Well designed and installed landscaping adds considerable value to your home (14 – 17 percent), allowing you a return on your investment of 100 to 200 percent. Choosing a landscape contractor can be tough, and choosing the right contractor(s) can determine the success or failure of this important investment. The following guidelines should be used when evaluating choices for your landscape installation.
Determine the scope of the project, and which services you’ll expect from the contractor – install plant material, build decks and patio, install retaining walls, install irrigation systems and night lighting are some of the services provided by landscape contractors. You may wish to work on some of these projects yourself…is your contractor agreeable to this?
Thoroughly investigate the company – how long has it been in business? – what levels of expertise and education do the employees have? – Ask for recent references and check these out – visit the jobs. Many states require licensing…inquire about this and other types of certification.
Insurance is a big concern….the nature of much of landscaping work requires comprehensive insurance – both liability and worker’s compensation – ask for proof of insurance. Is the company affiliated with local or national trade organizations? – this *may* indicate a high level of professionalism and quality.
Also ask about guarantees…will the landscaper or nursery stand behind a guarantee on plant material? What about hardscape items…if the retaining wall caves in, will it be replaced at no cost? How long is the guarantee in place? A recent trend, especially on larger commercial jobs, is to require the landscaping company to maintain the project for the first year. This way, any serious installation mistakes can be dealt with in a timely manner.
If the installation company will be providing some or all of the maintenance, ask for the maintenance schedule. Basic lawn maintenance should include weekly mowing, seasonal fertilization, weed control if desired and aeration or dethatching services. Ask which chemicals, if any, will be used on your property, and require the contractor to provide the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for each.
Tips on choosing a landscape contractor
The next step is to contact each company and ask some basic questions. This initial conversation will allow you, and the contractor, to find out if the contractor’s skills are a potential match for your landscape needs. Prepare your questions or concerns before calling or setting up a meeting. The following is a list of questions or topic points to discuss:
- What is the company’s average size job?
- Do they have a required minimum to do work?
- Do they work in the area where you live?
- Are estimates and/or designs free?
- Can they provide a list of references or recent clients that you may contact?
- Do they have a list of recently completed jobs you can go look at?
- Are there any properties they completed several years ago that you can look at?
- How long has the landscape company been in business?
- What type of warranty comes with the plant material and workmanship?
- Are the quoted prices fixed or just estimates?
- What happens in unexpected situations (such as hitting an underground utility)?
- What (if any) college degrees are held by the owners and managers?
- What certifications are held by the owners and managers