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Tips for hiring a professional landscaper

Factors to consider beyond whether the person is licensed or bonded

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By Theresa Goffredo
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Terra Firma Hardscapes owner John Stout talks with some of his crew who are working on a patio in Bothell on Wednesday.

    Terra Firma Hardscapes owner John Stout talks with some of his crew who are working on a patio in Bothell on Wednesday.

  • Terra Firma Hardscapes crew member Justin Wallette goes to extreme measures to make sure each component of a custom patio is perfectly aligned and at ...

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Terra Firma Hardscapes crew member Justin Wallette goes to extreme measures to make sure each component of a custom patio is perfectly aligned and at the right depth.

So you've finally decided that you want your home to look "pro style."
You are about to shell out the money and hire a professional landscaper. You don't want to get ripped off, and you want your money's worth.
Where should you start?
How about the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals website, www.walp.org.
The website includes a checklist of tips to help you hire a quality landscape contractor.
"The biggest thing obviously is that you do it once and do it right," said WALP's board President John Stout of Everett. "You don't want to have to pay a second time for someone to take it out and redo it."
Finding a quality landscaper that can complete a project to industry standards means going beyond whether he or she is licensed or bonded, Stout said.
It's really writing down a detailed plan "so that the job doesn't come out looking like a homeowner did it," Stout said.
"You can have someone who is licensed, bonded and insured, and they can come highly recommended," Stout said. "But if you don't have a clearly defined scope of work, the expectations between you and the contractor can be completely different."
Those specific details become even more critical in Stout's line of work.
Stout is owner/operator of Terra Firma Hardscapes LLC. His projects involve materials such as wood, pavers and concrete, and structures such as driveways, patios and retaining walls.
Stout's project can get down to minute details, such as discussions of "sieve analysis" to determine the size of the pieces.
It's also best going into a project knowing the cost and what happens if it looks like the project is going over budget.
What Stout does in his contracts is put a cap on costs. His contracts include a 5 percent to 10 percent threshold cap.
"There's always the unforeseen," Stout said. "So we have it in the contract that we can't go over 5 percent of the project cost unless we get it in writing, so it's up to the homeowner."
Here are some of WALP's other tips for hiring a landscape contractor:
•Besides being licensed and insured, you might also select a contractor who has a designation of Certified Landscape Technician or Certified Landscape Professional.
Clearly identify what your landscape needs are, such as to beautify your property, increase its value, energy savings or safety for kids and pets.
Know your budget. Expect to pay for a design.
Ask and check references.
Get more than one bid in writing. Be certain that each bid lists all the preparatory and finish work that the contractor has suggested.
Don't make a down payments before signing a contract.
Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; goffredo@heraldnet.com.

Resources
Washington Association of Landscape Professionals: www.walp.org.
Terra Firma Hardscapes, LLC, Everett; 425-252-5408; www.terrafirmahardscapes.com.
Story tags » EverettGardeningHome Improvement

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