Everything You MUST Know Before Hiring a Landscaping Company

Looking for Landscaping?

Your lawn is the first impression that people have of your home. And if you have large patches of dried grass and garden beds that are only full of weeds, people are not going to have an open mind when going inside your house, regardless of how nice it is in there. This is important when you’re having friends or family over, or when you just want to be able to take pride in your home. And it becomes especially important at certain times, such as when you’re trying to sell your home. But regardless of your reasons for wanting a better-looking lawn, the chances are you may be thinking of hiring a landscaping company.

A landscaping company can be many things to many people and depending on the service you need and the work you want done, you can hire a company as a one-shot deal or you can hire one on an ongoing basis, wherein they would come and perform maintenance landscaping work on a regular basis. But before you start considering what kind of contract you want to have, you’ll first need to find a great landscaping company.

Finding the right landscaping company for you and your lawn is important. Landscapers are much more than just grass-cutters and fertilizers. They are professionals who have visions of what beautiful landscaping should look like, and they’ll talk to you about what your vision is for your property. Together, with the right company and for the right price, you can create a beautiful landscape that is your own private piece of perfect scenery – and it will be just one step out of your door too!

To find the right landscaping company for you though, there are first a few things to know about them.

Can I Do It Myself?

When it comes to landscaping, this is the first thing that many people think of. Landscapers have to cost a lot, right? And what else do you need really besides some shears, a wheelbarrow, and a lawnmower? Well, you might not actually need anything more than that; and if that’s the case, then DIY landscaping might be perfect for you. But before you dismiss the idea of hiring a landscaping company altogether, there are some things you may want to consider first.

The first thing you need to consider when thinking about DIY landscaping is how large of an area you’re dealing with. Are you talking about one small flower bed that needs some work, or a complete overhaul and redesign of your entire lawn? If there is a lot of work that needs to go into your landscaping plans, it’s probably best to hire a professional landscaping company. There is a lot that can go wrong when you’re landscaping and a large area covers things such as phone lines and other utility lines. A professional contracting company will be knowledgeable about these things, and all the other elements that go into proper landscaping, so there won’t be any problems during the project or afterward.

Is this your first landscaping project? If so, then you also might want to consider hiring a professional, especially in this case, if you’re covering a large area. You can always ask the landscapers to leave a small flower bed or a row of bushes for you to trim and design while they take care of the larger projects. This will let you start to grow your green thumb, but not let your entire yard take the brunt of your inexperience!

If you do have a large amount of knowledge and experience working with plants, you might be able to do much of your landscaping yourself. This can be great for those who love to work in their garden but don’t want to do the really dirty work, like digging out drainage ditches or hauling in all those rocks for the rock garden!

Be warned that if you’re going to take responsibility for the selection and planting of the plants and flowers, you must have a good understanding of plants. It’s extremely important to understand which plants work well together and which don’t before you plant your beds. Some plants simply don’t like each other, or have contradictory characteristics. For instance, planting two far-spreading plants very close to each isn’t a good idea because they’ll overcrowd, and eventually kill, each other.

Should you require it, a professional landscaping company will create the design for your landscaping, including the types of plants and flowers that are planted. They will have the knowledge about the different plants that will not only look beautiful together, but will also work beautifully together.

Needless to say, if you just want a beautiful lawn and don’t want to deal with the hassle, hiring a professional landscaping company can also be the better way to go. It’s a landscaper’s job to make sure that you have a beautiful lawn as quickly as possible so they’ll be over every day until their job is done. You on the other hand, may only be able to tackle certain projects on weekends or after work, which can be difficult and make the process even longer and more arduous. If you simply don’t want to deal with all of it, hiring a landscaping company is a no-brainer.

Even if you have a lot of experience with plants and want to take on the task of landscaping your own yard, you should still start with a very small area. Even the most experienced do-it-yourselfers can come across things they wouldn’t expect such as clay in the soil or thick, impenetrable roots. Starting with a small area will allow you to become aware of big problems that you won’t be able to handle on your own, before you get in over your head!

Types of Landscaping Services

When it comes to what you can ask a landscaping company to do to your yard, your imagination is really your only limitation! You can create a complete jungle-like environment filled with beautifully overgrown shrubs and greenery; or you can have a clean patio surrounded by rock gardens and waterfalls. And of course, you can have just about anything in between.

A landscaper’s job is to make sure that your yard is not only beautiful, but that it’s like a work of art and makes people stop as they pass to admire the natural beauty. It’s also a landscaper’s job to make sure that your lawn is as functional as it is beautiful. You want your yard to be beautiful because you want to spend time in it; and to do that you’ll need some practical elements to help you enjoy it a little more.

Paving walkways, driveways, and patios isn’t something that people often think of when it comes to landscaping companies, but many companies also specialize in these areas. If you can’t find a landscaper that can provide you with a fully paved driveway, they should at least be able to install a simple concrete patio pad or concrete stepping stones for the garden, or to create a walkway.
Incorporating walkways into your landscaping can make it even more beautiful and give you an even more practical way to enjoy the nature that surrounds you. Think a beautiful stone walkway winding through gardens filled with bursting blooms!

Lighting is another element that can be both practical and beautiful, and is also something that a landscaping company will be able to do for you. Having some sort of lighting outside is a good idea for those warmer nights when you want to sit out on the deck for dinner, or have friends over for a pool party. There is a huge selection of different lighting options for your landscaping including post lights, lanterns, string lights, or spotlights lighting up a large area, to name just a few.

Of course, choosing and planting different flowers, shrubs, plants, and trees for your yard will be part of any landscaper’s job. This will include things such as digging out the flower beds and often, regular maintenance of the beds and trees after they have been planted.

The most basic job of any landscaping company, and the one people most often imagine when they think of landscaping companies, is the basic job of lawn-cutting. Of course, this too can include things such as trimming bushes and pulling weeds. You can hire a landscaping company that will do only these very basic jobs for you, if you’re already happy with your landscape design but don’t want to put the effort into it that the maintenance requires. If this is the case however, it’s especially important that you research any company very carefully to make sure that they are a legitimate, licensed, and insured landscaping company. This is because it’s very easy to push a lawnmower down the street and go door-to-door claiming to be a one-man landscaping company. But they’re probably not a legitimate company and if that’s the case, you could end up paying the price should something go wrong.

It’s important to consider what kind of services you want your landscaping company to provide you with before you even begin talking to different companies. This is because not all landscaping companies will be able to perform all services and it will save you the time of researching a company who ultimately won’t be able to help you.

Once you know what you want your landscaping company to do for you, you can then start finding different companies that you may want to work with. It’s best to get a list of at least three different landscaping companies that you can research, and phone to speak to. This will give you enough information to make a good comparison so that you end up with the company that really will be right for you.

Where to Start Looking

Now that you have an idea of what kind of services you’re looking for, it’s time to start looking for the landscaping company that can provide them for you. So where do you start looking? Well, the answer may literally be on your doorstep! Landscaping companies are famous for traveling around to neighborhoods that they cater to, leaving flyers and pamphlets about the services they offer. Chances are that if you open your door and just look in your mailbox, there are already one or two names of landscaping companies in there.

Other places to start looking for a landscaping company are in the phone book (you’ll be surprised how many are in there too!), and by doing a simple search online. Truthfully, if you have the knowledge and skills, a landscaping company is relatively easy to start up, so there’s a lot of competition out there. This is good news for the consumer, because it means you’ll have a good choice of qualified contractors, but it does also mean doing a bit more research to weed out those that won’t work for you.

Of course if you know anyone who’s recently overhauled their lawn, or currently has a contract with a landscaping company, you can always ask them if they are happy with the work and what they do and don’t like about the company. If you’re feeling very brazen, you can even drive around looking at the lawns of different homes.

When you see one that is similar to the vision you have for your landscaping, you could even knock on the door and ask them who does their landscaping. Sometimes you can just even look on the lawn. Often landscaping companies have mini-flyers attached to posts that they leave on lawns for the exact purpose of advertising to those who want to know who’s responsible for that beautiful lawn!

Once you’ve collected the names of a few different landscaping companies, it’s time to start calling around and talking to them about what you need. It’s not time just yet though to pull out your lengthy list of questions (which you will eventually have.) First things first, there are some most important questions to ask first.

What to Look for First

The first thing to check isn’t a question per se, but it will give you more insight as to the type of landscaping company you’re dealing with; and you won’t be asking the actual company either. Instead, inquire about other people’s opinions about the company by looking for testimonials and reviews online. Of course, try to make sure that the reviews are supplied by third parties, and not by the landscaping company’s website themselves. RecUmmend.com is one website where you can find reviews for hundreds of different contractors.

The next thing you can check before actually speaking to any company is to check the Better Business Bureau. Here you can find out if there has ever been a complaint filed against the company; and if there is, it’s time to cross that company off your list and move on to the next name.

Once you’ve checked out what other people have to say, it is then time to phone the company for the questions that only they will be able to answer. Once you do that, the first thing you need to do is make sure that the company is a licensed contractor. This is the area where it’s especially easy for just anyone with a lawnmower to walk down the street looking for clients for their “landscaping company.” Making sure that any company you work with is fully licensed is a good indication that you’re working with a professional company, and that there won’t be any problems before, during, or after the work.

Insurance is the next thing you must check with any landscaping company. Any company working on your property must be insured in case they cause damage to your property during the work. And, any landscaping company must also have Worker’s Compensation Insurance to cover any staff members that will be working on your property on behalf of the landscaping company. Not only must you make sure to ask if the company has both these types of insurance, but also that they have the documentation to verify that they have it.

When you ask the company for references isn’t really all that important, as long as you do ask them for references, and make sure that you follow up with them. Getting it out of the way early can save you some time; if any company is hesitant to supply them, you should find another contractor – and quick! Make sure you get the names and phone numbers of at least three of their past clients so that you can call them and ask what they did or did not like about working with the company.
You can also ask the company for addresses of past homes that they’ve worked on so that you can drive past them. Any landscaping company is bound to have a portfolio or gallery of pictures that you can look at, but a picture does only say a thousand words – looking at the real thing will say tens of thousands!

The last thing that’s most important before you go any further forward with a landscaping company is to find out what their landscaping vision is, and what style their designs are usually done in. If you’re thinking that you want something similar to an English tea garden, you’re probably not going to be happy with a landscaper that’s really into ultra-modern Zen gardens. There’s nothing wrong with a landscaper who has a certain vision and likes to follow it; this type of passion is actually encouraged among landscapers. However, you need to know if there’s going to be a major difference in your visions before you start working with anyone.

The Estimate

Many people might think that the estimate is the most important part of speaking to any landscaping company, but this isn’t the case. And in fact, that’s rarely the case when you’re speaking to any contractor, as the cheapest price doesn’t always necessarily reflect the best service. But in the case of the landscaping contractor, it gets even a little more complicated than that.
If it’s just for regular maintenance or the project is going to be a one-time deal, such as a spring or fall clean-up, a landscaping company may be able to provide you with a free estimate over the phone. However, if it’s the first time the company has worked for you (which in this case, it most likely is,) or the project is much more extensive than that, the landscaping company will most likely need to physically come out and see the space.

This is because it will give them a better idea of what you want, and things such as lot size and the scope of the project will affect the final cost. Even when a company is coming out to see the physical space and provide you with an estimate, it should still always be free. Companies should be competing with other companies for your business, not making it more difficult for you to deal with them.

Also try and keep in mind that landscaping, while it can be very affordable, it can also be very expensive; and even attempting to guess how much one project is going to cost is futile. Depending on the scope of the project, landscaping can cost a homeowner anywhere from $3,500 – $35,000. And while those larger numbers may seem frightening, also keep in mind that if you attempt to do extremely large jobs yourself and something goes wrong, it could end up costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars!

Having a landscaping company over to actually look at the project and give you an estimate can also be a good time to have your list of questions you want to ask handy. A contractor will usually set aside a good amount of time for an estimate, in order to really look at the project and get a sense of what will be involved. As such, this can be a great time to follow behind them and get the information that you need.

Questions to Ask

There are a lot of questions to ask a landscaping company, and keep in mind that you’ll be interviewing a few of them. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a pen and paper handy when the landscaper comes over so that you can remember their answers when you’re comparing companies later on. Here are some questions that will give you a great start. Of course, you can always expand on this list if you have your own questions you’d like to ask.
How long has the company been in business for?

You shouldn’t disqualify a company just for being young but, landscaping is one area where experience usually means a more qualified contractor. If you’re considering a young company, don’t be deterred just because they only opened their doors last year. Just make sure that they have a comprehensive list of properties you can visit, and that you see a lot of their work before you commit to anything with them.

What scope of service does the landscaper cover?

Ask the contractor who will be responsible for things such as irrigation, design, installation, the lawn, the lighting, permits, disposal, utility staking, and anything else that might be required for your project. Sometimes the landscaping company leaves certain things, such as permits, as your responsibility whereas other contractors will take care of it for you. Make sure that if you need a permit and the landscaper obtains it, that you physically see it for yourself! Otherwise, you could end up in big trouble with the city over your landscaping project, and you may even have to tear some of it down, which is a huge waste of money!

Other times, the landscaper may be responsible for everything, yet still outsource some of the work, such as paving and excavation, to sub-contractors. While this is a fine practice, you need to know about it. If this is how the landscaping company that you’re dealing with work, make sure that you have every name of every sub-contractor, and their phone numbers.

Who will be my main contact should I have any questions or concerns?

Even if sub-contractors are being used, there should be one contractor assigned by the landscaping company to oversee the entire project, especially if it’s a very large one. And again, it’s extremely important that you know who this person is and that you know how to get a hold of them.

How big is the average-sized job the company handles?

It’s important to know what type of projects the company usually handles. If your project requires a complete gutting of your yard and re-installation of everything, you’re going to want a company that’s experienced with more than just cutting lawns. But, beware of companies that only take on huge projects such as at malls; you don’t want yours getting lost in the mix. Trying to find a company that handles projects of your size regularly will likely be the best fit.

How are plants chosen for the site?

The different plants that are chosen for your yard should be selected in a few different ways. Firstly, they should be chosen according to your soil type, the climate in your region, and the amount of shade and light in your yard (as this will affect what types of plants are chosen for those areas.) It’s also extremely important that whatever the process is, that your input is also taken into consideration. The landscaping company should be able to give you a few different options that would work in your yard, and allow you to choose your favorites from those.

What are the care instructions for the plants, shrubs, and any other vegetation after they are installed?

It really does you no good to have a landscaping company come over and give you a beautiful yard, only to have it all die just a few days or weeks later. A landscaping company should be able to tell you how to care for the plants immediately after they have been planted, as well as how to care for them for the years to come afterward (as they’re likely to have different care instructions.)
What will the cost of the project be?

This should not be the first question you ask, but don’t let the contractor leave without getting at least an estimate from them. You can have them draw up an actual contract later (don’t start any work without signing a contract) but providing you with one at that time may not be possible; but at least try to get an estimate from them and if possible, in writing.
Is there a minimum of work that’s required?

Some companies have a minimum (either in a dollar amount or type of work) that must be done before they will sign a contract for you. For example, if you only need a flower bed tilled and weeded, you won’t be able to sign on with a company who has a $1,000 minimum for work.

Are garden designs free?

This should be an absolute “Yes!” You’re already paying the landscaper for their expertise and advice. And if that means that they have to go back to the drawing board four times to give you the design you want, they should, with no cost to you. Some landscaping companies will attach a fee to each new design and know upfront that this is just not right. That being said, try to also be reasonable in what you will accept, and what you won’t.

What forms of payment do you accept?

Again, this question is not really a big deal but it is something you will want to know. Most landscaping companies accept either cash, credit card, or check.

How will I be billed?

This is an area that can get tricky, as there are many different ways you can be billed for landscaping services. Some landscaping companies will ask you to pay a deposit before any work begins with the final balance being due upon completion. This is the preferable way to go, as it gives you a guarantee that you won’t have to pay for shoddy workmanship. Rarely, landscaping companies will allow you to pay the full balance after all of the work is done. Sometimes, they’ll also ask you to pay the full price upfront; be very wary of these companies as they could do a poor quality job or, not even show up at all!

What warranties do you provide?

This is another area where landscaping becomes a little different than other goods and services you may buy. You’ll actually need to make sure that the landscaping company provides warranties for the plants and materials and the labor and workmanship – two different warranties. You need protection in case the blooms wither or the shrubs shrivel; and you need warranties in case something goes wrong that’s a result of the quality of work performed.

Questions to Ask – Checklist

  • Are you licensed with the state to perform landscaping services?
  • Does your company have liability insurance, and Worker’s Compensation Insurance?
  • Do you have references from past clients that you can provide me with?
  • Do you have a list of past addresses you’ve done work on that I can go look at?
  • What landscaping style do you have? What’s your vision for my property?
  • How long has the company been in business for?
  • What scope of service does the landscaper cover?
  • Who will be my main contact should I have any questions or concerns?
  • How big is the average-sized job the company handles?
  • How are plants chosen for the site?
  • What are the care instructions for the plants, shrubs, and vegetation once they are installed?
  • What will the cost of the project be?
  • Is there a minimum of work that’s required?
  • Are designs free?
  • What forms of payment do you accept?
  • How will I be billed?
  • What warranties do you provide?

If you know of a landscape company to recommend please contact us today

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