Ask a Professional – Advice for Hiring Contractors

In today’s landscaping industry there is so much competition that the homeowner is often overwhelmed.  When choosing the right professional for your landscaping project there are many factors to consider. The professional you chose should be someone who has experience in the industry as well as a passion for the work.

I started as an independent contractor and grew my business from seed with hard work and determination.  When choosing Platinum Stone you are you choosing a great firm with years of experience.

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.

Choosing the right contractor

It’s spring and everyone is calling every contractor in the phone book, but how do you know which one to call? Do you go with the company with the largest advertising? Or do you go with who is a part of the BBB. Maybe they are too expensive and charge a crazy price, with large size advertisement. Maybe we should pick a contractor with a smaller advertisement!  They might be cheaper. Or this is my favorite! Call all the contractors and tell them what we want over the phone and ask “how much per square foot”. Well the question I have for you is, “how much is a car” they all have wheels and drive but not created equal. Here are some tips next time you are hiring a landscape contractor. Tip number 1) if the contractor gives you a price per square foot get rid of him. He clearly does not know what his costs are and he has not given you a material range cost. This should narrow your search by 50-75% of landscape contractors. The reason we don’t charge by square foot is because every job is different. A patio in the backyard with no machine access can’t be the same price as doing a front walkway of 60 square feet. A contractor that operates at $2000 a day can’t start his trucks and send his crew for a 60 square foot walkway for less than $3000. So therefore don’t go by square foot pricing. Tip 2) if the contractor is giving you an estimate over the phone without coming to see the project get rid of him. Every project has different obstacles to overcome and you can’t account for them over the phone. This is where the homeowners get taken for more than what was proposed by the contractor.

The best way to find a reputable contractor is to speak to a few stone suppliers and ask there recommendations, than go to websites and look at the work and see what suits your taste. If the contractor does not have one get rid of him. In this day and age it’s expected to have one if you are a true professional. Next is the contractor part of any professional associations? You ask any professional if they want to better the industry and they all will give you the same answer,  And are usually all part of similar associations. Next is the contractor a certified interlocking stone installer?  This is a big one. I would never let a dentist do my plumbing nor would I let a non certified dentist work on my teeth. These are just a few tips on helping you find the right contractor! Don’t just ask for referrals ask to look at the project they are currently working on and see for your self. Next ask what there warranty is? Is it a two year or a five year. How long have they been in business? If they have only been in business for 2 years and are offering a 5 year warranty get rid of them. They probably won’t be in business long enough to fix there mess. Last but not least if the contractor does not give you a design to go from when hired than you really don’t know what you are getting. Also a estimate on a card! What’s that nonsense. The proposal should be so indepth that you could probably teach the other 50% of contractors how the job should be completed. Well hope this sheds some light and helps you find the right contractor for your project!