Designers & Architects: Qualify your contractors!

There are a ton of landscape contractors out there. It is one of the easiest (legal) businesses to start and operate, to a certain level. No matter the size, location or purpose of your project - you MUST qualify the landscape contractor. On large, high profile projects it is especially important to do the extra leg-work to qualify to be sure your design intent is carried out. You wouldn't want this happening to you:

Things to consider:

PERSONNEL REPUTATION

Above all, this is the ultimate qualifier of contractors. Sure, it's usually word of mouth and to anyone but you, carries no value. However, being that we are all people, personal interactions define a contracting firm from the perspective of their clients. Call other design firms and ask about their experience, call other general contractors, call their vendors, check out their facebook and linkedin pages. Nowadays 98% of the US online population uses social media. It should not be difficult to get a relative understanding of the individuals you'll be dealing with.

TYPE OF WORK PERFORMED

Get the firm's resume. If all they've done is municipality-sanctioned mitigation projects or environmental improvements they probably aren't the firm for your six or seven-figure residential project. If the firm earns 60-80% of its revenue from maintenance, they probably aren't suited for a commercial construction project that will require months of attention and management. On the same note, if the firm is a $20mm+ construction firm, they probably aren't a good company to maintain 2000SF of bermuda grass. Contractors are intentionally transparent on the type of work they want, and don't want.

SIZE OF COMPANY

If your project has municipal or government money involved in it - don't waste the little guys' time. Large projects with many 'Chiefs' involved usually require bonding, certified payroll, extensive submittals and constant attention. Don't call your brother in law who owns a wheelbarrow and a '97 S-10 to bid on the project. Bidding costs time which is money and your brother in law will NOT get the project. Similarly, don't get upset when a billion dollar international company doesn't want to come water your Ficus tree every other day.

PRICE 

As tough as the economy is, it's difficult to justify hiring anyone but the lowest bidder to the owners or General Contractor. I know. If you can sell your design, use it to sell the contractor of your choice. I get it that you can't be on site throughout the duration of the project, and they should too because if you're an architect or designer and you're reading this right now you're probably over budget on a lot of your projects right now. Give your clients proof that lowest doesn't necessarily mean the best results.

Pretty simple stuff but so many times it can be overlooked. The plans and specs are not always followed. There are plenty of firms out there that don't even read the specs and bid the project the way THEY feel is correct. Protect yourself and your design. After all, the finished product still has your name on it.