Digging Deep to Find the Right Landscaper
Is this the year you finally spruce up your yard? Are you building a nice deck or patio for the summer? These types of projects require a landscaper, and choosing a landscape contractor can be a daunting task. Here are some suggestions for making the right choice.
First, decide what the scope of your project is and what you will need from the contractor. Projects can be as simple as installing plant materials and building driveways and patios, or as elaborate as retaining walls, creating water features, and building decks, pergolas and even outdoor kitchens. Once you know the depth of your project, you can begin your research.
The following are all things you should investigate:
- How long the company has been in business
- How much experience and education do the employees have
- How long is the work guaranteed? Most contractors provide a 1-2 year guarantee.
- Ask for recent references and references from jobs completed at least two years earlier. The references for older projects will be able to tell you if there was any follow up after the project was completed, and if guarantees were honored.
- Ask all references if the work was started and completed as promised.
- Find out if the site was left neat and safe at the end of each workday.
- Were the workers courteous and did they answer questions?
- Were they pleased with the final results?
- Arrange for a site visit so you can personally view the quality of the contractor’s work.
Make sure the landscaper is insured.
The nature of landscape work makes insurance a crucial issue. Make sure the contractor has liability insurance. If the landscaper damages your property during the construction process, the damage will be covered under the contractor’s policy. If the contractor has employees, make sure he has workmen’s compensation insurance so that if an employee is injured on the job, he is covered, and you are not liable in any way.
Make sure they are Licensed as well.
Ask the contractor for their MHIC (Maryland Home Improvement Commission) license number. Any contractor performing home improvement work should have an MHIC number. The Maryland Home Improvement Commission licenses and regulates home improvement contractors and can provide arbitration if a dispute arises. The commission also has a guarantee fund used to compensate homeowners for faulty work performed by an MHIC licensed contractor.
Check for membership to associations.
Ask if the contractor is a member of the Landscape Contractors Association (LCA) and American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Membership may indicate some level of continuing education and professionalism.
Finding a landscape architect.
If the contractor provides design services, ask if the designer is a licensed landscape architect. A licensed landscape architect will have attended an accredited school of landscape architecture, have at least two years of experience, and have passed an extensive licensing exam.
A licensed landscape architect is better suited for complicated projects that may involve elevation changes, retaining walls, or multiple elements. A landscape architect can also create a master plan that can be implemented over a period of years with all the elements fitting together nicely in the end.
Landscaping can be a large investment A well-designed and installed landscape can do wonders for the look of your property while adding considerable value to your home—as much as 15 percent, with a return on your investment of 100-200 percent. A little legwork and research on your part before choosing the contractor can avoid problems with the wrong contractor. Find contractors with beautiful projects and excellent references who are excited about their work and you’ll know you are off to a great start.
Additional posts by Mark Storch
- What Are the Advantages of Using Interlocking Pavers?, 13 Aug 2012 in Home & Garden