Here’s 4 key things to consider when hiring a landscape contractor.
1 . Professionalism
We’ve all heard about disastrous building projects and work paid for but not completed by the contractor, so choosing a landscaper who operates professionally at a business level is a good first step.
Look for registered master landscapers or members of professional industry organisations such as Landscaping New Zealand (LNZ). Member lists are a good place to begin searching for a local landscaper who can work to the high standard required to pass the accreditation testing and will adhere to the code of conduct required by their organisation.
Not all good landscapers are accredited members of professional organisations though, so social proof offers another way to glean an insight into the professionalism of your local options. Use sites such as No More Cowboys, look for 5 star google reviews or even glowing clients testimonials on their company website.
Even with the best will in the world, things can go wrong so ensure they have the correct insurances in place for the type of work you are requesting (such as public liability and professional indemnity) and also that they will guarantee their work post construction.
With your garden design finished, you will no doubt be keen to get underway, but it is important to be realistic around timings. Good landscapers are often in high demand and there may be a wait before they can begin your garden construction. No matter how good they are, if they can’t meet time frames you are in for a disappointment. Check leads times early in the discussions.
Also allow time in your planning for the contractor to prepare costings for you. A detailed estimate take time to prepare and construction estimators are often pricing multiple projects so allow a lead time. A very quick turn around on pricing may mean it hasn’t been thoroughly thought through.
Ask the landscaper how long your project will take to complete. Makeover shows on television show us whole gardens built in just a few days, but these are often quick fixes. Depending on the size of the project, a quality garden build is more likely to take weeks, or even months.
For most people budget is a big consideration in their landscaping project. No one wants an unexpected budget blow-out, so ask questions and be realistic about what you can afford. Most landscapers will offer either a fixed price estimate or quote - or will build on a charge up basis based on preliminary or estimated costs.
Be sure that all items in your garden plan are either covered in the pricing or clearly tagged out. A cheaper quote may be tempting but can lead to unexpected costs or compromises further down the track.
Cost and quality can come hand in hand, so be clear about what standard of finish and construction specifications you are getting for your money and know what type and quality of materials have been allowed for in the costs.
While searching you are likely to come across many descriptors for landscapers, so understanding the right type of expert to implement your landscaping project is key. Trained landscaping professionals cost more than landscape labourers or gardeners, so if you are looking for someone working at the upper end of the skill set, expect to pay the same rates as you pay other professionals such as master builders or electricians.
If you are looking for a quick fix, tidy up or refresh of an existing garden, a landscape labourer may be all that is required. They are great for doing things like painting and repairing fences, relaying pebble on paths and water blasting patios. They may not have great plant skills but can certainly do site preparation elements such as site clearing and vegetation removal.
If the garden project is botanical or plant focussed, a good landscape gardener may be best for you. They generally have great plant knowledge and the ability to choose healthy plants, as well as an understanding of good horticultural practices for things such as garden bed preparation, installing irrigation systems and planting skills.
If your garden concept has elements such as new fencing, the addition of a deck or patio and also contains a planting element, then someone advertising as a landscaper or landscape contractor should be able to implement or organise all of these components. Expect them to have a good understanding of common construction practices such as building processes and drainage as well as the ability to interpret garden plans and execute the correct spatial and planting layouts.
If you have a large or complex project, require a very high standard of finish, or your garden plan has difficult construction elements, then look for a trained or qualified landscaper or landscape contractors or use a landscape construction company that employs a number of the above. While more expensive than the proverbial man with a wheelbarrow, larger companies will usually have the resources to project manage the job as well, handling liaison with other landscaping professionals such as drainage contractors and earth movers as well as lighting and irrigation experts.