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Landscaping: When to go pro

By: Ellen Lampe


It’s that time of year when time is spent outside and homeowners want their yards and gardens to be in tip top shape. Maintaining and grooming the good parts of a yard and weeding out the bad can seem like an endless chore in which it’s impossible to keep up. 

Even the most handy DIY folks and the best green thumbs can benefit from professional help in their yards. Don’t believe us? According to a survey conducted near the end of 2017 by the National Association of Landscape Professionals, 40 percent of Americans with a lawn or landscape had hired a professional within the past year. Of those who hired professional help, 52 percent did so to help their lawn or landscape look better, 41 percent wanted to save time and 30 percent wanted to enjoy their yard more. The most common services for which professionals were hired included tree care, mowing, lawn pest control, and weed prevention and control.

The average homeowner may be capable of planting a flower bed or mulching, but designing and installing landscaping is far more advanced and laborious. Experts are recommended when it comes to lighting, pools, outdoor kitchens, lawn care and irrigation. Hiring skilled labor for projects such as these can avoid expensive mishaps, it ensures the project is done in a quality and professional manner, and it can dramatically improve the resale value of a home if done correctly.

It’s an investment in which you and your family will be spending a lot of time, so choosing the right company for the job is crucial. We’re here to help you with that decision-making process.

First, determine your goals. If you are not sure what your specific goals are, hiring a landscape architect is a great place to start. A landscape architect can help you come up with an appropriate plan of action for your unique space, and can help streamline the process of attaining a pristine yard. 

Next, find a contractor who specializes in what you need. For example, some contractors’ area of expertise involves hardscapes [fences, decks, patios, retaining walls, etc.], while others may focus on plantscapes [gardens, lawns, types of plants best for your yard, etc.]. 

Word of mouth is a powerful tool and a personal testimony can go a long way. Ask friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc., if they have anyone to recommend. If you’re striking out when asking around, try visiting a local garden shop or nursery, which is a good place for recommendations.

While researching a contractor, here are some things to consider: How many years have they been in business? Are they licensed and insured? What kind of training, degrees or certificates do they have? Do they have a portfolio of past projects? Can they provide a drawing of your project? How diverse is their experience? How do they approach their projects? Do they hire subcontractors? Do they know about your city and neighborhood’s permits and codes? Do they offer any guarantees/warranties? What is the estimated cost and length of the project? 

Ask if they are willing visit your property for a consultation, and be prepared with a list of questions. Try to gauge their personality, passion, professionalism and knowledge of the subject matter through the answers they provide. Your first impression will give you a good idea of who you’re working with, but asking for and consulting references will bring additional peace of mind. 

Once you receive a quote, be sure to carefully read all the fine print. It should cover every detail of the project with specific numbers and figures, outline any permits that will need to be obtained, a project timeline and cost, and which things will be their responsibility as opposed to the homeowner’s responsibility. Nothing should be left unsaid, and if something is, don’t hesitate to request it in writing. 

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