You’d love to hire the right contractor/hardscaper for your landscape project, right?
You find someone that seems okay, but you’re not even sure what to look for and how to ensure he's the right fit for the job.
What if he lacks the skills? What if he's not trustworthy or reliable? What if, at the end of the project, he presents you a bill that's way more than you had anticipated? And worst, what if you regret hiring him?
When venturing into a project, the owner-contractor relationship is a determining factor in your landscape project’s success.
The good news? If you have the right knowledge, you can control your endeavor like a pro.
We've put together a list of key elements you need to do to have the best experience.
Let's dive in...
1. Use interactive ways to look for professional installers
In this day of age, the phone book has become a relic, an object used as a booster for small children, or whatever you might use it for other than looking for company phone numbers. That's because there are quicker and more interactive ways to look for information, such as:
- Search engines: The Internet is a great place to start, but be aware that it is open to anyone to promote themselves. So make sure to verify their references.
- Referrals: Nothing beats word-of-mouth and positive feedback by satisfied people. Ask your friends, family, neighbors, or previous clients about their contractors and experience.
- The Village: This platform is an online directory of pre-screened and certified landscape contractors that have applied to our Techo-Pro program and met standard requirements, such as:
- Two years in business, ICPI certified or APPQ member, NCMA certified
- Valid General Liability Insurance Policy & work license
- History of quality workmanship (with photos of hardscape projects to support)
- 2 references from homeowners
2. Ask the right questions
Most people believe asking good questions bring you a long way, yet people do not ask enough good questions or even the right questions. In so doing, you frame the process and have a better control of the desired outcome.
And you send a message to the contractor that you're not bubbleheaded.
Here's a list of questions you can prepare for yourself and answer to make sure you've covered the basics:
☐ Does the contractor’s previous work match your taste?
☐ How many years have they been in business?
☐ Can you get pictures or addresses of his previous work so you can visit?
☐ Can the contractor show his certificates? (Look for accreditations from the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) and the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA))
☐ When will be the start and the end date?
☐ What is his process from the beginning to the end of the project?
☐ What are the payment terms?
☐ Is he aware of the bylaws? (Tip: search online also and compare what he says.)
☐ What makes a good contractor?
☐ What is the difference between his quote and someone else’s?
☐ What is your expected involvement as the client?
☐ Who will be foreman and what is his experience/background?
3. Compare key points between contractors
Even if you get good feedback from other people, you still need to do your own detective work. Comparing contractors is a great way to get a better idea about how your project will be handled. Compare the following things:
- Previous work
- Begin and end date
- Payment terms (if attached to deliverables)
- Deposit: the initial deposit should not be superior to 20%
- Overall craftsmanship
- Education (certificates)
Get at least two, but preferably three estimates from different contractors.
4. Protect yourself
Be rigorous. Here's what you can do:
- Impose a “bait” balance (a significant balance held until the landscape project is completed to your satisfaction)
- Due diligence. Verify the contractor’s craftsmanship. Visit a project that is:
- 5 years old to see how the project ages. This will show any engineering/structural problems (paved surface becoming wavy due to faulty foundation, retaining walls tipping, etc.)
- 3 years old to see how the project wears
- 1 year old to see if he follows the trends
5. Negotiate like a pro before signing
For some people, negotiating is the hardest part. But if you've done all the previous steps before, your confidence will have a grown, and negotiating will be a breeze. Before signing any contract:
- Get a thorough proposal in writing. Be sure to include a complete description of the work to be performed, specific products to be used, warranty length and coverage, payment terms, and any other pertinent issues.
- Don't allow the use of “substitute materials” and be wary of any written stipulations or clauses that permit their use without your pre-approval.
- Especially important for larger jobs: have the landscape contractor put in writing the stipulation that all code requirements will be met, and denote who will be responsible for obtaining the necessary permits.
- Ask for invoices of purchases and materials as records so you can keep proof of purchases for warranty.
A clear and concise agreement will ensure you avoid some headaches along the way.
Remember, never pay in full for work until it has been completed to your satisfaction.
Ensure Your Landscape Project's Success
Hiring the right contractor can seem overwhelming.
And of course, nothing guarantees that you and your potential contractor won't encounter any setbacks.
But your project can be undertaken with ease if you know exactly what you want and if you know exactly what you're doing.
In this case, you have a good chance of driving your project successfully.
If you've never hired a contractor before, follow the above steps — one step at a time — and think through each and every one of them.
Be thorough in your research and be crystal clear on your limits and your goals. Select a person whom you feel will work cooperatively with you to find the best solutions.You’ve got all the resources you need at your fingertips to hire the right contractor and handle your project like a pro.
You’ve got all the resources you need at your fingertips to hire the right contractor and handle your project like a pro.
Now it's time you start building your perfect outdoor space.
READY TO START YOUR PROJECT?