Water, water everywhere….

Remember that one of the most effective conservation-related things you can do with your new home or office is to install efficient, proven landscape materials.

Artificial turf should be one of those elements.

Using ariticial turf as a part of your landscape plan:

  • Reduces water use significantly.
  • Eliminates runoff of excess water and chemicals into groundwater.
  • Minimizes the rainwater runoff.

Some simple considerations–artificial turf is a ggreat way to go.

The Grass Queen

Think About the Dog….

….do you really want them to have a yard that is muddy and messy?  Can it get any worse than having a wet, muddy dog after they have been out in your yard?

This is yet another reason to choose artificial turf as a part of your landscape plan.  Go for it: get the fake stuff to:

  • Reduce mud in your yard.
  • Always have a green stuff of the dog to play and “go” on.
  • Help with drainage.

See your artificial turf professional for help in choosing the right turf for your pets and yard.

The Grass Queen

Questions to Ask Your Contractor as the Work Begins

As you begin your project, be clear on your expectations.  During the process of choosing a landscape design and installation firm, you interviewed them, collected and negotiated a bid and now are ready to get the shovels working.

How do you get them started?

  • Be clear on when and where they are to start work.
  • Meet them the first day and lay out your expectations and remind them that you will be back.
  • Check back frequently (more than once the first day; less often after that–probably at the end of each day).
  • If the weather is hot, offer the crew water and shade.
  • Make sure that driveways and other access to your propery are clear and negotiated–the contractor needs to deliver and unload goods; you need to get in and out of your house.
  • Make sure pets and other animals are safe and secure during the work–and that the workers are safe from harm.

The list can longer.  What can you add?

The Grass Queen

Choosing a Contractor: the First Meeting

So you’ve done your homework and selected the contractor you want to do the project you have outlined.

What’s next? You need to meet them to start the project planning.

That’s right–planning first. Come prepared.  Be sure and bring:

  • Any plans, notes or ideas you have for the project.
  • An idea of when work can start and when it should be completed.
  • Your budget and checkbook (if necessary).
  • The contract or documents related to this relationship.
  • Photos of the space you want reworked.
  • A list of questions.
  • Your expectations for the project and the contractor.

You are off and running.

The Grass Queen

If Your Contractor Doesn’t Work Out: Where to Complain

So you’ve done all of your homework and followed the steps we’ve outlined in the last few posts. And it didn’t work well?

You can lodge a complaint or make your dissatisfaction known. Here are some options:

  • The BBB (Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org)
  • Consumer Affairs.com
  • Angie’s List (www.angieslist.com)
  • Consumer’s Checkbook (www.checkbook.org)
  • Pissed Consumer (www.pissedconsumer.com)
  • Ripoff Report (www.ripoffreport.com)
  • Yelp.com
  • PlanetFeedback.com

Of course, use your judgment and manners, but you have the right to be heard.  Remember: truth is your defense.

The Grass Queen

Thanks to Kate Ashford for her story in the January/February issue of AARP The Magazine

Things to Know before Hiring a Contractor: Demand a Lien Release

The last thing on the list of knowing before you hire a contractor is one of the most important if not the most important:  obtain a lien release.

This is about protecting yourself and your property.  A lien release ensures that, after the work is done and payment received, that the contractor has no way to make a claim on your property.  As with a paid-off car loan, a lien release is provided by the person or company (in this case the contractor) as proof of completion and to release you of responsibility for further payment–or of their being able to make a claim on your property.

This is particularly important for homeowners to ensure their right to their property.  It is a safe thing to do and most contractors, once the final bill is paid, will provide the release.

For more information, here is an article from eHow.com (http://www.ehow.com/about_4683867_lien-release_.html).

The Grass Queen

Things to Know Before Hiring a Contractor: Negotiate a Maximum Hourly Rate

Negotiation is a critical skill to have when you are choosing a contractor.  Getting an agreement on price based upon a specific hourly rate will save you money and will help control costs.

Also consider that most contractors bid a project on time and materials and consider what they give you an estimate–unless you bargain for a firm-fixed price or fixed number of hours for the job.  Either way, you need to have some controls and limits in place to control costs and help maintain your budget.

Since you have already gathered multiple bids from several contractors, you have a pretty good idea as to what they average or going rate per hour.  That will give you a good basis for understanding what a fair price for the project is.

The Grass Queen

Things to Know Before Hiring a Contractor: Get References

Referrals are always the best way to choose a partner or business associate.  When it comes to contractors, consider who you know and who they know that they could recommend to you.

You want your work done right, so the best way to ensure this is to check out contractors who have been hired and come recommended. Consider asking these trusted sources for recommendations:

  • Relatives in the local area.
  • Business associates who have hired a contractor lately.
  • Neighbors whose new landscaping you admire.
  • Friends who have had similar work done.

What should you ask? Try these questions:

  • What did you have them do?
  • What were they like to work with?
  • Did they show up on time and get the work done efficiently?
  • Did they bill you fairly and in a timely fashion?
  • Did they give you an estimate before starting? Did they stay to it?

This is a starting place.  Happy contractor hunting.

The Grass Queen

Things to Know Before Hiring a Contractor: Call Licensing Boards

Continuing on with our things-to-know list when hiring a contractor:  are these guys certified and licensed?

It is a fairly simple thing to do and you will gain a tremendous peace of mind: call licensing boards.  In most states there is a state board or department of licensing.  It may also be called the state contracting board. Whatever it is called, a quick internet search will yield contact information.

For example, in Texas, most boards and licensing activity can be found at www.license.state.tx.us.

This is the start for you to be sure that the contractor you expect to hire:

  • Has adequate liability coverage.
  • Has been approved (and licensed) by the state.
  • Complies with the rules and regulations of their industry.

Also, check out the contractor’s website to see who they are affiliated with.  For example, Synthetic Grass Pros (www.syntheticgrasspros.com) is a member of the ASGI (Association of Synthetic Grass Installers). If the contractor claims membership, followup with the association or board to be sure they  are current.

The Grass Queen

Things to Know Before Hiring a Contractor: Read Reviews

The more you know about a contractor you might hire, the better. so, be sure and read consumer reviews about the companies.   Hearing what others have to say about your candidate can help sway your decision.

You can find reviews of residential-type suppliers on Angie’s list. You can also find feedback on Yahoo, Bing, Google or other search-engine sites. Follow them on Twitter or listen on Twitter to hear what people are saying about them.

What are you looking or listening for?  Here’s a short list:

  • What do they charge?
  • Do they follow up after the job?
  • Do they return initial calls promptly?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • Are they efficient in how they work?
  • Are they neat and clean?
  • Are they polite?
  • Who else have they done work for?
  • What kinds of work do they do?

You can add more to this list–this is just to get you started.

Happy researching!

The Grass Queen