How to Find the Best Landscaper in your area
It's that time of year again. The time of the year when we start thinking about the snow melting, the trees budding, the birds singing and best of all, the flowers blooming.
There is nothing more peaceful after a long week than spending your weekend sitting outside amoungst the beautiful colors and wonderful scents of all of your favorite flowers and trees.
Whether you are moving into a new home or sitting down with a rough sketch of your yard, a list and pictures of flowers you would love to see growing around you, the best way to get that 'picture perfect' yard that will leave all of your neighbors "ooh-ing" and "aah-ing" is to hire the perfect landscaper.
Here I will list out the top 10 things to look for when searching for that one individual landscaper that can turn your bare lawn into a unique wonderland.
Keep in mind that these are only the top 10 major things you need to do when searching for a landscaper. It is by no means the entire list but will put and keep you on the right track.
Create a detailed Project List of what you are looking for in your design.
Before you do anything. Pull out that sketch paper and make a rough diagram of your current yard and another of your 'dream' yard. Is there any demolition that will need to be done? Sheds removed or relocated? Are there current trees, shrubs or permanent fixtures that will need to be removed?
List out what types of flowers, plants, trees and shrubs you would like and make a rough diagram of your thoughts. Do you want flowers that attract butterflies? Would you like more privacy or a more open landscape? How much maintenance do you want to put into your yard? Do you want to spend your weekends tending to your garden and flowers or would you rather just sit and enjoy the beauty around you? Would you like a gazebo? A water rock garden? There are endless possibilities to make the perfect space for you and your family.
Remember, this is 'your' yard, 'your' sanctuary'. The landscaper is going to have wonderful ideas. Things that you may not have thought of before. Some you may like and some you may not. Keep an open mind about any suggestions but always remember that the end result is your decision.
What will your budget allow?
Times are indeed tough right now and it will depend on the area in which you live as to how much you will end up paying a professional landscaper.
A Design Consultation can range anywhere from $200.00 up to $3,000.00. And the Landscaping itself could range anywhere from $200.00 to $500.00 per hour.
So, take a look at your budget and decide how much you are able and willing to spend on this project. Remember, that just as when you remodel your home, a beautiful, landscaped yard will increase the value of your home when and if you make the decision to sell.
What type of Landscaper do you need?
Some landscape firms do everything in-house. They have their own designers and landscape architects on staff to manage the project from start to finish. While other firms will do the design work and then give you referrals for landscape contractors.
Deciding on which type of firm to hire will depend on several different aspects of the job: the time-line you are looking at to get the job done, your budget, how big the job is and how complex it will be to accomplish. These elements all go into which type of landscape company you will want to hire.
What type of services to they provide?
Asking the right types of questions are crucial to who you decide to hire. How do they handle change requests? If there is a change in any type of materials or a design change, do they have a process in place where you will have a clear approval process before any unbudgeted changes are made? Are they going to do the full job or will they hire out sub-contractors for certain parts of it? If they do hire sub-contractors, how do they handle lien releases to ensure that claims are released before you make final payment? Are they going to handle all of the permits that will be needed or will they expect you to do so? (Most companies will handle all of the permits for you as part of the contract.) What is their Quality Specifications or Quality Checklists process to make sure that all of the work is done and to your specification before final payment is made?
Do your due diligence and research to make sure that everything is covered from start to finish prior to hiring.
Check out some of their previous landscaping work and ask the right questions.
How long has their company been in business? Do they work out of their home or do they have a commercial office(s)? How many employees do they have (full and part-time)? Have they operated under any other business names in the past? Will they be requesting a down payment
Contact your local BBB to see if there have been any complaints against them. Have they been cited for any license infractions in the past?
Homewyse has some wonderful information on their website along with a checklist at http://www.homewyse.com/service_pros/landscape_contractor_hiring_guide.pdf that you can use when hiring a landscape contractor. In fact, they have a great site that gives you an abundance of information and useful tools along with how-to information that you can use for any type of remodel or decorating project that I find very useful. You can find their project guides at http://www.homewyse.com/projects/.
Are they licensed, bonded and do they carry liability insurance?
After checking their client references, it's time to make sure they have acceptable liability insurance and that they are bonded. What is their liability coverage? Do they have workman's Compensation coverage as well? Who are they bonded with and for how long have they been with their agent? Have their been any lapses in coverage? If so, why?
Making sure that your contractor is bonded is very important. Being bonded means that the bonding company has secured money that is controlled by the state in the event that a client files a claim against the company.
Your Landscaper being insured is of the utmost importance. If one of the company's employees get's hurt at your home while on the job, it will fall back onto their insurance company instead of your homeowner's insurance. Or, if something happens and something personal gets broken, they insurance will cover the damange. So, make sure that their insurance is up to date.
Check their references.
Most companies will have a professionally updated website that will have their company information along with a portfolio of jobs they have completed in the past.
You should also ask for references that are no more than 18 months old and that are of no relation to the company owners or employees. Again, do your due diligence and take the time out to contact these references. Did they finish the project on time and on budget? Were there any major issues that arised during the project that were not handled in the proper or most efficient way? Have any of your friends or family used this particular company before?
If possible, drive by some of their projects so that you can see first hand what type of work they are capable of doing and if what you see fits in with the type of atmosphere you are looking for yourself.
Get several different bids.
Even though it is time consuming, you need to talk with and get bids from several different companies. Just as you would if you were building a new home or remodeling your current home, you want to make sure that you are getting the type of service that you are paying for.
Some of the best companies will take the time to come out to your home to talk to you in person. They will want to get a feel for what you are looking for and what type of design you would like. They will want to walk around your property and give you feedback as they listen to your ideas.
The very best companies out there, make your project personal to them and you will get the best bid by someone actually standing on your property, picturing what it is that you are dreaming of.
How vested are they to you?
This goes back to the company making the project personal to them. Are they going to do the job according to how you are picturing it in your minds or by the way 'they' see it in theirs?
What type of warranty are they offering? Are they going to respect any personal aspects of the job that you lay out? Will they comply if you do not want anyone smoking on their property? Will they make sure that they clean up on a daily basis prior to leaving the job for the day? If you don't like loud music, will they keep their radio down so as not to bother you or your neighbors? Are they going to provide a port-a-john or will they expect to use your facilities? These are little things but still very important issues.
Interview and Hire!
By the time you get to this step, you have checked them out pretty well and have most likely gotten to know them a bit. Once, you have decided on the landscaper you would like to hire, you will want to run an internet criminal and sex-offender search as safety is just as important as everything else on the list.
Conduct one final interview with the contractor of your choice just to make sure that you are still on the same page. Then, the final step is the contract. No matter what, you will want to get the contract in writing and you will want to ensure that everything is covered in it. Do not leave anything out even if it appears to be just a minor issue.
As I stated in the beginning of this post, this is just a list of 10 out of many more that you will want to research and study prior to hiring a landscaper. But if you follow your checklist and do the research needed, you will find a landscaper that will turn your lawn into a beautiful weekend getaway for yourself and your family!
Now, it's time to start thinking about how you are going to survive the next month or two of construction! 'That' is a whole other list! Happy Landscaping!