You’ve made the decision to do an extensive overhaul of your yard. Maybe you are preparing to sell your home, or perhaps you’ve undertaken a major remodeling and want to bring your landscape design in line with your new vision. Regardless, now you are in the market to find a landscape designer or contractor who can make your concepts a reality.
Choosing the right landscaper is integral to your project’s success. Here are some things to consider before hiring a firm or contractor.
Check Your Local Regulatory Body
Most states have a regulatory body that lists licensed landscape contractors, as well as the educational requirements, awards, trade shows, publications, and other information. This is a good place to start to find an individual or company that can look after your landscaping needs or to confirm the information you’ve received on someone in the business.
These regulatory organizations can also confirm whether your landscaper is licensed to use pesticides and other chemicals that, if improperly used, could be dangerous to your family.
Word of Mouth
Receiving a referral from a neighbor or friend who had a positive experience with a landscape design firm is very reassuring; most in the industry admit that word of mouth is their most powerful marketing tool. But as with most trades, the best are in high demand and may take longer to get to your request. Another word-of-mouth referral can come from a homeowner whose landscaping you admire. Drive around neighborhoods for ideas, and if you see a yard you love, ask the owner for the name of their landscaper.
If you can’t locate a landscape contractor or firm through a personal reference, start looking locally. Check the local newspaper or go online. The Internet is a useful tool for finding a landscaper, and there are numerous Web sites that allow past customers to provide feedback on the quality of a landscaper’s workmanship. The Internet also allows you to cast your net wide without taking too much time. Make sure you provide a specific sense of your landscaping goals–that way, you can compare prices on an equal basis.
Once you’ve found a landscaper who you feel can handle your job, the next step is to confirm your opinion. Ask the firm or landscaper for references for past jobs, and don’t be shy about calling and asking pointed questions. Was the work done to their satisfaction? Was it done on time and on budget? These are the questions you want answered.
Sign a Contract
Before signing any agreement with the landscape contractor, you must settle on the scope of your job. Is the contractor doing your backyard landscaping or your entire property? Is there a landscaping plan in place?
Once these elements are decided and agreed upon, you can compare prices of various landscaping design firms. Once you’ve checked references and settled on a landscaper, put a contract in place that sets out clear guidelines for pricing and timing. Make sure you’ve included the full scope of the work in the contract in some detail so that there are no misunderstandings. Many professional firms will have standard contracts, but examine them carefully. Make sure everything is in writing, including the total cost.