Helpful Tips & Consumer Information
While landscape designers and architects might provide a grand, detailed plan for your garden, it’s often up to the landscape contractor to make their plans a reality. While some homeowners choose to do that grunt work themselves, using a professional can prevent costly mistakes and pay off in increased home value. Some estimates say professional landscaping can add 15 percent to the value of your home.
Whether you are installing a stone walkway, outdoor lighting, or shrubs around your foundation – or doing a full renovation project – you will readily find many companies that say they can do the job. Finding the right one takes time and research but will ensure your project is done correctly, on time, and within budget.
A great way to get inspired is to drive around nearby neighborhoods and look closely at front yards. Make a note or take pictures of flowers, shrubbery, and designs you would like to refer to later with your contractor. Some local newspapers and magazines might feature local gardens to give you ideas of planting designs.
Even for a contractor whom you feel you can trust, plan to be on hand most of the time. Make sure the company shows up on time, is following the agreed-upon plan, and is not adding “extras” that will add unexpected costs.
How to Hire the Right Landscape Contractor
For your upcoming landscaping project, plan to interview more than one company. Check each contractor’s specialty and experience. For example, if you need a sprinkler system, a retaining wall, or someone skilled in restoring damaged lawns, make sure that the contractor has proved they can do the job.
Even landscaping projects that start out small can quickly balloon in scope and cost. You might be looking to replace a cracked walkway and end up being inspired to build a stone wall. Set a budget, and make sure you stick to it, unless cost is no object. A good landscaping contractor will work with you to stay within your budget.
Determine when you want your project to begin, and make sure your landscaper will be available. For example, you may want to avoid scheduling your project during the rainy season, or you may need a quick turnaround so you can put your home on the market. Many shrubs are best planted in the fall. If the company is not available when you need it, or if it is doing too many other jobs that will slow down your project, you may want to choose another one unless you have the time to wait.
- Whether your project is large or small, ask for detailed plans and estimates from each landscaping candidate.
- Look at their portfolio of other projects.
- Check their local references.
- The company should be locally licensed, which ensures that it is operating legally and has achieved certain standards of education and professionalism.
- Check if the company’s staff is skilled enough to handle all phases of your project.
- Ask how many years has the company been in business.
- Check the firm’s specialty: hardscape construction, sprinkler systems, lighting, etc.
- Ask about the number of employees dedicated only to your job (make sure the company has workers’ compensation coverage).
- Check for proof of insurance, and check the company’s name and limits of coverage. Make sure the policy limits are adequate, and that the policy is still in force.
- Check the contractor’s guarantee: what it covers and how long it lasts.
- Check on how the company handles unforeseen problems and expenses.
- Ask if your landscaper will also do yard maintenance once the big project is finished.
- No work, even a small project, should commence without a written and signed contract that includes project scope, detailed costs for materials and labor, an illustration of your project and the protocol for handling unexpected problems or costs.
Landscape Contractor Associations/Accreditations
Trade associations keep members informed about new products, construction techniques, business practices and industry issues. Participation demonstrates a commitment to professionalism.
- Professional Landcare Network (PLANET)
- Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD)