Tips for Hiring Contractors

Tips for Hiring Contractors
Questions to Ask

The American Nursery and Landscaping Association (ANLA) recommends that you consider the following when searching for a landscape service:

1. Is your prospect a licensed business? Ask to see if they have a federal identification number that designates it as a real business, whether they have completed any certification program offered in your state, and if they are insured. Their qualification statement should list references, licensing information and association membership.

2. Do they appear professional? The professional landscaper arrives on time, takes pictures or draws sketches of your property while there, and uses uniformed workers and clean equipment.

3. What kind of services do they offer? Professional firms usually offer a variety of services, from design and installation to maintenance programs that include color rotations, insect/disease control and irrigation. A contractor who does it all could save you time and money in the long run.

4. How are their communication skills? It is important that you establish a good working relationship at the outset of the project. A positive approach to customer communications begins with a written estimate which explains what services and materials and plant sizes are provided, for what price, and includes the necessary details of weed control, edging, mulching and cleanup. Be sure to find out their anticipated work schedule, and any warranties for plants that die as a result of conditions within their control.

5. Do they give you a contract? A reputable firm provides you with a contract specifying start and completion dates. If a deposit is required, the contract could show that the money is held in escrow at a specific bank.

6. Can they provide customer references and referrals? Referrals can provide an independent source for the answers to such questions as, the number of years the company has been in business, whether they use trained installers and the competence of the on-site supervisor. It is best that you visit a few sites they've worked on before committing to any company.

ANLA recommends that you definitely consider a landscape professional if your project involves major construction. A landscaper can also provide invaluable help in plant selection for your soil type or to help lower your utility bills, advice on how to maintain your landscape, or ideas to help get you started on your project. A good landscaper can help you turn your yard or garden into a more useful, integrated part of your home, while avoiding the nightmares caused by unprofessional services.

Tips for Hiring a Landscape or Lawn Maintenance Professional

  • Before contracting for landscape (or any) work, ask for references, go look at the work, follow up and talk with the owners to ensure their satisfaction with the business relationship.
  • Get the contract, guarantees/warranties in writing.
  • Ask if they carry insurances for general liability, vehicles, workers compensation, and unemployment. Under certain circumstances the owner could be liable for accidents occurring on his/her property if the contractor is not insured.
  • Do they have the appropriate local business licenses? A state Nursery Handlers License (required for anyone handling nursery stock)? A pesticide applicators license for pesticide spraying?
  • Is their equipment well maintained? Are their vehicles clean? Are their workers neat in appearance?   
  • Be absolutely clear about the terms of payment and the date of completion.
  • Make certain the company office address and phone number are on the document/contract and know the name of the representative or designer who worked with you.

Tips for Hiring a Tree Care Professional
From the International Society of Arboriculture
An arborist is a specialist in the care of individual trees. Just like a doctor, an arborist is the person most qualified and knowledgeable to assess the health of your trees. Arborists, like doctors, are trained and equipped to provide a prognosis of their patients.

Arborists provide a variety of services, which include the following:
  • Pruning: An arborist can determine what type of pruning is necessary to maintain or improve the health, appearance and safety of your trees.
  • Removal: Always a last resort, tree removal is necessary under some circumstances. Arborists can best advice homeowners about these situations.
  • Emergency Tree Care: Storms may cause damage to limbs. A professional arborist is trained to recognize potential hazards that may not be visible to the average homeowner. 
  • Planting: - Arborists can recommend what types of trees are appropriate for different conditions. They assess soil types and sun conditions, so homeowners can select trees that will best flourish in a particular landscape.
  • Other Services: - Arborists, like doctors, can provide specialty services, including diagnosis, insect control and treatment of various diseases. Arborists are also specialists in fertilization, aeration, cabling, bracing and the installation of lighting protection systems.

While selecting an Arborist, please use the following tips: 
  • Ask for more than one reference - Why allow someone to perform unnecessary surgery on your landscape without being certain it is the best course of action?
  • Be wary of individuals who go door – to - door and offer bargains for performing tree care. “Qualified arborists” are generally too busy to solicit business in this manner.
  • Don’t always accept the lowest bid - Quality workmanship may be slightly more expensive but in the long run saves money. Poor workmanship leads to complications that can damage trees, potentially causing homeowners more in the long run!
  • Ask for proof of insurance - both personal and property damage as well as workers’ compensation.
  • Look for professional credentials - Arborists should be members of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and the National Arborist Association (NAA) not to mention local associations that are affiliated with the arborist industry. These credentials are similar to diplomas in a doctor’s office. These professional credentials represent the highest standards of “Tree Care Excellence.”