9 Essential Considerations When Hiring a Landscaper
Are you looking at hiring a Landscaper for your next Edmonton Landscaping Project?
If so, you will find the following article of interest! We are going to show you how to hire a landscaper by laying out 9 essential considerations.
Landscaping a yard typically requires a substantial investment of time, energy and finances. If you don’t possess the skills to do it yourself, you will need to hire the services of a “Professional Landscaping Contractor”. During my time as a Professional Landscaping Contractor, I have heard many horror stories from unsuspecting and uneducated homeowners regarding their experiences. As a result of the many (negative) stories that I have heard and in doing my part to “Clean-up the Landscaping Industry”, it has prompted me to write this particular article.
Let me show you how to pick a landscaper!
In order to prioritize the list of things you should consider when learning how to find a good landscaper for your next project, I have broken the sections down and categorized them as… “Rules”.
Rule #1: It’s always a good idea to solicit at least two and if possible three landscaping quotations.
Why is this you may ask? By doing so you will be in a position of “strength” as you can evaluate and compare the merits of each individual contractor. While the “Quality” and “Sophistication” level of a proposal may not necessarily be everything, it does shed some light on the Contractor and the level at which they elect to operate or conduct business.
There is an old saying that goes… “The First Impression is a Lasting Impression”
Rule #2: Not all things are considered equal!
Don’t rush and take the necessary time to check out the contractors “Track Records” before you consider inviting them to the table. Referrals are probably the BEST source of finding a “Reputable” and “Trustworthy” Landscaping Contractor. With this in mind, do you have a friend or family member that just landscaped their yard? If not, how about a neighbour?
If you can’t obtain a referral from a “Trusted” source, then your next best choice is the Internet. It’s a LOT easier to obtain information about a company now than it ever was before. Type in the Landscaping Contractor’s company name and add the word “reviews” to the end of it. The Internet is an AMAZING resource and you will be truly surprised at what comes up. This is the quickest way to find out “What Others Are Saying” about a particular company and their past experiences. If this doesn’t work, it could be possible that the contractor may have limited (just started their business) exposure on the internet. Don’t discount this, as the people running the newly incorporated Landscaping Company may very well be qualified and do good business, but you will definitely need to “Dig a Little Deeper” before hiring them.
If you are greeted with a whole bunch of “NEGATIVE” reviews I would strongly suggest that you… Run Away and Run Away FAST!!
Rule #3: Does the Landscaping Contractor have a Warranty Policy?
This is important because this will tell you a lot about what to expect should something go wrong. Fact is… things do go wrong and it’s not always the fault of the Landscaping Contractor. If they have a (written) Warranty Policy, at least you know what to expect should something go wrong after the project has been completed and you have paid them.
Rule #4: Make sure you “compare apples to apples” when evaluating contractors and their landscaping proposals.
When we provide our clients with a “Landscaping Consultation and Formal Proposal”, we always advise them to make sure they are “Comparing Apples to Apples” when they are evaluating Landscaping Contractors and their proposals. This is critical, because one proposal may not be equal to another. Fact is… we ALWAYS provide a TON of detail in our proposals. This obviously take us a lot of extra time, but we are of the opinion that by doing so we “Set Ourselves Apart from the Rest”. It also sends the message to our perspective clients that we are… “Not Afraid to Put Everything in Writing”.
There is an old saying that goes… “Less is More”. That may hold some truth for some things… but NOT in this case!
At OutdoorSpace we have a saying… “The Devil is in the Details, or Lack Thereof if the Contractor Elects NOT to Provide You with Them”. If a Contractor is NOT prepared to provide you with the “Details” you should ask yourself this question… WHY?
For instance, when we quote on the “Supply and Construction of a Patio”, we don’t just include the “Size of the Patio”. We take it much further than that. We clearly define the products being used and how the Patio will be constructed. This is critical, because some Contractors elect not to follow “Industry Standards” resulting in defects and quality control issues. As a result of reduced quality of workmanship, their proposals may be cheaper than others… But!
At OutdoorSpace we have another saying “The Cheapest Price… is Not always the Cheapest Price”
Rule #5: Scheduling and Execution of the Project
Be aware that many Contractors will… “Tell You What You Want to Hear in Order to Get the Job”, but once they get the job they do something completely different. Sound familiar?
This is an area that may or may not be important to you, but if it is, then you want to make sure the contractor is “Buying into this Commitment” and the BEST way to feel comfortable is to get them to “put it in writing”. Commitments that are in writing seem to carry more substance and are more likely to be honored, compared with those that are not.
When we submit our formal Landscaping Proposals we ALWAYS include a “Scheduling and Execution of the Work” paragraph. In this section we provide our clients with an approximate date that the project will start and an approximate duration. Unless weather and ground conditions become a major factor, we are typically very close with our dates.
Rule #6: Make Sure the Landscaping Contractor is fully and adequately insured.
This is one area that is constantly overlooked and underappreciated. Like most businesses, some “Landscaping Contractors” elect to operate their companies by incorporating and practicing higher standards than others. One of which is making sure they have adequate Liability Insurance to protect the company and the clients they work for.
The other area that is constantly overlooked by homeowners is the protection of the workers. “WCB” (Workers Compensation Board) coverage provides workers with the security of knowing that should they become injured on a work site and they are unable to work, they will not lose their income and be unable to support their family.
Fact is… WCB is NOT an “OPTION”, it’s the “LAW”, but all too often some Contractors elect NOT to follow the law.
Did you know… if you hire a contractor to work on your property and someone on their crew gets hurt and they don’t have WCB coverage, YOU the homeowner are liable for any lost wages as YOU are deemed as the employer.
Most homeowners are NOT aware of this… but they SHOULD be!
Another Fact… Contractors that carry sufficient insurance and operate a safe work site incur higher operating costs. These costs obviously need to be factored into their landscaping quotations as its considered as a “Cost of Doing Business”. Contractors that elect NOT to operate this way can do so for much less. So while they may appear to be more competitive with their Landscaping Quotations… are they really?
The other consideration is this… If a Landscaping Contractor elects to “NOT FOLLOW the RULES” by having the required insurance protections in place, can you TRUST them to do everything they said they would do? I will let you be the judge of that!
Rule #7: Obtain a landscaping quotation with a “detailed (itemized) scope of work” and a “fixed (not subject to escalation) price”.
When we submit a formal Landscaping Proposal they ALWAYS include a fixed price based on the scope of work that has been covered. That price is fixed and NOT subject to escalation unless there are any major (increases or reductions) to the scope of work.
As previously mentioned, when we submit our formal Landscaping Proposals they are packed full of detail. We do this because we believe that the correct way is to provide our clients with full disclosure and complete transparency with respect to what is covered in the proposal.
We take that another step further, as we also identify what is NOT specifically covered in the proposal. Some contractors will elect to “leave some things out” on purpose so that there quoted price “appears” to be better than the others. Once they are awarded the project and the project is underway, they spring the… “oh, that was not included in our price” even though they were fully aware of this at the time.
Once again we like to refer to this as… “The Cheapest Price is Not always… the Cheapest Price”
We take our Landscape Proposals yet another step further and provide “breakout pricing” for larger more expensive “Hardscape Features” such as Decks, Patios, Retaining Walls, Water Features, Pergolas, Arbors and Fences etc.. We elect to do this in case the quoted amount of our proposal exceeds the budget amount our client is working with. With this information in hand they are then able to decide on what can stay and what needs to go. All of this further streamlines the whole process and makes for an improved experience with OutdoorSpace.
One more consideration…
Based on 25 (plus) years in the Construction Industry, we ALWAYS solicited three quotations for all construction projects. We did this because we were more likely to receive competitive pricing for our project.
When evaluating three proposals we typically (but not always) chose the “one in the middle”. Why is this you may ask? We were always cautious of the low bid because maybe they missed something, needed the work that badly (we liked to refer to that as buying the job), or the quality of the work was not in-line with the competition. As a result, we ran the risk of experiencing problems with the contractor after the contract was awarded and the project was underway.
As we mentioned earlier in this article… “The Cheapest Price… Is Not Always the Cheapest Price”
On the flip side, the high bid may be up there because “they have too much work” and just threw a number at it. You can experience problems with a contractor that is too busy because they may not have the capacity to execute the project in a timely manner.
The “Bid in the Middle” typically (but not always) provided us with a balance between all three. They likely have the scope of work covered, they provide quality workmanship and are not too busy to submit a “competitive” price with a “reasonable” profit margin built-in.
Fact is… you are less likely to experience problems with a contractor if they are “Making a Reasonable Profit”, compared with one that “Needed the Job So Badly They Undercut Everyone Else and Bought the Job”. Who would you rather work with?
So as you can see, there are many factors that all play a role when you solicit quotations from Landscaping Contractors, some of which are obvious and some of which are not.
One Last but VERY IMPORTANT Consideration…
Landscaping projects that are executed by “Unqualified” or “Poorly Operated Landscaping Contractors” run a VERY HIGH RISK of providing the unsuspecting homeowner with “Unnecessary” and Unwanted Surprises”. These surprises typically ALWAYS result in “Safety, Quality Control and Cost Overrun” issues.
With this in mind, I cannot stress the importance of making sure you perform your “Due-Diligence” BEFORE you enter into a contractual relationship with any Contractor, because it’s NOT much fun finding this out AFTER you have hired one!
We hope that you now have a greater understanding on how to choose a landscaper!
We hope you found this article helpful? Should you have any questions or if you would like some help kick-starting your own Edmonton Landscaping Project… we are only a Phone Call or a “Mouse Click” away.