An outdoor room by Botanical Decorators. © Roger Foley

Checklist: Landscape

Why work with a landscape contractor —and how to hire the best

Landscape installation work—including sprinkler systems and maintenance—can cost thousands of dollars. Using a qualified, professional contractor is a must to get value for your money and to ensure a return on investment and increased property values. The following advice will help you choose the right contractor and services for your landscape.

Before Starting

  • Determine how the landscape will be used, i.e. entertaining, children’s play area, outdoor-living space.
  • Consider your needs: Do you require design services, plant selection, construction or maintenance?
  • Decide whether you plan to care for the landscape yourself or have a contractor provide ongoing maintenance.
  • Talk to a few landscape companies before choosing one.

Questions to Ask

  • How long has the firm been in business? Does it follow industry best practices?
  • What certifications and professional affiliations do the company and employees hold? Proof of insurance for liability and workers’ compensation? What local licenses and permits will be required?
  • Does the firm intend to use subcontractors?

What to Expect

  • Written estimates and contracts that include the scope of work, estimated time of completion, total costs and payment methods.
  • Well-maintained trucks and equipment, labeled with the company name. Crews should wear company shirts to indicate they’re supposed to be on the job site, and should be equipped with boots and protective gear.
  • A good contractor will follow up a couple of months after the project is done to make sure the homeowner is happy.

Tips

  • Visit in-progress jobs to see how the crew works and maintains a job site.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau regarding complaints.
  • Talk to past and present customers. Did the contractor display good work habits, return calls promptly and keep appointments? Honor the contract and respond to concerns? Would the customer hire the firm again?
  • Professional firms will have warranties and possibly dispute-resolution options.

Source: Landscape Contractors Association MD • DC • VA; Landscape Design: Botanical Decorators.