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Tips on Hiring a Retaining Wall or Landscape Contractor

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

© Clint Pino, Cornerstone Retaining Walls, Inc.

Many homeowners prefer to hire an expert for their home improvement projects rather than do it themselves.  And understandably so. They don’t want to waste time and money on something that might not turn out the way they envision.  They want the project done quickly and they want it done right.

At the same time, many people are leery about hiring a contractor.  Often it’s because they’ve had a bad experience with one or have heard horror stories from someone who has.

While there’s no guarantee that you won’t have problems with your contractor, there are some guidelines you can follow that will increase your chances of hiring one who is both honest and trustworthy.

Get it in writing. Make sure that the details of the project are outlined in a contract that is signed by both you and the contractor.  If the scope of work changes while the project is in progress, be sure to get a change order.  The change order should detail the work added or eliminated and specify adjustments to the cost.  Don’t forget to obtain original signed copies of all contracts and change orders.

Insurance matters. Ask to see a copy of their general liability certificate, then call the insurance company and verify coverage.  Contractors without insurance will often do the work for a lower price, but it comes with a risk.  You could end up being financially responsible for any damage the contractor does.

Cheapest isn’t always best. Don’t go with a contractor just because their bid came in the lowest.  Many times a contractor whose bid is significantly lower than the competition will end up taking shortcuts and produce poor quality work in order to increase their profit margin.  Surveys have shown that people who have hired the lowest bidder are most often disappointed with the end result.

Get references. Get at least 3 references and follow up on them.   Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints filed against the company.  If possible, ask to view prior work that they’ve done.

Wait to make the down payment. Many contractors will ask for a down payment in order to pay for your job materials up front.  But homeowners don’t want to fork over money only to risk never seeing the contractor again.  Ask if the down payment can be made once the materials have been delivered and the work begins.  An honest contractor will agree to these terms.

Get a warranty. Get a written warranty that specifies exactly what is covered and what is not.  If you have questions, be sure to get them clarified in writing.

Use caution, do your research, and ask questions.   You’ll then be confidently on your way to hiring a contractor you can trust along with a completed project that will bring you long lasting enjoyment.