A good garden plan improves a property's value by 15 percent. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) emphasizes that an investment in landscape improvements returns 100 to 200 percent of its cost when a house is sold. As such, it takes a qualified garden planning contractor who understands your lifestyle and knows what you want to accomplish to maximize your landscape and home values on a budget. Also, these well-trained professionals are conversant with industry standards and required OSHA safety codes to achieve a perfect garden. You can improve your chances of hiring the best-suited garden planner near you by asking the following questions.
Are You a Licensed Garden Planning Contractor?
Garden or landscape planning is the first step to a successful garden design. This process is typically handled by professional residential landscapers who are required to be licensed in 48 states in the U.S. However, there may be state-specific regulations as the requirements for licensure may differ from one state to another. For instance, the State of Nevada requires at least four years of experience, two different examinations, and a fee of $1,253 to obtain the license. It is slightly different for the State of California where the requirements include three exams and a relatively lower fee of $579. In Maryland, contractors require a minimum of two years of work experience and may sit for just one examination before they obtain the contractor's license.
As such, endeavor to find out the specific licensing requirements in your project area. Make sure that your prospective contractor duly fulfills the requirements and is properly licensed to avoid possible penalties. You may obtain licensing information by contacting the consumer protection office near you for verification of contractors' licenses.
Are You Bonded and Insured?
Occupational hazards are fairly common with gardening and landscaping activities. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded over 12,300 occupational injuries among landscaping and groundskeeping workers. In the same year, the Bureau recorded 124 work-related fatalities among the same group of workers. As such, it is recommended to hire a contractor who understands these risks and has set the necessary financial security measures in place.
Generally, garden planning contractors are expected to have General Liability Insurance. This insures them against financial expenses such as medical treatment charges, property damage, injuries, etc. Also, employees under your contractor may benefit from the contractor's Worker Compensation Insurance for medical treatments. It may be risky to assume that a contractor is insured. As such, endeavor to request a certificate of insurance as proof.
Another important financial security to look out for is bonding. A surety bond binds a contractor to fulfill his responsibilities with regard to a contract. It also guarantees the intervention of the bond company in the case of any contract default. Hence, it is pertinent to ascertain that a contractor is actively bonded before you hire them. The requirements for bonding may vary across different states. Therefore ensure to find out the specific bond requirements for gardening contractors near you from the local consumer protection agency.
What Kind of Work Are You Specialized In?
There are a lot of technical skills involved in garden planning ranging from site design to soil preparation to lawn operations and grading. Each of these services may require specific expertise to complete. Hence, it is important to determine that your garden planner has the prerequisite to complete a perfect job. If otherwise, you may need to ascertain if they plan to involve colleagues or subcontractors with the required specialization to complete the job. Beware, involving subcontractors not nearby may increase the contract cost due to travel expenses.
Who Will Do the Work?
Activities involved in Garden Planning may require a contractor to engage the services of other workers. These workers may be sub-contractors, manual laborers, or apprentices. It is possible that some of these workers may not be properly insured or bonded. This may expose the project owner to financial liabilities in case of workplace hazards or injuries. In a case where a worker is engaged without proper licensure, it may attract legal penalties.
Also, the number of workers employed by your contractor may affect the total cost of services the contractor charges. Therefore, ensure you find out from the contractor the exact workers involved in the project. If need be, ensure that the workers are duly licensed, bonded, and insured.
Do You Offer a Warranty?
Contractors issue warranties as a statement of integrity over their service and a promise to take responsibility for issues covered within the terms of the warranty over the agreed time. Warranties offered by garden planning contractors typically cover their workmanship and the products they supply. For instance, a garden planning contractor warranty may cover all nursery stock that does not survive up to one year from the date of invoice provided that the nursery stock was supplied and installed by the contractor.
Most contractors do not issue warranty over issues arising from misuse, carelessness, lack of maintenance, or neglect on the part of the client. As such, contractors may verify a report of an issue by a client to ascertain that the issue is covered by the provided warranty. As stated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a customer reserves the right to examine a warranty before subscribing to a deal.
Although warranties can be orally issued, it is advised to obtain warranties in writing. This is because oral warranties are not covered by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. As such, you may not have a basis for legal actions in case the contractor defaults on the terms of the warranty. Ensure you carefully consider the details of the warranty, its term, and scope of coverage before you reach an agreement with any prospective garden planning contractor near you.
Will This Job Require a Permit?
Contractors obtain a permit as legal authorization from a local government to carry out a home improvement project or a new construction. Engaging in a project without the appropriate permit (if required) may attract penalties and legal sanctions. Typically, most landscaping activities like garden planning require
In general, landscaping or garden planning activities that will affect more than 2500 square feet of soil or change more than 24 inches of the soil's grade will require a permit. The precise rules may vary based on your county or state, but this is a basic rule of thumb.
Hence, it is important to ascertain that a prospective contractor obtains the necessary permits before they commence your project. You may call the local building authority office near you to determine the specific requirements for your garden planning project.
Will You Provide References?
References to a prospective contractor's previous projects are a good way to measure their performance and expertise level. Professional garden planning contractors near you will willingly provide references as proof of competence for a project. You may request up to three different references before hiring a contractor, as recommended by the Federal Trade Commission. Ensure that the list of references consists of projects similar to the project you have in view.
It is not out of place to request the names and contact details of the referenced clients so you can contact them for verification. You may obtain important details from the clients, such as the contractor's integrity, attitude to work, and level of expertise. You may also request to visit ongoing projects to be able to make first-hand assessments and verifications.
What Are Common Garden Planning Problems?
One of the major problems associated with Garden Planning is erosion. The United States loses over 2 billion tons of topsoil on a yearly basis through erosion. Erosion depletes the nutrient value of the soil and reduces its ability to sustain plant growth. Lands prone to erosion may pose serious challenges to garden planning contractors. However, a professional garden planner will help implement effective measures such as proper drainage to curb the effects of erosion.
The availability of water in a location may also constitute a challenge in garden planning. Lands with too much water may be prone to waterlogging while lack of sufficient water may lead to too much dryness. Although waterlogging may be controlled by a proper drainage system, you can employ the services of an irrigation professional to manage the lack of water. Other common problems associated with garden planning include weeds, privacy, and exposure to harmful chemicals. Endeavor to hire a professional garden planning contractor nearby who adheres to the standards and EPA recommendations for toxic chemicals management in garden planning activities.
How Much Does Garden Planning Services Cost
On average, the cost of garden planning services ranges from $500 to $700. There's no fixed cost as what contractors charge depends on the project and contract type. Below is a list of common garden planning activities and their estimated costs.
- Landscape design - $2000 - $3000
- Tree Trimming - $75 - $1000
- Tree Removal - $400 - $2000
- Lawn Mowing - $50 - $220
- Landscape Curbing - $700 - $1700
- Artificial Turf Installation - $2700 - $3500
- Lawn Grading - $1000 - $3000
- Lawn Seeding - $400 - $1500
- Mulching - $100 - $300
- Water Fountain Installation - $1000 - $4500
- Sprinkler System Installation - $1700 - $3500
Based on cost per square foot, garden planning costs are estimated as follows:
What Are The Factors That Affect The Cost of Garden Planning Services?
Proper garden planning services and adequate landscape maintenance can add value to your property. As such, any expenses incurred in the course of garden planning and maintenance prove worthwhile. There are several factors that combine to determine the total cost of a garden planning project. Such factors include:
What Qualifications Should Garden Planning Contractors Have?
Certification is not a yardstick for issuing licenses to garden planning contractors. However, obtaining a certification improves a contractor's profile. Certifications verify that a contractor is fully qualified to handle garden planning projects. For employers and clients, it is a good way to validate the expertise and skill level of a contractor.
Garden planning contractors may seek to obtain the Licensed Industry Certified Technician certification from the esteemed National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). The certification requires contractors to sit for and pass a test set by the NALP. NALP also requires certified contractors to fulfill the recertification requirements every two years to keep their certification active. Note, however, that NALP certification does not substitute for contractors' license.
Do You Need a Handyman or a Garden Planning Contractor?
Garden Planning involves activities that demand a high level of expertise, such as landscaping. Engaging in these activities without adequate technical dexterity may expose the workers to health and safety risks such as inappropriate contact with harmful chemical substances. As such, it is best practice to employ a professional Garden Planning Contractor near you who specializes in the operations that need to be carried out in the project. Such a contractor understands the health concerns caused by toxic gases and adheres to the Respiratory Protection Standards as specified by OSHA.
Handymen are commonly known to carry out minor operations such as repairs and maintenance in different fields without specialization in a particular field. Most handymen may not have the required qualifications and licensing to engage in garden planning operations. Working with handymen may make you liable to penalties in jurisdictions where license is mandatory.
What Are the Common Post Garden Planning Expenses?
Most common post garden planning expenses are associated with maintenance costs. Issues such as insufficient water, weed, and pest infestation, and wildlife control may require immediate attention and appropriate actions. Attempting to fix these issues may cost some money. To prevent unnecessary expenses, it is recommended to ensure that you carry out regular professional maintenance on your garden planning project. Note, employing the services of contractors near you are cheaper due to proximity and limited travel cost.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Garden Planning Expenses?
As stated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Homeowner Insurance covers expenses resulting from damages or losses caused by unforeseen circumstances such as fire outbreaks or burglary. Garden Planning costs incurred as a result of other mishaps that are not provided for in homeowner insurance are taken care of by the project owner. It is advised that you buy other types of insurance to cover other possible losses or damages.
Can I Use Digital Payment to Pay My Garden Planning Contractor?
Digital payment systems such as eWallets, bank transfers, and credit/debit cards make payments much easier than traditional payment methods. The benefits of such digital means of payment include faster processing, less stress, easy availability and accessibility, and better financial security. Most Garden Planning contractors accept these digital payments. However, you may still need to find out the payment method that is preferred by your contractor.