When investing a large amount of money in an outdoor project, you want piece of mind knowing that the landscape professional in charge of making your vision come to life, is an experienced and knowledgeable contractor. Therefore, it's important to know what questions to ask before construction begins. We've come up with a checklist to make sure you cover all your bases.
1. Does the contractor's previous work match your taste?
As you would want with an interior designer, your exterior designer’s taste should be similar to yours. Make sure you talk to him at length about your vision and pay close attention to his suggestions or ideas. Don’t be shy to ask for pictures of his previous work. Of course, a lot of projects reflect the homeowner’s personal taste. However, throughout a contractor’s portfolio, you can notice patterns in designs that reflect his taste and personality. Are most of his projects bland and unoriginal? If you’re looking for an out of the box design with complex cuts and patterns, he may not be the right fit for you. When it comes to hiring a contractor, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Take time to find your guy!
2. How many years have they been in business?
You wouldn’t trust a Doctor to perform surgery on you if he was just starting out! Why should you entrust an inexperienced contractor with your investment? Ask him how long he’s been in the industry, but also about his experience with the specific renovation you’re planning on doing. If you’re looking to build a waterfall in a retaining wall and he’s only done driveways, he may not be the right man for the job!
3. Has your contractor received certifications?
In addition to experience, certification is also an important subject to inquire about. Ideally, your contractor would be certified by both the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) and the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA). These certifications ensure that your contractor is committed to industry guidelines for segmental concrete pavement installation. In addition, it guarantees that he is up to speed on the latest industry techniques. These certifications must be renewed every year, ensuring that your contractor is continually bettering his knowledge on the industry's best practices and his skills.
4. When will be the start and the end date?
Ask your contractor about the timeline of your project. Ask him to be as specific as possible. Sure, some problems may arise, forcing him to prolong the project. However, any experienced landscape professional should be able to provide you with a timeline for the completion of your project. It’s also important for this timeline to include milestones. This will ensure that you’re able to keep track of his progress. It is a well known fact that most construction projects usually take a little longer than expected. According to Engel and Volkers, there are many reasons to explain this trend. Notably, incorrect time estimates, lack of communication, poor planning and traffic, etc. This is why it is key you hire an experienced professional who will be able to manage your project efficiently.
5. What are the payment terms?
Payment understanding is of the utmost importance when it comes to hiring a professional for a service. One of the first questions should be about price and payment terms. The Better Business advises never paying for the full price of contracting work upfront, and a reputable contractor shouldn’t ask you to. This topic is important to discuss before construction begins. In the project timeline you establish with him, you can include a payment time frame. Be specific, establish amounts due on certain dates or milestones. Also, many contractors offer financing. If that is an option that interests you, make sure to ask that during your first meeting! In fact, our team our Techo-Pros offer financing options to their clients, allowing you to create the exterior you've always dreamt of! Don't hold back. Contact one of our Techo-Pros today!
6. Is he aware of the bylaws in your area?
It is important that your contractor be versed on the specific requirements and codes related to your area. If he is not from your area, he may not be up-to-speed on building restrictions or the permitting process in your zone. Ask him what his knowledge is and compare his answers to what you’ve found from online research. For example, most additions such as solariums and sunrooms, carports, and even decks require building permits. In some cities, details like the height of a retaining wall can require a permit. It’s not a deal-breaker, however, a reputable, experienced contractor should be educated on your local building code requirements and permitting process.
7. Who will be foreman and what is his experience/background
Who will be on the job site supervising the project? What’s his experience and background? Will he be the guy you communicate with daily? These are all important questions to ask before construction begins. You also need to know who the contact person will be. Who do you turn to for questions or status updates? Make sure you get their contact information.
8. Ask for a detailed contract
Like with any purchase of service, a contract should always be involved. The document should contain everything: description of work, materials used, penalties for delays, costs, etc. The more detailed, the better! Remember, this is an investment, so double check what you're agreeing to. Don't just settle for: "Backyard patio renovation : $10,000''. If communication was to fail between you two, the contract will protect you and your interests. The details of the document will also provide you with insight regarding many elements of the project, such as the size of his crew, the timeline of completion, warranties, etc. Most experienced landscape professionals will provide you with a detailed contract without you even having to ask for it. This is why it is so important to select a professional contractor when shopping around!
Most importantly, trust your gut. If you get a good feeling from the contractor and he checks off all the boxes, hire him! Communication and chemistry are also important since you will be working with this professional over the coming weeks.
We’re aware that this step can be stressful for many homeowners which is why we’ve created a program called Techo-Pro! We’ve essentially done the work for you. We’ve filtered contractors in your area and present you with the ones we think are the best based on specific requirements! Find Techo-Pros in your area now! Also, click here to download this checklist so you can bring it with you on your next meeting with a prospective contractor!
For more detailed information about care and maintenance, check out our Care and Maintenance Guide.