Avoid landscaping contractors that cut corners instead of grass
If you’re ready to create your backyard oasis let’s dig right into today’s article about choosing a landscaping company!
In Part One of this series, we shared the benefits of hiring a horticulturist to do your landscaping. We also talked about the importance of finding someone that cares about your yard as if it was their own.
In Part 2, we’ll discuss some consumer education tips to make sure you actually get what you pay for. Brooks Hutcheson of Hutcheson Horticultural discussed the following helpful questions to ask a potential landscaping company with us.
- What are some common ways lawn maintenance companies cut corners when spraying for weeds?
- How do some landscapers cut corners with mulch and pine straw?
- What should you look for after they mow your lawn?
- Do they send the same crew out every time?
- Are the workers happy with their job?
- Do they have landscapers’ insurance for their business?
- How can you keep broken windows from happening?
What are some common ways that landscapers might try to cut corners without the homeowner knowing about it?
Spraying for weeds
“Let’s say you hire someone to manage your weeds so you have a green lawn,” Brooks said. “This is a trick that some lawn guys use to cut corners. They will spray a broad application weed killer for your yard. Then they tell you all the weeds will be dead in a few days. Now this will kill some weeds…but not all of them. So, you’re stuck with these mysterious weeds that never die even though they ‘sprayed’ them.”
The lesson? Different weeds may require different weed killers to do the job. Check your contract. If it merely states they will be applying a “broad application” weed killer, it may not be enough. As a reminder, keep your pets indoors and make sure no one walks barefoot in the grass for 24 hours – these pesticides are very toxic.
Pine straw and mulch
“Let’s say you get a bid for a landscaping company to spread pine straw and mulch in your yard,” Brooks continued. “First, make sure they specify in the contract how many bales of pine straw and how many cubic yards of mulch you will need. So, for example, let’s say they give you an estimate for 30 bales of pine straw. To cut corners they may only install 25 bales instead. It’s the same with the mulch. Perhaps they told you it would take 5 cubic yards, but they only install 3 instead. This happens often, unfortunately.”
How would a landscaping company get away with this? “They’ll install the ground cover thick in the front where you’ll see it,” Brooks explained. “However, they’ll lay it thin in the corners and in the shade where you’re most likely not going to look. By the way, the industry standard for mulch is laying it three inches deep.”
The lesson? Make sure your contract clearly states how many bales of pine straw and cubic feet of mulch you will be receiving. Make sure it also lists that the mulch will be installed three inches thick. Then take your ruler and go measure in the corners!
Mowing your lawn.
Any tips for knowing if a lawn crew is doing a good job? “Watch the workers as they do your lawn,” Brooks said. “When they’re done, does it look like they flew through your yard so they could get to the next job? Or do they care enough to take care of the little details?”
Here are a few telltale signs to look for:
- Are there lawn clippings everywhere?
- After they mowed, do you see lines of grass that they missed?
- What about against the fence, stairs, and in the corners where the lawn mower can’t reach? Did someone go back with a weed whacker to clean up?
- Did they blow your lawn out so that it looks manicured?
Do they send the same crew out every time?
We asked Brooks why it’s important that they send the same crew every time. He shared, “Think about this. Instead of having new people that do things inconsistently and have to learn your lawn when they come, we provide the same crew for you every time. This way they know your yard. You explain how you want it only once. Then they’ll do it like you like it every time. Simple, but the customers LOVE it.”
The lesson? You know how many people like to have the same barber or hair stylist do their hair every time to make sure that it looks its best? Why not have the same lawn crew work on your lawn every week too? Just like with your hair stylist, insist on getting the same lawn maintenance crew that understands your yard.
Are the workers happy with their jobs?
Brooks added this bit of wisdom about choosing a landscaping company: “Would you rather have grumpy lawn guys or people that love their job working on your lawn? Happy workers take pride in their work… AND your yard. On the other hand, disgruntled employees complain about their boss to the clients. This is bad business. Instead, you want lawn maintenance crews that love their jobs. This tells you that their company takes care of them and appreciates them. Why should you care? Because it’s reflected in how they treat you as the customer and how they care about your yard.”
Do they have landscapers’ insurance for their business?
It only takes a push mower and a pick-up truck to start mowing lawns in your neighborhood. Unfortunately, many of these hard-working guys are handing flyers out without having any insurance. How can you protect yourself? “Look to work with a lawn service with an LLC or a Corp listed as part of their business name,” Brooks said. “By law, they need liability insurance. Ask for a copy of their certificate of insurance. It should be kept on file. Keep this handy in case there’s an accident.”
What kind of accident can you have mowing lawns? “Lawn mowers are famous for picking up rocks and shooting them out at a hundred miles an hour,” Brooks said. “This can easily break a window in your home. They also can crack your car’s windshield or dent your car door. If they have insurance, you can call them and make a claim. Most landscapers will gladly pay for things like that out of pocket to avoid their rates going up.”
Lawn mowers are actually very dangerous. In one recent year, over 83,000 people – many of them children – were sent to the emergency room because of them. Sadly 75 people die a year in lawn mower accidents. This doesn’t even include the number of people that have a foot or arm amputated.
The lesson? Ask to see proof of insurance. Make sure it’s up to date. Keep your children indoors while workers are working on your yard.
How do you keep broken windows from happening?
“It starts with caring about the customer,” Brooks said. “For example, every lawn mower has a side that it shoots the lawn clippings out of. We educate our staff to point this away from the house and cars. We also train our workers to do the same with leaf blowers. Here’s another pet peeve of mine: train your workers to watch for traffic. Let’s say your next door neighbor just washed their car and is heading home. If the lawn guys are blowing dirt, clippings, and leaves into the street they dirty your neighbor’s car. It’s bad for him, bad for you, and bad for business.”
Brooks’s last piece of advice? “When interviewing landscapers, go with your GUT! Don’t shop by price alone. What kind of feeling do you have about the company? Remember you want a company that cares for your yard like it’s their own.”
Thanks again to Brooks of Hutcheson Horticultural. If you have a question for Brooks feel free to reach out to him on his website here. We hope you found these tips on how to choosing a landscaping company helpful. You work hard for a living. You deserve a beautiful backyard that you can spend hours relaxing in with friends and family. Choose a landscaping company that will design a horticulturally sound yard that will give you years of pleasure.
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