by Dwayne Regehr
At Earthworks, we want you to shop around! So, here is a guide for what to look for in a landscaping contractor (and a not-so-subtle advertisement for what to expect from Earthworks!)
Is the contractor on time for meetings?
Do they communicate in a timely fashion?
Do they listen to your questions and respond to your needs? A sales rep who "knows exactly what you need" and tries to upsell you at every turn is unlikely to be responsive to potential changes during construction. Every home and every family is different. Hire someone who takes the time to know your space, and how you intend to use the space. It makes a big difference when your patio is designed in a way that'll actually get you out there using it.
Do you get a written estimate within a reasonable time frame? Generally an estimate should arrive within a week, though at a busy time of year it may take longer. Communication is key on this one.
The estimate itself should be well-detailed, explaining how the work will be done, the types of materials to be used and on what timeline the work will happen. It's worth taking the time to review the quote point-by-point, clarifying any details that aren't clear. A detailed estimate is great for you and for your contractor. Everyone wants to be on the same page before the project begins.
Verbal promises or estimates written on the back of a business card aren't good enough!
Start with a look at their portfolio. Confirm that all pictures on their website are of their own work.
Ask to see work that was completed in recent years. The work should speak for itself.
Hearing directly from former customers is also valuable. Although the final product is the main thing, the experience of the whole process is important too.
Does the contractor stand behind their work?
A one-year guarantee is fairly standard for the "soft" elements of the landscape – plants, grass, etc. Hardscapes should be guaranteed for a minimum three years. (May we add a shameless plug for our services? Earthworks has the confidence in our materials and methods that we recently extended our guarantee on patios and retaining walls. It's now an industry-leading five years. We're proud of that guarantee!)
We all know the adage "you get what you pay for". It's not always true, of course, but there are many ways to cut corners on any landscaping project. These shortcuts end up being more costly than if the work was just done right the first time. Here are some ways landscaping contractors may be tempted to cut corners on you:
This is not to say that the most expensive quote will provide the best work, but a contractor who does excellent work and stands behind what they do is worth a lot. Re-building a botched landscaping project can be very expensive.
As we say over here at Earthworks, "If we have time to do it twice, we have time to do it right!"
In larger companies, the role of the sales rep is solely to sell landscaping projects, after which it is turned over to a project manager you have never met. This can lead to miscommunication and disputes between contractors and customers. If a sales rep over-promises and then disappears, it can be tough for the project manager to meet those expectations, and hard for the consumer to know what to do about it. The reality is that not every single detail can be in writing, so it sure pays to have continuity in who you are discussing the project with.
(Another plug for Earthworks Landscaping! We are a small company and as a result you will deal with one person from the beginning to the end of your landscaping project. Your designer and estimator will also be the person running the job-site, and the person responsible for warranty work in the future. This means there will be no passing of blame. The buck stops with Dwayne at Earthworks!)
Is your contractor fully covered with liability insurance and Workers Compensation?
Is your contractor a friendly person who will be a joy to work with? (Hint: Dwayne at Earthworks is! ...if we don't say so ourselves!)
Any landscaping project is a significant investment that should last for many years. Any time spent getting the details right from the start will not be wasted.
Earthworks would love to be your landscaping contractor! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On time, on budget as promised. Dwayne and his crew worked hard and left nothing behind. The grass looks great, the deck is amazing. We tested it this weekend with a group of family members,Read more … nobody fell through!
Dwayne and crew have given us a beautiful Roman paving stone front and side walkway and parking pad out back. Graceful curves, a perfectionist's attention to technical issues and every minute detail.Read more … On time, on budget. We couldn't be happier.
Looks great and he billed what he quoted! This was our second project with Earthworks and we would recommend them to anyone.
Dwayne came to our home about a month ago, saw what we wanted done, gave us a quote and indicated it would be around 6 weeks before they could get to it. In about 5 weeks he called to indicate thatRead more … they would begin the next day at 8. They were on time, did a great job, in extreme heat & humidity and the end cost was as quoted. Needless to say I enjoy working with people who are on time, honest and do professional work - Earthworks Landscaping covers off all of these important points for me.