How to Select the Right Landscape Contractorby Tim Sanford on 11/17/11
When you are starting a landscape project, large or small, you are thinking of one thing, how great it will be when it is done. All the new, exciting elements you will have at your home - a new patio, gourmet outdoor kitchen, pool for relaxing or beautiful plantings. You are not always thinking about the most important element of your project – hiring the right landscape contractor.
Unfortunately in these times, everyone with a truck and shovel has become a landscaper. The cheapest price doesn't always mean you will receive the same quality and professional expertise. Here are some tips for items to think about when you choose the right landscape professionals to work at your home.
Experience - When selecting a contractor, verify the landscape contractors experience before hiring them. If you are hiring someone to design your landscape, make sure they have a degree in landscape design or architecture and the experience your project requires. When comparing contractors, determine how long the company has been in business, check references, ask to see photos of completed work and even ask for a site visit to a similar project. Make sure you hire someone with the experience required for your project; you don’t want your contractor to learn how to do something for the first time at your house.
Communication - One of the most important factors in selecting the right landscape contractor is communication. Make sure that your contractor communicates well with you and provides the service you expect. Look for professionals that return your phone calls promptly, keep appointments (and are on time) and most importantly make sure you both have the same understanding of your project. In some cases you may be working with this person for a few weeks or months, make sure you can be a good team.
Price - For many homeowners the lowest price is the key element, but it should not always be the deciding factor when choosing a contractor. Evaluate all the elements - experience, completion rate, insured, good team - before you make the finial decision on price. Confirm that you get quotes in writing and if you make changes have the contractor re-quote the project. Once you do decide to work with a contractor, sign a contract with that company and specifically state the scope of the project, timeframe for completion and payment details. Contracts can only help protect you. Remember, the lowest price doesn’t always mean the best quality or service; I hate to say you get what you pay for, but sometime...
Licensed and Insured - Always make sure that any contractor that works at your home is licensed in your state and carries the proper insurances. Many large construction jobs require a contractors license. Without proper insurances, if someone is hurt on the job or a piece of machinery bumps your house, your homeowners insurance will have to cover the damages to your house and for their employees. Don't hesitate to ask to see a copy of liability insurance and you can check for proper contractor licensing at your states licensing office (in Virginia that is www.dpor.virginia.gov).
Remember choosing the right landscape contractor can mean the difference between an exciting, hassle-free experience and a difficult, bitter disappointment. With a little homework you can have a safe and happy working relationship with your landscape contractor. Happy landscaping!