Post details: Locating a Landscaping Pro - Part 2


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Locating a Landscaping Pro - Part 2

Choosing Wisely

To begin your search for the right landscape pro, ask family and friends for references. Check the Yellow Pages of your local telephone directory for a listing of firms, and contact local, state, or national trade associations for referrals. (One resource is the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, 800-395-ALCA.)

When you've gathered a number of names, interview several to find out more about their services. Plan to speak to them by phone first, and narrow the list further before you make appointments to meet in person.

Selection CriteriaSelection Criteria

- If you are seeking help in the design phase, know what you want out of your landscape, and have a budget in mind. Determine your priorities, such as an area for entertaining, an extension of your living space, a low-maintenance landscape, or a high-impact, colorful design.
- Decide what phases of the project you need help with. In addition to plant material, you may also want structures and other hardscape features, including patios, decks, retaining walls, gazebos, arbors, fences, and irrigation systems.
- Find out how long the company has been in business. Employees should have either college educations in ornamental horticulture or several years of landscaping experience. Look for companies that are active members in national or state landscape associations. Such affiliations indicate that a company is interested in excellence and being progressive.
- Select a landscape company that is licensed or certified. Your state's laws may require that contractors be licensed or certified. A valid license or certificate indicates that the person is legally accountable and has passed examinations demonstrating experience, knowledge, and a level of professionalism.
- Make sure a contractor is properly insured. A firm should offer proof of insurance for workers' compensation, liability, and vehicles. Check the limits and policy expiration dates. Ask what kind of safety program the contractor uses to minimize accidents. You could be liable for accidents that occur on your property in some circumstances.
- Ask the firm for a list of references. Check out completed projects to see if the work is of the size, style, and quality you desire. If possible, visit a job in progress, ideally one similar in scope and style to the work you envision. You want to hire a company that does good work and demonstrates professionalism and integrity. Ask the homeowner if the crew is neat in doing the work and in cleaning up.
- Ask the company to provide a written plan and/or contract. Prior to making any agreement, have the contractor, designer, and/or architect prepare the details in writing. This plan can include the design, the plant material to be used, all costs, a timetable, and the terms of payment. You have the right to amend the contract. If a guarantee is offered, find out exactly what is covered and what is not and how long the guarantee remains in effect.
-Determine who will be responsible for maintenance and upkeep once the project is completed. Some contractors, for example, offer ongoing maintenance as part of their services.

Better Homes and Gardens



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