Landscaping in Santa Rosa (Sonoma County, California)
8 Steps to Successfully Hiring a Landscaping Contractor
The objective of this guide is simple: To provide you, in a few minutes of reading, the information that will help you ask the right questions and do the proper research before hiring a landscaping company so that you have the best experience possible, and achieve the best possible results for your landscaping project.
The original reason I wrote this is also a simple one: As a fellow Sonoma County resident, I wanted to help others avoid some of the pitfalls that I’ve run into in the past with the landscaping work I’ve had done on my own property. Essentially, I’ve put together the guide I wish had existed when I first started out!
The 8 Steps You Must Take When Working With Santa Rosa Landscaping Contractors
1. Write a description of the work you want the landscaping contractor to perform so that you can effectively communicate the concept behind and details of your project. Be sure to include details such as: preferred kinds of vegetation (plants, flowers, trees), color schemes, rocks, sprinklers, fountains, etc. Make sure you include information about any existing irrigation systems, weed problems, climate issues, and current vegetation, animal and pest issues you have.
2. Determine your budget. As they say, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Therefore, to prevent your project from suffering cost overruns and generally running away with your pocketbook, be sure to have a firm budget in place before you begin interviewing landscapers. This step might seem obvious, but it is amazing how many people go into these types of projects with no idea how much they are willing to spend at the outset.
3. Find out what is and isn’t covered, and how long any guarantees remain in effect. Ask if the company provides any kind of warranties/guarantees on the work they perform (i.e. what if a tree they plant dies a week after being planted, or a rock wall they built falls apart a month later?) and if so, if there are any restrictions or conditions for said guarantee, and what period the guarantee will remain in effect after the work is complete.
4. Ask the company to provide a written plan and/or contract. Prior to making any agreement, have the landscape contractor, designer, and/or architect prepare the details in writing. This plan should include at the very least the overall design, plant material to be used, all costs, a time table and the terms of payment (you have the right to amend the contract later on through change orders).
5. Know which services are provided in ongoing maintenance. Ongoing maintenance is necessary in order to protect your investment. You can do it, or you can ask the company to do the work. Generally, ongoing maintenance involves mowing, fertilizing, pest control, among other services.
6. Tell the company if you want to care for areas of the landscape yourself. Once your new landscape is installed, you may wish to become more involved as a homeowner by maintaining the landscape yourself. If you want to care for certain landscaped areas, tell this to the company in advance and make sure that you get all of the information you need from them to properly maintain the landscape after they’re gone.
7. Look at similarly priced work. Though you may not have the trained eye of an expert, viewing the landscaper’s past work may save you regrets -- and money -- later on. Ask them to show you what they've done for the same price as your estimate. It's easy for a landscaper to do a poor job, such as with drainage, get paid, and then leave before the home owner realizes his or her property won't drain properly. Taking a look at the landscaper's past work will help you assess risk and make the right decision.
8. Don't pay until the job is done. Some landscapers will ask for a sizable down payment before the job is started, but you should be cautious before handing over any money. I wouldn’t think highly of landscapers who ask for a big down payment, especially on small jobs. Even for larger jobs, you should probably pay no more than 20 percent of the total job. If the company claims they need money to get the job started, then something is probably not right.
In general, it's important to ask as many questions as you can, and ultimately, that you feel completely comfortable with your landscaper. This is particularly true if you’re planning a big (read: costly) job. So be patient, ask all the questions you need to ask, do your research....and good luck!