Is you contractor properly insured?

Companies should provide you with proof of adequate insurance coverage which is specific to the type of work you’re having done. Of course, the certificate of insurance should match your contractor’s legal name, specify what services and dollar amounts are covered, as well as stating the dates for which the policy is in effect. They should also have Workman’s Compensation coverage should someone be injured while on your property.

What accreditations or certifications should a contractor have?

A Commercial Applicator’s License v.3.0, issued by the State of Wisconsin, is required and must be current for anyone who handles fertilizers and/or pesticides for hire, whether that individual is employed by a lawn maintenance or landscape installation contractor. Certification can be confirmed, as well as questions answered regarding the safe and proper use and disposal of property care chemicals, by contacting the State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection at (608) 224-4551. Design work should be performed by a registered Landscape Architect, trained to consider every variable and ordinance which applies to your property plan. In addition, look for staff members with the following certifications: Certified Landscape Professional, Certified Landscape Technician, Certified Turfgrass Professional, or Certified Irrigation Contractor.

Can I see work completed by my contractor or speak with previous customers?

It would be rare to encounter a contractor who hasn’t completed at least a few projects prior to your meeting. A qualified contractor should be willing and able to give you an address or two at which they has completed work. In many cases, the homeowner is willing to be contacted directly and offer a testimonial about the work performed.

Should I have a written contract?

Yes. The contract should include, at a minimum, a detailed written summary of the work being done, estimated time of completion, an agreed-upon price (or price range), and payment terms. Establishing a mutual understanding of what type of warranty is being offered and how that warranty will be honored, should also be in the contract. This common-sense step provides peace of mind, legal protections, and a clear, shared set of expectations for both the consumer and the contractor.

Should I hire separate contractors for the installation and maintenance of my landscape project or property in general?

As a general rule, landscape contractors either have their own maintenance division, or they subcontract the work to trusted lawn care partners. Some landscape projects call for specialty items like a large pond or waterfall, outdoor lighting, lawn sprinkler system installation or modification, or a multi-year maintenance agreement. In any of these cases, the primary contractor with whom you are working may be able to meet your needs with his/her own equipment and personnel; at times, s/he may find it in your best interests to subcontract certain aspects of the overall project to a contractor who specializes in the type of work in question. It’s a good idea to understand in advance how each phase of the project will be carried out, and by whom.