When choosing a landscape contractor there are a few important things to keep in mind. We've listed them here for your benefit.
1) Make sure you select a reputable and qualified contractor with a proper license, bond, liability and workman's compensation insurance's. We highly recommend you visually see these documents as anyone can say YES to having them. Someone who does not have them has nothing to loose by lying. You can call the Contractors State License Board toll free at (800) 321-2572 or visit their web site at www.cslb.ca.gov to verify if a license is in good standings. All licensed contractors are given cards to carry in their wallet for proof. Also, it is against the law for a person to use another persons license. Check references and go see their work.
2) Negotiate a clear contract. This contract should state exactly everything you are expecting to be performed on your property. (i.e. square feet, linear feet, quantity, quality, size, location, color, type, manufacturer, etc.) All verbal additions should be written into the contract.
You should have something that reads like the following for a Drainage System bid:
- Install 340 linear ft. of rigid 3" drain pipe with (9) 6" catch basins in lawn areas, (5) down spout connectors, (4) 4" brass concrete area drains, and (28) 3" planter atriums.
- Drainpipe to be laid so that the water flows properly toward the (2) cored curbs at the street.
- Approximately 2 days to complete Equipment, Materials, & Labor for a total cost of $2,920.00
A poor example of a bid would be something like this.
- Drain for front & back yard - $1585.
This #2 Drain bid tells you basically what? Absolutely nothing. Except you are paying $1,585.00 for some so-called drain system. That maybe you will have 180 linear ft. of some cheap flex drain line with two 6" catch basins in the rear yard, two 6" catch basins in the front yard, and two cored curbs. Oh, lets not forget how long this might take to complete AND did this cover labor also????
A professional bid should be typed up on a company letter head, not written on a piece of lined paper. I can't stress this enough - "In this business you get what you pay for!". Southwest Landscape has been around for many years. We have clean vehicles with all equipment needed to perform our jobs for each day, company shirts, 2 way radio/cell phones, Bobcat tractors with many attachments and we use all our own machinery to complete our jobs. Not like some so-called contractors that throw a tool box and a wheel barrel on the back of their oil leaking pick up truck and carry their own pager.
3) The only way to come up with an apples to apples comparison from 3 or 4 different contractors, is if you have a detailed set of plans that every contractor bids without any changes. As you may have found out by now, every contractor you have had come to estimate your job has probably given you some of his own ideas which are completely different from the contractor before him. This will now change what the cost of the job will be from the first contractor. We do not recommend you go with the cheapest bidder, but if you do, you should let all contractors bidding this job know, so that they can compensate and not waste a lot of everyone's time. If you have four bids for pretty much the same plan, ranging from $29,650.00 to $16,990.00, a big RED LIGHT should flash about the $16,990.00 mark. How could this guy be bidding this so cheap, when the other bids were $29,650.00, $27,975.00, and 25,880.00. I tell you - The next place I would find that bid, would be in the trash can. There are many variables in material costs, contractors buying cheap products, and non-payment for proper insurance's,etc. Again we do not recommend the lowest bidder, sometimes a higher bid may be worth it if the materials to be used are of higher quality and/or the work more extensive and professionally installed.
4) Throughout the years in this business I have found that most of the people that contract with me, it has not been because my price was the lowest, but what I was able to offer them in a clean, fast and professional manner. Alot of times when we are on a job, we will come to a stage that by adding something extra in now, it will create a better product in the end. We will go ahead and do it without charging anything more where some contractors are continually cutting corners to make a buck here and there.
5) After the contract has been signed and the work has started, if there are changes to the original contract, make sure you and the contractor sign a change order form for these changes. Also, the law requires a contractor to give you written notice of your right to cancel a contract within 3 business days of signing.
Remember! If an offer sounds to good to be true it usually is.