Landscaping is one of those home improvement projects you simply have to get right. Most of us don't have the expertise or the resources to landscape our yards, so we hire contractors to do it for us. Before we hire, however, we need to make sure the contractor is appropriate. A botched home remodel can be hidden indoors, but a botched landscaping job is an eyesore for the whole neighbourhood. Here are nine important questions to ask before hiring a landscape gardener.
1. Are they licensed in the state?
High quality contractors never shy away from the expense of a license. In order to keep that license, the contractor needs to meet certain standards set by the state. If they fail to live up to those standards, their license may be revoked. Make sure your gardener is licensed before you hire.
2. Do they have references?
Unless you're hiring a brand new company, your contractor should have a number of pleased clients available as references. Make sure you can talk to these references, possibly even while looking at the work they are pleased with. Try to talk to them without the contractor nearby, so the reference can be more honest.
3. Are they insured against damaging your property?
No contractor is going to start swinging heavy equipment through your front door, but accidents do happen. If your lawn is the site of such an accident, you want to make sure the company will be covering the costs. The last thing you want is to pay for a contractor who tears up your driveway and leaves you with the bill.
4. Are they registered with the BBB?
The Better Business Bureau is a consumer organization dedicated to keeping track of -- and rating -- businesses around the world. You want to make sure the gardener you hire is registered with the BBB and that they have a high rating. BBB reviews will also show if the contractor has a common issue.
5. Will they provide itemized lists of expenses?
Make sure you know what you're paying for. You don't want to sign off blindly on any bill the contractor sends your way. When they do present you with an itemized list, make sure you aren't paying for worker lunches, anomalous grass feeding work or hours that were never worked.
6. Do they have a guarantee that your plants will establish rather than die?
Low quality garden contractors will swoop in, tear up your yard, plant some trees or bushes, lay down some sod and take off. They don't do any study of soil, lay down any supporting fertilizer or do anything to make sure those plants aren't dead within a month. The last thing you need is a dead lawn because the contractor doesn't care.
7. Are the workers qualified?
You might talk to a highly qualified landscape gardener when they're trying to earn your business, but that's no guarantee the workers who arrive will share that level of skill. Make sure you're getting the benefit of that experience, and you're not paying for people who have never used a shovel before.
8. How long will it take?
Knowing how long the project will take will give you a few critical pieces of information. First, a longer project typically means more hassle and delay on your part while you wait for your lawn to look beautiful. Second, longer projects mean more workers working for more hours, which increases the amount of money you have to pay.
9. Will they allow you to handle some of the work?
You don't necessarily need the landscapers to do every bit of the work. Some work you can handle yourself. Likewise, the landscapers may offer services you don't want or need, and you want to communicate clearly that you don't need them. Otherwise, you might find yourself paying for services you could handle yourself.
Once you've talked to your landscaper and have asked these questions, you should have a good idea of the service you'll receive. If at any point, one of the answers you get doesn't satisfy you, it's time to back away. You don't lose anything by shopping around, and as long as you're polite, you can always come back later if no one else works out.
This article was written by Tony Palmer of Living Environs, Perth Landscaping and Outdoor Development company. You can find Tony on Google+, too!