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Installation Guide to Hiring Help:
Finding the Right Contractors for Your Project

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Having a strategy for all of the landscape projects you have in mind will help you prioritize and budget the work.

Whether you plan to do-it-yourself or hire a professional for your renovation projects, you’ll likely have a lot of details to dial in on. Selecting specific materials — travertine or bluestone for the patio, oak or Ipe for the deck — can be done with help from a pro or a few trips to the construction supplies store. 

We always suggest testing the scale of a new feature or area before you begin building. Using a temporary marking spray (an inexpensive buy online or at your local home improvement shop), measure and mock up the areas on your plan in real life. Play with this a bit and be sure to note the ideal dimensions.

 

Who to call for help

When you’re ready to begin your outdoor renovations, knowing where to turn can be a challenge. You may need different specialists for various aspects of a project. Understanding the typical flow of a landscape project may help.

 
 

Now, on to the experts. You have options for installing new enhancements.

Landscape Contractors 

Licensed contractors are adept at projects involving heavy land manipulation, water and electrical systems, and structural installations. Contractors will usually need a well-developed plan in hand before they can begin work. 


Design/Build Contractors

Some construction companies can continue the design dialogue. These professionals should be able to formalize details from your Concept Plan and progress to construction, making design decisions along the way.


Gardeners, Landscape Managers, Caretakers 

Garden maintenance personnel often provide various installation services. This is often the least expensive approach, though the work scope and quality is highly variable. They will likely be able to work directly with your Concept Plan as a diagram for the work that is to be done. You’ll want to supplement your ideas with photographs of materials, fixtures, and furnishings you like. Hefty projects may get complicated, however. 


Do It Yourself (DIY)

Only if you love a good project! Weekend warriors will find many projects to tackle within their Concept Plan. Don’t be afraid to call in experts for trickier tasks, like building structures or modifying utility systems. You may need to rent heavy-duty equipment for demolitions, earth moving, or planting, so be sure to factor those costs into your decision.


Specialists

Help with specialty area —professionals like arborists, horticulturalists, irrigation designers, or masons—may be right at your local nursery. You can investigate and hire local pros by asking garden centers or home improvement stores for a referral (they often have business cards on hand). Or, request a bid through websites that charge the contractor a nominal fee. 

 
 

A few places to start online:

www.angieslist.com
www.craigslist.org
www.hirenice.com
www.houzz.com
www.thumbtack.com

Where to Look In Person:

Nurseries
Garden Centers
Home Depot
Lowe’s
Menards

 
 

Questions to Ask Before Hiring

When hiring a professional to help with your renovation projects, request a consultation or quote from several companies before signing. Services, costs, and timing can vary widely with landscape work. Here are a few questions to help narrow the playing field and ensure you make the right choice.

About the Company 

  • Are you fully licensed, bonded, and insured?

  • Do you offer design consultations at my property?

  • What services do you offer, and what is your process for seeing these through?

  • Can I see examples of your previous work?

  • Is eco-friendly building a priority for your company?

About Your Project

  • What do you understand to be the scope of the project?

  • How much do you think this Concept Plan will cost to design in detail and install?

  • Will we need a professional survey of my property at cost before beginning? 

  • Will we need any permits for this project? Do you include them in your scope?

  • Is it possible to phase the project?

About Installation

  • Do you contract with others for sub-specialties, like masonry, irrigation, or electrical work?

  • How do you handle design or scope changes mid-project?

  • What timeline do you foresee for installation, including start and finish dates?

  • Will we need to take soil tests, and do you advise on soil amendments? 

  • Do you provide ongoing maintenance, or can you refer me to someone who can?

  • How long will it take for my plants to grow in?

  • Do you offer guarantees or warranties on your work?

 

Phasing in Projects

Setting a schedule will reduce stress and minimize unforeseen costs on construction projects. Whether you’re phasing in improvements or tackling your property all at once, use these general guidelines for planning the work. If you’re not ready to invest in a property-wide renovation, consider phasing in work over time. Looking at a map of your property, draw a circle around projects or areas that could be accomplished together. 

You may want to focus on just the front, back, or side yards first. For even more specific priorities, connecting projects by logistics will save you headaches in the long term. If you’re looking to install an arbor, for example, it’s best to resurface the patio below it at the same time. Installing a new outdoor kitchen alongside a fire pit means the gas installer only needs to mobilize once.  

Start by installing new systems, such as irrigation, drainage, and electrical lines, along with any needed grading to the land. Then, tackle all hardscape projects, working from the outermost areas inward, so the heavy equipment doesn’t damage later projects or fragile planted areas. Planting projects are usually best done last. 

Free project roadmap

This worksheet will help contractors understand your timing, and serve as your checklist for implementing your new landscape projects. Download your free Roadmap >

 

Hiring a professional is one of the biggest decisions for a landscaping or design project. With a wide array of experience and expertise between each professional, finding the right person for the job can be confusing.

"Get someone who takes the time to get to know your space and asks you questions about how you use your space, what kinds of things you like, and what kind of feeling you'd like your space to evoke," says Trevor Smith, vice president of the Ecological Landscaping Association.

We’re here to help. Reach out at hello@yardkit.com to let us know how it’s going.