Choosing a contractor

landscaping contractors

Choosing a contractor

Hiring a landscaping contractor can seem like a confusing process, especially if you have never worked with one before. You want to make the right decision if you are going to invest the time and money into working with a landscaping crew. Aside from a fancy looking business card, how can you really tell one apart from the other, as far as skills, talents, credibility, reliability and pricing?
Other companies may over exaggerate their experience, knowledge, skill and capabilities. Can you be certain of their abilities just from a verbal promise? Can they show you past projects that reflect their talents and aptitude? Can you ensure they have the competence to complete your project?

Is you contractor properly insured?
Make sure your landscape professional has Worksafe insurance and public liability

Workman's Compensation protects you in the event a worker has an accident. Without it your home and assets could be at risk if someone is injured on your project; you could be held liable. The contractor should also carry an insurance policy that has a general liability aggregate limit of minimum $1,000,000. This protects your property should something happen to damage it, like a fire. A client should never assume the proper insurance has been obtained, and should always perform due diligence on their projects. If your Landscaping Contractor does not have this insurance you could be held liable for any accidents that happen during your project; hospital costs, law suits, etc. Insurance claims could be filed against the property owner, producing significant risks to your assets.

Is your landscape contractor qualified & register to legally construct your project?

Building a landscape is similar to building renovating a house. You wouldn’t engage a builder who isn’t registered, with the proper authority, to undertake the task. It is commonly unknown that a landscaper must also be registered for most landscape works. As a registered builder, clients know that they are working with a legitimate business, which gives them the confidence that they are hiring a tradesperson with the right skills and qualifications for the job.

This is where it is important that you have a written contract with them so that there is no grey areas in the event of a dispute.

A written contract is better than an interpretation of a conversation between you and the tradie.

Because they have the qualifications, approved by the Victorian Building Authority, which is a recognised successful completion of a building course, you have the advantage of using Registered trades.

When it comes to landscaping companies, experience matters.
• You should check references and compare previous examples of their work to your needs and
• Make sure you consider the following questions:
• Is previous work similar to your project? Does the quality meet your expectations?
• If possible, visit a project that has been done for a few years to see how their work stands up to the test of time.

Are you getting a quote or an estimate?
A quote is usually a firm, set amount to complete the job as discussed. A quote is an estimate of what the job should cost as long as no surprises or add-ons come into the picture.

Have a Realistic Budget in Mind

Beautiful landscaping costs money and takes time, it's only on television that it happens over a weekend for a small amount of money! Start with your wish list and work back from there. If you include everything upfront, a designer can include these things in your plan and then break the construction down into manageable stages. But be realistic, the more construction required, the more expensive the project will be. Items like swimming pools, retaining walls and dry- stone walls cannot be achieved within a $10,000 budget and if a landscaper suggests they can do it for this - be sceptical, you do get what you pay for!

Do I need a permit?

You should also only work with a landscaper familiar with local council and permit requirements when it comes to construction permits. They should be aware of what work will require permits and obtain them with you or on your behalf.Many homeowners are surprised when they are told they need to get a permit in order to build a deck or a pergola. It may seem like kind of a hassle, but it is well worth the small investment of time and money to ensure your deck is built up to code standards and follows local regulations. Building a deck or a pergola without a permit can get you into some serious trouble. Some people find out the hard way by having to pay a hefty fine, tearing down their brand-new deck, or having someone get hurt because of faulty construction. Building a deck or pergola without a permit can also come back to haunt you when it is time to sell your house. Contractors can lose their licenses if they build without permits.
The best option is to work within the rules and get a permit. In most cases the inspectors are very helpful and willing to work with you to make sure you end up with a great deck that meets all the code.
What do permits cost?
The cost of obtaining a permit will vary from each council or surveyor to the next but will likely pale in comparison to any fines issued for non-compliance. The additional risk of not obtaining a permit is that your structure may be unsound and could cause injuries to family or friends so whatever the permits cost, it's likely to be a small price to pay for the reassurance it brings.

Can I see work completed by my contractor or speak with previous customers?
It would be rare to encounter a contractor who hasn’t completed at least a few projects prior to your meeting. A contractor should be willing and able to give you an address or two at which they have completed work. In many cases, the homeowner is willing to be contacted directly and offer a testimonial about the work performed.

Time frame and cost

These are generally two factors that people base their selection on. It is worth considering that quality landscapers are not generally available immediately nor will they be the cheapest; however, if you are looking for quality and experience these should be at the top of your selection criteria.
If you take these points into consideration and select the right landscaping contractor, not only will you end up with the garden you desire, but it will ensure your capital input will be a sound long-term investment.

Master Builders Association