The benefits of healthy landscaping are enormous, including an increase in residential property values by up to 10% while also providing homeowners with a whopping 135% return on investment. However, landscape care and maintenance comes with its fair share of hazards. It is estimated that more than 143,000 emergency room visits and 100 fatalities related to landscaping care and maintenance occur annually. These casualties are not limited to cuts and amputations, exposure to chemicals and pesticides, slips, trips, and falls. As such, it is always in your best interest to leave landscaping activities to professional landscaping contractors nearby that are trained to carry out these activities per the recommended national standards and safety regulations. To make sure that you hire a qualified and experienced landscaping contractor near you, you should ask the following questions:
Are You a Licensed Landscaping Contractor?
Although the specifics may vary, landscaping contractors are generally required to obtain government-issued professional licenses, either at the state or local level. For example, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Hawaii all issue state-level landscaping contractor licenses, while Maryland requires landscaping contractors to obtain a state-level home improvement contractor's license. On the other hand, in states like New York and South Carolina, landscaping contractor licenses are issued locally by municipalities, cities, and counties. In addition to obtaining a professional license, landscaping contractors are also mandatorily required to obtain a pesticide applicator license before they can perform any activities that involve the application of pesticides. The requirements for obtaining this license also vary by state.
Contact your state's licensing authority or consumer protection office to find out the specific licensing requirements for landscaping contractors in your locality and make sure that any contractor near you meets these requirements. You can also validate your landscaping contractor's professional license through these agencies.
Apart from a license, most landscapers go further to obtain certification as proof of advanced professional skill in the trade. Such certifications are provided by Industry professional bodies like the National Association of Landscape Professionals and the American Society of Landscape Architects. If your contractor claims membership of any of these professional bodies, check the directory on the organization's website to verify their claim.
Are You a Bonded and Insured Landscaping Contractor?
The ground maintenance industry had a fatal work injury rate of 19.8 per 100,000 workers in 2019, making it one of the most fatal civilian occupations for that year. During this time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also recorded 124 work-related fatalities and 12,380 nonfatal work-related injuries amongst the landscaping and groundskeeping workers in this industry. Landscaping contractors are constantly exposed to a wide variety of potential hazards ranging from cuts and amputations to eye injuries and chemical exposure, and so it is very important to make sure that your contractor is properly insured and bonded. Insurance and bonding offer you protection against any work-related financial losses and liabilities related to your landscaping project. Examples of this include having to pay damages because of an on-the-job injury to either your landscaping contractor or a third party or having to bear the cost of a job default by your contractor.
Ask your landscaping contractor for proof of insurance and bonding. This is usually in the form of certificates. You can contact the companies that issued these certificates to confirm their validity. Contractors are typically required to have general liability and workers' compensation insurance plans, as well as surety bonds of at least $1,000 â€“ $2,000, but your state may have other requirements. Therefore, it is a good idea to find out from your state's consumer protection office whether there are specific insurance and bonding requirements that must be met by the landscaping contractors operating near you.
What Kind of Work Are You Specialized In?
Landscaping involves several activities and features like tending to lawns and shrubs, planting flower beds, flowering trees, creating foundation plantings, installing walkways, fountains, water gardens, and lots more. As such, it is important to ensure that the landscaping contractor nearby you intend to hire is capable of handling the particular landscaping feature or activity that you need done. Landscaping contractor specialties can be grouped into the following categories:
- Landscape Installation: this involves installing plants, flowers, trees, and other landscape features like walkways and water gardens.
- Landscape Maintenance: landscape maintenance involves tending to installed landscape features. Landscape contractors that specialize in this category are generally required to be knowledgeable in horticulture and arboriculture.
- Landscape Design: this involves designing outdoor elements.
- Residential/Commercial Landscaping: This category refers to landscaping contractors that specialize solely on mid-large scale residential or commercial landscaping projects.
- Hardscaping: this involves planning, designing, and installing non-living landscape decorations like walkways and retaining walls.
- Softscaping: this involves using living items like flowers, plants, trees, and shrubs to design landscapes.
- Xeriscaping: this type of landscaping involves utilizing materials, designs, and features that reduce the need for irrigation.
Many professional landscaping contractors do not stick to a particular specialty and are experienced in all the categories mentioned above. Nonetheless, you should always confirm this with your landscaping contractor.
Who Will Do the Work?
The number of workers required for landscaping usually depends on the scale of the project. Also, some landscaping contractors employ apprentices that learn the skills of the trade by tagging along for jobs regardless of the project's size or scale. Always find out who will be responsible for doing the actual work when you hire a landscaping contractor near you and make sure that everyone involved is licensed, insured, and bonded in line with the requirements of your locality. It is also a good idea to find out whether the total cost of your project will be influenced by the involvement of apprentices or any other additional workers.
Do You Offer a Warranty?
Professional landscaping contractors generally offer warranties that assure their clients of the quality of their landscaping services. These warranties cover the activities performed by the contractor, ranging from planting activities to hardscape constructions, and they are usually collectively referred to as a landscape warranty.
Note that the specifics of a landscape warranty depend on the landscaping contractor that issues it. Because of this, you should always request a hard copy of any warranty that you are offered. This helps you have a clear understanding of the warranty's terms and conditions and the circumstances under which it can be voided.
Will This Job Require a Permit?
Permits are government-issued approvals that are required for home improvement activities that result in a substantial alteration of your home's structure or footprint. Local government authorities are responsible for setting permit requirements and whether or not you will need one for landscaping generally depends on your location and the type of landscaping activity. For example, the City of Sacramento, California requires a permit for landscape irrigation, while the City of Lake Forest, Illinois requires a permit for residential hardscape landscaping. In the City of Madison, Wisconsin, a landscaping permit is typically not needed but you may need to get other approvals for landscaping activities. Similarly, a landscaping permit is not needed in the City of Annapolis, Maryland, but a grading permit has to be obtained for any land clearing that exceeds 5,000 square feet.
Hiring a professional landscaping contractor near you helps you navigate the landscaping permit requirements of your locality. However, it is advisable that you contact your local building department to find out these requirements for yourself because failing to obtain a necessary permit usually results in monetary fines and other penalties.
Will You Provide References?
Asking for references is a good way to separate qualified landscaping contractors from their unprofessional colleagues. Per the Federal Trade Commission's advice, a qualified landscaping contractor should be able to provide you with the names and contact details of not less than three past clients. It is also a good idea to ask for pictures of landscaping jobs that your contractor has completed. A professional landscaping contractor will not hesitate to provide you with these pictures and contacts of clients near you. In addition to these, you can get online reviews on your landscaping contractor via third-party websites like Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Google Review.
Do You Have a Business License?
Businesses with less than 500 employees make up nearly 100% of all registered business entities in the United States. Before these businesses can operate in an area, they must obtain a business license from an appropriate government authority. Landscaping businesses belong to this category, and so you should always make sure that your landscaping contractor has a valid business license. You can do this by requesting either a copy of this contractor's business license or the business license number and contacting your locality's Office of the Secretary of State to verify its authenticity.
What Are Common Landscaping Problems?
Common landscaping problems include:
- Erosion and runoff
- Dead grass
- Presence of slopes and hills
- Presence of mushrooms
- Presence of weeds
- Too much sunlight
- Too much shade
- Too much wind
- Pest and rodent invasion
- Poor drainage
- Standing water
- Improper use of space
- Lack of privacy
- Plants and flowers do not fit the surrounding
All these problems, as well as any other landscaping-related issue, can be solved by hiring a professional landscaping contractor.
How Much Does Landscaping Cost?
Many professional landscaping contractors utilize either an hourly or a square footage fee structure at average rates of $50 - $100 per hour or $5 - $15 per square foot respectively. The total amount of money you will pay a landscaping contractor generally depends on the type of landscaping service that the contractor provides.
Listed below are some common landscaping cost estimates:
What Are the Factors That Affect the Cost of Landscaping?
The cost of landscaping is primarily affected by the type of landscaping work that you want done and the amount of labor required to perform this work. For example, it will cost you less to have your lawn mulched or aerated than it would to install new flower beds or remove a tree.
Note that some landscaping contractors offer discounts for recurring services or referrals, and so it is always a good idea to ask your contractor if there are discounted services and offers that you can key into. Also, a landscaping contractor near you will charge less than a contractor far off, due to proximity.
What Qualifications Should Landscaping Contractors Have?
There are no mandatory educational requirements for landscaping contractors and these individuals generally acquire their skills on the job through apprenticeships. Notwithstanding this, some employers may require a high school diploma or its equivalent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are about 872,370 employed landscaping and groundskeeping workers in the United States. Landscaping contractors also have the option of obtaining professional certifications in areas like arboriculture, horticulture, and landscape design from trade organizations and associations like the National Association of Landscape Professionals, International Society of Arboriculture, the Professional Grounds Management Society, and the Tree Care Industry Association.
Do You Need a Handyman or a Landscaping Contractor?
Hiring an experienced landscaping contractor near you to take care of your landscaping needs mitigates the chances of a work-related accident happening while also saving you time and money by ensuring that a professional job is done the first time. Even though some aspects of landscaping like lawn mowing and yard clean-up can be attempted by handymen, landscaping as a whole requires proper training and skills that these handymen do not possess. In addition to their training, skills, and experience, professional landscaping contractors also have the advantage of being insured and bonded. This means you do not have to worry about any financial liabilities if a work-related accident occurs. Note that you should always verify the insurance and bonding status of the landscaping contractor that you intend to hire.
What Are the Common Post Landscaping Expenses?
The most common post-landscaping expenses are ongoing maintenance costs like shrub trimming, lawn mowing, and lawn fertilization. The frequency of this maintenance generally depends on your type of landscape. Some landscape contractors offer weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly landscaping maintenance packages ranging from $40 per week to $500 per month, and so it is a good idea to discuss this with your contractor. You should also find out if your warranty includes any free maintenance services.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Landscaping Expenses?
The Insurance Information Institute estimates that over 90% of all homeowners' insurance claims are due to property damage caused by water, fire, lightning, wind, hail, and theft. If these types of perils affect your landscape, then it is very likely that your homeowner's insurance will cover your landscaping repair or replacement expenses. However, it is important to note that the extent of coverage your homeowner's insurance policy will provide concerning your landscape depends on your insurance company. For example, some insurance companies do not cover landscape damages caused by perils like wind and hail even though these perils are typically covered by standard homeowners' insurance policies. On the other hand, some insurance companies cover the cost of removing trees that were felled by wind, while some may require you to purchase additional insurance to cover these costs. As such, it is advisable to always properly read the fine print of any insurance policy that you wish to purchase and have a clear understanding of its terms and conditions before you commit to it.
Can I Use Digital Payment to Pay My Landscaping Contractor?
Yes, you can use digital payments to pay any landscaping contractor near you. Payments made via digital methods are widely accepted by contractors because of factors like their speed, security, ease of use, and instant generation of payment receipts. Nevertheless, it is advisable to inform your landscaping contractor that you intend to utilize a digital payment method to pay for any rendered services. You should also always insist on collecting a receipt for any cash transactions that may occur.