Choosing a landscaper
Choosing a landscaper
You have made your mind up to have your garden landscaped but who do you choose? Google landscapers in your area and there will be many pages of landscapers offering their services to be the right people to take on your project. Finding a landscaper is very much like finding any other company person to do a job for you. The main difference is that getting someone in to fis a boiler or lay a carpet may take just an hour or two. You will be dealing with a landscaper for a number of weeks or even months.
Below are a list of considerations that you may wish to have in mind if you are in the position of hiring a landscapoer. There are many points here which I would be personally consider important enough on their own merit to choose whether I would employ a landscaper but it is for you to decide what you are looking for from a professional landscaper. It’s may not an easy job but and takes a bit of time but it is worth the small investment in time for the amount of money you are going to spend.
Do your homework and check the landscaper out online before you approach them in person.
What is their web site like?
What are your first impressions of the company?
Are they members of the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL)?
Are they members of the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI)?
Are they 'Trustmarked'?
What are their reviews like?
Consider the depth and breadth of their work?
Have the company got an office?
Have they won any awards?
Do they have a good reputation?
Do they interact professionally with social media?
You have committed to contact a select number from the list above. How can I decide who to choose from there?
What are your second impressions?
Are they perceptive and interested in your project?
Have you been given a full written quotation or estimate on company letterheaded paper?
Is the quote or estimate clear as to exactly what it is actually for?
Which specifications have been used to price the works?
Have you been offered a schedule of payments or are you asked for all the money up front?
Have you been supplied with a client brief?
Have you been supplied with a scaled plan of the works detailed on the estimate?
Do they have the correct insurance to complete the job they have quoted for?
Have the company got a current waste carriers licence?
Have they offered you got a contract for the works?
Have CDM regulations been discussed?
Has health and safety of the job been thought about?
Do they work from a mobile number or are they working with a fixed landline?
Do they provide welfare facilities for their staff?
Can they supply you with references?
Are the company VAT registered?
Is the landscaper a one man band or company with employees?
Can they do the job ‘Straight away’?
Are the landscapers responsive to your needs?
Are you collecting bids from different landscapers?
Do you like them?
Have they done what they said they were going to do?
Do they have exceptional customer service?
Have you checked them out on www.gov.uk web site?
Are they reliable?
Can I check their details out with Companies House?
What is your gut feel?
Don’t take risks!
That’s a long list of questions but remember, you are not spending £5, £25 or even £225 on a purchase here. This is going to be a spend of thousands of pounds. If you were buying a car would you just buy the first car you saw in the first garage you looked in?
To expand on the questions above, here are a few of our thoughts and pointers for you to consider.
1: What is their web site like?
The very first thing you do is Google the term ‘landscaper’ in their area. Great start. Check what you are looking at however and whether you are happy with the options from Google page 1. Many will be sponsored and the rest are probably good at getting their web site to the top of the rest of the list, not necessarily great at landscaping. Whilst on the site, check out if the web address is http:// rather than https:// . If you are entering your name and address onto a site without the ‘s’ it is probably not secure as the data is not data encrypted
Kirman Design: You are looking at our web site right now and we hope you like it.
2: What are your first impressions of the company?
Looking at company web sites gives a good indication of what you are going to get from a the company themselves. Does the site look good, work well, have lots of photographs of their own (not somebody else’s) work on. This is difficult to check at this point, but worth bearing in mind.
Kirman Design: We are professional, enjoy what we do and seek to do the best job we can with any given project and budget.
3: Are they Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) members?
Being a member of a trade organisation is a great start to choosing if the landscaper is trying to show they are different, better or want to set themselves apart from other companies competing for your business. The Association of Professional Landscapers) is one of the two trade organisations which landscapers can apply to be members of. Although any landscapers can apply to be members, traditionally APL landscapers undertake work for domestic clients and are smaller in size although now this is becoming less the case. To become a member, the landscaper:
Must have been trading for a minimum of 2 years.
Must go through a rigorous inspection process.
Must get at least six client references from previous clients.
Must be inspected both on site and in the office yearly.
Must adhere to a high level of health and safety standards.
Must prove that the business is being professionally run, so they must prove they have the correct insurance etc.
Nothing is fool proof. Ask the landscaper when their last inspection was, and maybe even what mark they received. Members are marked with a percentage and the nearer they get to100%, the better/more they are are compliant with the assessment. There is a minimum mark to acheive to pass but this is a pretty elusive figure to get your hands on, even for members!
More information: https://www.landscaper.org.uk
Kirman Design: Kirman Design are members of the Association of Professional Landscapers.
4: Are they British Association of Land Operatives (BALI) members?
BALI is the other trade organisation that landscapers can apply to be members of. Traditionally, BALI members tend to be larger companies with a larger turnover and tend to deal mainly with commercial clients and maintenence contracts although again, the boundaries are blurring somewhat with this. To become a member, the landscaper:
Must have been trading for a minimum of 2 years.
Must be a business, section of a business or a division of a business that sells landscape construction or maintenance /design products.
Must pass the organisations vetting procedure.
Agree to abide by the associations Code of conduct and Terms and Conditions.
More information: https://www.bali.org.uk
Kirman Design: We are currently in the application process of becoming BALI members.
5: Are the company 'TrustMarked'?
TrustMark is the Government Endorsed Quality Scheme covering work a consumer chooses to have carried out in or around their home. When a consumer uses a TrustMark Registered Business, they know they are engaging an organisation that has been thoroughly vetted to meet required standards, and has made a considerable commitment to good customer service, technical competence and tradingpractices.
Key Consumer Benefits
Delivering confidence with consumers, and choice through Government Endorsed Quality.
TrustMark provides a level playing field of quality and assurance, regardless of the type of trade you are seeking to engage.
Enhanced protection through their network of Scheme Providers and Trading Standards integration, in the event that things do go wrong.
TrustMark provides a range of free advice and information to homeowners, empowering them with the knowledge and choice to make the best decisions when it comes to improving their homes and gardens.
APL members (above) are automatically members of the TrustMark scheme but you do not need to be members of the APL to become a TrustMark member.
More information: https://www.trustmark.org.uk
Kirman Design: Kirman Design are a TrustMarked Company.
6: What are their reviews like?
Looking at Google, Facebook and other web sites may give you an indication of what the company are like. Most have a comparitively small number of reviews and that is because landscapers are not selling lots and lots of things to lots of people. They undertake small quantites of jobs per year, sometimes in single figures if they are large jobs. The odd poor review should not put you off but look for reviews written by friends and family and look for the genuine reviews which are helpful. Do check that th any reviews sound genuine and not formulaic
More information: https://www.google.com/maps
Kirman Design: We are more than happy for you to look at our reviews on all the review sites. Here is the Google’s site.
7: Consider the depth and breadth of their work?
Does the companies web site show a wide range of work represented? For example, if you are looking for a Koi carp pond being built, then it would probably not be the best plan to look at company that have lots of driveway photographs on the site. It’s also worth looking at the detail in the projects too; materials which are used and they way they have been finished. If you have a project which is unusual or awkward or different in some way, then you might not find the same project represented online but you will be able to see if the company are capable of adapting to clients needs and briefs.
Kirman Design: At Kirman Design, the client is the focus of everything we do. This is why we have a design process to get to the bottom of what the client’s actually need and what is possible, physically and within any given budget. We have a wide variety of work we can show you from tiny gardens, driveways and traditional gardens through to contemporary and experimental show gardens.
Kirman Design: Please feel free to browse our landscaping and garden design portfolio. We have many of our other projects we can show you if you give us more information about what you are looking for.
8: Have the company got an office?
Not imperative but really good to be able to go in, have a chat with the people that you are potentially going to employ. At that point you can see how they present themselves and ask lots of questions about your project. It would be helpful if you take in some photographs of the site and also think about a realistic budget for your garden.
Kirman Design: We have an office located at Bents Garden & Home in Glazebury, Cheshire. We do work across the northwest but being located at ‘Garden Centre of the Year’ does help us be accessible to our clientel across a wider range of hours. We open at 8:30am and close at 4pm, 7 days per week. Just give us a quick call if you are coming specifically just so we can make sure we are not on a site visit.
9: Have they won any awards?
Again, not imperative but useful to know if they have. The pinnacle of awards in the horticultural industry is an RHS Gold medal. These are hard fought for and generally well deserved medals which are achieved from exhibiting in RHS shows. Some say they are ‘RHS medal winners’ and generally this means they are Bronze, Silver or Silver-Gilt awards rather than gold. Souhport Flower Show is an independant show obviously based in Southport. It also has categories for show gardens. Show gardens can be built in a variety of styles and funded by various sources so you may see gardens with sponsors products strategicaly placed or you may see way out gardens which you would never build for a client but show gardens are about ideas and pushing the boundaries
Kirman Design: Kirman Design have won many awards for both our design and landcsape construction including RHS Gold. A full list can be viewed here.
10: Do they have a good reputation?
All companies permantly seek to have a great reputation as this is the foundation of business success but it is for you to see what is important to you with regards to a companies reputation, through all the points that are covered here.
Kirman Design: Have a look at our web site, come in and talk to us, speak to our previous clients if you wish. We have been located at Bents Garden & Home for the past 13 years and members od the Association of Professional Landscapers for over 10 years. We offer a bespoke service, deliver great customer service, have staff that are respected and happy in their jobs and we take a holistic approach to all aspects of the business.
11: Do the company interact with social media?
Not a deal breaker, but it is a good indicator of the company of the way the company operates. A company that interacts with other professionals and clients says one thing whilst another that shares family photographs, political views or cat videos says something different.
Kirman Design: Please feel free to view out social media accounts. The handles are located below:
You have taken the plunge and chosen to call or go and see a landscaper. What do I need to look for at this point?
12: What are your second impressions?
Second impressions? Yes, that’s right. You are meeting them in person for the first time rather than through the anonymity of the web so it’s a good chance to see if they are smart in appearance and turn up on time.
Kirman Design: All the company wear logo’d and named shirts. Our vans are not sign written as it tends to be a magnet for theives unfortunately, but we do try our best to keep them clean!
13: Are they perceptive and interested in your project?
If they just give you a blank look then there is something wrong. Whilst chatting to you about what you want, they should give you some advice, ask lots of questions and at least stay long enough to get to grips with the tasks in hand. Ask them how many years they have been operating.
Kirman Design: Kirman Design have been operting since 2006, so we have many years of experinence to tackle anything that a client asks us to do. We will spend as long as it takes to get all the information we need from you. If you are coming into the office, it will help if you bring photographs of the space. We will also make you a brew if you want to get warm or refresh your thirst!
14: Have you been given a full written quotation or estimate?
You should have been given either a detailed quotation or estimate which lists all the works in detail, or a simple quotation or esimate with a cost on which links to a detailed specification. All this should be printed on company letterheaded notepaper.
Kirman Design: We
15: Is the quote or estimate clear as to exactly what it is actually for?
16: Which specifications have been used to price the works?
17: Have you been offered a schedule of payments or are you asked for all the money up front?
18: Have you been supplied with a client brief?
19: Have you been supplied with a scaled plan of the works detailed on the estimate?
20: Do the company have the correct insurance to complete the job they have quoted for?
What insurance do landscapers need?
• Vehicle insurance. (This will cover their vehicles and damage done to client’s vehicles or property).
• Public liability insurance (Not a legal requirement but essential if companies are interacting with members of the public. It covers clients and their property if they are damaged or injured as a result of the works undertaken on site).
• Product liability insurance. (This will cover personal injury or property damage caused by products sold or supplied through a business).
• Plant insurance (This covers machinery for example diggers and dumpers etc. Theft and damage caused from them on site).
Kirman Design: We have all the above insurance in place for our and our clients peace of mind.
21: Do they have a waste carriers licence?
You must register for a waste carriers licence if you transport waste, buy, sell or dispose of waste or arrange for someone else to buy, sell or dispose of waste. This icluses garden waste and companies can be fined up to £5,000 if they do the any of the above and don’t register.
More information: The Environment Agency register for waste carriers licences.
Kirman Design: See our waste carriers licence here.
22: Have you been offered you got a contract for the works?
More information: Citizen’s Advice
23: Have CDM regulations been discussed?
More information: The Health & Safety Executive guide to CDM regulations for the domestic consumer.
24: Has health and safety of the job been thought about?
25: Do the company work from a mobile number or are they working with a fixed landline?
Using a mobile number for a business is not in itself wrong, it just doesn’t instill much confidence with the fact that the company may not be around for long or indeed exists at all. There maybe problems if you contact them in case of a problem with a guarentee in years to come? Check the comany has a physical location advertised.
Kirman Design: Our office number is 01942 604976.
26: Do the company provide welfare facilities for their staff?
More information: The Health and Safety Executive
Kirman Design: Kirman Design will provide an on-site toilet on site for all employees for any works of 4 or more days. Toilets have sinks in them which can be used for washing their hands. The cost of this is cheap and is included in the estimate you will be given.
27: Can they supply you with references?
28: Are the company VAT registered?
Not strictly speaking a method of checking whether the landscapers are any good but… with half to two thirds of the cost of a job taken up with materials then assuming that the current UK VAT limit is £85,000, this threshold is reached very quickly. Assume for example, that a landscaper works all year, this means they will hit the VAT limit at around week 35 out of 52. The question is then, what happens for the remainder of the 17 weeks? Do they just work part of the year then holiday in Barbados, or is there something fishy going on with their tax arrangements? There maybe nothing wrong with what they are doing but good to know what is going on to ensure you are not emroiled in any HMRC tax investigations.
29: Is the landscaper a one man band or company with employees?
30: Can they do the job ‘Straight away?
The landscaping industry have peaks an troughs as with other outdoor based industries. With the best will in the world we cannot just jump at the drop of a hat and get on with the work the day after it has been agreed. Well, most cannot as they plan their work out ahead of them and generally we are pretty busy. If a landscaper can actually do the work pretty much immediately then you need to think carefully why this is the case as it does not happy that often to professional landscapers!
Kirman Design: We are busy all year round and have a queuing system so everyone waits in turn. We find this the fairest way of approaching the problem. We still have peaks and troughs so if you came to us in October, you would only have a shorter than in April/May onwards.
31: Are the landscapers responsive to your needs?
32: Are you collecting bids from different landscapers?
Have you got other landscapers giving you estimates/quotes? This can be a good way to check the amounts of money you are being told that it is going to cost is not just pie in the sky.
Kirman Design: If you are getting other quotes that is good. Just make sure you are comparing like with like. You need a full specification with drawings in order to get like for like costings. There is little point getting quotes from two separate companies for ‘exactly the same jobs’ when one is for example digging a drive out to put a foundation in of say 300mm when the exact same drive material is quoted at 20% cheaper from another company and they are putting in a foundation which is 150mm. Quality of workmanship apart, of course it will be cheaper. The second is saving money on skips to remove waste, material to fill in the hole, labour to complete these tasks and of course the VAT element which is part of these costings. Know what the specification is first, then getting prices for that specification the key.
33: Do you like them?
Simple… do they smile, are they happy, can you get on with them. “I don’t need to get on with them” I hear you say. Well, maybe not, but you will have them around for weeks, maybe months so we think it’s really important that both parties get on.
Kirman Design: I’d like to think we are pretty amiable company and are and want to
34: Have they done what they said they were going to do?
35: Do they have exceptional customer service?
If you don’t feel you are getting great customer service now, you certainly won’t get great customer service when the job starts to go wrong and things arn’t quite as rosy as they looked on the web site…
Kirman Design: We are based at Bents Garden & Home. Bents are renowned for great customer service and this carries through to all the concessions on the Bents site.
36: Have you checked them out on www.gov.uk?
37: Are they reliable?
38: Can I check their details out with Companies House?
39: What is your gut feel?
Last but by no means least, how do you feel about them? Did you like them? Do you get a warm feeling inside that they will probably do a good job or are your alarm bells ringing not to touch them with a barge pole?
40: Are you taking risks?
Other information: Citizen’s Advice - “Before you get building work done.”
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