Find A Professional

OutdoorLivingPA.com is designed help make your life outdoors as pleasant and carefree as possible. Here are some pointers and tips for choosing a landscape contractor or a retail garden center or nursery to help you fulfill your outdoor living dreams. For many homeowners, finding and choosing a landscape contractor to undertake a project, large or small, can be daunting. Here are some tips, for finding and qualifying a landscape contractor to handle your project:

What to Look for in a Landscape Contractor

State Licenses

In Pennsylvania, there are three licenses that a landscape contractor must have:

  • Nursery Dealer’s License issued by the PA Department of Agriculture – Anyone who handles or installs plant material in Pennsylvania must have a nursery dealer’s license. This assures that the plant material you receive is free of pests and disease.
  • Pesticide Applicator’s License issued by the PA Department of Agriculture – Anyone who applies pesticides in Pennsylvania must have passed a written exam and be licensed. In addition, licensed pesticide applicators must have their “BU” identification number prominently displayed on their truck or vehicle.
  • Home Improvement Contractor’s (HIC) Registration issued by the Pennsylvania Attorney General – In Pennsylvania, landscape contractors who do more than $5,000 of home improvement services in business a year must register with the attorney general and display a “Home Improvement Contractor” registration number on all of their marketing materials and trucks, know as an “HIC” number. In addition, they must use a contract that has specific language and other consumer protection provisions.

Industry Affiliations, Certifications and Awards

  • Membership in state or national trade associations – Trade associations provide educational opportunities and information to keep their members up-to-date on government requirements and the latest industry trends and techniques. The Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association (PLNA) is the leading state association for landscape contractors. All the contractor’s found in this website’s Find a Pro are members of PLNA. National associations for the nursery and landscape industry are AmericanHort and the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
  • Certifications – Many trade associations have professional certification programs. For example, PLNA provides the Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturist (PCH). In addition, there are more specialized certifications, such as those offered by the Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute (ICPI) for paver installation and the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) for those who work on mature trees. Ask what certifications are held by the staff of the landscape contractor you are considering.
  • Awards – Many trade associations have award programs that allow landscape contractors to show off their best work. Ask the landscape contractor you are interviewing how many awards they have won and ask to see them. PLNA annually holds the Awards for Landscape Excellence, judged by an independent panel. Many of the photographs that you see on this Web site are from companies that have won awards in this annual statewide competition.

Other Important Details

  • Insurance – You will want to make sure that the landscape contractor you choose has adequate liability and workers’ compensation insurance should any accidents happen while their employees are on your property. Ask for their insurance company, policy number and contact information, then call and confirm they have coverage in force. The Pennsylvania Home Improvement Contractor law requires that companies doing more than $5,000 in business per year, have liability insurance of not less than $50,000.
  • References – Probably one of the best ways of checking the reputation of the company you are considering is to ask for three to five references who have had similar work done within the past two years. Then put together a series of questions and call the references. You may also want to check the local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the company.
  • Contract – Ultimately, everything that you are expecting the landscape contractor to do for you should be reduced to a written contract. In Pennsylvania, landscape contractors that do more than $5,000 in home improvement work per year must be registered with the attorney general and incorporate specific language in the contract required by law to protect consumers. The contract should incorporate the landscape plan and a detailed written scope of work, including the completion timetable and payment schedule.

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What to Look for in a Retail Garden Center

State Licenses

  • Nursery Dealer’s License issued by the PA Department of Agriculture – Anyone who handles or sells plant material in Pennsylvania must have a nursery dealer’s license. This assures that the plant material you receive is free of pests and disease.

Industry Affiliations and Certifications

  • Membership in state or national trade associations – Trade associations provide educational opportunities and information to keep their members up-to-date on government requirements and the latest industry trends and techniques. The Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association (PLNA) is the leading state association for retail garden centers and nurseries. All the retail professional’s found in this website’s Find a Pro are members of PLNA. The national associations for the nursery and landscape industry are AmericanHort and Garden Centers of America.
  • Certifications – Many trade associations have professional certification programs. For example, PLNA provides the Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturist (PCH). Ask what certifications are held by the staff of the retail location you are considering.

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