Are you thinking about starting a landscape project? Here is what you need to know!

It has recently been brought to my attention that I should write blog on helping home owners with advice on successfully completing a landscaping project.  The list of frequently asked questions is a lengthy one.  Where do you start? Do you need permits? How do know that the contractor we hired is honest and reliable? In this article I will attempt to answer most of these queries so that you may head into your next big project with knowledge and confidence.

Choosing the right contractor starts with finding one.  There are many ways to do this.  The internet holds a cornucopia of advertisements for landscaping professionals, the same can be said about printed ads in newspapers and industry specific magazines. The best course of action at this juncture would be to go directly to the source, the suppliers.  They are the best resource for finding you the best and most qualified contractor for your project.  Not to mention they can give ideas, show you products, and can even help with an idea of a typical cost for a project.

It is advisable to narrow your search down to a minimum of three contractors. Look at their website, call and speak with a representative.  This is an important step that will help you make an informed decision. Do not be hoodwinked by pretty pictures.  Be wary of contractors who do not provide any information on their process and guidelines.  Different contractors have different styles and it will show in their work.

Once you decided on the right fit for your needs, contact the company for a free estimate?  Key word is free.  I have heard that there are contractors that will charge a fee for their time to see your project. To me that’s the cost of doing business. It should be free.

The next step is choosing the materials you want to use in your project.  Go straight to the manufacturer and request catalogues, or take a stroll through the grounds and take a look at the products in person, sometimes seeing something in a catalogue isn’t the same as actually being able to feel and touch the materials.  This will be a permanent addition to your home, so take the time to be confident in your choice.  The contractor is an invaluable source of advice in this process, they have years of experience to lean on when helping make the right decision.

Now comes the design process.  Sit down with your contractor and go over the ideas that you have come up with for your project.  There is a design fee that usually starts anywhere from $250-1500 for a 2 dimensional plan or up to $6000 for a 3D design depending how large and intricate the plan needs to be.

Make sure that the contractor provides you with information on their insurance policy as well as any WSIB information.  Any professional will with no hesitation give you this information.  You need to make sure you are protected from being sued for a contractor getting hurt on your property.   Ask if you need permits and inquire if the contractor part of any organizations that are within the industry.  These contractors are usually part of large associations like Landscape Ontario or ICPI.

Next is the proposal, it needs to be in depth and should give you installation information down to contract terms and conditions.  Also payment terms need to be clear. Typically 25% down and 25% job start and 25% at the three quarter completion than remainder at completion.

Next step is to go see the contractor’s references. This is a crucial step.  Don’t just call them, ask to go and see the project. Any homeowner will be pleased at showing their great landscape to you for simple pride that they were part of the designed project.