Choosing a landscape professional can no doubt be a daunting task.

It can be an overwhelming experience for many homeowners, but it doesn’t have to be. Taking the necessary steps prior to hiring a contractor will reduce your fears, make the overall experience enjoyable and most importantly leave you with a beautified end product.

Why can hiring the right contractor be so difficult? Completing a landscape project can be a large investment, understanding the landscape process can be complicated, and it can be very difficult to visualize the end product. But one of the biggest fears is not getting a product that lasts. Below are four things to consider before construction begins

1. Referrals

The best way to start is by asking your friends, family, and neighbours for names of landscape contractors that they have used and were happy with. Take into consideration when looking for a referral if the work is like your project, this will ensure that the contractor has the abilities to complete your project. This is a great starting point for gathering a couple of contractors you are interested in.

Workmanship is extremely important, don’t be afraid to ask to see other projects that the contractors have completed. Specifically, ones that are more than two years old, so you can see how the work has held up over time. Finally, there is nothing wrong with asking to visit their current job site to see it in action.

2. Do your own research

There is more to a successful project than simply what you see on the finished surface. The long-term performance of your project is determined by the quality of work that’s done underneath your pavers and walls.  Considerations should be in base design & quality, drainage, and grading. For example, a base needs to be strong enough to handle the load of whatever is placed on the surface, free-draining material needs to be used so that water drains out of the base and into the subsoil and it needs to be compacted in several layers.

ICPI Standards is a good place to start:

3. Design & Contract

In today’s world, a design and detailed contractor should be a given. The contract should include everything: description of work, materials used, timelines, costs, payment schedule etc.. Remember that this is a large investment, so double-check what you are agreeing to. If communication fails between you and the contractor, the contract is there to protect you. Ensure you have as much detail on your documents and feel comfortable signing it.

The landscape design process has come a long way from scribbles on a piece of paper. On larger projects ensure that a 2D design is completed either hand-drawn or using a program (usually CAD based). Going one step above that is receiving a 3D rendering/walk. This helps to better visualize the end product and ensures you and the contractor are on the same page.

4. Accreditations

In addition to years of experience (which is also important to note), certifications and affiliations is an important subject to inquire about.  Affiliations could be a member with Landscape Ontario, the province’s horticultural trades association) or a vetted contractor for a paving stone manufacture (such as a Unilock Authorized Contractor.

One thing that you should always note is that they can prove they have Works’ Compensation Insurance (WSIB) and at least a million dollars in liability insurance. They are both very standard in the industry and help protect yourself and the contractor if any incidences happened onsite.

Finally, your contractor and his crew should be certified by the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI). This certification ensures that your contractor is committed to industry guidelines for installation.

We hope that this provides you with a starting point when choosing a landscape professional, happy hiring!