Perhaps you've been dreaming of a landscape renovation for your backyard. Then you realized, "This is far more work than I care to tackle." Your next thought was probably, “Who could do this for me?”
There is a long list of landscape companies in Vancouver, so how do you find the right one for your project? From my experience, I would suggest that the most important question is actually, “Who can I trust?”
The mechanics of most landscape projects are relatively basic – almost any company can create a version of what you are looking for, but who do you really trust to bring your vision to life? Who is passionate about your project? Who do you want to see every single day for the next 2 months? What most people don’t realize when getting into these projects is that challenges will regularly arise, and these will have to be addressed and discussed on a very regular basis with the contractor. The crew might need access to your home for power, plumbing, or even the bathroom. Are you ready to trust them in your space to be respectful and professional?
I have been in the business for nearly 10 years and here’s how I suggest you start: get referrals from friends or co-workers.
This will take some asking around, but it is well worth the effort up front. If someone you know has already worked with them and has good feedback, the contractor is a pretty safe bet. Once you get 3-4 names, Google them. Look for online reviews, check their website, social media...just do a little snooping. Do their projects' scale and style match yours? After 5 minutes, you should be able to get a sense of who their company is and if they are right for your project or not. Keep in mind that almost no one will have a spotless record, and that is actually where you will be able to see the character of your perspective company. When given a bad review, did they lash out and accuse the client of being unreasonable, or did they offer suggestions and try to make things right? This is where you get to see who you want to work with on a daily basis!
Once you have narrowed down your 2-3 companies to contact, set up meetings with them (preferably within a couple days of each other). Have a clear list of items you want in your new landscape and a few pictures cut out of magazines or printed off Pinterest as examples. Given the scale and complexity of your project, the contractors should be able to get you a quote/bid within 1-2 weeks on average. During your meeting, make sure to confirm if they have at least a $2 million dollar liability policy and are registered with WCB. Make sure you get some type of drawings with the quote, including dimensions, so you are on the same page when it eventually gets built. Without a drawing, it always turns into “he said, she said” game, and both parties end up upset. When all's said and done, if there were measurements on the drawing it’s easy to see if the project was done correctly or not.
From there, it’s up to you. Do not choose your contractor by price alone. A phrase I picked up from my Australian father-in-law is, “When you pay peanuts, expect to get monkeys.” Choose the company that has good communication, a good reputation, and your trust. If you choose the cheapest company to save a few bucks, it generally costs you more in the end. Believe me.
A quick recap:
- Find contractors through friends & co-workers
- Google them
- Meet them and get a quote
- Make sure they have proper coverage and procedures
- Go with your gut, not your bottom dollar
Need more questions to ask your contractor or want to know what to look for? Here are a few suggestions:
- How many years have they been in business?
- How many years do they guarantee their projects for?
- Are they registered for employee payroll and have a GST number?
- Do they use safe and well maintained equipment (trucks, trailers, machinery, etc.)?
- Are they Certified & qualified for the project at hand?
- Are they members of the BCLNA or any other landscape associations?
- Will they provide clear & accurate quotation in an easy to understand format?
- Are they offering the best solutions, not just cost focused?
- Are they prompt in answering your call and arriving for appointment?
- Are they on the web (not just craigslist) with a website for credibility?