Hiring a Landscaper to Improve the Look of Your Home
Hiring a Landscaper Can Beautify Your Lawn, But Choose Carefully
Sure, you can do your own landscaping, but it can get challenging real fast if you get in over your head. Many homeowners are better off hiring a professional landscaper. If you find that your eye is the only one beholding beauty, here are some tips for picking the right people for the job.
- Go into the project with a clear vision of what you do and don’t want
- Do your research and shop around
- Ask for an in-person estimate
- Check for documentation
- Get a written contract
- Be on site when the job is being done
- Rule of thirds
Hiring a Landscaper to Get Professional Results
Go Into Your Project With A Clear Vision
What is it that you want your project to accomplish? Are you trying to spruce up the yard a bit, maybe with some planting, fertilizing, and mowing? Or are you wanting to get into some bigger projects with design and installation work? Are you looking for weekly or monthly work, or do you need a Pro for a one-time project?
Before you jump into the hiring process, it’s best to know what you do and don’t want. If you want a pergola off to the side of your back lawn and floored with pavers, be prepared to let whoever you hire know the important points of your plan.
Of course, one of the benefits of hiring a landscaper is that they’ll have their own ideas about how to beautify your space, and they might have some fresh ideas you might not have considered. It’s fine to let them work some magic, but if there’s an idea or two that you’re not into, or can’t afford to get into, it’s best to already have an idea of what you’ll say no to.
Speaking of what you can or can’t afford, what is your budget for this project? Having a firm answer to this question will keep you from getting into a project that’s out of your price range.
Study Up and Shop Around
Do your research before hiring a landscaper. That means shopping around, looking at portfolios, checking reviews, and when it comes time for a consultation, asking the right questions.
What questions should you be asking about the landscaper or company? Aside from the details of your particular project, we think these are pretty important things to find out:
Is your landscaper bonded and insured?
This is something you’ll want to ask anyone you hire to work in and around your home. In today’s lawsuit-happy culture, you need to protect yourself.
How long has your landscaper been in business?
You’re looking for someone with experience. Plus, the chances are better that the company who has been around a while knows how to manage projects efficiently, staff properly, and be realistic about everyone’s expectations.
On the other hand, a newer, younger company might have fresh ideas and be willing to do the work for less. In both cases, ask for references and see if you can go take a look at some of their work. This is most helpful for large projects.
Will your landscaper stay on the project until the job is done?
You likely aren’t the only client this landscaper works with, and it’s entirely possible that he or she needs to bounce back and forth between jobs from time to time. Then again, maybe not.
In either case, are you prepared for the possibility of your landscaper leaving your project half finished to work on another one or leave part of his crew to work unsupervised?
Does your landscaper staff specialists?
If a big part of your project revolves around trees, you want an arborist as part of the team. Planning a gazebo? You want someone that has construction experience. The point here is that you find the right landscaping contractor for your particular job. Plenty of Pros are willing to do the work, but you want one that really knows the work.
Can your landscaper provide you drawings?
Make sure you and your landscaper are on the same page with a project. Misunderstandings can easily occur, and they can raise false expectations. Having the opportunity to see the landscaper’s vision for your project will help everyone understand each other.
Is the work guaranteed?
Most reputable contractors will guarantee their work from anywhere between 2 to 5 years. Warranties for plants might be a different story, but check and see what your landscaper offers.
How will the work flow?
What equipment is your landscaper planning on using? What materials will they build with? Will heavy equipment be running across your perfectly manicured lawn? Most landscaping companies have standard procedures in place and can inform you of the details.
Get an In-Person Estimate
As you shop around, get at least three written estimates from different companies and be prepared to pay for the time it takes to create them. Keep in mind the old adage: “Fast, cheap, or good: pick two.” We recommend making “good” one of your two choices.
Speaking of getting written estimates, be wary of any landscaper who is willing to quote you a price without actually looking at what you need. They need to take measurements and consider what the job will entail before quoting a price.
Check Your Landscaper’s Documentation
Follow up with the state to make sure that the landscaper you plan to hire has all his licenses and insurance in order. Also, check for proof of worker’s compensation. You’ve may have asked about all of this during your initial consultation, but it’s best to double check with a third party.
The reason for this is that if something goes wrong, or someone gets hurt, an unlicensed and uninsured contractor won’t be subject to certain complaints you could file. Ultimately, you want these things in place for your own protection.
Put Everything In Writing
Get all the details of the job in a written contract, from start and completion dates to a listing of all costs and fees.
Ask your contractor to provide you with a lien waiver. This keeps you from being obligated to pay the supplier after you’ve already paid your landscaping contractor in full. Your landscaper should pay the supplier, with the supply costs covered in the total sum of what you’re paying your contractor to do the job.
Essentially, a lien waiver functions as a receipt, which provides evidence that payment has been made. It protects you from being double charged for the supplies and materials to get the job done. This is an especially good idea when you’re getting into your larger projects.
Finally, read your contract thoroughly before signing it, and make sure that there aren’t any blank spots on the page.
It’s generally a good idea to be around when work is going on. It’s not that you need to hover over your landscaper while he or she works (and you shouldn’t), but if you see something happening that you didn’t originally contract for, you can call a stop to the operation. Again, this is more for larger jobs.
Finally, be mindful of the rule of thirds. If you’re contracting major landscaping, consider paying a third of the final total up front to secure the work, another third at the halfway point, and the final third when the job is finished and you’re happy with the work.
If you have any other helpful insights for hiring a landscaper, feel free to leave comments in the section below!