How to Hire the Right Landscape Design Expert in 10 Easy Steps

Hiring any contractor can be a nerve-racking experience. Most times, you have the job estimated by several landscaping companies and then you make your decision. But there’s more to choosing the right landscaping company than just cost and a gut feeling. Here’s how to ensure that the landscaper you hire will give you the results you desire.


  1. Consider Your Space. Before you even start calling landscaping companies for estimates, you really need to think about your outdoor environment. What are you looking to do? Beautify your front or back yard with lighting, trees and plants? Add a brick or stone paver patio? Install an inground swimming pool? Add a custom deck or paver walkway? Or create an outdoor kitchen? To give a landscaper a good idea of what you are looking for, share pictures from magazines or the Internet. Showing potential companies exactly what you want will enable them to give you a crystal clear picture of how much your project will cost. Also, some niche landscaping companies might be better at certain types of projects than others, which will also help you narrow down your list.
  2. Consider Your Budget. How much you have to spend will help you determine how elaborate your outdoor living space will be. For example, will it just be a patio? Or will it be a patio made out of precious stone with steps, planters, walls, and lighting? Every added bell and whistle that adds to the price.
  3. Word of Mouth. Ask your neighbors and friends for recommendations. Chances are if people you know had a stellar experience with a landscaping company, then you will too. You can also ask your local nursery or home and garden store for recommendations.
  4. Use the Internet & Ask to See their Work. These days, most companies have websites, which should share their philosophy as well as photographs of their work. You may not have a trained eye or be a landscaping expert, but a picture can give you a great idea of a landscaping company’s capabilities. You can also ask the landscaper to show you what they have done for the same price as your estimate. They should be able to tell you where they were able to save money on the previous job, and where they were able to splurge.
  5. Does the Landscaper Look Professional? Make sure you’re not hiring some guy in a truck. Has the landscaper been around for at least five years? When the company shows up, does the truck look like it’s in good shape? Is it professionally labeled with a logo? Does the contractor have business cards? When you leave a message for him, does he promptly call you back? A landscaper who seems professional from the start will most likely be professional all the way through.
  6. Ask for References. If the landscaper you are looking to hire wasn’t referred to you by a friend or neighbor, ask to speak to some references. Ask references if the landscaper and crew showed up on time? Did they tidy up at the end of every day? Did they go over budget? Were they receptive to customer changes throughout the job? Did they finish on time? Were there problems after the job was completed?
  7. Ask to Speak with a Landscaper’s Suppliers. In this economy, you need to know that your landscaper is financially stable, and that the firm will be around to complete your job (See Related Article: “Thinning the Herd: Make Sure the Landscaper You Hire will be Around to Finish the Job.”) Asking suppliers if the company pays its bills is perfectly reasonable, because if the brick or stone paver supplier doesn’t get paid, they could place a lien on your house.
  8. Make Sure the Landscaper is Licensed & In Good Standing. In order to become a licensed contractor, landscaping companies are required to have background checks, complete a certain number of hours of training, and obtain proper insurance. Double check your landscaper’s certification with your local board. In Maryland, that board is theMaryland Home Improvement Commission. And in Virginia it’sThe Board for Contractors. You can also verifiy that the contractor you would like to hire is in good standing at The Better Business Bureau and/or theConsumer Protection Agency.
  9. Ask to See Certificates of Insurance. If an uninsured landscaping worker is hurt on your property, you will be liable for the injury. One simple question “Can I see proof of insurance?” could end up saving you thousands in the long run.
  10. Cheapest Isn’t Always Best. You pay for what you get. If an estimate seems too good to be true, chances are it probably is. Good landscapers know how to estimate their jobs accordingly so that material and labor costs are covered. Have competing landscaping companies break down the estimate for you so you can understand the various costs—and go with your gut.

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