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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

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: 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

Seven Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Contractor

Before you go out and hire someone to do work for you on your home or at your business, there are seven critical questions you need to ask of them (or yourself) first:

  1. Do they have a permanent place of business?
  2. Do they have proper and adequate insurance?
  3. Are they a member of a trade association in good standing?
  4. How long have they been in business?
  5. What is their track record for handling complaints?
  6. What is their workmanship warranty?
  7. Can they meet your project-specific needs?

Having a permanent place of business gives them credibility.  It shows they ahve substance and are serious about doing business with you or any other client.

They should be able to produce proof of insurance or certification of insurance.  If they can’t you and they are not protected in case of injury, loss or death.

Being a member of a trade association shows they comply with ethical and accepted industry guidelines.  They are recognized by their peers to be professional.

Being in business for a significant amount of time is a judgment of stability.

How they handle complaints and deal with customers will mirror how you may have to deal with them.  Ask for references and check with the Better Business Bureau.

Warranties and support after the sale or installation is critical for your happiness and their success. What do they offer in terms of replacement parts or materials or rework?

Your project may have specific requirements:

  • Do they comply with local ordinances?  That is, do they know permitting processes for your locality?
  • Do they have a good selection of products?
  • Can they share manufacturer’s specifications with you?
  • What is their clean up policy?
  • What are their payment terms?
  • Do they conduct preliminary and periodic inspections?
  • Lots to think about but ultimately will result in your satisfaction and safety.

The Grass Queen