It’s not uncommon for clients to have unrealistic expectations when it comes to project timelines. Whether it’s a patio or a pool, clients often have no concept of just how long these projects can take and when they guess, it’s almost always an underestimate. Mary Dresser, RLA, ASLA, registered landscape architect with Earth, Turf, & Wood, Inc., based in Denver, Pennsylvania, has found that keeping clients in the loop is important in helping them to understand a realistic timeline. It’s also vital that they understand they play a role in the process as well.

“We let clients know that they have a stake in the timing,” Dresser says. “Pushing off a meeting here or there might not seem like a big deal, but that can set the entire timeline back. Those meetings with the designer, in the early stages, are part of getting the client’s ducks in a row and the entire project hinges on that happening in a timely manner.”

Dresser says she will encourage clients to keep things moving, even in the off season.

“Designing, permitting, planning, and choosing materials are all things that are not impacted by the weather,” she says. “We can work on those any time. The off season is a great time to make sure those factors are taken care of that way as soon as the ground is no longer frozen, we can get started.”

Of course, Dresser admits that ensuring everyone’s schedules are in sync isn’t always a smooth process. Not only does the client have a stake in the timing, but subs can as well. If their schedules aren’t aligning with everyone else, that can be another reason that the timeline gets pushed back.

Dresser says that these factors may be out of their control but communicating with the client can help keep them abreast of changes. Nobody ever likes to hear their project needs to get pushed back but communicating the status can make a big difference to clients.

“We make a big effort to give the client a realistic timeline at the onset and to keep them up to date on changes to that timeline, should they occur,” Dresser says. “There are always going to be factors out of our control such as the weather or what is going on with our subcontractors. But it’s our job to keep the client up to date as well as to encourage them to uphold their stake in the timeline. Clients must understand that when they hold off on decisions or on meetings, they’re setting things back.”

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