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If you’re considering creating a new outdoor living space, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right contractor. Hiring the right hardscape contractor that can turn your dream backyard into a reality is not easy. You want someone that you can trust, who will listen to you and understands your vision. How do you determine if a hardscape contractor is the best fit for your project? How do you know if they will ensure a positive experience from start to finish? Knowing the right questions to ask will make a potentially overwhelming process become simple and hassle-free. Here are a few questions and topics you should discuss when looking to hire a hardscape contractor. Look at Previous Work The first step when finding a hardscape contractor is to see examples of their work. Any reputable contractor will have numerous examples of what they can do. Ask to see photos of past projects both for design ideas and to get a sense of the contractor’s level of expertise and creativity. Usually the best place to see examples of previous hardscape designs would be the contractor’s website. In today’s digital age, there is no excuse not to have a good website that properly represents their work. If the website is dated, that could be a good indication the contractor is not overly focused on the details of running a great business. The best way to truly see the quality of work a contractor does is to see the workmanship up close. Ask the contractor to give you an address or two of previous jobsites to look at how a contractor’s work holds up over time. This will also give you the opportunity to speak with some of their previous customers. Ask for References and Work History Once you’ve seen examples of a potential contractor’s work, begin speaking with references. A good hardscape contractor will be happy to give you references to speak with. Don’t be afraid to ask the references tough questions about their experience working with the contractor. The most accurate way to get a sense of a contractor’s abilities and work ethic is their experience working with other homeowners in your area. One of the most important questions you should ask a contractor is about their experience. Find a contractor who has hardscaping certifications. Hardscaping is a specialized industry which requires additional training. Never hire a contractor who hasn’t been formally trained to complete your hardscaping project. Just because the company does landscaping doesn’t mean they can handle your hardscape design. Find a contractor who has multiples years of hardscaping experience to ensure the job is done properly. After seeing their work, speaking with references and asking about work history; you should be able to determine if a contractor can perform the job. You are now ready to begin asking questions about the design process. How Do They Design a Project? There are several components that go into creating the perfect outdoor living space. One of the most important factors of hardscaping is the design. The more complex the project, the more important the design process. A design sketch or rendering will ensure that you and your contractor are both on the same page, reducing the chance of miscommunication. This will give a realistic vision of your future space, including how hardscaped areas will look with your existing home, exterior structures and landscaping. A hardscape designer should work with you to maximize the space that you have within your budget. They should be able to recommend a plan based on the elements you wish to incorporate. Be sure to ask if your contractor charges a fee for design and consultation. Depending on the size of the job, some contractors will charge a fee. This can be viewed as a good sign and indicates they have the reputation and experience to justify this expense. Be sure to clarify upfront about any fees and if they are deducted from the final cost of the job. If you feel your contractor is not grasping your vision during the design process, be sure to clearly communicate your concerns. This is a crucial part of making sure your design is constructed correctly. Another element of the design that sometimes gets overlooked is drainage. Drainage is a huge factor that needs to be included in your hardscape plan. You want your space to look beautiful and to also be functional. Your hardscape contractor should know how to install drainage solutions that will work best for your space. This will also be a good indicator of their attention to detail. Do They Guarantee Their Work? Make sure that your hardscape contractor guarantees their work and provides a warranty for the project. If damage occurs to your hardscaping as the result of the contractor’s mistake or faulty material, you should not to be held responsible for the repairs. If a contractor doesn’t offer a warranty, they may not be confident in their skills. This should be a red flag for you. When spending a lot of money on an outdoor living space, you want to know that it will last for years to come. We recommend that you only hire a contractor who will guarantee their work. Additional Questions to Ask When selecting a hardscape contractor, there are a lot of important questions to ask. Overall, you want to get a realistic timeline to complete your project, ensure that everything is appropriately documented and that you are not liable for any accidents they may occur while work is being done on your property. Keep in mind that the best hardscape contractors might be a little more expensive because they provide the proper insurance coverage and file all required permits correctly. What’s the estimated start date and end date? What are the payment terms and options? Are there any permits that will be required for the project? Ask to see their licensing and insurance coverage. Ask for a written estimate and written contract. Make sure you check with your HOA regarding the project. Hiring the right hardscape contractor for your project can take time. While it may require a little more effort, thoroughly reviewing your options will be worth it once your project is complete. It is important that you feel comfortable with your contractor and feel confident in their ability to provide a high quality finished product. If you are a homeowner living in the Raleigh-Durham area and are looking for a hardscape contractor, give us a call at 919-977-3284 for a FREE CONSULTATION! At COVIS, we are committed to bringing your outdoor vision in stone to life!

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