Selecting a Landscape Contractor

There are quite a few things you need to consider before calling up a landscape designer or landscape contractor to your home.

You first need to know your budget. If your budget is less than $3000, you probably dont need a landscape designer, because their fees for design and drafting can add up quickly. Any good landscape contractor can put together a small design for you without the fancy (and expensive) drawings. If you do however have a sizable budget to work with, then perhaps you want someone who is qualified to ‘spend your money wisely’ on a design that will fit your taste, complement your house and be sustainable and maintainable. It is easy for an unqualified contractor to plant shrubs too close, plant varieties that will grow too quickly for small areas or not be well-suited to the environmental conditions on your property. So… your budget will determine who designs your landscape.

Once you have your budget, start thinking of some ideas. Here are a few typical services that landscapers offer:

  • Retaining walls, patios, driveways & walkways
  • Water features – ponds, water gardens & waterfalls
  • New bed creation, planting and mulching
  • Professional design and drawings
  • Regrading, standing water remediation and drainage solutions
  • Landscape lighting
  • Outdoor ‘living areas’
  • Annual maintenance plans

Even if you have no idea what you want, a few guidelines or even pictures cut from a magazine that contained elements that piqued your interest will be very helpful to your landscaper.

Next, when you select a landscape contractor and/or landscape designer, a referral from a friend (or two) is usually your best bet. A second method would be to find a company that is smaller (less overhead costs to pass on to you!) yet has enough self-respect and self-wort knowledge to have clean, lettered vehicles and a website with pictures of their actual work – not clip art from a magazine.

Have them meet you at your home with all decision makers present, because (sorry to say), you will probably not be able to articulate and/or remember all pertinent points they make and convey the enthusiasm for a shared idea, which is necessary for you to ‘sell’ an expensive design to your spouse yourself.

A good landscape contractor or designed will spend a lot of time listening to you, asking what you intend to use your new landscape for (relaxing, entertaining, showing off to neighbors) and studying your property. A primary initial concern is water. Is there water run-off from downspouts, from adjacent properties, from low areas that can cause an expensive problem in the future for an already expensive landscape? Next, make sure your contractor is using materials that come with a guarantee from the grower or manufacturer. An installation guarantee from the installer for at least 2 years is also a MUST.

If you are spending a considerable amount of money, possibly get a design from two different designers. Select one or the other, or select your favorite elements from both and give them to your chosen designer and have him or her combine them into a new design. This might cost a bit extra but its YOUR house and YOU’RE going to be living here for years, so make sure its EXACTLY what you want.

If you are in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, look up Cressman’s Lawn & Tree Care and go through this process with them for an educational and enjoyable experience.