Category - Contractor

Contractor Water Gardening

Water garden design and contractor package

Water garden design and contractor package

Some designers are contractors too. If you take on a firm that does a design and build service then generally you are dealing with a business that has a fair amount of overheads and running costs that have to be passed onto the customer whether you have the design or not. But there is a corresponding extra efficiency, which more than compensates for any of the usual problems that can prevent these projects becoming such predictable disasters.

Garden Plans Compass

Garden Plans Compass

If the design and build company is involved in doing a whole garden scheme, I have known them offset the costs of the more expensive parts against those with greater profit margins, so that in some grand full garden designs, the water garden might get included almost as a ‘lost leader’. That’s worth investigating if you have a whole garden scheme in mind.

Water garden landscaper and contractor credentials

Pools & Water Features

Pools & Water Features

For a designer as with a landscaper, their best credentials are his or her past projects. His or her greatest advocates should be their clients. Try to get to see some. If they are in the Society of Garden Designers then they have come a long way to proving that they are amongst some the best and innovative garden designers in the country. This prestige is naturally reflected in their fees. 

But if you have a plan or design that you are happy with, which may have been a product of your own talents, what sort of credentials recommend a landscaper.

Well, as with the designer, his greatest advocate is someone he has worked for and not someone down the pub.

Contractor

Contractor

Another qualification is membership of a trade association like BALI or APL. Landscapers should be in APL (Association of Professional Landscapers) or BALI (British Association of Landscape Industries). Look out for their logos. Not only does their standard of workmanship have to be first class to get into these associations, it needs to stay of a consistently high standard to stay in. Insurances and certificates have to be kept up to date and the staff are generally fully trained in what they do. The association can give you peace of mind as well, since any complaints you may have against an individual company are handled and dealt with by the association. 

Being a member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen means nothing to the clients. Also being BS5750 certificated or ‘Quality Asssured’ only means that they are good at paperwork. If there is a plant missing, for instance, they can very quickly tell you where it should be, also where it was yesterday and the day before that and the day before that….

But despite any recommendations, as I have said before, try to get to see something the contractor has done for someone else.

Whatever you do ALWAYS get a quote not an estimate

Contractor Credentials

Contractor Credentials

Get a quote, not an estimate and go through it with the prospective contractor. Make sure everything is covered that you have envisaged. It makes it clearer and fairer for everyone, especially if it is a competitive quote, that all aspects of the project are itemised.

Dont ask for a “ball-park-figure” on first site meeting, it is always an underestimate and terribly misleading.

It is probably safer for both sides to have a contract. These are pretty standard and as usually more protective of the client than the contractor. Thoroughly check it through. It probably endorses stage payments, which helps keep the contractor sweet for the duration.

Beauty from the beast

Dog Digging in Garden

Dog Digging in Garden

I have known some superbly gifted landscapers in my time, from teams of half a dozen or more that work like clockwork, to ‘one man and his dog’ slogging on alone to achieve perfection, but the best workmen cannot do their best if “fings just aint right!” Unhappy craftsmen are just as capable of making a hash of a project as happy idiots.

A lot of what is required to get it right is up to you, the client. You have got to be a good employer and employing the right people starts from first impressions, goes through an interview and settles down eventually to a team effort involving hard work and reciprocal communication. 

We have established that you need to know precisely what you want and you have got the plan. So what else needs to come from you? Because just getting in 5 quotes from 5 geezers that pop round for 5 minutes to measure up, then choosing the cheapest quote is not going to get the water garden of your dreams.  

First impressions

First Impressions Garden Waterfall

First Impressions Garden Waterfall

The tendency is to babble on as soon as you set eyes on the man that comes round. Assess what this character is like.

First impressions are important, but try to get beyond these and see if there an ease of communication between the two of you. With the project in hand make sure you see eye to eye, particularly on the construction methods. Also, is he interested and does he take a pride in his work?

Find out whether he works with his men or just visits in a supervisory capacity. If it is the latter, ask if you might be able to meet the foreman in charge before the contract starts, to gauge whether you have a similar sort of concord. Then ensure that he will always be on site with enough delegated responsibility to make decisions even if they might cost extra money. If the project grinds to a halt because of an unpredicted snag, or you suddenly realise the design is not materialising as envisaged, there has to be someone on site who is capable of authorising the extra labour or materials necessary in order to keep the job going.

Landscaping is hard rough badly paid work and it attracts hard rough labouring types. Some firms do not encourage their employees in any sort of dress code, but the scruffy individuals that turn up are not necessarily any less conscientious than their smartly dressed logo overalled counterparts. The important thing is that they enjoy their work and they feel accountable to the firm that employs them. There is nothing worse for everybody than disgruntled employees or ‘jobs-worth’ types that are more interested in the clock and the next teabreak than the job in hand.

GUIDE TO KEEPING THE ‘DIS’ OUT OF ‘DISGRUNTLED’

Waterfall

Waterfall

Once the project is under way, it is the simple things that keeps everyone happy and the ball rolling.

  • At least 2 cups of tea a day, but not at times that brings the whole site grinding to a halt. Consult the foreman.
  • Treat everyone as responsible for their own work. Give praise to whom and to where it is due.
  • But above all, if things do not seem to be going quite right, don’t let your feelings fester. A little well placed diplomatic criticism delivered early on does not necessarily pay dividends, but at least you dont end up with negative equity. After all, problems left un-dealt with can be so difficult or really expensive to rectify at a later date. Also the nature of the beast you are dealing with is such that he hates to go back on a job and redo it.

2 Commandments From Above

Thou shalt never go away for any length of time whilst this level of landscaping is going on. Fate will always strike a wicked blow – usually at the water or electricity main.

Neither shalt thou leave the site for one minute if any large machinery e.g. JCB, large ‘slews’ like Himacs, come on site. This sort of machinery can save untold hours of labour when correctly supervised, but one minute of machine work that is a mistake can CREATE hours of labour in rectifying it or another or cost a fortune to get it back on site for another day.