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Questions you should be asking on the initial visit or the return visit are:

-How long has the company been in business and what is their level of experience.

-Is the company covered by WSIB and are they insured. These are very important issues because if an accident happens on the jobsite (your property) during the installation you do not want to be the one to have to compensate for injuries and damage.

-Will there always be a foreman onsite during the installation.

- Once the work is started does the company stay onsite until the work is completed? Some companies will juggle around numerous jobs at the same time and will therefore disappear for days at a time from your jobsite. This can be quite frustrating for the homeowner since their landscape project can drag out over a longer period of time creating some major inconveniences.

-What is the estimated duration of the work?

-Is there a contract. Although contracts may make some homeowners uncomfortable they are always a very good idea to have. It provides on paper what type of landscaping work is to be done, what materials and colours of materials are to be used, how the payment schedule will be set up, etc. This will eliminate the possibility of any misunderstanding between the client and the contractor.

-What are the company’s warranties on their work and materials? The norm for stonework is 2 years and for plant replacement is 1-2 years. If a company offers you more than this you should be skeptical. I have heard of some contractors offering lifetime warranties on their landscaping. This will possibly sell the job for them but realistically how can they possibly follow up on that promise?

During the initial visit the consultant/designer may either design or estimate your work at that time or they may take wish to return at a future date to present to you a larger design. This all depends on the scope of the work and how large of a job you wish to have done. The time span for a consultant/designer to return may vary upon different situations and complexity and size of design but in most situations it should be no more than 2 weeks.

When the consultant/designer returns with the design and estimate they should thoroughly review the design aided with photographs of similar landscape installations and some stone material samples. They should answer any questions you may have and be flexible to minor changes or additions you may request. They may adjust your estimate accordingly. If an agreement is made a contract will be written up and signed by both parties. Usually a deposit is required at this point. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the amount of deposits and the payments to made be during the work

period before you sign the contract. These details should be clearly stated on the contract. Beware of companies who ask for a large amount of money down prior to the work because unfortunately there are still contractors out there who take the money and run. The initial deposit should range between 5% to 20% of the overall contract amount. Don’t be pressured into signing a contract if you feel uncomfortable in any way. You can request the consultant to return when you have had a little time to mull over everything. If the company you are dealing with is providing you with a ‘free estimate’ than they usually will not leave a copy of the design unless you purchase the design and generally this amount will be rebated back to you if you hire on their company to install your landscaping. Once you have signed the contract you will want to know the estimated time of when the work will begin. This date will be ‘estimated’ because of the nature of the business. It is outdoor work and the timing on jobs is sometimes unfortunately controlled by the outdoor elements such as rain, snow etc...

Once you have hired your Landscape Contractor all that is left to do is to look forward to your Landscape Installation. It is important to spend the time initially to research and consult with various Landscape Companies because once the installation begins it can be a very enjoyable experience if you have hired the right Company.

Lezlie Fry

Landscape Designer/Consultant

Birk’s Landscaping Inc.

(905) 404-0602

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