Everybody likes the work good landscape contractors can do, but few like the process of finding a good contractor!  And why would they?  Hiring a contractor has an element of risk.  Fortunately that risk can be greatly reduced if not eliminated.

Clearly defining your wants, a little background checking, and your instinctual gut feelings will pave the way to a successful project.

Landscape contractors irrigation

Many landscape contractors will perform all the work, some will sub-contract specialty work to other contractors, some will only handle the work they are comfortable with.

The trend the past 12 years is for landscapers to do all the work themselves.  But that trend has reversed as the complexity of work is increasing.  Example, many landscapers prefer to sub-contract the irrigation system to a irrigation specialty contractor.  Same for lighting, water features, etc.

Knowing who the sub-contractors are is another tip.  If the landscaper you are about to select uses subs, then ask who they are and give some consideration to their reputation as well.

Reputation

One of the most often reported customer complaints about landscape contractors is lack of response. Second is a lack of trust that a good job will be received.  The tendency to hire based solely on price must be tempered with a little homework so you are aware of the company you might be doing business with.

Contractors in all trades have a reputation. The best route in hiring landscape contractors is to find out what their customers think of their work and their service. A good strategy is to talk to people you know who have hired the type of landscape contractor you need.

Research until you can isolate 2-3 companies with the reputation you are comfortable with. Then you are ready to call them to for bids. The Yellow Pages and internet will help you find contact information, but please do not judge a contractor by ad media!   The worse method is to call 6 contractors that pop up at the top of the search engines.

Your Landscape Vision

Next make sure you have a clear vision of the landscape environment you want before you meet.  A clear vision may not include specifics about the materials or installation details.  However, you have something in your mind of what you want.  Prepare your description of what that vision is so you can accurately communicate it to your prospect contractors.

Good landscape contractors will ask for that description and the more you give them the better.  Good contractors will also question you about it to make sure they understand and will likely offer alternatives and options to add to it.  Work with them to paint a complete picture.

Knowing Your Landscape Contractor

First impressions usually are very accurate.  How the contractor looks, speaks, and behaves will give you many subtle clues about what you could expect if you hire them.  While your decision should not be based on “gut feel” it can help you discern the best choice if you believe your gut feel has been accurate in the past.

landscape contractor

When speaking with your candidates, ascertain how responsive they are. If they don’t respond well while trying to earn your business what will happen when you have a problem or need service?  Responsiveness also involves listening. Do you get the sense that the contractor cares about what you are saying or asking for?

Ask about other landscape jobs they’ve done similar to yours.  You seek a level of comfort they are experienced enough to handle your need.  Many  larger contractors have a web site with such information, visit and see what you think. Get a few referrals and actually call them.

What about the young guy starting a new company?  Obviously he won’t have a long list of referral customers or jobs completed.  He might do a great job for you but you will have to evaluate him differently.  If you’ve established that he is responsive and you have a level of comfort then you may be willing to accept a little more risk.  Everyone has to start somewhere.

Materials suppliers can be a good source of referral.  Just be aware a supplier will not (and should not) speak ill of a contractor.  If they don’t feel comfortable recommending a contractor you will sense that in their non-committal bland answers to your questions.

We offer contractor referrals (in our area of service) if you are interested.  Generally we contact 2-3 nearby contractors that we feel comfortable will handle your specific requests.  Click here to use our find a contractor form.

The Quote and Price

You will be given quotations.  Landscape contractors vary in the format of their quotes.  Some are very professional others not so much.  The quotation should give you the information that lets you know the contractor heard what you were asking for and are proposing a solution that works for you. Judge quote content more than appearance.

Yes price is important, but should never be the only reason you select a landscape contractor. Many times over the years I have spoken with homeowners unhappy with a contractor’s work, but after seeing what was done and asking what they paid all I could say is they got what they paid for.  Price is only a tie breaker between contractors offering solid viable solutions.

You don’t get premium work when hiring the lowest priced contractor. Contractors promising high quality work at low prices are often either unscrupulous or incompetent. Not exactly the characteristics you are looking for!

If the price is too much then cut back on what you are asking for.  Example, if an irrigation system for the whole yard is too much to handle right now then do the front yard and have everything ready to add the backyard next year.  Don’t accept lower quality workmanship or product.  Such decisions always cost more in the end.

If not provided, ask for evidence that they are current with Workman’s Compensation insurance, have general liability insurance, and their trucks and equipment are insured. Look for at least $300,000 of liability insurance.  This is for your protection in case something happens while working on your property.  Landscape work does have some dangerous activity associated.

Some areas require a landscape contractor to be licensed or registered; if so ask for a copy of the license if not already volunteered in their quotation packet.

Whatever is agreed to must be documented.  An agreement of some sort should be drafted.  Be sure you are comfortable with all that is included.  Most contractors have such agreements and they tend to be easily understood.

The agreement or contract should at least include a complete description of work to be provided, any special needs or conditions for your job, start and completion expectations, payment terms, and description of any warranties or guarantees. Remember you can add to the contractor’s agreement form anything both of you agree to.

Deposits

Sometimes a landscape contractor will ask for a deposit.  Most deposits range from 10-25%. There are some legitimate reasons for a deposit.  Materials costs may be too much for the contractor to fund until job completion.  In such cases some owners will ask for materials to be stored on their property so if the contractor disappears they at least own the materials.

Another option is to do a joint check.  In that case you will write your check to the contractor and the materials supplier.  It cannot be cashed until both sign, which guarantees the supplier they will get paid.  This allows the contractor to purchase materials beyond his credit limit.  You would be asked in advance if you agree to a joint check.

Another reason some landscape contractors ask for a deposit is to demonstrate you are serious about doing the job.  For them deposits are ways to stop people from cancelling a job after they have scheduled their crews and purchased costly and perishable materials.  It’s a response to past wounds.  Yes, landscapers sometimes get screwed by their customers!

Job Timing

A sticking point may be the timing for the installation. Landscape contractors book up quickly in the spring months in our part of the country. A job signed for in May might not get installed until July. If you want the work completed at the beginning of the season then consider having it installed during the fall or winter.

At least get the installation booked before spring so you are first in line. Most contractors like booking jobs during the fall for winter and early spring installation to fill in low revenue months and give them a head start for the coming season.

Job Completion

When the job is complete there is normally a final meeting (walk-through) for the contractor to show you what all was completed and to gain your approval the job was done as agreed.  If the work is per the agreement then complete the transaction.  If there are additional tasks you want done, then start another agreement.

Final Thoughts

  • A landscape professional listens and tries to provide exactly what you want.
  • The low price guy is low for a reason . . and it probably isn’t a good one.
  • The response you see during the bidding phase will indicate the response you see after you’ve paid them.
  • Personal appearance and demeanor will indicated the contractor’s professionalism.
  • Bids that don’t match up with your specifications indicate a contractor who is not concerned about your wants.
  • If you feel pressured or are given an overly “slick” presentation . . . beware.
  • Beware of the contractor who seems overly fixated on lower price products, reducing the materials used, or trying to cost-cut the job.  You want the contractor who seems fixated on satisfying your request.
  • Above all learn about a landscape contractor’s reputation.  Other customer’s are your best source of information.

Take your time when picking landscape contractors. Find the person you feel comfortable with and has proven a degree of customer service.

If you still need help finding a contractor in the Ohio, West Virginia, or Pennsylvania area, we can help!

Comments

  1. My yard is pretty out-of-shape, so I’ve been thinking about hiring a landscaper to fix it up. I like how you mentioned that you should research several companies and get quotes from your top three, as this will help you find the best price for good service. Thanks so much for the great tips on how to hire a landscaping contractor.

  2. My new house is amazing but I’m not loving the backyard. I want to find a contractor to help me get the perfect backyard to match the house. Thank you for suggesting that when I find a contractor I should ask them about jobs they’ve done that are similar to mine. Hopefully, I can find the best landscape contractor to help me get a backyard I will love showing off.

  3. I really appreciated your advice to check for liability insurance, especially the healthy amount of at least 300,000 dollars! My wife and I recently moved into a new house, and we have been trying to find a landscaper to get rid of some of the dying trees in our backyard. I will definitely make checking for liability insurance one of the first things on my list during my landscaping search!

  4. It really helped when you mentioned that it would be best to get some referrals since it can give you an idea whether the company has handled similar cases as what you have in mind. I will follow that tip since I have never tried hiring any landscape company before, so I have no idea which one is the best. We would really love to get our lawn landscaped because it was damaged by the hurricane last time. So thanks for the tips!

  5. I really like what you said about reputation and how the best route in hiring a landscape contractor is to find out what their customers think of their work. This is something that I have been thinking about lately because I wouldn’t want to hire just any landscaping contractor. Hopefully, I can find a reputable company that can help me to design and landscape my backyard to the way that I am visualizing it.

  6. That’s a good tip to know what you want when talking to a contractor. It might even be a good idea to draw a plot of what you envision. That way you’ll have a visual reference for your contractor.

  7. Thanks for the tips for choosing a landscaper. We want our yard to look amazing this year, and every year after, so I’ll remember this. My wife and I will have to sit down and work out our vision for our yards before calling someone, like you said.

  8. I’m thinking of hiring someone to do my yardwork for me this year. I appreciate how you suggest taking the time to look at the landscaper’s reputation before hiring them. Would asking for references be the best way to ensure I hire someone with a good reputation?

  9. These are some good tips for finding a landscaper. We want to find someone to help us design and put in our custom home’s landscape. I’ll be sure that my wife and I have a clear vision of what we want before we hire anyone, like you said.

  10. These are some fantastic points made in the article here, especially about the reputation of the landscape contractor. After all, most people who hire a landscape contractor do so because they want to bring their dream yard to life. If this is the case then you have to make sure you’re choosing a contractor that has a reputation for doing a good job.

  11. My husband and I want to put in a new garden pathway in our yard and we are wondering the best ways to work with the landscaping contractors we end up hiring. So thanks for letting us know that if we want the installation to be completed sooner rather than later, we may want to see if we can have it installed in the fall or winter. Once we hire a landscaping contractor, we’ll be sure to see if they can do it in early fall or late winter.

  12. I like your advice to check how a landscape contractor looks, speaks, and behaves when you first meet them so you can figure out what to expect. This could help you choose one that is easy to work with and communicate with as well as able to provide you with the services you need. You’d probably want to research the different contractors online and learn more about their experience in landscaping as well as the services they offer so you can narrow down your list and set up an appointment to meet with your top choices.

  13. I didn’t realize that talking with a landscaper can help you know how responsive they are to your concerns. My sister just bought a home that has a large yard. Hopefully, this article can help her find a pro that can install the water feature she’s always wanted.

  14. I do like that you encourage your readers to have a clear vision of what they want their final landscaping project to look like. After all, the landscaper cannot do all of the work on their own. They need to know what your ideas and plans are so that they can work off of them to create the landscape you want.

  15. A good friend of mine wants to rip out a lot of grass, and have some garden and plants planted on his property. I thought what you said about getting to know the contractor, and making sure they have done similar projects to yours was really terrific advice. Since the type of job my friends want done is so specific, it would be really comforting hiring a contractor who has essentially already done the job before, as they know how to do it best.

  16. We are needing to get our lawn kept this summer while we are away in Europe for two months. I was impressed to know that one should research until you can isolate 2-3 companies with the reputation you are comfortable with. I will be certain to continue researching to make sure our lawn gets taken care of!

  17. My uncle has a large, beautiful garden that is a bit untamed. He’s been interested in hiring a landscaper to do a bit of work, to help him make the most of his property. You mentioned that you should find a landscaper who can easily understand the vision you have for you lawn, and has past experience doing similar jobs. My uncle and I will have to sit down with a few landscapers, and see which one catches and can even expand on my uncle’s vision.

  18. My wife and I have been trying to figure out what kinds of landscaping features would look good on our property. In your article, you suggested that the best route in hiring landscape contractors is to find out what their customers think of their work and their service. Do most landscaping contractors have a certain type of style that they like to use?

  19. I agree that you would want to have a clear vision before you hire a landscape contractor. I would imagine that it would be important to lay out exactly what you want before you find someone to do that for you. I’m looking for a landscaper to put in an irrigation system in my yard so I’ll have to lay that out to them before I hire them.

  20. I appreciate what you said about landscape materials suppliers being a great reference for landscape contractors. I wonder if many landscape contractors and suppliers can be found online? The next time I need a landscape contractor, I’ll refer to the materials suppliers to see who they’ve worked with.

  21. I like your tip on attaining the responsiveness of a contractor when meeting with them. I would imagine that finding someone who listens well and responds to your requests would be a good worker. My husband and I need to hire a landscaper to help make our front yard look better so we’ll have to gauge their responsiveness when we meet with them.

  22. I have been looking at my yard, and was thinking about hiring someone to clean it up before winter comes around. It’s interesting that when meeting with a landscaping contractor, how they look, speak, and behave will give you subtle clues about what to expect. I will have to remember that if I do end up hiring someone.

  23. I appreciate your tip on seeing how responsive a contractor is to your questions. It seems that if he or she is very receptive to your questions and tries to understand your concerns you would have a more positive relationship with him or her. My wife and I want to hire a landscaping contractor to get our property cleaned up before a move. When we do hire the contractor we’ll be sure to take into account how responsive they are towards us.

    1. 501-599-5167 the company is beech lawn care. The owner is nice. He is Honest will answer any question. They do beautiful work they aren’t expensive like most companies. They finish in a timely manner. If your located in the louisville ky area and still need someone.

  24. Thanks for sharing this advice on choosing the right landscape contractor for your needs! I think it is really nice that there are so many types of landscapers n the first place– that gives you a lot of options when you want to make renovations. However, like you said, it is important to get someone who can help you achieve your vision. Just because they work in the area you need doesn’t mean that they will do the work in the style you want!

  25. I had no idea that contractors had such great connections. My father is building a home right now, and he wants to find some new landscaping ideas. Maybe he should talk with a pro in his area about this kind of thing.

    1. Good landscapers will invest the time to learn what the property owner wants, likes, and is excited about. Landscapes are a fluid expression of the property owner as a person when done right. You can tell a lot about people and companies by looking at their landscapes!

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