideal situation for the busy homeowner. But who is qualified to design and then build the entire project: a swimming pool architect or a landscape architect?

A popular trend in the swimming pool and landscape industry today is for companies to say they can do everything from design to construction. Swimming pool companies have even begun using the term “Swimming Pool Architect.” What is a swimming pool architect and how many companies really can do everything? This can be a difficult market for consumers who simply want to hire one company with a Landscape Architect who can build all the aspects of a project including a swimming pool, patios, landscape, and an outdoor kitchen. Homeowners shouldn’t have to worry about whether a company who advertises a Landscape Architect with an all-inclusive package really completes all their landscape architecture in-house. Unfortunately, since turn-key is such a rising trend, swimming pool companies are claiming to offer landscape architecture services, much like landscape companies that have claimed to build swimming pools.

Here are a couple of ways that homeowners can protect themselves from some of these issues. First, you should note that there is no such thing as a “swimming pool architect”; only a Licensed New Jersey Landscape Architect can offer landscape architecture services for your swimming pool and landscape project. Second, look for the name of a Licenced Landscape Architect and their New Jersey license number in a company’s literature or on their website. If you see someone advertising as a Landscape Architect or offering landscape architecture services and you don’t see a name and license number of the landscape architect, you should contact the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and report the infraction. Next, if you find a licensed New Jersey Landscape Architect, Google that name of the landscape architect and find out more about them. You should end up right back where you started: on the same swimming pool or landscape company’s website. However, you may find out that this landscape architect actually has his or her own company and is really just subcontracted for the landscape architecture work; this is quite deceptive and you may want to consider other options.

In closing, there are plenty of great companies in the market today who are honest and well versed in their craft. Review the experience of each of the landscape or swimming pool companies you are interviewing. If they really do take care of it all, an equal portfolio for each service will be included on their website. You could also request to see these projects in person. Lastly, double-check credentials on paper. Certificates of membership to professional organizations and certified licenses for every type of work that will be done are essential in reassuring yourself as a consumer. So, what is a swimming pool architect? They do not exist. Remember, only a licensed landscape architect can provide landscape architecture services for swimming pools and landscaping. Finally, do your due diligence and you’ll feel safe with that large swimming pool and landscaping investment.

Mahwah Township Approves New Rain Garden Design Submitted by Our Landscape Architecture Office For Residential Landscaping & Swimming Pool Storm Water Management, The First Such Approval in Bergen County!

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Today, more municipalities are adopting a zero run of policy for residential development to reduce the potential for downhill flooding from over development and help to replenish the watershed.  We at Cipriano Landscape Design understand the need to help improve the quality of water before it enters the ground and, subsequently, the watershed.

Bill Moore Certified New Jersey Landscape Architect and head of our landscape architecture department and I have created a unique rain garden design which meets municipal storm water containment specifications and provide a natural interaction between soil, vegetation and water in order to reduce pollutants such as gas, oil, bacteria-pet waste, road salt, litter, pesticides and fertilizer before entering the ground.

Development and impervious areas reduce the natural capacity of soil and vegetation to absorb rainfall, and Traditional storm water collection for residential properties incorporates 1,000-gallon concrete seepage pits. All impervious areas such as roof, driveway, patios and swimming pools are added up and then, depending on the municipal standards, are contained with the prescribed seepage pits. Seepage pit are design to reduce flooding and erosion but do little to control the quality of water that re-enters the watershed. Improving the quality of water which enters the watershed has major environmental benefits.

A rain garden is a specially landscaped shallow depression that captures and filters polluted storm-water runoff.  It provides storage of the bio-filtered storm water until it permeates the ground and enters the water supply. Plants with deep infiltrating root systems are specifically used in a rain garden design because they must tolerate harsh environments — drought to flooding conditions.  The organic or mulch layer protects the soil from eroding and provides an environment for microorganisms which degrade pollutants.

When designing the unique rain garden system currently being installed in a Mahwah, New Jersey landscape design, Bill Moore, NJ Certified Landscape Architect and I worked closely with the municipal engineer and the project engineer to formulate comprehensive approach. Up hill Runoff from the Ramapo Mountain and pool patio runoff will be piped into certified rain gardens and recharge the watershed with clean bio-filtered water. This sustainable solution also cost 10 to 15 percent less than the traditional seepage pit system which makes it attractive to homebuilders, site work companies, landscape contractors and homeowners.

Adopting sustainable solutions for today’s environmental issues will result in a shift in attitude that can pass health and wellness along to future generations.  Throughout the Spring months, we will be submitting rain garden designs submitted to Allendale, Englewood, Saddle River, Franklin Lakes and Kinnelon as part of ongoing projects. These designs will be available free of charge to all in Summer 2009.

Cipriano Landscape Design’s Landscape Architecture Department Offers a 3D Virtual Tour of Custom Swimming Pool and Landscaping Projects

Friday, March 6th, 2009

The 3D virtual tour is the perfect solution for understanding swimming pool and landscape blueprints, “it truly feels as though you are walking through your finished landscape” says Peter Elfers a Cipriano client. Award winning New Jersey Certified Landscape Architect Bill Moore is able to transform his unique landscaping ideas and professional Auto CAD landscape plans into a scaled 3D model.

See the finishes and details in 3D for all of the structures we build including swimming pools, outdoor kitchens and grills, pergolas, fountains, natural stone patios, waterfalls, steps and walls along with a full plant library which will show garden layering as it will be in the real setting.  Transitional walkways, steps and elevation changes are shown in real time 3D so you can truly understand the spatial relationship of each structure. With the after dark feature you will understand the different night lighting effects, a great way to eliminate hot and cold spots in the landscape and get the most functional landscape lighting package.

With the 3D virtual tour you will see how spaces accommodate furniture, foot traffic and accessibility or if the pool or patio is too large or too small. In seconds you can see how adding or subtracting area affects a space, ensuring your finished project is exactly what you want. Bill reminds homeowners that we fix free plans and to ensure the safety of your family please utilized a licensed landscape architect and certified swimming pool professionals when embarking on difficult  projects.