Asked on Feb 21, 2013

How do I find someone who won't rip me off to do landscape work?

Kathleen M
by Kathleen M
My yard took a hit by the October storm Sandy and needs a big clean up.... more than I want to take on, my beds flooded and washed all my mulch out into my stone ( I have a stone yard not lawn ) I am sure some plants will have been damaged by the salt water and need to be removed / replaced. I also need house and pavers power washed. Are there people who do all of this work or do I need to hire different people? What questions should I ask of potential contractor? It's a very small yard, didn't know if there is a rule of thumb like per sq ft where bids start and increase as to work to be done.... did that even make sense??
When do I let the person(s) know how much is in my budget before or after I get a bid?
q how do i find someone who won t rip me off to do landscape work, landscape
  23 answers
  • Tanya Peterson Felsheim Tanya Peterson Felsheim on Feb 21, 2013
    I think by referral is best way to get a good Landscape contractor...what is better yet is what I did..I researched what I wanted...knew where I wanted things to go and had someone help me do the work but they followed my instructions...If I wanted inground sprinklers or a whole watering system I probably wouldn't have even tried that part.

  • Dana Robinson Dana Robinson on Feb 21, 2013
    Angies List or a google group listserve for your area might get you a good referral.

  • 2ms2 2ms2 on Feb 21, 2013
    @Woodbridge Environmental Do you know any great landscapers in NJ?

  • Lannie Hagan Lannie Hagan on Feb 21, 2013
    Referrals are always important, but find out if they are insured, how long they have been in business and check out their website, too. Ask to go see some of their work. But I think referrals are the most important.

  • Chaya, I do not have any referrals for this type of work. As I do pretty much everything myself and so do many of my neighbors. As far as a choosing one as in Kathleen's case. Local is much better and telling about budget is good as well. As a contractor we always strive in getting the numbers the owner wants to spend. Doing it this way allows us to provide the best value for the owner based upon their budget. It prevents sticker shock as well. You should also think about the types of plants you are interested in as well. Do some research on costs so you get an idea of what things cost prior to bringing in anyone. Informed clients are the best and often times their knowledge weeds the poor contractors out fast when questioned about the project. As far as the plants dying because of the salt water soaking, that depends. If they do not begin to come back by mid May, then you will need to tear them out and replace. If they do come back you will see them budding. However do not expect them to develop quite as nice as they did last year before the storm. They were shocked pretty heavy and it will take some time to come back to normal. You also need should the plants die, to remove a larger amount of soil for the root balls then you would normally do when planting. You will need to bring in fresh top soil to replace that soil that is removed. This is of course additional costs incurred to the owner, you. So I suggest before you pull the trigger on removal and new plantings, to wait to see what grows and what does not.

  • Miriam Illions Miriam Illions on Feb 21, 2013
    Here are some local landscapers that are pretty active on Hometalk: @Tom Dieck / TRD Designs Ltd. @Acorn Ponds & Waterfalls and @Deck and Patio Company "Outdoor Living Experts" on Hometalk. Tagging them so they can help answer these questions.

  • Acorn Ponds & Waterfalls Acorn Ponds & Waterfalls on Feb 21, 2013
    @Kathleen, I would talk to your neighbors and see if there is a local landscape maintenance company that others are using and are already working in your area. They may or may not be able to do everything on your list. Keep in mind that spring is a busy time and you may have to wait to get the work done. Never too early to start planning.

  • Marcia Marcia on Feb 21, 2013
    Try checking out your county extension office (in New Jersey it is: ) They have offices to answer any of your questions concerning lawn and garden, etc. Many also have volunteers called Master Gardeners that are trained through your university and are more than qualified to answer any question you have. In my county, ours will actually make house calls and offer planting advice, landscaping, pest advice, pruning, etc. They won't do the actual work but I am sure you find them very helpful.

  • Ask the contractor for references, and ask them if they are licensed and if they carry liability insurance and workman's compensation. We have more info on our blog if you want to check it out God bless you all for what you all are having to deal with.

  • TRD Designs Ltd. TRD Designs Ltd. on Feb 21, 2013
    First off, I will address your last comment. Let people know what your budget is right up front. Any professional will have an understanding of the scope of the project and if your not able to invest that amount, he will not waste your time or his. BYT, you may be able to put a claim in for the restoration work. Storm damage will show up as the year goes on and having pictures will help your claim. Most landscapers will be able to handle each component of the descriptions you gave. Having several quotes will solidify the feeling of not being ripped off. Just make sure that they are apples to apples. You may want to invest in a design or design it yourself and then have companies price that design.

  • Willow Gates Landscaping Willow Gates Landscaping on Feb 21, 2013
    Check with a local nursery. They often have a good feel for which contractors are doing quality work. Any qualified contractor should be willing to offer proof of insurance and a list of references. Use some caution with Master Gardeners... some aren't masters. :)

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Feb 22, 2013
    So sorry for the storm problems and wish you the very best. Since a clean up is a matter of muscle, you might want to contact some temp agencies for manpower. You and your husband (or a couple of friends or family members) can lay out a plan for them and be there to supervise. Once you have the basics back in place, you can begin to rebuild. Keep in mind that you cannot expect to recoop from this kind of damage in a rush. Take you time and plan it out. Good luck to you. Wish I was there to grab a rake or shovel and help!

  • HI @Kathleen M , I agree with most of what is said above. @TRD Designs Ltd. and @Acorn Ponds & Waterfalls are spot on with their advice. Let the potential contractor know your budget "range" is first and ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. You are too away far for me to help you, and I don't know who to recommend in your area. Please feel free to ask me any questions along the way, I'm happy to help.

  • Candy J Candy J on Feb 22, 2013
    If you know what you want you may want to try to hire some high school kids that are into agriculture or not, and let them heolp you do the heavy stuff. I bet you could do most of it yourself and feel darn proud of yourself afterwards. There is always a kid or two that wants to make a buck.

  • Kathleen M Kathleen M on Feb 22, 2013
    Wow !! Thanks very much everyone! I appreciate your input, advice and offers of help :) . I will start asking around and checking out some costs. My pavers were installed by one of my area's most popular local garden/landscape centers and I wasn't crazy about their work... at all... so I have been wary about finding someone this time......I keep going into the DIY stores looking and hoping one of those yard crashing / curb appeal shows is there and follows me home!!! lol

  • Tanya Peterson Felsheim Tanya Peterson Felsheim on Feb 22, 2013
    The curb appeal or yard crashing shows might show up in your area we finally got a home depot in our little town for them to show up in....but not counting on it...I have found that when I do something like pavers I either decide I want them PERFECT or I want them timeless...which means they might look like they have been around. I want my yard to look like its been around for 100 years I choose timeless so care less about how perfect something looks so hire the $10 hour guy research it myself and get my brother to help. But if I were to pay money like you did I would expect PERFECT.....Big names to me many times means too big for the best workers to come to little jobs...not always but many times My experience (esp being in Commercial insurance industry for 30 knowledge extends beyond little bits here and there, but upon claims and insuring large and small companies)

  • Kathleen M Kathleen M on Feb 26, 2013
    @Tanya Peterson Felsheim , I am hoping they'll pop into our little town but won't be holding my breath :) Yesterday was very mild and now that the inside of the house is completed I got out and got some clean-up started at least. We did do some clean up originally , cleared walk ways but there is just so much small debris drug in by the storm surge rolling over the community, I found a little neck clam in front yesterday... quite dead now but the day after the storm we had a huge live clam sitting on our back deck where the lagoon is, mind you we are about 1/2 mile from open bay waters where clams would be... ahh Mother nature likes to remind you exactly who is in control! I have made some calls, for general clean-up contractors.... had one call back but he failed to show up :( I won't give up tho. Little by little we'll get 'er done.

  • Kathleen, many of your neighbors are in the same boat, no pun intended. Why not contact a few of them, share the cost of a dumpster and have a neighborhood clean up party and BBQ at end of day? Every one else needs the same work done as well.

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Feb 27, 2013
    Woodbridge, your plans sounds perfect! Years ago when a tornado tore up a big swath north of Atlanta, our short cul-de-sac street was covered in downed BIG trees. By mid afternoon the men on the street had sawed them into movable size pieces and the road was passible. Everyone pitched in and when rescue arrived, they could not believe it! After lunch, they moved down to the main road and started cleaning. From April 9 until almost July, there were roadblocks into our neighborhood and you had to have a resident's pass to enter! All workmen had to be logged in by the resident expecting them. Our County really handled that situation with total efficiency!

  • Tanya Peterson Felsheim Tanya Peterson Felsheim on Feb 27, 2013
    Well after such a huge event its awful trying to get someone to come I know. Haven't had any hurricanes or tornadoes here lately and they are just about standing on the street corner looking for work! Hope you find someone you can trust, maybe a friend can recommend someone? As you said the first thing is to get the debris removed and that takes grunt work...and you will feel so much better just getting it cleaned up even if it is not beautiful yet. Those are the things you can maybe even hire through a temp service? I don't know about your state but when it comes to basic clean up more janitorial than landscaping and they don't have to be a big contractor, I would just watch over what they do and how they do it.

  • Check with the coaches of come of the highschool teams. A lot of athletes are strong and eager to earn money, especially if they have an upcoming trip or a car. I like to hire college students as well and have been very successful in putting together great crews. After you have the "bones" back to order, use this opportunity to plan and rebuild your dream garden. Keep us posted with pictures.

  • Kathleen M Kathleen M on Jul 07, 2013
    thanks again everyone for your ideas and in put! We have since had the yard cleaned up and we are totally put back together, wish Ii could say the same for some of my friends but it's all baby steps.

  • DORLIS DORLIS on Aug 06, 2015