Things to Ask Before Choosing a Landscape Contractor

How did you hear about them or where have you seen them?

Ads may not tell the whole picture. Have you admired a newly finished landscape or one in progress? Whose trucks do you see all over town and take note of the Contractor doing that work? Ask people you trust to find whom they have used or would recommend.

If a Landscape Contractor is referred by a friend, family, or neighbor; you could probably stop searching. People don’t often refer someone that has disappointed them. If this Contractor’s schedule and expertise match your needs, we recommend acting on the referral.

How long have they been in business?

Every business had a beginning! A new Landscape Contractor may be a perfect fit if your project is small and undemanding. A complicated project commands a more established and experienced Contractor. Don’t be a Guinea Pig, because it costs serious money to correct the mistakes of the inexperienced!

Are they licensed and insured? Any certifications or affiliations?

What is their background?

Once again you need to look at experience. Do they have training in Landscape Design?

Do they have working knowledge of proper planting, construction methods and industry standards? Years of mowing doesn’t automatically qualify them as an experienced Landscape Designer or Contractor. 

Have they done something similar?

As soon as you walk them through your wish list, they should be able to recall a similar project and tout their success. You don’t want to hear “I think we can” or we’ll try”; but “I know we can because we’ve done it!”

Are they experienced Landscape Designers?

Landscape Design isn’t just placing a plant or patio where it looks good. The proper selection of materials can make or break a job, because not knowing how large a plant will get or if the retaining wall will hold without failing, are examples of what an experienced designer must consider before construction ever begins. Mistakes in design can result in years of costly repairs and higher maintenance.

Don’t be afraid to ask to see examples of what they can do. With today’s technology, they probably have pictures of landscapes they’ve designed or installed, right there on their tablet or phone. Pictures really are worth a thousand words and they’ll be thrilled you asked to see their work!

Do they charge for their design?

Most accomplished Landscape Contractors will charge for their design. You are, after all, paying for their talent & experience, to pull your wish list together in a creative way and make it a reality. Their unique knowledge of selecting the right materials and construction methods will be invaluable if you want your landscape to stand the test of time.  

Many landscapers will credit back all or part of the design cost if you have them do the work. Even if they don’t; it’s money well spent!

Do they subcontract any of the work?

This is actually a very important question to ask. Contractors that can do everything with their own experienced crews, will be able to offer a seamless flow of work from start to finish, without delays or excuses from subcontractors. 

What is their schedule & can they complete the job on time?

If your project is time-critical, you should make this point right upfront when you’re calling for an appointment. Trustworthy Landscape Contractors should be able to tell you right then if they can meet your deadline.

Larger contractors may have more crews at their disposal and can have multiple projects under construction at the same time. The smaller a company is, the longer you may have to wait, because they must finish the job or jobs just ahead of you.

This isn’t necessarily bad though. If you’ve asked all these questions and feel comfortable so far, it could be worth the wait, if you’re not up against any deadlines.

Can they stay on the job until it’s completed?

This isn’t a dumb question! Their scheduling problems are not yours. If they start your job, they shouldn’t have to pull off to do something else, with the promise of coming back another day. This often turns into more than a few days, if not weeks.

Can they provide references? (Referred contractors should make this step unnecessary)

This isn’t a bad question to ask, but please try and keep things in perspective. Try to imagine how you would respond if someone called you as the reference. Please keep the scope and dollar amount of your project, in balance with the reference you’re asking for.

If your project requires an expensive outdoor kitchen, a glowing review of having two trees planted may not provide the affirmation you’re looking for in a reference.

Be content with one or two. Some Contractors may gladly offer several, while others might guard their references with a great deal of discretion. Don’t wear out a company’s hard-earned references.

Besides, if you’re not comfortable with a Landscape Contractor by this point, a reference probably isn’t going to sway your decision anyway.

How many bids should you get?

There is no magic number! A good Rule of Thumb is no more than 3. If your project requires a Landscape Design or Master Plan, and you don’t have anyone referred to you, we recommend talking to 2 or 3 Landscape Contractors, using the above guidelines to evaluate the best fit for your project.

After this evaluation, select One Contractor to move forward with and avoid putting yourself in the position of having to compare 3 different designs and bids. Every Contractor will have a different vision and approach to your project, making it difficult to choose. The designs become rather subjective at this point and it’s often too easy to just give up and make a decision based on price. The best solution, and not necessarily the least expensive; may have just slipped through your fingers, when you choose by price alone!

Is there a risk in taking more than one bid?

The economy is booming and every contractor worth hiring is extremely busy. The above tips equip you in making a proper selection, so the risk you run with taking multiple bids is you could lose the one you liked the most because too much time has lapsed and now their schedule is full.

When taking bids, one or two will promptly get things put together and come back to you in a timely manner. There always seems to be the one that can’t get back to you within the time requested, and too often people put the responsive bidders on hold while they are waiting on the slowpoke. Do not put up with this! Chances are if they can’t get you a bid on time, they won’t complete the work on time either!

If you’re impressed with the first company you meet with, there is nothing wrong with hiring them on the spot. The longer you take to decide, the further you get pushed back in everyone’s schedule. Every good Contractor is busy, so please cancel the remaining appointments right away so they can be free to make other appointments.

In Summary…

Just remember a Contractor’s time is valuable too, and they’ll respect you for your thoughtfulness.

The referred contractor is almost always the better path to take. Ask people you know and tell them what you’re doing. If they had a great experience, they’ll be glad to share it with you.

Final Thought…

Check all of the boxes by contacting HTA Companies first!

You’ll be glad you did!