22 Apr Two Guys in a Buick Lawn Care Services: A Homeowner’s Cautionary Tale of Selecting Private Contractors
The sad but true account of not choosing a legitimate contractor:
Once upon a time I had a greenish lawn. When the dandelion greens, clovers and onion grass sprouted, my yard appeared (from a very far distance) to have a lawn. I envied the plush golf course like lawns of folks in town and imagined having my own lush turf where I would play catch with my son, barefoot and joyful (not that we were the type of people who did such things).
My property was one of the last built in a lake development and as such it was used as a catch all for blasted rock and rusted tools and who knows what else. Though the remnants of that time were long buried over, we never were able to grow a pretty lawn and I was resigned to the fact that it wasn’t a possibility because of the rocky terrain below the surface.
One day, new neighbors moved in. Every day I would see two young workers slaving in their yard – tilling, weeding and fertilizing. The yard started to take shape and when they were done, it had a gently manicured look. It was exactly what I wanted.
As a good nosy neighbor does, I stopped over and talked to the workers. I asked if they would be interested in fixing my lawn when they were done with my neighbor’s. They said they would be immediately available; they were in a band and did odd jobs to supplement their income. They didn’t have references or tools; they were just two guys in a Buick willing to work hard for cash. The idea of having my lawn fixed immediately and for less than an actual landscaping company was too irresistible to pass up so I hired them on the spot.
A few days later, the two guys in a Buick showed up and got to work digging up my yard. They pulled out all my onion grass, clovers and dandelion greens and leveled my yard. They said for just a little more money, they could install an underground sprinkler system before seeding the lawn. I agreed. With my yard level and an inground sprinkler installed, all that was left to do was seed. The two guys in a Buick said I had two choices: throw down grass seed and wait or for just a little more money, a company could come spray my yard with some special grass seed that comes up fast and hardy. Of course, I agreed to the later.
The next week while I was at work, my yard was sprayed with some fluorescent green goo. I watered it twice a day with my new sprinkler system and within a few days, little buds covered my lawn. I was so excited at the prospect of having a pretty lawn. But that wasn’t to be.
As the buds sprouted, they grew into purplish-reddish straggly weeds. The next time I saw the Buick in the neighborhood, I went over and asked what happened. They didn’t know and didn’t care, “you’ll have to talk to the person who sprayed your lawn.” I tried endlessly to contact that person and never got a response.
I hired a new group to come in. They had to start from scratch and this time sod was installed. It was glorious. I was given the strict warning that sod is finicky and would have to be drenched everyday for two hours. Luckily, I had that underground sprinkler. If only the two guys in a Buick had told me that underground sprinklers need maintenance…
That first winter I didn’t know I had to flush the sprinkler system and turn off the water supply. My pipes burst. I had a plumber come repair the pipe but the real pain came in the form of astronomical water and sewage bills. Lesson learned, right? Not yet. In spring I turned the water back on and hoped to have my beautiful sod for another year. Unfortunately, one of the sprinkler heads having been installed too close to the road, was ripped out by a snow plow over the winter. That summer we could not use the underground sprinkler. The sod died.
Twenty thousand dollars later my very small plot of land, whose appearance might best be descried as ‘abandoned’ or ‘crime scene’, is mostly brownish with hints of green when the dandelions, onion grass and clovers sprout.
Long story long, I should have gone with a real landscaping company. It is tempting to hire help that is cheap and fast, I can attest to that. But there is a reason legitimate companies have to charge more.
Importance of Landscapers Insurance & Licensing
They have more overhead, including a significant investment in insurance and licensing that protects you, your property, their employees, their business and themselves. I can’t tell you what company you SHOULD hire, but I can tell you which ones you SHOULDN’T. If an independent contractor offers to work on your property, make sure they are insured and licensed (where necessary). If they are not, you are putting yourself, your property and your finances in jeopardy.
Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if I had invested the money up front and hired a legitimate company. I might have a beautiful lush lawn where I could play catch with my son, barefoot and joyful (if we were the type of people who did such things).