Redesigning your outdoor space with a well-planned hardscape is an exciting project that can improve the functionality and beauty of your property. But the first crucial first step is finding the perfect contractor to bring your hardscape dreams to life. It’s like picking the right teammate – essential for a winning game!

Here are some tips to guide you in choosing the right contractor for your hardscape project in Maine.


Define Your Vision


Before starting your search, spend time defining what it is you want to achieve with your hardscape design. Take some time to dream big and get specific. Gather inspiration from photos of patios, walkways, retaining walls, and other features you love. Make a wishlist of the specific hardscape elements you’re dreaming of for your property. Consider how you want to use your yard. Do you imagine cozy family dinners on a paved patio? A stone pathway winding through the trees? An outdoor living space for entertaining guests?

Having a well-defined vision and purpose will help you effectively communicate your project goals to potential contractors. They’ll have a much better understanding of the look, feel, and functionality you want to create.


Research Local Contractors Extensively


Once you have your vision defined, start researching local hardscape contractors. The internet is your friend here – check out online reviews and testimonials to get the scoop on their customer service and craftsmanship. It’s like online dating for your yard – you want to know what you’re getting into! Look for companies and professionals with a solid reputation and proven expertise specifically in hardscape design and installation. Search for online reviews and testimonials that give you a feel for the quality of their customer service and workmanship. Social media and community forums should be a go-to, too: Your neighbors might have the inside track on who’s the best in the business.

Other great resources to find established hardscape pros in Maine include:

  • Your local home builders associations and trade groups that maintain member directories
  • Materials suppliers – reputable landscape stone and paver providers can offer recommendations
  • Home shows and trade fairs where you can meet contractors in person and view displays

As you research, create a shortlist of the hardscape contractors that seem to fit your project scope and have glowing reviews. With a list of potential dream teams in hand, it’s time for some serious vetting. Think of it as a background check for your backyard. 


Contractor Rob Howard in his truck


Opt for Extensive Hardscape Experience


When it comes to hardscaping, you want someone who’s been around the block (literally). So, for best results, look for a pro who can look at your property and see potential, know the best materials for that picture-perfect finish, and handle everything from design to drainage, a contractor with an established track record of completing high-quality hardscape projects like yours. The hardscape field requires skill, engineering know-how, and aesthetic sensibilities. 

Seasoned pros have the expertise to:

  • Assess your property’s unique needs and challenges
  • Design a cohesive and functional hardscape layout
  • Select the best building materials for durability and appearance
  • Execute technically sound construction and drainage
  • Artfully install hardscape features like patios, walkways, and walls
  • Handle any unexpected challenges or changes effectively
  • Deliver a visually stunning, long-lasting end product

Experience is key. While every contractor has to start somewhere, for major hardscape investments it’s wise to select a firm with extensive experience designing and installing landscapes like yours. You want a team that’s seen it all and done it all. Like Stone Solutions Maine, boasting over 30 years in the hardscaping biz.


Request References and Follow-Up


Any contractors you’re seriously considering should gladly provide references.  Talking to those who’ve walked the path you’re about to tread gives you invaluable insights. Follow up by contacting recent clients to gain candid insights about their experience. Ask questions like:

  • How would you rate the quality of their work overall?
  • Was the crew professional, courteous, and careful with your property?
  • Did they adhere to the original budget and schedule?
  • How did they handle communication, changes, or issues during the project?
  • Would you recommend them for a hardscape project? Why?

Speaking with real past clients gives you a feel for the contractor’s communication style, integrity, work ethic, and how satisfied customers have been with the finished product. A great contractor will have a fan club of satisfied customers singing their praises.


Compare Multiple Bids


Once you have 2-3 contractors you want to consider for the job, ask each for a detailed quote based on your specifications. Compare bid amounts side-by-side, being sure quotes include similar scope of work. Watch for warning signs like:

  • Extra lowball bids that are drastically lower than other quotes. This can indicate cheaper materials or subpar workmanship that may not last.
  • Vague language about certain costs. Items should be clearly outlined.
  • Dramatically varying prices for similar materials from different contractors
  • Hesitance to provide itemized quotes. Quality pros will provide fair and transparent pricing.

A reasonable quote reflects the project scope, quality of building materials, and the contractor’s experience level. Be wary of prices that seem too good to be true. Remember, a reasonable quote isn’t just about the bottom line. It reflects the scope of your project, the quality of materials, and the contractor’s level of expertise.


Discuss Timelines and Communication


You want a contractor who’s like a good friend – keeps you in the loop, sticks to their word, and is there when you need them. They should give you a realistic timeline and be committed to keeping your property in tip-top shape during the project. During consultations, discuss timeframes and communication protocols. Reliable contractors should:

  • Provide realistic schedules for completion. Hardscape projects often have multiple phases.
  • Have measures in place to protect your property and minimize disruption
  • Agree to keep you regularly updated on progress and any potential delays
  • Be readily available to discuss any issues that arise

Open, responsive communication leads to a smooth process from start to finish.


Evaluate Their Past Projects


Most contractors have photo galleries and portfolios highlighting their hardscape projects. Scrutinize photos of completed work to get a feel for quality and aesthetics. Really check out their portfolio. Do their past projects make you say ‘wow’? Look for those crisp lines, even colors, and meticulous details. It’s like a sneak peek into your future backyard, so look for:

  • Clean lines, edges, and finishes on surfaces like patios and walkways
  • Consistent color and texture of building materials like pavers
  • Walls and structures are properly leveled with attention to detail
  • Functional drainage integrated seamlessly into the design
  • Cohesive styles and designs tailored to each property’s unique needs


Collage of outdoor hardscape projects


This visual assessment gives clues about their expertise, consistency, and workmanship. Their portfolio should showcase stunning hardscapes similar to your vision. 


Secure a Detailed Contract


Once you’ve selected your contractor, ensure every aspect of the project scope, specifications, and terms is documented clearly in a contract. Think of the contract as a blueprint for success, ensuring everything goes smoothly from start to finish.

The agreement should include:

  • Specific materials being used include quantities, sizes, colors, grades, etc.
  • Exact project costs and payment schedule including deposits
  • Who supplies needed permits and engineering approvals
  • Start date and detailed schedule with milestones
  • Plan and timeframe for site access and equipment storage
  • Contingency plans for potential delays like weather or shipping
  • Warranties provided on workmanship and materials
  • Other responsibilities of both homeowner and contractor

Remember, a detailed contract prevents misunderstandings down the road. Never start a major hardscape project without a written agreement.


Trust Your Instincts


But here’s something you can’t put in a contract – trust your gut. You’ll be working closely with your contractor, so you need to feel good about your choice. You’ll be collaborating closely with the contractor throughout the process, so it’s essential to have a good rapport and trust their approach. Experienced hardscape pros don’t just complete projects—they translate dreams into reality.

By following these tips, you can have confidence you’ve selected the right contractor for bringing your ideal hardscape design to life. And be sure to consider Stone Solutions Maine. We bring passion and expertise to every project, turning backyards into dream spaces. 

Your contractor makes all the difference in the success of your investment, so choose wisely. Soon you’ll be enjoying the backyard retreat you’ve always wanted!