Hiring a Landscape Contractor
If you are hiring a landscape contractor to do all
or a part of your landscaping, your role essentially
becomes manager of the project. To achieve good results
with a minimum of surprises and setbacks you need to
put some time into supervising the project. And, remember,
the contractor is your employee and should abide by
any rules and policies you set. This can be in regards
to smoking, not parking in the grass, etc. Following
a few simple steps will help to insure that you have
a good working relationship with your contractor and
your contractors staff.
- Decide what you want the contractor to do. This
may be just part of your project, such as retaining
walls, patios or walkways. You can save a substantial
amount of money if you do plantings yourself.
- Hire cautiously. Ask about the contractors
(and others on his staffs) training and experience.
There seem to be more and more people who throw a
wheelbarrow and a shovel in their truck and call themselves
a landscape contractor.
- Ask for references and go out and view landscapes
the contractor has worked on, dont just look
at photographs. Look at several examples and ask if
the current crew members are the ones who did the
- Confirm that the contractor has the appropriate
insurances, liability and workers compensation, etc.
If the contactor is installing low voltage lighting
or irrigation systems, ask if they are state certified.
Some contractors actually get around this by having
a certified person sign off on their work. This is
only okay if that person is on site and watching the
- Agree on a written contract. This can be a brief
one page document, but will let you know what the
contractor is responsible for doing and should include
guarantees on plants and hardscaping materials.
- Understand what the guarantee is for. Some contractors
will guarantee plant materials for an entire year,
others will guarantee only for the current growing
season. There is a difference between the two! If
the contractor is building a wall, patio, walkway
or other hardscaping feature are they willing to guarantee
their workmanship or just the quality of the materials?
- Make sure you know the timeframe of the project.
When the work will start and how long it can take
to finish. Bad weather and equipment breakdowns can
delay projects. Know what your options are if the
project is delayed for an extended period of time
can you get a discount, refund of any downpayments
or cancel the project without being penalized. (Most
contractors require some sort of downpayment up front,
generally 25%, and then another payment as the work
progresses, with the final payment due when the work
- Monitor the projects progress and review the
finished work. Remember, clean-up is part of the job!
Ask questions about anything that concerns you. Insist
that the supervisor or firms owner walk through
the project with you upon its completion. Be sure
that the project is completed to your satisfaction
before making final payment. Past experience has shown
that there are contractors who will not go out and
fix things, make minor adjustments or clean up their
mess if they have already received their final payment.