TOP FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN SELECTING A LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR

TOP FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN SELECTING A LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR

REPUTATION: 
In this post, we will suggest several recommendations you can do to protect yourself and ensure you have a fantastic building experience. Unfortunately, the construction industry has a reputation for being unprofessional and unrefined. With a little homework and research, you will be able to find the right partner.

Ask potential Landscape Contractors for referrals of work done IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS. You want to know what current customers are experiencing, and how they are being treated. When business is plentiful, too many contractors think it’s OK to burn bridges, cut corners, and do the bare minimum.

Online reviews, on Google, Yahoo, Yelp and building communities like Houzz.com are great places to look. Look for trends. Are clients thrilled, or are they frustrated? Are there a few negative reviews included? Remember that most satisfied people don’t take the time to write positive reviews, but people who are upset make sure everyone else knows about it. You can tell a lot by the tone of the negative review.

If you have concerns about feedback or negative reviews, be respectful of the Contractor and ask for their input. There are two sides to every story!

BUDGET:
The sooner your Landscape Contractor asks for your budget parameters, the better things will be! Once your Contractor understands the budget, they can begin to steer the conversation in a direction that is realistic. Recognize that the Contractor NEEDS to know what you are prepared to invest!  Be honest with them!

If you say you have $100,000.00, and you want a 20’x40’ gunite swimming pool, spa, paver patios, fire feature, lights, outdoor kitchen and trees and plants, you need to know that is unrealistic.

This is where the dance happens and it requires active participation from both parties. A qualified and experienced Landscape Contractor should be able to quickly provide Line Item budget quotes for each of the areas you are interested in. This can be written down, and once the items are added up, you can either re-adjust your budget, or prioritize features.

You will want to assess how well the Contractor knows their numbers! Contractors who have experience installing the amenities you are asking for will know what they cost. Recognize that these initial numbers are starting points, and that as Design progresses, unit costs may increase or decrease.

A final note on budget. On larger projects, it is not uncommon to start at a certain budget number, and as collaboration, brainstorming, and what-if’s are explored, that original number may no longer be relevant. As long as your Landscape Contractor is willing to provide Line Item or Unit Costs to you, you can manage the final budget.

DESIGN:
Landscape Contractors specialize in various landscape styles, work well with a certain clientele or demographic, and have capabilities from simple to complex installations.

Many landscapers install the same project 100 times over. They use the same plants and trees, the same rocks, with similar design features. WHY? Because this is what they are comfortable with, it’s what they know. They have a comfort zone they are not comfortable traveling outside of.

A major factor in your Decision Criteria is how well your Landscape Contractor gets YOU, YOUR vision, and YOUR budget! Why would you start a relationship with someone who doesn’t understand your ultimate vision, your dream? That’s guaranteed frustration!

Ask your potential Landscape Contractor to dream with you a little, to explore possibilities and what-if’s.  How do they do? Do you like their ideas or are they at a loss for words? Ask them about recent projects, and unique things they did to satisfy an owners’ request.

Certain Landscape Contractors thrive in this environment, and they get energized by the challenge. They will rise to the occasion. Ask them to visit one of their job sites, look at their social media accounts and past work. Are they winning awards, getting recognition, and constantly improving their work product? Can they adapt to the special and unique requirements of your project?

VALUE: 
This is a hard thing to quantify and qualify, but think through this before you begin your research. What do you value? Is it PRICE, REPUTATION, RELIABILITY, CREATIVITY, ABILITY TO HIT DEADLINES, or an INTEGRATED SOLUTION?  Each one of these Value Propositions will likely require a Contractor that specializes in this area.

If you want a Landscape Contractor that can provide all the Design, Budgeting, Materials Selection, Installation and Project Management in-house, you will have a limited number of qualified Contractors to vet. If you want CREATIVITY, that might mean you need to be prepared to deal with a Contractor that isn’t well organized and shows up when they want. Know in advance what you VALUE, and then interview perspective Landscape Contractors based on your criteria.

THE LANDSCAPING TRENDS OF 2017 AS WE SEE IT

THE LANDSCAPING TRENDS OF 2017 AS WE SEE IT

As we have worked closely with our clients on our 2017 projects, it has become obvious that people crave outdoor spaces that invite activity, that are unique, and that complement the style of their house and their personal preferences. 2017 is all about customization!

HARDSCAPING:

This is the area of the landscape that is low maintenance, and generally used for patios, decks, sidewalks and gathering areas. Because of the harsh Utah environment, most people are avoiding cement because it cracks.

Pavers and natural stone have become the new standard. These products look amazing, and handle the elements nicely. Of course, installation techniques and using the right product for our climate is critical. These hardscape spaces set the tone for the rest of the landscape. Upgrading in these areas is money well spent!

We are also designing seat walls, or privacy walls, into every project we work on. These walls, while informal, provide a smooth transition through spaces. Again, these walls can be built with pavers, stone, stucco or brick.  Stone usually works best for the seat wall cap as it is smoother, and can have the edges smoothed, like a bullnose. Additionally, low voltage LED lights can be placed under the cap providing a dramatic impact.

Most of these walls, or structures, will use similar materials as found on the house. If the materials differ too much, the harmony and complementary nature of finishes creates imbalance.

LIGHTING:

Now that LED lights have become more affordable, and more pleasing with the color spectrum illumination, every project we are working on has lights. This investment pays dividends as the sun sets and the sky darkens. Working with a designer who knows what products are available in the market, the impact light can have whether as an uplight, downlight, or moodlight makes all the difference.

Lights can be installed in zones and from your smart phone, you can have total control over light quality (bright or dim) and even color. Some zones can be brighter while others are more soft. If you are looking to add something special to your landscape, DO NOT overlook lights. And, because of the technology, LED lights last 10-15 years and have minimal electrical demands.

STRUCTURES:

 

We are seeing the biggest growth in this area. Our clients are demanding well designed, and structurally reliable and elegant solutions for their outdoor spaces. Whether it’s a pool house, a covered pavilion, a covered outdoor kitchen, tree houses or even private shooting ranges, we are being asked to design, locate and construct these structures as part of an integrated solution.

Rarely are vinyl pavilions or low budget timber structures discussed. They simply don’t perform or produce the desired results. Fully enclosed is now the norm- no more trellis and lattice construction. Our clients want protected places, shingled roofs that offer respite from sun, rain and snow. These outdoor structures are being “classed up”, with custom curtains and hardware, recessed LED lighting, articulating ceiling fans, fireplaces, granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances that perform in outdoor environments.

WHAT AWARDS CAN YOUR LANDSCAPER CLAIM? AND, WHY DOES IT EVEN MATTER?

WHAT AWARDS CAN YOUR LANDSCAPER CLAIM? AND, WHY DOES IT EVEN MATTER?

You may wonder why this would be an important consideration when choosing a Landscape Contractor. The value of this question depends on what you want. If all you care about is sprinklers, concrete, grass and plants, this may not matter to you. However, if you view your landscape as a major investment in the value of your home, and a contributor to your quality of life, this question becomes more meaningful.

Many claim to be the best. You see the signs and slogans everywhere. “Best Ice Cream”, “Best Burger on the PLANET”, “Best Auto Dealership in The West”, “Utah’s Best Landscape Contractor”……  While this may be true, what evidence does the person, or business claiming this designation have?  Say’s who is the question I often ask.  This is where the real value of Awards, Competitions and Recognition play out.

Any person or company that can support their claim is a company that deserves closer inspection.  The fastest way to prove a claim is to point to an award or recognition. In the State of Utah, we have an Award called “BEST OF STATE”. This award is bestowed on organizations that meet certain guidelines and criteria, and are evaluated by an independent panel of judges.  If a company claims “Best in Utah”, and they have received the “BEST OF STATE” award recently, that is a legitimate claim.

Let’s say you value creativity, and you want a company that is innovative and unique in their approach to landscape design.  You might consider asking them if they have won any awards or received recognition for their creativity.  The answers may vary, but it will be obvious if they meet the criteria you are looking for.  Imagine you plan on investing $100,000.00 into your landscape.  If the contractor responds enthusiastically they have won “2016 Orem Beautification Award”, that might be an indicator of experience and qualifications.  On the other hand, your contractor might say “We are a finalist in the HGTV Ultimate Outdoor Award competition for the 2nd year in a row. We were handpicked by HGTV staff, nominated and through judging, made it to national finals, as one of 6 contractors in the country.” WOW, that’s a big deal!  That is information that you can trust, and that should indicate you are dealing with a reputable contractor who can justify their claims.

Award, recognition and reputation matter because these contractors have paid the price to perfect their craft.  Independent, non-biased judges and subject matter experts have deemed this contractor worthy of a specific recognition.  When done on a national and international level, that means this contractor can really back up the claims they are making.  It means that you know you are dealing with a pro, a company that takes their work seriously, a company that cares about the things that matter to you.

So, next time you want to hire a contractor, ask them a few questions.  Has your work been featured in any magazines or publications?  What awards have you won RECENTLY? How has your company been recognized? Who besides you, Mr. Smith, says you guys create award-winning work. The answers might surprise you.