There are certain tasks that can be too overwhelming for a homeowner who wants to spruce up their lawn, and that’s when you want to call in a professional to take care of it for you. Hiring a landscape contractor can actually help you avoid mistakes and problems that could lower your property’s value, essentially saving you a lot of money in the long run. The real question is though, how do you know if you’re hiring the right landscape contractor for your home?
Here are some guidelines for hiring a landscaper.
- landscapers and their specialties
- gather your ideas
- ask for references
- consider long-term care
- discuss a payment plan
- forget to check their documentation
- be afraid to ask the right questions
- feel obligated to choose the cheapest deal
- let work begin before agreeing on a plan
- hire someone you’re not comfortable with
Not all landscapers are knowledgeable in the installation of all three aspects of landscaping, which are softscaping, hardscaping and maintenance so it’s important to know if you need one or all three. If you only need one, then research landscapers that specialize in that particular area. For yard work, look at companies that specialize in residential lawn services. However, if you want design or installation services, look for a full-service landscaper.
Save yourself time and money by preparing your ideas before meeting your prospective landscaper. Some companies offer free consultations, but it’s pretty standard for others to charge. Offer as much detail as possible and consider bringing any visual elements that express your inspiration like printing or tearing out images of things you like from landscaping websites, magazines and books.
It can make a huge difference when hiring a landscaper to ask for a list of references from previous jobs. By calling a few of the references and asking to check out their landscaping, you can see exactly what kind of work they produce, find out if their experience was pleasant or not, and if the estimated cost reflected the final cost.
If you’re unsure about how plants and workmanship will be maintained once the project is completed, consider discussing warranties or maintenance programs with your landscaper as part of your long-term care plan. Warranties allow the landscaper to share some or all of the liability for circumstances such as plants dying prematurely or when weather damages the site.
Discuss money and layout expectations before the project begins so you could avoid problems down the road. It’s relatively standard for a landscaper to request a down payment before the project begins, but be cautious of landscapers who request more than half of the cost of the entire project. These kinds of landscapers are usually trying to cheat you by not completing the project well or are operating illegally without the proper documentation. Normally, payment plans have homeowners pay up to 30 percent to start, another 30 percent once the materials or products are delivered, and the rest when the project is completed to your satisfaction.
Every landscape contractor has to have the proper licenses and insurance in order to operate legally within their state, so make sure their documentation is up to date by asking for proof of both worker’s compensation insurance and general liability insurance. Also, check for coverage amounts of at least $500,000 to $1 million per policy because if the landscaper is not properly insured, any accident that happens on your property leaves you unprotected and open to getting sued by the employee on the job.
It’s important to ask the right questions during the first consultation so you can figure out if the landscaper is good fit for the project or not. Make sure to ask about their experience, how their process works, what their guarantee is, how well do they communicate and also how their fee structure is set up. By asking these questions, you should be able to get a feel for how this landscaper operates and if it’s a win/win situation.
It’s always tempting to select the least expensive deal, but keep in mind landscapers with more experience or higher quality materials may charge more for the job. It’s always a good idea to get three estimates and compare the positives and negatives of each proposal. It also helps to check whether the company has completed similar work somewhere else so that you could see how it compares to your own project. Don’t forget that you need to be ready for unforeseen problems, which could increase the price of the original quote.
The last thing you want to do is allow a landscaper to begin work on your yard before you have agreed on an entire plan and vision. It’s possible that you could end up paying more for a project than you anticipated because the landscaper misinterpreted your vision. Make sure that your landscaper provides you with a detailed description of services before any digging begins, and that the plan breaks down a list of materials used with any associated costs that are pre-determined or estimated, and a start and completion date of the project. Both parties need to agree about costs before green lighting the project, and everything should be written in a formal contract. For big projects, you can ask the contractor to provide a lien waiver to prevent you from being held responsible for paying any supplier once you’ve paid the landscaper in full.
The relationship you have with your landscaper is essential to the success of any project, so if you don’t get along well with your landscaper, don’t work with them. You can tell if a landscaper really values your relationship if they’re willing to listen carefully to your ideas and incorporate them into your plan. Establishing the tone of the relationship with the landscaper early on will determine your involvement in the project, and attribute to your overall experience.
The next time you’re looking into hiring a landscaper, make sure you do your homework and find the right one by asking all the right questions, checking out their references, and work with someone you’re comfortable around. Discussing budgets and finances upfront will help you avoid a lot of headache down the road, and presenting your ideas with visual elements can inspire the landscaper to deliver your vision precisely so you can have the lawn of your dreams without having to stress yourself out doing it.