Finding the right landscaping and lawn care pro can save you time, money
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (BBB) - A beautiful lawn can be both beautiful and environmentally friendly, but it can be a lot of work and a tricky project to do on your own. Maintaining a farm in the best of circumstances can still be a challenge. Prolonged periods of extreme weather, dull lawnmower blades, insects, pests, and heavy pedestrian traffic can all result in a lawn that requires special care.
Lawn maintenance generally falls into three categories: landscaping, lawn maintenance, and sprinkler systems. Assess your needs before choosing a company. Some companies specialize in one area while others offer a variety of services.
LANDSCAPE: Landscaping companies design landscapes for designated areas, select the appropriate plants, and provide and install the plants.
LAWN MAINTENANCE: Services generally include mowing, edging, weeding flower beds, treating insect diseases, weed control, trimming shrubs, checking irrigation systems and fertilizing.
SPRINKLER SYSTEMS / IRRIGATION: Services provided by sprinkler system companies include installation of structures and general maintenance and repair. Check with your state or province to see if this type of work requires special licenses.
There are many things your lawn might need depending on the time of year. This can include pH testing, aeration of the soil, fertilizing, filling in bare patches, pruning back overgrowth, and planting seasonal flowers and plants. While many consumers choose to make lawn maintenance a home improvement project, there are those who prefer to leave it to the professionals. Hiring a landscaping company or lawn maintenance service gives homeowners the professional help they need.
The BBB offers the following tips when it comes to hiring a lawn care professional:
- Research and gather information. Once you’ve decided on the services you need and your budget, start getting recommendations from friends and neighbors with lawns you admire. You can search a company’s BBB business profile on BBB.org for free information on their complaint history, read customer reviews, and see if they are a BBB accredited company. You can get a list of BBB accredited lawn care companies.
- Request a lawn inspection.Services that quote a price without seeing your lawn can’t be sure what your lawn might need. Companies sometimes ask you to discuss certain landscaping ideas in order to protect themselves from customers who receive their ideas and want to implement them themselves. When you sign a contract with the company, you are often credited with the initial fee.
- Make sure you have a clear scope of work before requesting estimates.This includes defining what area to work on and what you want to do. Do not compare apples to oranges when receiving bids. Make sure that every company has the same services. Also, make sure that each company shares costs in the same way (per visit, month, year, etc.).
- Ask for references and pictures of other jobs they have installed or serviced.If possible, visit these sites to get an idea of the quality of their work. Ask the references about their experiences before, during and after work.
- Find out about the prices and understand what services are included.Are you paying for a specific project or ongoing maintenance? Do you pay mow or monthly? Many companies allow you to pay after each treatment and may offer a discount if you pay the annual cost upfront. What if it rains the day someone is supposed to mow your lawn? Does the mowing include edges? Who packs and disposes of the clippings and other waste? Find out what if you have a problem between contracts. Will the service calls be free or will there be a fee? If you are doing the landscaping yourself, request detailed instructions and be ready to follow them.
- Check to see if the lawn care provider needs a license to work in your area.In particular, they may need a license to use pesticides. Does the company offer liability and employee compensation insurance to protect you in the event of an accident at work? Obtain an insurance certificate from the company’s insurance agent.
- Look for membership in a professional organization.Membership of a service in one or more professional lawn care associations and active participation in the local community is a positive sign. Professional associations such as the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) keep members informed of new developments in pest control, safety, training, research, and regulation. Most associations have a code of ethics that members must follow. Belonging to a professional group is an indication that a company strives for quality in its work.
- Get everything in writing and read all agreements and contracts carefully.Make sure that the contract includes all topics discussed and promises made. Document the duration and expected results of the lawn care service. Some consumers are unaware that contracts can be of unlimited duration, which means that they will be extended until the customer specifically terminates them. A consumer reported to BBB in the summer of 2018: “In addition to my regular lawn service, I have not consented to any white grub inspections and have not left me a message. Instead, I was just billed for that. I called and they said the service this year is the same as last year. “Make sure you understand how this works and how to cancel. The contract should include the amount, size, and type of plants and other materials. Look for guarantees and refund policies. Some services may offer a performance guarantee. Others may offer refunds if they don’t meet your expectations. Get copies of everything you sign.
- Ask about timing and security.Is the job done while you are at home or on the go? Are there any safety precautions you need to take during or after work? Do you need to protect your family or pets when pesticides are used? Is the timing of application good for the weather conditions? A consumer told BBB in 2019 that “[…] The last herbicide was applied when the weather was too hot (85 degrees or higher) and the grass was being burned. ”
- Receive receipts for every money paid.It is better to pay by check or credit card. However, if you are making full payment in cash, you will need to obtain written confirmation from the company with a list of the labor and material costs that the payment will cover.