Do a simple Google search for how to hire a home improvement contractor and you will get Angie’s List, Home Advisor, Houzz, and 2,370,000 other results dedicated to teaching the homeowner what they need to know when hiring a home improvement contractor. Overwhelming? I’d say that’s an understatement. But these sites are all general guidelines for any contractor you may need to hire—make sure they are insured, check references, blah, blah. Not that these aren’t solid tips, they are. It’s just that I think the average homeowner needs more than this when hiring a professional to extend their home outdoors. Here are 5 tips for hiring a landscape professional to design and build the outdoor living project of your dreams.
1. THE RIGHT AREA OF EXPERTISE You should hire a professional or professionals according to the scope of your project. If you are creating an entire outdoor living space complete with patios, walkways, plantings, and lighting, you want to hire a company that can handle the design and planning of such a project. A contractor that only usually does a 4’x25’ front walkway on occasion is not the right choice. Whether you hire a designer separate from the installation company is really up to you. The important thing is that the company owner is, or staff includes, a trained landscape designer or architect. In today’s landscape market there are many fantastic design/build firms to choose from, which can offer a streamlined process. The important point? Please do not hire a lawn maintenance company to build the backyard oasis of your dreams.
2. COMPANY VALUES, MISSIONS, + WARRANTIES A lot can be learned form looking at a company’s website. Check out the values and mission statement section of the site to learn about what makes the company tick. These guiding principles will often give you an idea of their quality of work, attention to detail, working style, and employee selection criteria.
3. EDUCATION Landscape design and construction requires a specific skillset that combines art and science. In today’s world of abundant online resources and alternative ways to learn, a classic 4-year degree is not always necessary. What is necessary however, is the proper industry training. There are many organizations that offer the specialized training necessary for success. There should also be an ongoing effort to maintain industry standards and knowledge.
4. LENGTH OF EXPERIENCE While training and education is very important, nothing quite beats real experience. Designing and building outdoor spaces is a dynamic process where no two projects are quite the same. Experience is a crucial deciding metric when choosing a professional for your project—look for 3 years+ of applicable, local experience.
5. STYLE MATCH All artists and designers have a go–to style in which they are most comfortable and in turn, do their best work. Is your style modern with sharp, clean lines of steel and glass or country-chic with flowing clay brick walkways and overflowing terracotta planters? Look at the work portfolio of the company or designer to get an idea for their style of choice. This is not to say that great designers can’t cross style boundaries, because they can. But why not work with someone that is experienced and most comfortable with the design aesthetics of your project?