We’ve all heard the stories about ambitious homeowners digging through gas mains, first-timers being ripped off by cowboys, or naïve DIYers who failed to get building consent.
So when you’re in the market for a landscaping specialist, what should you look for?
Flicking through the Yellow Pages or signing up the first landscaper you find on Google might seem simple enough, but it’s important to do your research first. What certifications do they have? Can you look at examples first? A recommendation from a friend is always a good start. Browse online review sites like No Cowboys before making your final decision.
Matt Steele, Franchise Operations Manager for Zones Landscaping Specialists, says planning ahead is integral to a landscaping project. “Always ask your landscaping specialist to prepare a Concept Plan before you begin,” he says. “Preparing a design upfront means that what’s done is in accordance with a longer-term vision. Budget blowouts will be less likely, and the customer will get a finished landscape that’s something they’re expecting.”
During the Concept Plan stage, realistic and workable budgets are established. “Alarm bells should go off if a contractor is unable to produce a detailed scope of work before the project starts,” Steele says. “A Concept Plan will help determine what materials are going to go into the project and how much it’s actually going to cost, so there are no surprises.”
Ask your landscaping specialist for honest and upfront opinions about problems that could occur further down the track, like difficulty in getting building consent or that the whole neighbourhood’s water mains run through your backyard. The more information that’s laid out on the table, the less likely you’ll have any surprises.
Landscapers can’t snap their fingers and make magic, but homeowners shouldn’t have to live in months of extended construction either. Make sure your timeframe expectations align with your contractor’s to minimise confusion and disputes.
It’s not easy managing multiple tradespeople on one project when they’re stepping on each other’s toes trying to get their part of the puzzle done. “Project management is underestimated by a lot of homeowners, says Steele. “That’s the value of using of using a landscaping specialist, rather than hiring a different trade for different parts of the job who might not work together as a team.
“A landscaping specialist, with project management capability, will manage the comings and goings of your tradespeople for you Effectively their job is to deliver the project as per the Concept Plan on time and in budget, and with minimal hassle to the homeowner.”
Just in case the unthinkable happens, insurance is essential. “A homeowner should always ask what insurances their landscaping specialist has, so they’re protected should there be any problems,” Steele says. “Insurance also demonstrates that they’re a professional company that’s likely to be around for a long time.”
When a homeowner invests their time and, more importantly, their money into a landscaping project, they want some reassurance that the final project will be what they wanted. While the Landscaping Concept Plan reinforces this, warranties and guarantees will also boost your landscaper’s credibility.
“Turning up on time is probably the first indicator of whether a landscaper is going to be organised or not,” says Steele. “Being organised has a massive impact on how well the project goes and the final cost of it.”
“There are a lot of local council regulations that the typical homeowner doesn’t understand,” says Steele. “The big one is building consent. There are a number of different projects within a landscaping job that require building consent, like swimming pools, decks and retaining walls. A professional landscaping specialist can advise on local council regulations so the homeowner doesn’t get into trouble in the end.”
This article by Erin Reilly featured in Issue 018 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine . New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.
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