Improving your home’s exterior with a new patio, retaining wall or other hardscaping project is a valuable investment. But, it is critical that you choose the right professional hardscaping contractor for your project. Here is our advice for finding the right hardscaping professional who will work within your budget and deliver the space you’ve dreamed about!
The design process is crucial for any hardscaping project, especially for larger, more complex projects. Professional design does not have to be expensive, and can add considerable value to your finished project. The top priority should be finding a hardscaping designer you trust and feel comfortable with, who will consider the unique characteristics of your landscape, then listen carefully to your ideas. Early in the process, be sure to learn about proposed design fees – a good designer deserves to be compensated for their time and expertise developing a custom design for you. However, you should ask if this fee can be deducted from the final cost of the project if you decide to proceed.
After an initial concept is developed, the designer will furnish hand-drawn sketches or photorealistic 3D renderings. This is your opportunity to confirm that they are reflecting your priorities in the design, and you should feel comfortable asking questions or requesting changes at this time.
Most hardscaping contractors have either an online or a physical portfolio of completed patios and other outdoor living projects to showcase their talents and skills. Look through their portfolio to find projects that are similar in style and size to yours, and ask the contractor questions about specific projects you like to discuss features and materials that match your personal style and priorities.
In the hardscaping and landscape design field, there are several organizations that provide training for contractors. Groups like the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) and National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) provide resources and a certification process for contractors installing concrete pavers and retaining walls. Many manufacturers also provide training for their specific product lines. Asking about your potential contractors’ industry training and certification can provide a good indication of their level of professionalism and their commitment to ongoing education.
During the course of your project, you will have a team of workers disrupting your property with heavy equipment and stored materials, they will be working in close proximity to both your home and underground utilities, and the nature of their work exposes their employees to the risk of injury. Make sure you and your property are adequately protected by asking if the contractor carries liability and workers compensation insurance.
Scheduling your hardscaping project can depend on a variety of circumstances, including weather, sourcing materials, and the crew’s schedule. Ask for a timeline from the contractor, including when they will start and finish the project, while recognizing that this could change due to permitting, weather and other unanticipated complications.
Whether they are written, online, or in person, references from past clients can help you learn more about the company. Make sure that these references are from similarly sized projects, and ask for references for projects that were completed recently, as well as projects that are 3 to 5 years old. When you talk to these former clients, ask them about the contractor’s communication style, as well as whether the work was completed on time and the homeowner’s overall satisfaction with the results.
Ask the contractor if they stand by their work with a workmanship guarantee. Find out how long the guarantee is for, what it covers, and the process for scheduling follow-up work in case you are not completely satisfied.
For more advice on hiring a designer or contractor in Lancaster County, and to request a list of recommended hardscaping professionals, visit our Choosing a Contractor page.