Buyer Beware! -Do Your Research Before Hiring a Landscape Contractor Or Designer

A child is sitting on a bench in a garden.

So you have been saving pictures you find online or in a catalog for months, or maybe even years, and now you are browsing the internet trying to decide who to hire. How on earth are you supposed to make a decision? You may have talked to several contractors, why was the one contractor’s estimate so high priced? And the other is so low you wonder how they could possibly do it for that budget? What about finding a contractor in the middle somewhere?

Stick around and read on. We’ll offer some pointers on things you can do to double check and make sure you are hiring a respectable trustworthy contractor. 

Actionable Steps You Should Take With Any Company You Consider Hiring:When reaching out to your contractor, you should always ask to see past work they have done, and go see those projects in person. (Pictures can be deceiving)  Ask for referrals, and then talk with those referrals and ask them how they felt about the project done for them by the contractor. Was the company professional and knowledgable? Was their work built to last? Did they complete the project in a timely manner? Did they have a list of upcharges at the end of the project that the homeowner had no idea about and was not communicated at the beginning of the project? Was the craftsmanship of their work satisfactory to you? All of these questions can be very revealing of the way a company does business.Ask what kind of guarantee or warranty they provide on their work.Are they certified in their industry? Such as an ICPI or NCMA certification for hardscapes. Or an Aquascape certification for water features.Educate yourself on what things cost. You want to know if the pricing is too low or too high. Is there such a thing as too low? Remember, the cost of cheap; is usually expensive in the long run. Especially so with outdoor living space projects. Once you have a project installed, and it hasn’t been done correctly, you suddenly have a very expensive problem to fix. Often homeowners that got burned this way; spend twice as much as they would have spent on the “high” priced quote to have a quality job done the first time; by the time they rectify the problem with the incorrectly installed project.  
A failed retaining wall being repaired.
This is a classic example of what happens when improper construction techniques are used. One small mistake led to the unfortunate demise of this entire project. Don’t let that happen to you! (Note: it took about 5 years after it was built for this problem to appear)
The above pointers are our best effort to give you all the things that you should consider in the process of hiring a landscape company. Our goal is to do our best to provide you with the information you need to know and consider, and the possible consequences of those choices, and then stand back and give you the freedom to make your decision. No pressure. So many people find this process overwhelming, others just call their buddy’s friend who does landscaping and have them come over and do the project, and still others simply hire the lowest bid.

We’ve run into situations where the homeowner got 3 different bids on a project, one of them being ours. The lowest bid was literally 10 times less than ours. That homeowner later confided in us that as he considered these different bids, he decided there is no way possible that the lowest bid could accomplish his goal. (It would not even have covered 1/4 of the material costs, let alone the labor and equipment costs.)

This particular homeowner had had some experience in hiring contractors, he’d done it before, and understood what happens when something is “too good to be true” For instance, just a few blocks away, another homeowner had hired a company to do a large backyard project. That second homeowner spent 6 digits on a large outdoor living space project with this first company. But… 2 years later problems began surfacing. They brought in an expert from the product manufacturer, and discovered the entire project was failing due to improper construction. This homowner ended up spending 3 times what he originally had with the lower priced company to remove all the incorrectly installed product, and re-install his dream outdoor living space. Today, over ten years later, that outdoor living space is still functioning as intended and is more beautiful than ever. 

I just went off on that storytelling venture, simply to try to offer information and perspective as what can happen in the real world. The information is yours to digest and choose a way forward for your project. We understand, we are not a good fit for every customer, and every project. And that’s ok. But regardless, we still want you to succeed with your vision for your backyard, and want to protect all of you from expensive regrets. 

Good luck with your project, and as always, we are always available to discuss and answer any questions you may have. You can easily message us on our Facebook page as well if you’d rather.


 Weston Zimmerman

Weston has been working at Tussey since 2007, starting as a laborer on the crews. Today he works as a foreman on one of the crews during the landscaping season, as well as our marketing director at Tussey. He enjoys building natural water features and filming and producing video content. Check out Tussey’s Youtube channel to see some of his work. 

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