For most homeowners, their home is their primary financial investment, so choosing a Landscape Contractor can be a big decision. Well designed and installed landscaping can add 15-20% value to your home and can return 100 to 200% on that investment. Also, as with any remodeling project, the contractor-client relationship is an important one, as the parties will be in close collaboration on the project — oftentimes for several months.

The following guidelines are helpful should be used when evaluating choices for your landscape installation:

Communication. You and your Landscape Contractor will discuss the scope of the project. A good contractor will ask many questions to understand your needs and wants, and be able to effectively inform you of choices, pros and cons of various methods, and budgetary concerns. A clear, written plan and outline of the exact scope of the project is a must. Also, hire someone who shares your energy and enthusiasm for your project!

Flexibility. You may want to take care of some parts of your project yourself, or have the project staged to accommodate your budget. The contractor should be able to reasonably work within these requirements.

Size and Longevity. Although bigger is not always better, is the company large enough to handle the work without having to sub (hire) out most of it? Anyone with tools and a pickup truck can call themselves a landscaper, and while it’s true “everyone starts somewhere”, a large portion of BBB complaints are levied against such “startups”. Generally, it’s a good idea to hire a company that’s seasoned … that’s been around for longer than at least 2 years.

Reputation. It’s fairly easy these days to Google a company to find out a great deal of nformation about them. Look for excessive low feedback scores from prior clients. Do they have a website? Are there testimonials or client references that can be checked? Check their rating with the BBB (www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews/) and also look for significant negative marks. What licenses and certifications does the contractor hold? Are they affiliated with any trade organizations?

Insurance. Speaking of licenses, the contractor should be insured and be able to document this for you. Landscape Contractors require comprehensive insurance — both worker’s compensation and liability insurance. The last thing you want is for someone to be hurt on your property who isn’t independently covered.

Guarantees. Covering the cost of replacing plants, should any have health issues, is a minimum. Ideally, the contractor would replace any plants, as needed, for up to a year, no questions asked. Issues with hardscape items, such as walkways, retaining walls, etc. should also be covered.

Maintenance. It’s a win-win if the installation company can also provide affordable, quality maintenance services to your new landscaping. If so, a clear and specific maintenance schedule should be provided. Basic lawn maintenance should include weekly mowing, seasonal scheduled fertilization and weed control (if desired), as well as aeration or dethatching services as needed.