Questions To Ask a Landscape Firm

In my first installment published in this space on June 20, I provided tips on what steps to take before hiring a landscape contractor.

Now it is time for you to find the best contractor for your job. Here are some tips and suggestions to consider during the consultation:

1. What is the history of your company and how long have you been in business? Knowing the history of your contractor can sometimes tell you what their level of expertise is. How many workers they employ will tell you if your job may be too big or too small for them to handle. A company that has been in business for many years usually means they have a good track record. An established company will usually have an office and website.

2. Are you bonded and fully insured? This is one of the first questions you should ask anyone performing work on your property. In the landscape contracting industry, there is almost always some form of heavy object being moved or altered on a construction site. This comes with quite a bit of liability, and having a company not insured to do the work, could result in legal matters.

3. Do you have industry specialists on staff? When hiring a company to perform specific tasks within a project scope, you want to make sure you have the right individual(s) doing the job. Crews that can install new plants or sod are great, for example, but if you are dealing with well established trees, you may need a certified arborist.

4. How long will my project take, and will you remain on it until completion? You want someone who is going to start your job and stay on it until its completed. If they are juggling multiple jobs, chances are it will result in a lack of craftsmanship, focus and attention to detail along with a completion date that is ultimately later than promised. On the other hand, you can’t assume you are their only customer. You should also realize that the weather can drastically affect these things.

5. Can you provide a written contract/drawing of the design? Not only should you never allow work to be performed on your property without a written and signed contract, but you should also have a drawing or sketch of the work being performed prior to any construction. A good contract should outline the specific work being done, products and machinery being used, manufacture names and specific items, plant names/sizes, quantities, dimensions, warranties, start and completion dates, exact costs and any other job-specific information that may be important to you.

6. What is the general scope of work for the project? Most contractors will have general guidelines or installation practices of how they approach and build each job.

7. Do I have options? You can ask the contractors to provide you with budget options. This will help you understand what you can financially afford to do now and what will have to wait.

8. What is your warranty or guarantee? Any reputable company should warranty their work. Different elements of the project might be warrantied separately, but the general guarantee on workmanship should be outlined in the contract.

9. Do you have references? Investigate a company’s previous track record and any current reviews or ratings that you may be able to find prior to you hiring them. Using online review sites are usually a good place to start.

10. When can you start? Having a general idea of when they can get started may help you make a final decision.

There are many other factors, questions and considerations that go into the decision-making process of hiring a new landscape contractor, but hopefully I was able to highlight some of the main points to get you started. Try not to let this process overwhelm you. Be as organized, knowledgeable, and prepared as possible going into the consultations and be educated, confident, and decisive coming out. Landscaping projects can sometimes become overwhelming, and for these times we look to landscape contractors to rescue us from our endeavors.

Rick Nohe is a graduate landscape architect with Wallace Pancher Group, which has offices in St. Clairsville as well as Canonsburg, Hermitage and Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.

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