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Jeruba's avatar

Landscaping: how can I combine the skill of a pro with my son's willing hands?

Asked by Jeruba (51089points) June 4th, 2009

We need some serious yard work done. My son wants to do it but does not have the knowhow for laying sprinklers, creating raised brick borders, etc. I would like to have the project managed and overseen by a licensed contractor, but I would like my son to be allowed to work with him, handle some of the labor, and take something off the bill. How can this be arranged?

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12 Answers

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

That’s not a good combination.
Having the child work with a professional hinders the professional’s capacity to do their job.
It’s not a contractor’s job to watch after a child and it puts the child at risk.

augustlan's avatar

Some contractors are willing to work with homeowners (or their children), but not many. I think it’s mostly due to liability issues and the PITA aspect of working with unskilled labor. All you can really do is ask contractors if they are open to the idea.

The other option is to have it professionally designed, and then do all the work yourselves. My husband’s been in landscaping for over 30 years, and could offer you some advice, plus there’s a lot of information online for do-it-yourselfers.

Darwin's avatar

We did something like that when we tiled the downstairs of our house. We found a tile man who lead the way, and my husband and I served as the muscle, following his direction. He was good at his work, but he was very small time and we were adults, not kids.

On the landscape, I did have it professionally designed, and only hired contractors to do the things I couldn’t do. You might look up appropriate articles in a magazine such as Family Handyman or get some of those Sunset guides to various types of projects so your son can see what each job entails, and then hire contractors only for the bits he can’t do.

Jeruba's avatar

My child is 23, strong, healthy, and willing.

Sunset guides: good idea, @Darwin. Thanks.

Yes, I see the point about liability, @augustlan. I thought maybe, things being as they are, we might be able to find a contractor who’d be open to an unconventional arrangement. I’m not sure how to look for or ask about such a thing.

YARNLADY's avatar

I agree with you and he can find a lot of ideas online. Just don’t expect the do-it-yourself (or hisself) job to be as easy as the professional. Experience teaches better than anything you can read online, but everybody has to start somewhere. Have you considered an internship with a professional?

DarkScribe's avatar

If he is twenty-three, then let him do it. Between Youtube, DIY books, the courses that many hardware stores offer free of charge – he will work it out. It will be good for both of you – even if there are some small screw-ups.

I have renovated three and built one house from scratch – in the days before Youtube etc. I can match the quality of any tradesman now, although usually not as speedily. Men who like working with their hands become adept quite quickly. When young I used to volunteer as labour in various areas to learn the ropes. Even now I will do all maintenance and repairs on our yacht, many of my friends will only hire tradesmen. I don’t do it to save money, but for the satisfaction and to know that the job was done well.

Strangely many of the other people who I know share my love of DIY are also people like me, who don’t work with their hands in a career capacity. Does your son actually want to do the work, or just help you out?

LKidKyle1985's avatar

Yeah I am with Darkscribe, maybe have him figure out what he is or isn’t comfortable doing and then have him do that, and the contractor pick up the slack. Or just have him try to do all of it and if he messes something up bad enough have the contractor fix it. I did some contracting last year for painting peoples houses, and I can tell you there is no way I would have let someone have their son help me in exchange to take some labor off of the estimate. That just has bad news written all over it, and if you find a contractor that is willing to take that estimate, then you should reconsider because he is desperate for work and god only knows what you are getting yourself into with that.

susanc's avatar

It may also depend on your level of perfectionism. We’ve always done all our own work,and it shows – everything is lovely, but nothing looks like a magazine. Last summer
I hired a painting contractor for the first time, for some very tall outside walls (I hate ladders). That really spiffy paint job anchored other work that’s a little more informal.

So I would consider that and follow DarkScribe’s good lead until your “child” finds himself stumped. You can always get a pro for an overly-challenging segment. And the
kid could watch and learn.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Jeruba 23? My mistake then. I assumed he was much much younger. Sorry about that.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I do all my own landscaping, and while none of it looks like magazine quality, it does look damn nice. I’d take the suggestions everyone gave here, and make it a family project. My wife and I do all our own yard work and landscaping, and we have the prettiest yard on the block. Of course, I’ve been gardening since I was nine, and forty years of learning from your mistakes makes for a nice collection of knowledge.

Working with your hands is either something you like, or something you despise. I am of the former category.

Darwin's avatar

@Jeruba – Has your son considered taking a summer job with a landscape nursery or a landscape contractor? That way he could learn the skills and get paid at the same time. Then during his off-time he could do some of the projects you have planned.

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