Which Type of Landscape Contractor Is Best for My Project?
If the scope of your landscaping project is small and straightforward, you don’t need to hire a landscape contracting firm with vast experience and technical resources. You’d be buying more than you need for the scale of the project.
If, however, your design plan calls for extensive hardscaping, water features, built structures, and specimen trees or plants, it is advisable that you choose your landscape contractor carefully. You will want to choose a company that has expertise in a range of construction techniques and maintains trained, industry certified staff to deliver high caliber workmanship and garden care. This is the best option to ensure the success of your landscaping investment.
There are three basic approaches for choosing a landscaping contractor. You may:
- Work with a landscape designer to develop your design plan and specifications—then put the construction plans out to bid among several landscape contractors. Choose the one you like.
- Use your landscape designer’s preferred contractor and retain your designer to supervise project construction.
- Work with a landscape architect led design-build firm. You’ll benefit from the many time saving and cost efficiencies of this model; and you will have a single source of accountability for all phases of design, construction, and ongoing landscape maintenance.
Obviously, option one could work quite well in a situation where the project is scope is limited, and the design specifications are straightforward. For larger, more complex landscaping projects, options two or three would be the better choice by far.
Getting Multiple Bids for Your Landscape Project
If you choose to go this route, it is important to understand that the success of your landscaping project depends on how well the team members communicate with each other: that is, the project designers, construction crew leaders and you, the client. The concept development and planning phase is led by your landscape designer. Once you’ve approved a project design plan, the designer guides you through the selections process to specify plants, hardscape materials, and equipment to be installed. Once all the products and materials are specified, your designer can produce detailed construction drawings for you to put out to bid with several landscaping contractors.
Landscape designers usually recommend a favored contractor, one whom they feel understands their designs and can produce quality results. But the choice of landscaping contractor ultimately is yours to make.
Choosing by Price Alone May Cause Regrets
All landscaping projects are estimated by the cost of materials plus labor calculated in “man hours.” The site plan created by your landscape designer will have specified all construction details, plants, and building materials needed to complete the project. If all the contractors are bidding on the same plan and specifications, why would one of them come back with a significantly lower price? There could be several reasons for this—and none of them bode well for you.
What’s Behind the Low Bid
- The landscape contractor didn’t read the plans properly and therefore failed to estimate the project costs accurately.
- The contractor is using low wage workers who may have less skill and experience than ones who command a higher hourly rate. You may not be purchasing the quality standards needed to complete your project as intended by the designer. (On a simple project of limited scope, the low budget might serve perfectly well. If that is the case, ask your designer’s advice.
- The landscape contractor offers an unrealistic base price because he plans to profit from change orders once the project is underway. This is not a professional way to do business and ultimately does not have the client’s best interest in mind.
The project estimate you receive is only as good as the thoroughness of the landscape contractor who prepared it.
What to Expect from Your Landscape Construction Contractor
1 Project Management
Who will be your day to day point of contact? Will you be advised of upcoming activities on the project timeline that may affect you?
Your landscape contractor ought to be considerate of the fact that your property, your belongings, and your time must be respected. Will you be alerted to any schedule changes, so you will know what to expect and when to expect it?
3 Contract Details Checklist
- Is the entire landscaping project mapped out for you in detail?
- Project Scope: What is included in the construction contract and what is excluded?
- Project Schedule: start and completion date, timeline that indicates major phases of the project
- Selections List: types and quantity of plants to be installed, hardscaping and finish materials to be used, brand names of lighting and irrigation equipment included in the installation
- Marked locations of utility lines
- Secure permits and pay all associated fees
- Daily Supervision of all tradesmen and laborers on the job site
- Daily Clean-up and debris removal at the end of the project
- Written Warranties for all plants, lighting and irrigation equipment, appliances, and hardscape materials
- Follow Up Maintenance Options: It can take three to five years for a garden to establish. During this time, garden maintenance by certified technicians who have horticultural expertise is crucial to the success of your landscaping investment. A poorly managed garden won’t be able to reach its full potential
What Landscaping Contractors Do
Trees, shrubs, perennial beds
Outdoor low-voltage lighting
Drainage & Grading
2 Landscape Maintenance by trained technicians with horticultural expertise
Mulching, edging and mowing
Annual flower rotations
Turf care & management
Lighting system maintenance
Irrigation system start up, maintenance, and winterization
Water feature maintenance
Koi pond maintenance
Choose Right the First Time
Your choice of a landscape contractor or a landscape design-build firm is your first and most important choice because it sets a course for your project that will lead to a successful outcome—or not.
You’ve invested heart and soul into perfecting a landscape design. You want to see that vision come to life in high-quality workmanship.
Once the construction crews pull off your property for the last time, it becomes the responsibility of your garden maintenance team to fulfill the design intent by caring for the garden during the first three seasons.
We think the best landscape contractor is the one that has the staff and resources to handle landscape architecture, construction, and maintenance all under one roof. If that idea appeals to you, please schedule a consultation with one of our landscape architects to discuss your dream landscape project.
Thinking about investing in a landscape design project? Our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.