05 Aug What makes custom landscape lighting cost more than anticipated
By Mike Gambino
When you begin planning a custom landscape lighting project, you may have no idea how much your ideal vision might cost. The answer will likely depend on several factors, including the size of your space, what you will do to it, and your budget. In the end, the price of a landscape lighting system should largely be driven by your own choices.
That said, there are some common reasons custom landscape lighting design and installation projects may cost more at the onset than one may think it will cost.
The No. 1 reason that custom landscape lighting projects (all projects, not just landscape lighting) go over budget is owners choosing more upscale products and finishes and finding out that products or services are more expensive than anticipated. Most do not have an accurate point of reference for costs associated with this type of project unless they have recently had a project done at their current or other property. Given that this process for a property owner is not such a such common experience, we’d like to bring to light (if you’d pardon the pun) some areas where costs can increase quickly.
Materials in greater quantity than anticipated- Owners almost always under anticipate the number of fixtures it will require to effectively illuminate a space and are surprised when they are told that 2 to 3 times as many as they thought would be needed. Immediately they equate fixture quantities with the amount of light and erroneously think that their properties will be over illuminated. “Disneyland or Las Vegas” is a term often used however in reality this is rarely ever the result if you are working with an experienced professional. You see it takes multiple low brightness light sources placed at acute angles lighting their subjects from close range to achieve the best effect. This is a concept that is rarely known by owners before commissioning a custom landscape lighting project for their property.
Upgraded Fixture materials– Also range widely in cost depending on the build quality, heft, size and weight of the make, model and features. Cast Brass, bronze and copper are on the higher end of the scale while aluminum and composite is much lower in cost. Unless you don’t mind the high cost of labor and materials to replace system components in short time then only the most durable appropriate for the site products should be chosen at the beginning.
Special Zoning Controls and switching– You may decide you want to zone certain sections of the property or have certain lights within a zone to be able to be controlled from the rest. This will require, dedicated cabling, additional control zones or switches additional time and labor which will increase the cost of the project.
Before committing to special features, you may want to consider how much you’ll really use it. That way, you can determine if the added functionality is worth the cost to you.
Service provider- You always want to choose the most suitable designer builder to work with for your project. If you have a specific look in mind, need creative design ideas and are concerned with keeping your newly designed system looking as good as the day it was installed then you are going to want to choose a landscape lighting design build specialist. If you are expecting the best results than you’ll want to consider candidates with the most experience with projects similar to yours, have a proven track record with the finest project portfolio of completed projects most like the type of result you are expecting. Typically the more experienced, more in demand, more suitable to your project a designer builder may be, the higher in cost this service provider probably is. Just like they say you usually get what you pay for.
Build Techniques- The standard industry practice is to direct bury or even lay power cable on top of the ground and then cover with mulch. Although this may save time and money this practice is most always not the best practice if system longevity, low maintenance and minimizing potential future repair cost is a priority. On the other hand carefully trenching the ground and installing cable inside of rigid conduit adds system cost however savvy owners agree this is the best method for building their custom landscape lighting system. Building in system expandability from the beginning also adds initial cost but more than pays off when adding additional lighting now or later on.
Site issues- Hardpan, rocky or root heavy and more difficult to work soils will increase labor times and increase the difficulty of the installation and result in higher costs. Access to the property can also lead to longer install times. Heavily planted yards, obstacles such as driveways, walkways, decks, artificial grass lawns where pipe sleeving for wire access was not installed under or around it before construction, will complicate and increase the cost to install a landscape lighting system.
Changing your mind- For your designer builder to accurately predict the project cost, it’s a good idea to select all your wants before the landscape lighting construction work starts. If you haven’t decided, invariably it will be more money and it will take more time. It can also cause issue with the designer builders schedule which can also cost money.
Changing project scope, mid project typically results in a change order, which can slow the timeline and increase the cost.
Even when they know making a change will add to the cost, most homeowners will still want to change the plans midway because it is what they want and it will ultimately cost less doing it mid construction than waiting until everything has been buttoned up and finished to request changes.
Scope Creep-This is the term for what happens when your custom landscape lighting project is looking amazing … and suddenly you decide you want to also do other parts of the property. This is not uncommon as when done properly a custom landscape lighting project can evoke extreme emotion and excitement leaving the owner wanting more of a good thing.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 26 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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