There is nothing more satisfying than spending your hard earned money on something you and your family can enjoy on a daily basis – be it a new home, a new car or even a newly landscaped yard. Continue to read this article about tips on choosing the right landscape contractor and avoid some common pitfalls made by Calgary homeowners.

tips on choosing the right landscape contractor

They say first impressions are lasting impressions. So how do you accentuate the first impression of what probably is your biggest investment – your home?
The benefits of landscaping your home are endless and so choosing the right contractor for the job can be a tough decision to make – especially when you see how many landscape contractors are well established just here in the city of Calgary alone.

Here are 3 tips on choosing the right landscape contractor for your next landscaping job:



Tip 1 - Research with a Grain of Salt - Tips on choosing the right landscape contractor

Google “Landscape Contractors Calgary” and you will find hundreds of results.

I’ll also tell you first hand there is probably another hundred out there that aren’t listed – some who are very good at what they do!



Calling the first three you see on google isn’t always a good idea. SEO (search engine optimization) has become a really big marketing tool for almost every industry out there. Companies (landscaping included) often pay people to help rank them at the top of Google just to capture people who don’t want to spend the time doing any research. They also pay top dollar to website designers to build their company websites so they pop out and make them look better than they actually may be.

The Solution: Visit the second and third page and click on some companies that stand out and you might be surprised at what you find.


Reviews & Online Reputation:

Online customer reviews are a great way to verify credibility because it’s very hard nowadays to fake reviews online. If Google, yelp or Houzz ever found out that their users have a fake review up, they will penalize the company almost immediately by taking their listing off the web – something no credible company wants.

But like with anything, take the reviews with a grain of salt – after all, no one asks an unhappy customer to write their company a review.


The Website:

Almost inevitably, if you are in Calgary, you will visit Calgary landscaping companies website first. Lots of images and text saying how they are the best at what they do.
You will probably read a little bit about who they are but ultimately jump to the portfolio or gallery section to see their work.

There are a couple things you should probably know going into their gallery or portfolio:

  • They have their best work there. So if they did some crappy work, it won’t be on there and you won’t know about it.
  • They probably spent some time cropping and editing images to make them really pop – ie. Not giving you the full story of that image.

The Solution: Get a general understanding of their design style. Many companies often (more or less) design the same thing over and over again. Why? Because it’s easy. Their crews have done it before so its natural it will only be faster this time around. Look for creativity. Look for uniqueness. Look for an explanation of their design decisions.


The Consultation:

So you’ve found someone you like. Now you call them to get an “estimate” for your yard work.

Here is what you should pay attention to when they are walking your property with you:

  • Are they punctual and on time for the appointment?
    • Five to seven minutes is fine – we’re all human. But any more than that, they should have called you.
  • Are they paying attention and listening to your needs?
    • They should be making eye contact with you and listening to your personal needs not cutting you off and telling you what they want to do.
  • Are they asking you probing questions to understand your needs?
    • How many kids do you have? How many pets? How many people will you entertain here? Anything to show they are thinking about how you will be using the space.
  • Are they answering your questions to your satisfaction?
    • Be careful here. You want them to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
  • Are they taking proper measurements?
    • How can they give you an accurate price without accurate measuring?
  • Are they taking elevation shots of your slopes?
    • How will they know how much material they will need without shooting the grades?
  • Are they professional and courteous?
    • If you hear a curse word, that’s a red flag.



Tip 2 - Design for Build - tips on choosing the right landscape contractor

Would you ever buy a home without seeing a floor plan first? Probably not, so why would you let someone take a shovel to your yard without seeing a landscape design first.

You want to make sure they put together a detailed, to-scale, landscape design before showing you a price so you can ensure you know what you are paying for.


Use a professional landscape designer:

You want to make sure the person who will be designing your yard has formal training in the landscape design field to ensure quality workmanship. You will want to hire a qualified landscape designer for your project to ensure quality work. You will more than often probably have to pay for this design but remember, just because you paid them for the design service, doesn’t mean you have to use them for the construction service – though that is usually preferable.


Design Approach:

If three landscape design-build companies propose you pay for the design (prices vary based on size of yard and scope of work) and you’re unsure yet of which Calgary landscaping company to go with, it may be best to reach out to a solo landscape design-only company. Ie. A professional landscape designer – by professional I mean, someone who has actually had some formal training to back their skillset up. By doing this, you also have someone to give you advice based on their experience in the industry.


Design Value:

There are essentially 3 reasons you want a design done before any tool or equipment arrives at your home to start construction.

  1. You know exactly what you are going to get – well, more or less. Things do change on site, it’s the nature of the business. You can’t foresee every single detail from the on-set. This is true in any construction industry. But you will have a very good grasp of what you should be expecting for the end result – so it really acts as a contract in the end.
  2. Pricing is accurate. Landscapers use square foot and linear foot pricing as a basic model to price jobs. If there is no drawing, they are pricing off hand-measurements (their tape measurements or measuring wheel) and that isn’t very accurate at all.
  3. Comparing apples to apples, not oranges. If you want to get quotes from other landscaping companies, you first want to ensure the landscape design is exactly what you want. Once the design process is completed and you have what you want on paper, the next step is to maybe get multiple quotes. You want everyone quoting from your design. Everyone is quoting off the same thing so there is no ambiguity when comparing prices.



Tip 3 - analyze the proposition - tips on choosing the right landscape contractor


Price comparison: 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients in the past who have told me they aren’t just going for the cheapest price – they’re looking for the best value of their dollar. I often question that when I see which company they decide to go with – you guessed it, the cheapest price.

If you have landscaper A tell you the project will cost $1, and landscaper B tell you the project will cost $2, did you really sit down and assess what each of them is really offering for that price?

Now imagine if you get a landscaper C quote you a price of $2.50, you can pretty well assume landscaper A is going to cut corners somewhere to make up for it. It’s sad, but it happens. And no, you probably won’t have a clue where/how they did it because there are a lot of intangibles that go into landscaping that the typical home-owner has no idea about.

Trust me when I tell you: You don’t want the cheapest price. You want the best value for your dollar!


Evaluate their History:

If you’re having a water feature done in your yard, make sure you have the landscaper take you to a few projects they’ve installed water features in. Simple and common sense but it is remarkable how many clients skip this test strictly out of laziness. Trust me, it can save you a lot of headaches in the future.


It’s a business, not a charity:

If you’re one of those people who love to negotiate every price, then here is a word of advice: Don’t. Just because the price is $500,000 for landscaping, doesn’t mean the contractor is taking home $500,000.

After paying equipment, labour, material, time already spent on the design (if you didn’t pay for it), time on the consultation, then back and forth from your site to the suppliers, sub-contractors, admin/office work for your project, and much more – they will be very lucky if they’re walking away with much. And that is assuming everything goes to plan – and we all know in construction everything very rarely goes according to plan – just ask the weatherman.

You want your contractor to be motivated. They do this to provide for their families and by you negotiating over dollars and cents, you’re taking the milk off their table – something you wouldn’t want at your job either. An unmotivated contractor can lead to all kinds of problems: cutting corners, delaying projects, etc. A happy and motivated contractor will make sure he gives you his/her best work!


I hope this shines a bit of light on how to choose the right landscape contractor for your yard.
As always, you can email me directly at [email protected] or visit my website: for cool and innovative landscaping ideas.

Mumtaz Mirza (Aka Taz) | B.Env.D  M.LArch
Tazscapes Inc.
P: 587.578.0747 | E: [email protected] | W: 
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
“Quality Landscaping by Qualified Professionals”