Which little—or big!—backyard makeover have you been daydreaming about? From party-ready patios and cozy fire pits to complete outdoor kitchens and landscaped pools, there is a backyard project to fit every family and lifestyle.
Finding inspiration is easy: you’re probably already filling Pinterest boards, scouting designs on Houzz, and pulling pages out of magazines. But while you’re doing the fun stuff, don’t forget to put as much time and thought into your search for a contractor.
Your contractor isn’t just anybody—this is the person who brings your dream backyard into existence. So, finding a contractor you can easily work with and trust is paramount. Here are five tips to guide your search:
Start early. It’s never to early to reach out to a contractor and educate yourself about options and costs. Right now—the winter season—is ideal for starting the process. Contractors have more time to offer you, plus you’re more likely to have your pick of scheduling dates once you decide to move forward on a spring/summer project.
Think value, not price. Whether your budget is $5,000 or $150,000, you want to focus on value. That means thinking about what you’re getting for your money in terms of service and experience as well as goods. The contractor you want will meet Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes’ standards for superior quality projects:
• Suits your short- and long-term needs
• Stays within budget
• Uses structural components that will last the life of your home
• Follows up with any necessary repairs or problems after completion.
Don’t be fooled by low-end bids. If contractors are not within 5% of each other, then you’re not being offered the same product and services. Low-end bids typically mean inferior quality, which can lead to headaches and high costs later.
Look for a proven team. Backyard projects are often complex and involve several specialists. Imagine your perfect family pool. That project includes landscaping, fencing, electrical work, safety features, and so much more. Find an experienced company with their own team of contractors who work together regularly and systematically, as we do with our Trade Partners. Some homeowners think they can save money by coordinating multiple contractors on their own. Instead, this approach typically costs more (in money and stress), creates tension, delays the project, and makes it difficult to complete any necessary follow-ups.
Experience matters. To find a qualified designer or architect for your project, rely on experience more than titles. Be especially careful to find someone who has ample experience with the exact type of project you want. The contractor who has learned skills through years of working with materials, soils, and grades will be best equipped to guide your backyard transformation.
Take a field trip. Looking at a contractor’s previous work is absolutely necessary. Start with with testimonials and portfolios like these, and then go see for yourself. If you’re planning an outdoor grilling and living area, for example, ask to tour a recent project that is similar to your design. Be sure to visit while the homeowner is there so you can ask specific questions about the project at all stages. (Don’t forget to ask about any follow-up visits or issues that needed to be addressed after completion—you don’t just want to know what happened, you want to know how the contractor handled it.)