Choosing a contractor
Hiring a landscaper contractor can seem like a confusing process, especially if you have never worked with one before. You want to make just 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 your contractor a member of Landscaping Victoria?
Make sure the professional you select a member of Landscaping Victoria. This will provide you with some protection in case things go wrong.
Every homeowner wants to find the best price for their project, however, if you hire a non member you have no assurance of the project's quality - or even if the project will be finished at all. Examples of complaints you cannot file if you are working with someone who is not a member of Landscaping Victoria:
• Fails to fulfil the terms of the agreement
• Has poor construction or workmanship
• Abandons contract or refuses to perform
• Fails to pay subcontractors or material suppliers
• Violates building codes or doesn't comply with safety
Make sure your landscape professional has Worksafe insurance and public liability
Is you contractor properly insured?
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 a 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 Landscape 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.
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.
A beautiful landscape costs money and takes time, it's only on television that it happens over a weekend for a little bit 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, 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 has 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 landscape contractor, not only will you end up with the garden you desire but will ensure your capital input will be a sound long term investment.