What Consumers Look for When Choosing Landscape, Lawn/Tree Care Professionals
A yard and garden upgrade is becoming as important to Americans as other popular home improvements, such as kitchen and bath renovations. In 2007, the National Gardening Association reported that 71% of all US households, 82 million households, participated in one or more types of lawn and garden activities. Consumers spent an average of $428 per household. To ensure that your money is effectively used when making outdoor home improvements, work with a competent landscape professional. Just like when you search for an architect or builder, the search for a good landscape professional requires the same dedication and homework.
The best place to begin is by defining your needs. Aesthetically, landscaping can do wonders to improve your home by introducing colorful shrubs, beautiful trees and plants. Professional landscaping can add interest and useful space to your yard through the addition of decks, patios, walkways, and pools. A landscape professional must have both the knowledge and experience to successfully complete your job.
Questions to Ask
The American Nursery and Landscaping Association (ANLA) recommends that you consider the following when searching for a landscape service:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do they give you a contract? The law requires that home improvement contracts over $500 must be in writing. But even if your job is less than this amount, you should insist on a written contract for your own protection. A contract should contain: the name, address, license number, and telephone number of the contractor; a complete description of the work to be done, materials to be used (including quantities and brand names); approximate date when work will begin and be completed; a statement that the contractor will do any necessary clean up and removal of debris after the job is completed; a “Notice to Owner” explaining the state’s mechanics’ lien laws and the ways to protect yourself and your property; a statement that the contractor will furnish a payment and performance bond or joint control company, if this has been agreed upon; any guarantees made verbally on the work to be done or the materials to be used.
- 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 consider a landscape professional when your project involves major construction. A landscaper can provide invaluable help with plant selection for your soil type, ideas to help lower your utility bills, advice on how to maintain your landscape and ideas to help you get your project started. A good landscape will help you turn your yard or garden into a more useful, integrated part of your home. By hiring a landscape professional you avoid the nightmares caused by unprofessional service.
Unprofessional landscaping can not only be visually unappealing but can actually cause structural damage to your property. For example: Planting trees to close to your home or areas that have concrete can cause damage to your property in the future as the tree grows. The roots can cause structural damage to your foundation and areas that are hardscaped (driveways, sidewalks, patios, etc.). Tree branches that are too close to your home or garage may cause damage to your roof, gutters and the exterior. Also, plantings that are improperly angled around your home can affect the flow of water and may eventually cause water damage to your basement.
To find a Nebraska Nursery and Landscape Association member, click here!