It has recently been brought to my attention that I should write a blog on helping home owners on the steps they should take to have a successful landscape project completed.  Where do we start?  Do we need permits?  How do we know that the contractor is not going to rip us off?  The list of questions can go on for days.  Well listen up, and I will fill you in on how you should go about getting the product that you paid for,First of all I’ve heard many different ways and reasons for how to pick the contractors that you want to bid for your business . Do we look online?  Do we pick the largest add, maybe they do better work?  Or I see there trucks everywhere?  They must be good?   The truth is there is no better way to find the right contractor than 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 you ideas, show you products, and can even help with an idea of a  typical cost for a project. This can help you with not getting carried away with design and possibly wasting a contractors much needed time.  Next you should look at three contractors minimum. Check out their website!!!  Do they even have one? if not why?   This is an important tool for you to not only see all the nice pictures, but to see if there is any information on the site that could actually help you make that informed decision.  If there whole site has pictures but no info that can educate you on the process of what or how they install there work, that would help me make a decision and move on to the next contractor.  Also does the site reflect your personality?  Is the work flashy?  Or is it very monochromatic?  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 there time to see your project. To me that’s the cost of doing business. It should be free.

By this point you should already have the paver’s, wall stones picked out that you find interesting and that fits your taste. This helps the contractor not having to show you 10 different catalogues and overwhelming you with choice.  Tell the contractor what your intentions are for the space. Then listen to what the contractors suggestions are. This is a very important step. 9 times out of 10 the contractor will see things that you didn’t see or consider, example elevation, yard water run off, and maybe offer some tips to use these unforeseen’s into positive design aspects.

Next expect a design! This may be one if not the most important aspects of the vision for your project. A contractor can visualize the space in his mind, but there is no way you can see that vision, unless you can “mind read”!  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.  I don’t know about you but I have never seen a house built with out a plan and drawings. Same should be said with landscaping.  Now this plan will have a fee initially but most companies will remove this fee when hired.  They will take the cost you paid of the job price.   This does not apply when hiring a landscape designer that freelances.  That is there sole business and they need to be compensated for there efforts.

The next meeting should be with a completed design, and the following.  Their certifications and insurance information as well as WSIB info.  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.  I’m sure you have seen Mike Holmes advocating this point and its true.  But if you are unsure call the city and they will be glad to give you the right answer’s.  Also is 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.

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 there great landscape to you for simple pride that they were part of the designed project.  I hope this helps you get that project under way and helps prevent those fly by nighters from stealing your hard earned money!