You found a rock supplier like Washington Rock Quarries who can deliver rock, sand, and soil materials directly to your home. But many rock suppliers like us don’t provide placement, landscaping, or design services. So how do you find a contractor who can work with our materials? We provided some useful information to get you started in your search.
Step 1: How to Find a Local Contractor Who Can Work with Rock
You want to build that gabion wall you saw online, but you don’t have the time or skills to do it yourself. How do you find a local contractor who can make your rockscape dreams a reality? Here are some tips for finding someone who can rock your landscaping project.
Get to know the industry: some basic information to get you started.
hardscaping vs. softscaping: hardscaping refers to working on the “hard”—or structural—features of a landscape, like rock work, fences, patios, etc. Think of the hardscape like the “bones” of your yard. Softscaping refers to planting vegetation and performing gardening tasks like weeding.
landscape maintenance companies vs. landscape design companies: “landscaping company” is a very broad term that includes many types of services. Some landscaping companies only perform maintenance, like mowing lawns and cleaning driveways. Other landscaping companies provide only design and construction services. Some provide the whole package. If you work with a landscaping company, look specifically for one that offers landscape design and construction services.
landscape designer vs. landscape architect: a landscape architect must have a degree and a state license. They typically work on landscapes at a larger scale and can solve complex problems. Earth-moving projects typically require plans from a licensed landscape contractor. There is no licensing requirement for landscape designers.
rockery and retaining wall construction specialists: building rockeries, rock walls, retaining walls, and gabion walls is a skill that takes many years to hone. Some landscape construction companies will subcontract these work-intensive tasks to a specialist who does only rockeries and retaining walls. For that reason, you might find companies with “rockeries” or “retaining walls” in their name who specialize in excavation, grading, and other hardscaping services.
water feature specialists: like constructing rockeries, constructing water features like ponds and waterfalls requires a combination of art and engineering. Some contractors focus solely on water feature construction, maintenance, and repairs.
Visit a local nursery, landscaping supply yard, or landscaping company and ask for referrals.
Some nurseries and supply yards also provide landscape design services. Many can provide referrals or recommendations. Landscaping companies can often build rock features or can subcontract your project to someone who can.
Ask friends or family members for recommendations.
Have you been admiring a friend’s rock garden? Did your sibling have a gorgeous waterfall built? Ask your friend or family member which company they used and what their experience was like. Your friend or family member may even be willing to share how much their project cost.
Search directories of professional organizations.
- The Washington Association of Landscape Professionals (WALP) has an online directory of members.
- The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) has a searchable directory of certified landscapers.
- There are many other landscape industry organizations that have membership directories.
- Some companies like Aquascape can connect you with someone who is trained to use their products.
If all else fails, conduct an Internet search using specific keywords.
Search Google, Bing, or another search engine using this formula:
project type + one of these words: “installer,” “builder,” “company,” or “contractor” + your location
For example, if you want to build a gabion wall at your home in Gig Harbor, you could try searching for “gabion wall installer near me” or “gabion builder Gig Harbor.”
Most companies who place search ads will target bigger cities like Tacoma and Seattle. If you live close to one of these cities, using its name in your search will increase your results.
Before clicking on a website link, read the description under the listing to make sure the company’s offerings are relevant to your needs.
Step 2: What to Consider When Vetting a Contractor
Finding a good contractor can be intimidating. Below we offer some things to consider when conducting your search.
Does the contractor serve your area?
Some contractors may serve only a small service area or charge a fee to travel long distances.
Does the contractor have consistently good reviews?
Check reviews on Google, Angie’s List, and other review services. Be sure to read the commentary to find out what a customer’s rationale was for their rating.
What does the Internet say about the contractor’s reputation?
Check out the contractor’s website. Do they have an up-to-date portfolio of recent projects? Customer testimonials? How long have they been in business?
Search the company’s name on Google, Bing, or with another Internet search engine. Check the first couple pages of search results for legal disputes, news articles, etc. Doing so may show whether the contractor has had any issues with their work in the past.
Does the contractor have an active business license?
All companies should have an active business license issued by the State of Washington. Use the Corporation Search feature on the Washington Secretary of State website to look up the status of business licenses. The status should be listed as “active.”
Does the contractor have a contractor’s license?
All landscaping businesses in Washington State should have a contractor’s license. Business activities that require a contractor’s license include grading, clearing, excavating, fencing, landscaping, and masonry. An active contractor’s license indicates that the business is bonded and insured.
Use the Washington State Labor & Industries tool to look up whether your contractor has a valid contractor’s license.
Is the contractor bonded and insured?
Bonded means that the company has purchased a policy to guarantee good work for your money. If the contractor fails to complete a job or doesn’t do a good job, you can file a claim and potentially recover your money and pay another contractor to do the work.
Insured means that the contractor is protected by liability insurance. Bonds and insurance are important ways to guarantee that you will have a safe experience working with the contractor and that you will get what you paid for.
Use the Washington State Labor & Industries tool to look up details about a company’s bond and insurance.
If the contractor does specialty work, like water feature construction, are they certified?
Some businesses may have certifications to back up their expertise. For example, if you’re looking for someone who can work with Aquascape pond products, look for a Certified Aquascape Contractor (CAC). The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) also certifies landscapers in specialties like hardscaping, irrigation, horticulture, etc.
Check out Turf Magazine’s list of landscape industry certifications.
Can the contractor work with materials from Washington Rock Quarries?
Ask the contractor whether they’ve worked with Washington Rock’s materials before. Some contractors may have an existing account with Washington Rock.
Washington Rock’s quarried rock is a type of fractured basalt, so even if a contractor hasn’t worked with our product before, they may have worked with similar types of stone. If a contractor suggests a substitute, keep in mind that although there are many types of basalt in the area, the blue-gray coloration of our rock is unique.
Step 3: How to Prepare to Hire a Contractor
Determine whether your rockscaping project requires a permit.
Projects that involve moving a significant amount of earth or building large retaining walls may require a permit.
Seattle, for example, requires a permit for retaining walls that are over 4 feet high, located in an environmentally critical area (ECA), or that will damage adjoining properties or structures at any point during or after construction.
Your contractor should know whether a permit is needed. You can also find information on your city’s or county’s building and permitting website.
Get an estimate in writing from multiple companies with timelines for completion.
Getting multiple quotes will help you better hone your expectations. It will also give you ideas about how to adjust the final contract to best protect your interests.
Draw up a contract that specifies the budget, contractor and subcontractor responsibilities, payment schedule, and project deadlines.
Your contractor should give a complete picture of how long the project will take, what your rock structure will end up looking like, and how much it will cost. The contractor likely has a standard contract that they will customize to your project. Don’t be afraid to request reasonable alterations.
For high-cost projects, most contractors will require a deposit upfront. It’s a good idea to pay installments based on the contractor reaching specific milestones and to agree on when the final payment will be made. Check on this HomeAdvisor article for tips about contractor payments.
Have questions we didn’t answer or suggestions on how to improve the article? Send us feedback via our contact form. You can also check out our Projects page to see many of the ways landscape designers and architects have used our products.