There are hundreds of landscape contractors in Sonoma County, Marin County and Napa County. If you are a homeowner or business owner, how do you find the right licensed landscape contractor? Although the process may seem daunting, there are some basics that should simplify the process.

Details Landscape ArtReferrals are always the best place to start. Knowing someone who has actually hired a landscaper and is happy with the result is always preferable. Looking on the Internet, reading reviews, and seeing print ads can be useful, with some limitations. There is no substitute for a warm referral.

Hiring a landscape contractor is not like hiring a plumber or an electrician, where you are calling three possibilities to bid on essentially the same project, and choosing the lowest price. Landscaping is an art form – it includes the element of aesthetics. You can call five different landscapers and get five completely different visions or designs for the landscape, with five completely different prices! Therefore multiple bids are not comparable.

At Details Landscape Art, a licensed landscape contractor and creators of fine gardens throughout the North Bay, we believe that there are key factors to consider in hiring a contractor where there is no personal referral.

  1. Look at job photos – as many as you can.  If you view enough photos of gardens, wood structures, patios and walkways, masonry and water features, you are sure to develop a sense of that contractor’s style. Do you like what you see? Does it fit with what you want?
  2. Go look at actual landscapes that the contractor has installed. You can see what a project looks like after it has had some time to mature. Have the plants filled in nicely? Have the hardscape elements and wood structures held up over time?
  3. Professionalism. Meet with the prospective contractor and determine if they show up promptly, return phone calls or emails promptly, are courteous and conscientious. Though sometimes difficult to ascertain from one interview, you are trying to determine if the contractor is someone you can work with.
  4. Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured. Insurance should include both liability insurance and Worker’s Compensation insurance.
  5. Ask for references. It is true that the contractor will only give references to past clients with which he has had a good relationship and installed a successful garden. It is nevertheless useful to talk to the references and find out out how easy or difficult it was working with the contractor, and whether he was easy to get a hold of and flexible to the homeowners needs as the job progressed.

A good contractor will be able to help you design a garden that fits your budget, if known. There are many ways to make the cost of a garden increase or decrease, depending on the elements chosen, the materials chosen for those elements, and the scope and timing of the job. Try to determine if the contractor is willing to work with you. At Details Landscape Art we offer the possibility of installing jobs in stages, and sometimes offering time to stage payments.

A licensed landscape contractor can make or break a garden. Choose wisely.