Guide to Hiring a Landscaper

Guide to Hiring a Landscaper

A gorgeous garden and outside space require the right person for the job. While many of us think of landscapers as people who mow lawns, rake leaves, and clean up the outside, landscaping contractors do much more than this. 

Landscaping contractors install and maintain outdoor plants and hardscape elements on commercial and residential properties. They need the right eye for design, experience, up-to-date licenses, and liability insurance to do this job well, which is why hiring the right landscaper is crucial.  

Below, we’ll go over the steps you need to take to find the right landscaper or landscaping contractor for your landscaping project. After taking these steps, you can rest easy knowing that your outdoor space will be well cared for and developed into the oasis you’ve always wanted. 

What Services Do Landscapers and Landscaping Contractors Offer?

Before hiring a landscaper or landscaping contractor, you should start by listing the different tasks you want addressed in your yard and outdoor space. 

Consider the following: 

  • Do you want someone to come in and maintain your lawn, or are you looking for someone to completely revamp the look and feel of your yard?
  • Will you need a full-service or maintenance landscaping company for the job?
  • Are you interested in someone who can build or remodel hardscape elements like water features, patios, decks, etc.?
  • Do you want landscape lighting or other types of outdoor lighting installed?
  • Will you need pesticides or herbicides sprayed or applied to your property?

Landscaping professionals offer many more services than what we typically consider, so it’s wise to narrow down your selection and the scope of your project before choosing a company. 

You’ll want to decide between two primary types of landscaping companies: 

  • Maintenance companies usually provide lawn care services, such as weed-eating, mowing, edging, pruning, and leaf cleanup. Some of these companies will also apply pesticides or use other pest control measures to reduce your risk of infestations. Frequently, maintenance companies are run by sole proprietors or one individual.  
  • Full-service landscaping companies provide many more services, including maintenance work, installation, and outdoor design services. These companies usually have account managers, landscape designers and architects, and a larger crew that can tackle significant projects. If you’re interested in landscape design, outdoor installation projects, or more, you’ll want to choose a full-service landscape company. 

Simple maintenance, like yard dethatching or lawn mowing, can cost less than $100. However, larger maintenance projects can set you back about $1,000. In contrast, hiring a landscape architect costs $4,500. So, fully consider your options and budget before deciding between the two. 

Research Different Companies in Your Area

After deciding what kind of company and services you want, begin your research for a good landscaper. Read online reviews from well-respected companies like the Better Business Bureau. Don’t let a few negative reviews scare you, but steer clear of companies with large numbers of negative reviews. 

Ask friends and family in your area for referrals. Take note of any landscaping companies they like and dislike so that you can stay away from companies that your friends and family had a negative experience with. 

Check local online community boards for advertisements and leads on different landscaping companies in the area. The Yellow Pages are another great place to check for local landscaper and lawn maintenance companies.

Look for Landscaping Companies with Specialities

Once you’ve collected a list of different companies in the area, rule out any companies that don’t specialize in the type of services you want. Don’t choose a company to redesign your outdoor space and flower beds if it doesn’t proudly showcase examples of its work online and advertise itself as a company that does landscaping architecture. 

A company that claims to “do it all!” is not a company you want to go with. Experience in a specific service can mean the difference between lousy landscaping results and exceptional design. 

Interview Multiple Landscape Contractors

Always speak with and interview multiple contractors before making your final decision. Choose at least three landscaping contractors and conduct interviews with them over the phone or by email. 

Ask them the following questions: 

  • How long have you been in business as a landscape contractor?
  • Do you use subcontractors?
  • Is your business fully insured and bonded? Ask for their contractor license number and certificate of insurance. Licensing requirements will differ from state to state.
  • Can you provide me with references for customers who had similar projects?
  • Will you provide a drawing of your plans upfront?
  • Can I see pictures of finished projects that are similar to my project?
  • Are you responsible for pulling the required permits for the project?
  • Do you provide a warranty for your work and the plant material?
  • How do you prefer payment?
  • Can you provide me with care instructions for all plants installed on my property?
  • What makes you different from your competitors?

Vet Your Best Prospects

Once you’ve spoken with multiple companies, verify that what they’ve told you is true. Verify that their licensing and insurance numbers are valid, then call any references provided. 

Ask the references the following questions: 

  • Did the landscaper stay on budget?
  • Was the landscaping crew professional, polite, and easy to work with?
  • Did the project’s quality meet your expectations?
  • Was the project completed on time?

Most importantly, we recommend you ask the reference if they would work with the same company again. 

Check Your Landscaper’s Qualifications

Each landscaper will have their own niche and area of expertise. Depending on their niche, they may need additional licenses to work within your state. In addition to a general landscaping contractor license, they may need one or more of the following depending on your project: 

  • A license or certification for applying fertilizer and pesticide
  • An arborist license to work with trees 
  • A landscape horticulture license for grass, small plants, bushes, and mulch
  • A license or certification for specific categories, like irrigation systems or interior landscaping

You can also ask if they have professional organization certifications from the Professional Landcare Network or the National Association of Landscape Professionals. These certifications are usually not necessary but are nice bonuses that show they have strong backgrounds and skill sets in landscaping. 

Gather Multiple Bids for Your Project

After vetting your list of prospective landscapers, choose a couple of businesses and ask them to assess your property for a bid. 

Call the company and make an appointment. Once the landscaper is over, they can take a look at your property, take measurements, and let you know about any areas of concern. You can also explain what you’re looking for. Then, the landscaper can provide you with a project estimate. 

Prices will vary. If you receive any unusually low bids, don’t jump for joy just yet. You get what you pay for, so the quality of their work may be lower than other companies, or they could add in hidden fees later to make up the difference. 

Discuss Specific Project Details

During your appointment, speak with your landscaping contractor about different design elements and projects you’re interested in them taking on. 

Ask about the following: 

  • How do you tackle large projects? What are your work practices like?
  • What’s your previous experience with this type of project?
  • What kind of materials and equipment will you need for this project?
  • Can you give me a design sketch for the project before starting?
  • How large of a deposit will you need? Most companies ask for about 30% for an initial deposit, so be wary of any company asking for more than 50%. 

Don’t forget to mention any concerns you may have. For example, if a landscaping company is applying pesticides and you have kids or pets, you will want to bring this up to them so they can use child and pet-friendly chemicals. If you’re passionate about natural products being used or want to create a rain garden, mention this as well. 

Determine a Landscaping Schedule

If you’re interested in maintenance landscaping, talk with your landscaper about how often your property needs to be serviced. 

Then, schedule appointments several months out at a time so that you won’t forget to have your outdoor space maintained. Landscaping costs can go up if you let too much time go between appointments, so schedule multiple appointments at once so the company can properly maintain your property. You’ll enjoy your outdoor space more this way and won’t face additional costs for catching up an overgrown, messy yard.

Get all Estimates in Writing

Estimates can provide you with a lot of information beyond what the project itself will cost. If anything is being installed, the company should send someone to your home to measure your property and discuss different plant options with you. The estimate you receive should be in writing and include the following information: 

  • Contact information – The company’s name, telephone number, website, and address at a minimum. 
  • Scope of the project – A detailed description of everything the project will entail, including what will be installed, trimmed, cut, mowed, pruned, etc. 
  • Terms and conditions – These should be written in clear, specific English that is easy to understand. 
  • Total cost – The total cost should include all fees and taxes. If the company cannot provide the total cost due to the type of project, have it specify in the written estimate how much the total cost can exceed the current estimate. 
  • Warranty information – All warranty information for the work performed and plant materials should be listed. 
  • Plant specifications – A detailed list of all plants, including trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennial plants, should be included. The breakdown should indicate the cost per type of plant and how many plants will be installed.

If the estimate is missing a lot of this information, be cautious because this indicates a lack of professionalism, experience, or potential shady business practices. If it’s missing some information, ask that the information is added to the written estimate. 

Final Thoughts

Understandably, the total cost can significantly determine which landscaping contractor you choose. We recommend asking all references if the company stayed on budget. If a company has a reputation for hidden fees or straying from the budget, you’ll want to steer clear and make a different choice. 

With a little homework and preplanning, you can choose a great landscaping company to complete your outdoor project. 

Save yourself time, money, and frustration by finding a great landscaping company, even if it’s a little more expensive. Having the job done right the first time will always be less costly and far less frustrating. 

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