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Hiring a Contractor

Creating a vision for our outdoor space can be easy, but constructing this dream may require help from professionals.

Hire A Contractor or DIY

The question of whether or not to do the project yourself or hire a professional can be difficult to answer. Ideally, we would be able to build our dream backyard with our own hands and very little help of machinery. The reality is that we are not all professionals with years of experience in yard design or construction.   If cost is not an issue, hiring a contractor is the clear answer.

(image of a contractor or someone doing work in a yard)

If you are looking to save on the overall cost, discuss your budget with your contractor and inquire about any cost saving areas that won’t affect the over quality. For some projects, it is possible to complete some of the work yourself.  Smaller

Hiring A Contractor Checklist

When talking to potential contractors for your outdoor project, it is important to ask the right questions. We have specific ideas for how our outdoor project will go and in order to meet our own expectations, we need to be feel comfortable with our decision. Asking detail questions may ultimately save you time, money and frustration.

You’ll first want to contact at least three different contractors via telephone. Every contractor may work differently, but these questions will apply regardless. If they have some of their previous work available online, take some time to look at the before and after images of each project. While speaking on the phone, ask questions about their previous work. If there is an aspect that you’d like to bring to your creative outdoor project, let them know.

Dangers Of Hiring A Contractor

Possibly the worst thing that can happen when hiring a contractor is for the work to not get accomplished.  You’ve done the preparation, paid some of the money and suddenly the contractor stops returning your phone calls. This type of thing is rare but it can happen. In order to reduce the risk, gather as much information as possible before handing over that first payment.

Setting an accurate timeline of events can help ensure the project is completed at a pace that satisfies everyone. One important question to ask your contractor is whether or not they will be focusing strictly on your project or switching between your home and another location. Searching for a general contractor that can focus entirely on your project until it reaches its completion can help your experience go more smoothly.

Can they provide a client list and do they have testimonials? A quick conversation with a previous customer can set your mind at ease and help make sure you are hiring a reliable contractor. If the contractors have ever encountered an unsatisfied customer, more than likely they will not be posting that testimonial on their website. You’ll want to do as much research as possible. Searching the internet for reviews and checking to see if they are registered with the Better Business Bureau could save you a great deal of stress and money.

Insurance & licenses & permits

It is easy to assume that your potential contractor has the proper insurance and licenses. Asking for proof of their credentials is recommended.  Having uninsured or unlicensed contractors working on your home is incredibly risky and should be avoided even on the smallest of jobs.

Any time you are preparing to enhance your outdoor living space and hire a general contractor, you’ll need check with your local government to see what permits are required. Ordinances vary by city and can change frequently. Having the correct permits will more than likely require you submit plans of your project. If you’re still in the early stages, you can still check with your local government to get as much information as possible. This will help your planning by indicating what is and isn’t even possible to build.

If you’ve hired a general contractor and they’ve ignored the city ordinances by constructing a deck too close to the property line, you could potentially face a financial fine as well as be required to remove the structure. Again, this would be a worst case scenario but it is entirely possible depending on your local laws. In preparation for building, it is recommended to have your property lines surveyed. This may not be an issue for any projects closer to your home but if you have any doubts of your boundary, contact your local surveyor’s office. 

Paying Your Contractor

We work hard for our money and we absolutely do not want to waste it on a disappointing project. Communicating clearly and detailing every step of the process can help ensure your creative outdoor project becomes a reality without issues along the way.

Estimates

Being specific with each step of the process can help each party remain upbeat throughout the entire construction. When asking for an estimate, ask for a detailed breakdown of labor, all materials, and other expenses. The more you know about what to expect, the less likely you will be surprised by the cost.

As you speak to multiple contractors, be ware of those lower estimates that seem too good to be true. Some contractors may put in a lowball offer in the hope that you’ll choose them over more expensive, but more reliable alternatives. These lowball estimates could end up producing excellent work or they could be disastrous as the contractor may cut corners and use inferior materials. Whenever possible, ask for samples of material and follow up to be certain you are receiving what you were promised.

Payment

As mentioned earlier, setting a timeline of the work is vital. Along with the progress of work, set a strict schedule for payments. When discussing financial payments with your contractor, feel free to ask about setting up multiple payments. If your backyard makeover will require multiple weeks of construction, inquire about breaking up the payments with the final payment occurring after completion. Every contractor will have different rules for payment schedules, but it is important to find someone that you can comfortably work with and trust.

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