How To Hire A Landscape Professional
Where Should You Start?
If your interest is in a residential landscape…read on. If you are looking for commercial landscape maintenance, click here.
The best place to begin is by defining your needs. Get an idea of what you might want. Look through magazines and websites and collect pictures of what you like. Explain your desires to your landscape designer, but remember to keep an open mind. A professional may have suggestions that you have not considered.
Landscaping can do wonders to improve your home from an aesthetic viewpoint by introducing colorful shrubs and beautiful trees and plants. It can also add interest and useful outdoor living space through the addition of decks, patios, walkways, and pools. Additionally, hiring a landscape maintenance firm to take care of your new or existing landscape can protect your investment.
Come up with a rough budget. There are great ideas to fit any size budget. If you are planning a large, extensive project, talk to your bank or lender.
Finding A Landscape Professional
We offer a free referral service on this website to assist you in finding members of the Ohio Landscape Association. You can also seek referrals from friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Don’t be afraid to ask the owner of a property that you admire who their landscape professional is. Most people will be flattered by the request. When you see a contractor working in your neighborhood and you like the work, write down the contact information. Many professional contractors have their trucks marked with their logo and their phone number.
What To Look For And What To Ask
Landscaping adds comfort, convenience, value and space to one of your most precious assets—your home. Be sure to take care when choosing a company to work with. There are many contractors that will want your business. Before you select a contractor, there are several important things to consider when you are planning to have a new landscape installed or hiring a professional company to care for your existing landscape.
Is your prospect a licensed business? The State of Ohio does not issue a "Landscape Contractor's License," but there are other legal requirements. Ask the contractor if they have a Nursery Dealers Certificate. This is required of landscape contractors to sell plant material to you (including in your landscape) by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). If they will be applying any chemicals such as an herbicide (i.e. Roundup®), a pre-emergent (i.e. crabgrass preventer), or pesticide (i.e. Grubex™) the contractor must have an Applicator’s License, also from the ODA. Most landscape products and services are taxable under the Ohio Sales Tax Laws. Be suspicious of a company that does not charge sales tax. A federal identification number also helps to substantiate that a company is a real business.
Are they insured? Ask to see proof of Business Liability Insurance and Workers’ Compensation Coverage. Protect yourself and your investment. Property owners can find themselves liable if an uninsured contractor causes damage or an uninsured employee gets injured on your property.
Ask what professional credentials / affiliations they have. Membership in a trade association, such as the Ohio Landscape Association is not a guarantee, but it is an indication that they are serious about their professionalism. The Ohio Landscape Association’s primary purpose is education, so many of our members join to advantage of our educational opportunities. Ask whether they have completed a certification program or have certified staff. In Ohio, there are a few designations available: Certified Landscape Technician (CLT), Certified Landscape Professional (CLP), and the Ohio Certified Nursery Technician (OCNT). These designations are earned by individuals that can demonstrate a high level of knowledge and competency in their field.
Do they appear professional? A professional arrives on time, has a neat appearance, asks questions and listens to your needs, takes pictures or draws sketches of your property and/or takes notes while there. Did they arrive in a clean vehicle? Is their staff uniformed or required to follow a dress code?
Review their portfolio. Landscape contractors can show you photographs of the projects that have completed and of properties they maintain. This is a great start to see if you like their work.
Get an estimate. Estimates should be provided in written format and should be detailed as to what is and what is not included. If it is more than you can afford, see where you can trim things down. Or better yet, don’t comprise what you really want, break the project into stages and complete it one section at a time
Maintenance and snowplow contracts will have a detailed description of the services that will be provided and a start and stop date for the specified services.
How are their communication skills? It is important that you establish a good working relationship with your landscape contractor. Are they a good listener? Do they offer solutions to your problems and constructive criticism of your ideas? Do you feel comfortable with the individual that you will be working with?
What kind of services do they offer? Is the skill and experience level of the contractor compatible with the type of work you are looking for?
Expect to pay for a good design. It takes considerable time, talent and expert knowledge to create a landscape design that is both aesthetically pleasing but also functionally sound. Professionals should be compensated for their time.
Ask questions. Ask the contractor to explain plans, specs and company procedures to you. If you compare estimates, be sure to consider any differences in plans and scope of work. Select the contractor with a good track record and experience with your type of project. Be wary of an exceptionally low price. You will save time and money in the long run by having the project completed the right way, the first time!
Ask for a list of references. Be sure that it includes people with landscape projects similar to what you are considering. Take the time to contact these references. Ask if the contractor maintained effective communication throughout the project. Did they provide a safe and neat jobsite for your family members and pets? Did they clean up after themselves? Were delays kept to a minimum? (Please remember that weather delays are inevitable.) Was the job completed within budget? Did the contractor make sure the job met or exceeded all building codes and regulations? Did they stand behind their work and respond promptly to service requests and questions? Visit or drive by a few of the sites if possible. Don’t forget the age old question, “Would you hire this contractor again?”
Check with consumer protection agencies. See if any unresolved complaints have been made against the contractor. We also recommend checking with your community’s building department to see if they've received any complaints; also verify they have the appropriate registrations with your municipality, if needed.
Get a contract. A reputable firm provides you with a contract specifying estimated start and completion dates. It should include all the details of the job--the more detail the better. It should include the amount of the deposit required, as well as any scheduled payments during the job and terms upon completion. The contract should include all warranties offered. What is covered and what isn't? What is the length of the warranty?
Making The Decision
You have done your homework. If you feel comfortable with the contractor you have selected, you should have a rewarding experience and a beautiful outdoor living space. Don’t forget to check our on-line referral service to find members of the Ohio Landscape Association. Good Luck!