When hiring a contractor for a big landscaping or hardscaping job, keep in mind that the lowest bidder may not deliver the highest value. If you want your project to stand the test of time and add value to your home, you need to pick the best — not the cheapest —contractor. But how do you know whether a contractor is worth it? One way is to ask a landscaper/hardscaper the following 10 questions:
1. How long have you been in this business?
While more experience does not always mean better service, a contractor who has been around at least 10 years or more is likely to have a proven track record.
2. Do you carry workers’ compensation to cover your employees’ injuries?
Workers’ compensation protects you and your home if a worker suffers a work-related injury on your property.
3. Do you carry liability insurance?
Carrying liability insurance ensures that, if the contractor breaks or damages something, he or she will fix it and cover the costs of doing so.
4. Do you belong to any professional organizations? Which ones? How about the local Chamber of Commerce?
It’s not necessary that a contractor belong to an association, but membership shows the contractor’s commitment to his or her job and to the industry in general. Professional associations offer members resources to keep them current with industry best practices. Belonging to the Chamber shows an interest in the community.
5. Can you provide a list of references?
Check references and, if possible, see examples of the contractor’s previous work.
6. Do you build and install according to industry standards?
Your contractor should know industry standards whether they apply to concrete, stone, paving materials, or plants. Contractors should build and install to at least minimum standards. Do some extra homework and find out what the industry standards are.
7. How exactly do you work with your clients on a daily basis?
Your contractor should communicate with you daily about the status of the project.
8. Does your contract include a payment schedule, details of the project, a timetable, pricing, and methods to resolve any disputes?
Get these details in writing before the work begins.
9. How often are your cost estimates on target?
Asking this question shows you are concerned about keeping on budget.
10. After the project is done, what happens if my new patio cracks or a plant dies?
Make sure the company offers a warranty for plant material and workmanship. Ask for the warranty in writing.
A great resource for consumers thinking about big home improvement projects is the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.